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December 21, 2014
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‘Chicha’ pleads with Vatican for archives

By Santiago Del Carril
Herald Staff

Grandmother of Plaza de Mayo says Church has information that could help locate missing relatives

The founder of the Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo, “Chicha” Mariani Chorobik, is pleading with Pope Francis to hand over information, archives and documents allegedly kept in the Vatican that could shed light on the whereabouts of the children who were snatched from their parents during the last military dictatorship.

“They have the baptism records, as everyone went to the bishops ... I hope Pope Francis helps us with this,” Chicha Mariani told the Herald yesterday, at the same time expressing that she does not have high hopes for the Vatican.

“I’ve been to three bishops in the past, and they all told me that they would help, but none of them did.”

The activist revealed that she was told of a recent case, where someone had been able to find a grandchild after a Church official obtained information for her, though given ethical sensitivities Mariani would not reveal the identities of the people in question.

The anecdote was another confirmation for Chicha that the Vatican represents an important key to discovering the whereabouts of the missing grandchildren, with the only problem being Church officials are not willing to cooperate.

“I have gone to the Vatican 14 times to ask for help but have always come back empty-handed,” she said.

The grandmother was pessimistic about the help that the Pope Francis would provide.

“He did nothing for us during our plight,” she said, recalling how her colleague, Alicia de la Cuadra, the first president of the Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo, had gone to Pope Francis (then Jorge Bergoglio) to ask for help when he was the Jesuit superior. He had turned her away, telling her to approach another priest.

The lack of assistance given to families looking for missing grandchildren was a common experience during the military dictatorship.

“I’m sure my granddaughter was given to someone who was high-ranking. A Marine chaplain in Buenos Aires told me this once, and that’s when I stopped asking for anything else from the Church,” she said yesterday, in separate declarations to Radio del Plata.

Over 30 years later, in 2013, when Bergoglio was elected to the papacy, the current president of Grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo, Estela Barnes de Carlotto, travelled to Rome to request that the Argentine Church and the Vatican share their archives to establish if there was any information that could help them in their search.

But when the Herald asked Barnes de Carlotto about the issue last month she said that the organization has yet to “receive any information that contributed anything significant or new to the search” for missing grandchildren.

She noted, however, that that there is still “good faith between the two institutions and they (Church officials) were still willing to cooperate.”

On gov’t rewards

Closer to home, Mariani yesterday praised the recent initiatives of President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner’s administration, which increase the reward for any information leading to the discovery of any of the missing grandchildren to one million pesos.

Her only wish was that the reward get more publicity.

“I’m a 90-year-old woman who no longer believes in pies in the skies,” she said. “But I still have a little hope that the Vatican will help me find my granddaughter.”

Chicha Mariani’s granddaughter, Clara Anahí, was kidnapped upon the murder of her daughter-in-law on November 24, 1976 when police and military forces raided the family’s home in La Plata on No. 30 street.

@delcarril

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