MANILA, Philippines – World leaders hail the election of Argentine cardinal Jorge Bergoglio to the papacy. But it also raises questions about the new Pope's role in Argentina's "Dirty War."
Paterno Esmaquel reports. (Watch video report below.)
(Script of video report follows.)
Days after the conclave ends, Pope Francis’ role in the Argentine dictatorship hounds him. Leftist author Horacio Verbitsky says then Father Jorge Bergoglio collaborated with Argentina's dictator Jorge Rafael Videla.
Verbitsky extensively wrote about Argentina's Dirty War from 1976 to 1983.
Verbitsky publishes a photo of Bergoglio giving Holy Communion to Argentine military dictator General Jorge Rafael Videla.
Critics also bring up the case of two Jesuits whom Bergoglio allegedly failed to protect from the dictatorship.
Bergoglio denies this claim.
In 2005, his biographer says he took extraordinary, behind-the-scenes action to save them: “I found out who the military chaplain was who gave Mass to Videla and convinced that priest to call in sick and I managed to be named to replace him."
Bergoglio appealed for mercy for the two priests.
British journalist Robert Cox says Verbitsky is not wrong in his claim, but says the militant author "doesn't understand the complexity of Bergoglio's position back then when things were so dangerous.”
Under Bergoglio's leadership, Argentina's bishops issued an apology in 2012 for the church's failure to protect its flock.
These issues were raised before the 2005 conclave, when Bergoglio turned out to be a runner-up to Pope Benedict.
This time around, the negative campaigning after he ascends the seat of St Peter does not seem to dent the enthusiasm for the new Pope.
In his first homily as pontiff, Pope Francis makes it clear politics isn't his priority. He says the Catholic Church should go back to basics, or it will become what he calls a “pitiful NGO.”
POPE FRANCIS: We can walk as much as we want, we can build many things, but if we do not confess Jesus Christ, nothing will avail. We will become a pitiful NGO, but not the Church, the Bride of Christ.
Pope Francis stresses faith and courage.
Inevitably, Pope Francis will interact with more leaders – and dictators – as he leads 1.2 billion Catholics. Catholics will look for the courage that critics back home say he lacked when confronted by a tyrant.
Paterno Esmaquel, Rappler, Manila.