Following accusations against Pope Francis that he denounced two priests to Argentina’s military junta during the 1970’s, Nobel Peace Prize laureate Adolfo Perez Esquivel has said the pope was “not complicit” with the then dictatorship and in fact pursued “silent diplomacy.”
Esquivel, a human rights activist who campaigned against the Argentine junta and won the Nobel Prize in 1980, made the comments after meeting with Latin America’s first pontiff on Thursday.
“He was not complicit with the dictatorship, he did not collaborate,” Esquivel told press.”He preferred a silent diplomacy, inquiring about the disappeared and the prisoners. The pope had nothing to do with the dictatorship.”
The issue arose after the pope was criticized for not speaking out against the 1976-1983 regime when he was head of the Jesuit order in Argentina and known by his former name Jorge Mario Bergoglio.
In addition, Francisco Jalics, one of the surviving priests who was imprisoned for five months in the 1970’s issued an online statement on Wednesday to clear up what he said were misinterpretations of his earlier comments he had made about the role the pope played in incarceration.
Jalics, who met the pope in 2000 where they “hugged solemnly,” said he had previously believed that the pope had passed on information to the authorities about him and another Jesuit priest, Orlando Yorio (who has since died), when he was the leader of their order, but no longer believed that.
He added: “The fact is: Orlando Yorio and I were not denounced by Father Bergoglio.”
That view was emphatically echoed by Esquivel today. He said that there some complicit bishops that in the Argentinian Catholic hierarchy, but added that the justice system had found “no proof” of collaboration by Bergoglio.
The laureate added that he and pope Francis had discussed human rights and that the pontiff had called for “truth, justice and compensation,” in what he described as a “very emotional” meeting.
Bergoglio himself has always denied any involvement in the case and says he actually intervened with the head of the junta, Jorge Videla, to beg for the Jesuit priests to be freed.
Last week, the Vatican roundly rejected accusations that the pope had failed to protect Jalics and Yorio during Argentina’s “Dirty War” in which 30,000 people were killed or disappeared.
The row has been a vicious one, with left wing critics in Argentina denouncing pope Francis while the Vatican attacked the allegations as “defamatory.” The president of Argentina’s Supreme Court also said there had never been any evidence or charge against Bergoglio.
Last Friday, Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi said there had been many declarations citing how much Bergoglio did to protect many at the time, adding that such accusations must be “firmly and clearly denied.”