Pope Francis and Argentina's Dirty War


In Buenos Aires the faithful were jubilant over one of their own, the first Pope from Latin America known for his humility and austerity... a man who rode the bus, who even as Cardinal chose to live in a spare apartment rather than the appointed opulent official church residence. Jorge Mario Bergoglio's transition to Pope Francis the First comes at a time of tenacious difficulties in the Roman Catholic Church ... thus far he remains untouched by the sexual abuse scandal but he may yet be haunted by his ties to another unsavory chapter of Church history concerning Argentina's Dirty War. Today, we're asking about the many facets of the man whose own religious journey has intersected with political turmoil.

Retired Argentinian Ambassador, Luis Mendiola

Jorge Mario Bergoglio originally studied as a chemist. But it was some remarkable Alchemy that transformed the former archbishop of Buenos Aires into the first Pope from the New World. And the man who will oversee the Catholic church as Pope Francis has more challenging transmutations ahead.

Outrage over the sexual abuse scandals that plague the Church has driven many Catholics away. His orthodox views on abortion, same-sex marriage, and contraception would seem unlikely to attract many 21st century converts. And Argentina's own relationship with the Catholic Church from the time of its Dirty War remains controversial.

All daunting issues to tackle, but our next guest thinks Pope Francis is up for the job. Luis Mendiola is a retired Argentinian ambassador. In the 1980s, he served as councillor of the Argentinean Embassy to the Holy See in Rome. Today he joined us from Buenos Aires.

Former Editor of Buenos Aires Herald, Robert Cox

Many Roman Catholics in Argentina have an uncomfortable relationship with their church because of its failure to openly confront a dictatorial regime that kidnapped and killed as many as thirty-thousand citizens in the seven years of the so-called Dirty War - from 1976 to 1983.

It was under Cardinal Bergoglio's leadership just five months ago that Argentina's bishops issued a collective apology to the nation for their failures. But despite that, it is a history laden with ongoing controversy.

Robert Cox is the former editor of the English-language Buenos Aires Herald, one of the only newspapers to aggressively cover what the Argentinian government was doing at that time. He was forced to leave Argentina in 1979 due to his criticisms of the dictatorship. Robert Cox was in Charleston, South Carolina.

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Catholic writer and commentator, Clifford Longley

Argentineans may be conflicted about the new Pope's past, but to look forward, we were joined by Clifford Longley. He's a Catholic writer and commentator. He has acted as a consultant to the Catholic Bishops' Conference in England and Wales. He was in London, England.

This segment was produced by The Current's Lara O'Brien, Vanessa Greco, Hassan Santur and Shannon Higgins.

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