Vatican, Argentine church to open 'dirty war' archives

2016-10-25 21:18
Pope Francis blesses a crucifix. (Andreas Solaro, AFP)

Pope Francis blesses a crucifix. (Andreas Solaro, AFP)

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Vatican City - The Vatican and Argentina's Catholic Church said on Tuesday they had finished cataloguing their archives from the country's brutal "dirty war" and will soon make them available to victims and their relatives who have long accused the church of complicity with the military dictatorship.

A joint statement said the process of cataloguing and digitizing the archives had been completed and that procedures for victims, their relatives and clergy to access the information would be forthcoming. No date was set, however.

Official estimates say about 13 000 people were killed or disappeared in a government-sponsored crackdown on leftist dissidents during Argentina's "dirty war". Human rights activists believe the real number was as high as 30 000.

The statement said the decision to open the archives was taken at the express direction of Pope Francis, the Argentine pope, "in the service of truth, justice and peace". The documents concern archives held in the Vatican secretariat of state, the Vatican's Buenos Aires embassy and the Argentine bishops' conference.

Francis was the Jesuit superior in Argentina during the country's 1976-1983 dictatorship. He had pledged to open the archives when pressed by relatives of Argentina's "desaparecidos" or disappeared, particularly the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo.

Many senior clerics were close to Argentina's military rulers at the time and human rights groups have accused them of complicity with the regime.

Francis himself was criticized for not speaking out publicly about the atrocities, but he has also been credited with saving the lives of several people, giving them sanctuary in the seminary and helping spirit them out of the country.

The Vatican spokesperson, Greg Burke, stressed that for now the archives would only be open to people directly involved in the war, not to academics. He suggested that a broader opening could come later.

Read more on:    argentina  |  vatican city  |  religion

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