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Roman Catholicism

Part 4: 2013-MAR-13: Pope Francis I is
elected on the second day of the conclave.
Criticisms about his actions during the "dirty war."

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This essay is a continuation from the previous essay

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Photograph of Pope Francis I 2013-MAR-13: Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio was elected pope on second day of the conclave:

Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, 76, formerly the Archbishop of Buenos Aires, Argentina, was elected on the fifth ballot as the the 267th pope to replace Pope Benedict XVI. It occurred on Wednesday, 2013-MAR-13 at about 7 PM local time. By giving his consent to the election, he became pope. However his installation will be later, perhaps on MAR-19. He has chosen the name Francis I. This is a unique name, never used before by a pope in the history of the Church. His election was also unique in other ways:

  • He is the first pope from the Americas, ever.

  • He is the first pope from the Southern Hemisphere, ever.

  • He is the first non-European pope in almost 13 centuries. The most recent previous non-European pope was Pope Gregory III from Syria who reigned from 731 to 741 CE, some 1,272 years ago!
  • He is the first Jesuit pope, a member of the Society of Jesus who are often referred to as "God's Marines." 1

He was born on 1936-DEC-17 in Buenos Aires, Argentina. [Of interest to nobody but the author of this essay, his birth date is within two days of my own]. He entered the Society of Jesus (the Jesuit order) in 1958, was ordained in 1969 and led the Jesuit Community in Argentina between 1973 and 1979. From 1980 to 1986, he was the rector of a seminary in San Miguel. Between 1992 and 1997, he served as Auxiliary Bishop of Buenos Aires and Titular Bishop of Acua.

He became Archbishop of Buenos Aires in 1998, and a Cardinal in 2001.

Allegedly, during the previous conclave in 2005, he received the second-highest vote total in several rounds of voting before he removed himself from the running. Even so, he was not regarded by bookmakers as among the top contenders during this conclave. 2 He was allegedly considered too old and too moderate. 3 Some bookmakers were giving 33 to 1 odds against him becoming pope.

Hans Kng, the famous Swiss theologian is one of the church’s leading critics promoting reform. Because of his opinions about papal infallibility, Kng was banned from teaching by Cardinal Ratzinger before he became Pope Benedict XVI. Kng said:

"It was a very happy surprise. I’m extremely delighted. ... The decisive question is whether he will carry out the reforms that were blocked by his predecessors? Or, will he simply let things continue to go on, the way they were going at present. If he embarks on a reform course he will find broad support in the church throughout Europe, North America and Latin America " all over. But if he continues on the present course, the call to rise up and revolt will grow louder in the Catholic Church and provoke reforms from below without hierarchical approval. I’m sure the new Pope realizes this. He has showed signs already that he wants to have a different way." 3

A caller to the Catholic Channel radio program on Sirius Satellite Radio commented that the three numbers contained in the date of his election -- 2013-03-13 -- all ended in three, a number representing the central belief of almost all Christians in the Trinity of God the Father, Christ the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

Shortly before the white smoke emerged from the Sistine Chapel's chimney indicating that a pope had been elected, a seagull landed on the top of the chimney. Some suggested that this was a sign from God. The bird instantly became the most famous bird on the Internet. She or he now has a twitter account at @SistineSeagull which has gathered over 5,800 followers. The bird tweeted: "hrrmmm... Getting dark... running out of Cheetos. This could get ugly."

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About Pope Francis !:

At his first appearance as pope overlooking St. Peter's Square, his first comment was in Italian, the native language of his family of origin:

"Brothers and sisters, good evening. The duty of the conclave was to give Rome a bishop. It seems my brother cardinals went to get him almost at the end of the world."

He is often referred to as a humble person who has led a life of simplicity. As Archbishop, he abandoned the elaborate palace reserved for the bishop of Buenos Aires, and lived in a small apartment where he cooked his own meals. Rather than take a limousine to his office, he generally used public transportation.

Francesca Ambrogetti, who co-wrote his biography said:

"His lifestyle is sober and austere. That's the way he lives. He travels on the underground, the bus, when he goes to Rome he flies economy class.

When he became a Cardinal in 2001, he asked his supporters not to go to Rome to celebrate with him, but to stay home and donate the cost of the trip to the poor. 4 He repeated this request in advance of his installation.

Vatican deputy spokesman, Thomas Rosic, said that Pope Francis chose his name in honor of St. Francis of Assisi because he was also a lover of the poor. He said:

"Cardinal Bergoglio had a special place in his heart and his ministry for the poor, for the disenfranchised, for those living on the fringes."

St Francis of Assisi was also known for his humble defiance of papal power.

There had been speculation that he had chosen "Francis" because the Jesuit order was co-founded in Rome during 1540 by St. Ignatius of Loyola and St. Francis Xavier.

Mary Jo Leddy, is a social activist, writer, theologian and director of Romero House in Toronto, Canada -- a house for refugees. She said that choosing a pope from Latin America is "incredible." She said:

"His personal lifestyle, which seems to be very modest and very connected with people who are poor, just speaks volumes. Just that symbolism itself is a very powerful message about priorities for the church." 4

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Events during the "dirty war" of 1976 to 1983:

He lead the Jesuit order in Argentina at a time when the country was in the grip of a vicious military dictatorship. He allegedly asked two priests to abandon their pastoral activity in the slums. According to Horacio Verbitsky, author of "The Silence," when they refused, Bergoglio withdrew his order's protection from them. In 1976, the two were kidnapped, imprisoned and tortured by government forces. One of them, Orlando Yorio, accused Bergoglio of making the two vulnerable to kidnapping by the death squads when he declined to tell the military regime that he endorsed their work. 5

Fortunato Mallimacci, the former dean of social sciences at the University of Buenos Aires, once said:

"History condemns him. It shows him to be opposed to all innovation in the Church and above all, during the dictatorship, it shows he was very cozy with the military."

Hijos Capital, an Argentinean human rights group, said shortly after Pope Francis I's election as pope:

"Bergoglio continues to be investigated for the participation of the Church in crimes against humanity ... he has also been cited in lawsuits over the theft of babies."

Bergoglio has strongly denied these claims. 4 He testified in 2010 that he was unaware of any stolen babies until after the dictatorship ended in 1983. 6

The theft charge refers to the dictatorship's policy of kidnapping children of political prisoners, and turning them over to officials of the regime for adoption. Five hundred are estimated to have been stolen. 6

CBC News reports that:

"In an interview with Sergio Rubin for an authorized biography, El jesuita (The Jesuit) that was published in 2010, Bergoglio said that he had taken extraordinary action to free the two priests, according to Rubin. He said mass in dictator Jorge Videla's home and used the occasion to privately appeal for mercy."6

Two days after his election the Vatican defended Pope Francis I against these criticisms. A Vatican spokesperson said during a press conference that the accusations:

"... reveal left-wing elements, anti-clerical elements that are used to attack the church." 5

He added that the allegations are:

"... defamatory. ... They must be firmly and clearly denied." 5

CBC News stated:

"The Vatican says no credible accusation had ever stuck against the new pope ... who was born in and has lived most of his life in Argentina, said CBC's Karen Pauls from Vatican City. Instead, the Catholic Church is focusing on testimony that the pope actually helped many people privately and publicly during that time, she said."

"The Vatican said after Bergoglio became a bishop he was instrumental in persuading the Church to apologize to Argentines 'for not having done enough at the time of the dictatorship'."

"However, many Argentines say that apology came too late. They have accused him and the Church over the years of staying silent during a time of human rights abuses, she said. Some even say the Church may have been complicit in turning in some people working against the military dictatorship, she said." 5

Monument to the victims of the "dirty war"

The monument in Buenos Aires to the thousands of victims who disappeared during the "dirty war."
(Photo by Peter McCluskey.CBC)

There has been a major loss in faith among many of the Catholics of Argentina as a result of the Church's actions -- and lack of actions -- during the "dirty war." About 90% of the population of Argentina are considered Catholic by the Church beause they were baptized there. However only ten to twenty percent actually practice their faith today." 6

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This topic continues in the next essay

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. "Society of Jesus," Wikipedia, as on 2013-MAR-14, at:
  2. Brian Murphy And Michael Warren, "Pope Francis: First pope from Americas austere Jesuit," Associated Press, 2013-MAR-13, at:
  3. "Pope Francis: Reformers call unexpected pick 'a very happy surprise'," Toronto Star, 2013-MAR-13, at:
  4. Hannah Strange, "Jorge Mario Bergoglio, Pope Francis, described as humble and sober, but with a political past," The Times, UK, 2013-MAR-13, at:
  5. "Vatican defends Pope against 'dirty war' accusations. 'Defamatory' allegations come from 'anti-clerical elements,' says Vatican," CBC News, 2013-MAR-15, at:
  6. Daniel Schwartz, ""Latin American pope brings joy, debate to Argentina. Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio's past during country's 'dirty war' raises questions," CBC News, 2013-MAR-14, at:

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Copyright © 2013 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally posted: 2013-MAR-13
Latest update: 2013-MAR-15
Author: B.A. Robinson

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