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Vatican defends pope against Argentina 'dirty war' allegations

VATICAN CITY — The Vatican on Friday rejected any suggestion that Pope Francis of Argentina was implicated in his country's so-called "dirty war" during the 1970s, tackling the issue just two days after the pontiff's election.

On a day when Francis delivered a warm address to his cardinals and continued to project humility, the Vatican seemed intent on putting to rest questions about the pope's past, dismissing them as opportunistic defamations from anticlerical leftists.

"There has never been a credible accusation against him," said the Rev. Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman.

On the contrary, he said, "There have been many declarations of how much he did for many people to protect them from the military dictatorship."

The charges derive from the pope's days as the provincial, or leader, of Argentina's Jesuits in the 1970s, a time of conflict in his country when the dictatorship tortured, killed or "disappeared" as many as 30,000 people.

Many of the questions have emerged from articles and books published by journalists in Argentina, drawing from documents and statements by priests and lay workers who clashed with the Rev. Jorge Mario Bergoglio before he became a bishop, a cardinal and then, on Wednesday, the pope.

Some human rights activists and authors have criticized his election, while some leftists in Argentina have defended him, as have ordinary Argentinians.

Lombardi repeated assertions by a prominent human rights campaigner in Argentina who said there had been "no compromise by Cardinal Bergoglio with the dictatorship."

Posters with the image of Pope Francis that read in Spanish “Francisco I, Argentine and Peronist” get the attention of a woman walking past Friday in Buenos Aires.

Associated Press

Posters with the image of Pope Francis that read in Spanish “Francisco I, Argentine and Peronist” get the attention of a woman walking past Friday in Buenos Aires.

Vatican defends pope against Argentina 'dirty war' allegations 03/15/13 [Last modified: Saturday, March 16, 2013 1:17am]

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