March 15, 2013

Pope Francis breaks with tradition, style and formality

The clear message: He's different from Benedict

By NICOLE WINFIELD The Associated Press

(Continued from page 2)

Pope Francis
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Pope Francis waves from the steps of the Santa Maria Maggiore Basilica in Rome Thursday. At left is Cardinal Santos Abril of Spain and, right, Cardinal Agostino Vallini, Vicar General of Rome.


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In this photo provided by the Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano, Pope Francis, center, flanked at left by Cardinal Agostino Vallino, and at right by Cardinal Santos Abril y Castello, walks inside St. Mary Major Basilica, in Rome on Thursday. Pope Francis prayed at Rome's main basilica dedicated to the Virgin Mary a day after cardinals elected him the 26th pope.

The Associated Press

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The priests had been doing social work in poor areas of the capital, a suspect activity at the time, and Yorio later accused Bergoglio of in effect cooperating with the authorities by not publicly endorsing their work. However, in a biography by an Argentine journalist, Sergio Rubin, Bergoglio denied the allegation and described how he had worked behind the scenes to save the two men from being killed.

In 2010, Bergoglio testified before a special tribunal investigating the killings and detentions of that era, denying that he had anything to do with the arrest of the two priests. An attorney for the tribunal subsequently described Bergoglio as a "reluctant witness."

If nothing else, the case of the two priests hints at the general attitude of the Catholic Church in Argentina at the time. Much of the Latin American church was strongly influenced by liberation theology, a Marxist-tinged movement that called for social justice for the poor. Although many young Argentine priests were taken by the movement, it did not make as deep inroads in the country as elsewhere, and Bergoglio is said to have resisted its influence. Nor did the Catholic hierarchy in Argentina publicly resist the junta.

"What I think is clear is that the church never came out and publicly denounced the disappearances and never aligned itself with the progressive forces, as it did in Chile and El Salvador," said Iain Guest, founder and executive director of the Advocacy Project, a Washington-based nonprofit, and the author of "Behind the Disappearances: Argentina's Dirty War Against Human Rights and the United Nations." The church, he said, "was certainly not heroic in Argentina."

Las Madres de Plaza de Mayo, a group of relatives of the victims that had criticized Bergoglio for his lack of action during the dictatorship, responded enigmatically to the news of his election, issuing a one-word statement, "Amen."

But supporters of the new pope point to his backing of the canonization of three priests and two seminarians who were killed in July 1976 in the San Patricio Church of Buenos Aires, apparently on orders from the junta, as evidence of support for priestly resistance to the regime.

One of the pope's most prominent defenders is Adolfo Perez Esquivel, who won the 1980 Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts to expose the crimes of the junta. "Perhaps he didn't have the courage of other priests, but he never collaborated with the dictatorship," Perez Esquivel told Radio de la Red in Buenos Aires. "Bergoglio was no accomplice of the dictatorship. He can't be accused of that."

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Additional Photos

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In this photo provided by the Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano, Pope Francis puts flowers on the altar inside St. Mary Major Basilica in Rome on Thursday.

The Associated Press

Pope Benedict XVI
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Pope Benedict XVI in 2005



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