Adolfo Perez Esquivel

Adolfo Perez Esquivel

April 1, 2013

Pope Francis preferred carrying out "a silent diplomacy" in helping victims versus leading a more public outcry during Argentina's "dirty war," said an Argentine Nobel Peace Prize laureate.

"The pope had nothing to do with the dictatorship . . . he was not an accomplice," Adolfo Perez Esquivel told journalists after his private meeting with Pope Francis at the Vatican March 21.

While the Vatican released no details about the meeting, Perez, 81, told journalists that he and the pope spoke about the so-called "dirty war" period "in general terms" during their 30-minute encounter.

Perez won the 1980 Nobel Peace Prize for his work on human rights during the 1976-1983 dictatorship.

The future pope, then-Jesuit Father Jorge Mario Bergoglio, "was not among the bishops who were in the front line of the defence of human rights because he preferred a silent diplomacy to ask about the missing, about the oppressed," he said.

"There were bishops who were accomplices with the dictatorship, but not Bergoglio," Esquivel said.

Bergoglio was head of the Jesuit province in the country from 1973 to 1979, the height of the clandestine war that saw as many as 30,000 Argentines kidnapped, tortured, murdered or disappeared, never to be seen again.

Some claims had been made that Pope Francis played either a direct role in the kidnappings of two Jesuit priests during the country's murderous military dictatorship or that he allegedly failed to protect the two young priests – Fathers Orlando Yorio and Francisco Jalics - from kidnapping by Argentina's military junta in 1976. Both priests were later freed.


The Vatican spokesman, Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, said, "This was never a concrete or credible accusation."

Lombardi said, "Instead, there have been many declarations demonstrating how much (the future Pope Francis) did to protect many persons at the time of the military dictatorship."

Jalics has recently emphasized that he and the late Father Yorio had never been denounced by the future pope to the military junta.