The election of Pope Francis, previously Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, has resurfaced a decades-old controversy surrounding the kidnappings of two Jesuit priests.
Bergoglio was a high-ranking official in the Society of Jesus of Argentina when a military junta was installed in the South American country in 1976. According to the Los Angeles Times, priests Orlando Yorio and Francisco Jalics were kidnapped in May of that year by the navy. “They surfaced five months later, drugged and seminude, in a field,” the Times reported. A 2005 lawsuit accused Bergoglio of unspecified involvement in the abductions. Reuters explains that “the military government secretly jailed [Yorio and Jalics] for their work in poor neighborhoods.”
A spokesman for Bergoglio called the claims “old slander.”
According to “The Silence,” a book written by journalist Horacio Verbitsky, Bergoglio withdrew his order’s protection of the two men after they refused to quit visiting the slums, which ultimately paved the way for their capture.
Verbitsky’s book is based on statements by Orlando Yorio, one of the kidnapped Jesuits, before he died of natural causes in 2000. Both of the abducted clergymen survived five months of imprisonment.
“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,” Fortunato Mallimacci, the former dean of social sciences at the Universidad de Buenos Aires, once said.