But activists are also angry that as leader of the Argentine church, he has never acknowledged or apologized for what they describe as the church’s active institutional support of the military government, said Gaston Chillier, who tracks the country’s human rights cases as director of the Center for Legal and Social Studies.
The church was so deeply in league with the dictators that when the Inter-American Human Rights Commission came for an inspection in 1979, the Argentine navy moved many detainees to an island owned by the diocese during the visit.
“He is responsible during Argentina’s period of democracy for continuing a cover-up,” Chillier told the AP. “His knowledge of these cases clearly shows that he cannot deny the torture and the systematic theft of babies.”
Bergoglio testified in 2010 that he didn’t know anything about baby thefts until well after the dictatorship.
Since Bergoglio became archbishop in 1998, his church has issued several apologies for failing to do more to protect people from violence that came from both the right and the left. The latest, in October 2012, was the most forceful, and it also, for the first time, asked Catholics to come forward with whatever evidence they may have to support Argentina’s human rights trials.
But Chillier says Bergoglio could have done more to make the church help identify children and the bodies of detainees as well as identify those responsible for atrocities.
“It’s one thing to acknowledge what you failed to do, but another entirely to apologize for what you actually did,” Chillier said.