In a 1976 letter, Bergoglio promised to do everything he could to free a kidnapped priest
Jorge Mario Bergoglio wrote to the family of Ferenc Jalics, one of the two religious priests arrested by the military dictatorship, promising to do everything possible to have them freed. The news was revealed yesterday by the Frankfurt General Newspaper (Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung) in an article containing lengthy passages from two letters written by Bergoglio, now Pope Francis. The letters seem to exonerate him from accusations of collusion with the junta based on older documents by journalist Horacio Verbitsky.
The brother of Ferencs Jalics showed the two letters to Frankfurt News reporter, Marie Katharina Wagner. The first is dated September 15, 1976 – after the Jesuit and the other priest, Orlando Yorio, had been arrested by the military as suspected friends to the guerrillas. “I have sought in many ways to bring about your brother’s freedom, but thus far we have been unsuccessful,” begins the letter written almost entirely in Latin. “But I have not lost hope that your brother will be released soon. I have decided that the matter is my task.”
Alluding to his disagreements with Jalics, Bergoglio continues, “The difficulties that your brother and I have had amongst ourselves concerning the religious life have nothing to do with the current situation.” Then, in German, “Ferenke is a brother to me.” And later, “I'm sorry if I started writing in German, but this the way I think about it.”
The letter continues, “I have Christian love for your brother, and I will do all in my power to see him freed.” They were difficult times; the Father General of the Jesuits at the time, Pedro Arrupe, the Frankfurter wrote, had condemned the village life of the priests, asking them to either leave or abandon the order.
The rumor was that the two priests were killed. They were released only after five atrocious months in ESMA, the navy school that had been transformed into a torture center. The day after their release, Bergoglio wrote a second letter to Jalics’ brother: “We also heard the false reports that Francisco had been assassinated, but I never believed it because I heard news about both of the fathers. Usually people talk too much rather than finding solutions.”
Horacio Verbitsky republished in Pagina 12 already released documents that in his estimation “close the discussion concerning Bergoglio.” The main document is a form completed in 1979 by an official of the dictatorship, Anselmo Orcoyen. He recommends not granting a new passport to Jalics (who had left for Germany), calling him “subversive”. Verbitsky sustains that the information would have been given to Orcoyen by Bergoglio.
This article was originally published in the March 18, 2013 edition ofLa Repubblica.