Wednesday, March 13, 2013
First Look At Pope Francis
Known before today as Jorge Bergoglio, Pope Francis' coronation is not likely to be met favorably by more liberal Catholics. The Washington Times takes a first look at the 76-year old Argentine cardinal whose father, a railroad worker, immigrated from Italy to Argentina where Bergoglio was born in 1936. He is the first pope from the Americas, and he's the first Jesuit. His views on social issues are very conservative. He openly opposed the Argentina government's move to legalize gay marriage, the first country to do so in Latin America, and he opposed government programs promoting free contraception and artificial insemination. When he said gay adoptions discriminate against children, President Christina Fernandez compared his views to "medievel times and the Inquisition."
His conservative views are softened by his aversion to luxuries and his outreach to the poor. The Times notes that he often rides the bus, travels to the slums in the outskirts of Buenos Aires, cooks for himself and resides in a modest apartment. "He accused fellow church leaders of hypocrisy and forgetting that Jesus Christ bathed lepers and ate with prostitutes," the Times reported. The Times says he rarely grants interviews to the media and even remains silent in the face of false accusations against him by his critics. Bergoglio has been challenged to restore the church's reputation in Argentina after many of the faithful felt the church turned its back on people who were victimized by the brutal dictatorship that ruled the country from 1976-83. He has been accused of being more concerned about protecting the church's image than aiding human rights investigations in the country. "Bergoglio twice invoked his right under Argentine law to refuse to appear in open court, and when he eventually did testify in 2010, his answers were evasive, human rights attorney Myriam Bregman said."
Bergoglio was in charge of the church's Jesuit order during the dictatorship. He told his biographer that he regularly hid people on church property during the dictatorship and claims he once gave his identification papers to a man who looked somewhat like him so he could escape across the border. His biographer said Bergoglio's silence during the dictatorship was born of pragmatism at a time when many people were being killed by the government. His critics fault him and other church leaders for publicly supporting the dictators. “The dictatorship could not have operated this way without this key support,” one critic said. In particular, the testimony he gave in 2010 concerning his knowledge of stolen babies seems to be contradicted by the evidence based on his actual personal knowledge. “Bergoglio has a very cowardly attitude when it comes to something so terrible as the theft of babies. He says he didn’t know anything about it until 1985,” said the baby’s aunt, Estela de la Cuadra, whose mother Alicia co-founded the Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo in 1977 in hopes of identifying these babies. “He doesn’t face this reality and it doesn’t bother him. The question is how to save his name, save himself. But he can’t keep these allegations from reaching the public. The people know how he is.”