His Holiness Pope Francis I is scheduled to be installed as the 266th pontiff on Tuesday, March 19. At this time, the Church has quite a bit on its agenda. Issues needing attention include evangelization, reform of governance within the Church, interfaith issues, the role of women in the Church, the growing use of surrogates, clergy misconduct issues and improving the reporting mechanisms between the Synod of Bishops and the papacy.
Perhaps the most important task at the outset is to improve the reporting relationship between the Synod of Bishops and the pope. This was an effort begun by His Holiness Pope Paul VI.
The Synod consists of a group of bishops who have been chosen from different global areas. Their mission is to create a closer unity between the Pontiff and the bishops in order to strengthen ecclesiastical discipline and to consider questions pertaining to the global activities of the Church.
The Synod has many responsibilities. Reporting on specific geopolitical issues to the pope is the area which has caused the most questions surrounding the Church’s actions or lack thereof in the “Dirty War” in Argentina. This war was the subject of growing questions about then Father Bergoglio’s advising several Argentine priests to give up their pastoral work for a period or lose the protection of the Jesuit Order in Argentina.
The Church was not the only party to have been faced with difficult choices in the Dirty War. On October 6, 1976, Argentine Admiral Cesar Augusto Guzzetti had been told by Acting Secretary of State Charles W. Robinson “The problem is that the United States is an idealistic and moral country and its citizens have great difficulty in comprehending the kinds of problems faced by Argentina today. There is a tendency to apply our moral standards abroad and Argentina must understand the reaction of Congress with regard to loans and military assistance. The American people, right or wrong, have the perception that today there exists in Argentina a pattern of gross violations of human rights.”
Examples of human rights violations include the activities of Jorge Acosta, Chief of the Argentinian Intelligence Task Force, who was responsible for ordering the killing of a Swedish teenage girl, Dagmar Hagelin, the French nuns of the Church of Santa Cruz, Leonie Duquet and Alice Domon, and the founder of the Mothers of Plaza de Mayo human rights group, Azucena Villaflor de Vicenti. In October 2011, Acosta was sentenced to life in prison by an Argentine court.
The noted humanitarian Adolfo Perez Esquivel believes that Pope Francis never collaborated with the juntas as do some other human rights advocates. Father Francisco Jalics, one of the clerics Father Bergoglio advised, met with him in 2000. The two overcame their differences and now Father Jalics has recently said, “I wish Pope Francis God’s rich blessings for his office.”
Adolfo Perez Esquivel best summed up the situation as it existed in Argentina in his Nobel Lecture of December 11, 1980. (excerpts)
I speak of my own Argentina where situations have led to systems of injustice that we share with the rest of our large Latin American fatherland. These have devolved into violence from both the Left and the Right which have resulted in the murdered, the injured, the disappeared, the tortured, imprisoned, and exiled.
This situation, anguished and unjust, is shared by all responsible sectors of national life. It is felt with sorrow by the families of the disappeared, and especially the mothers, like the mothers of the Plaza de Mayo whose valorous and international action for peace is a patient witness bearing the sorrow of uncertainty about the fate of their sons.
The churches, the workers’ organizations, the political parties and the institutions for the defense of human rights have all demanded a solution of this problem that stands in the way of a real meeting of the Argentines.
I do not wish to speak more of the above mentioned injustices, since I do not believe the latter is the struggle for you here. These are things I must deal with in my own country and confront with the present government.
His Holiness Pope Francis will be installed as the 266th pope this week, just in time for the Easter season. After the ceremonies are complete, the new pope will begin to address the many issues referred to in this article. May he be successful as he begins this historic journey.