BERLIN—A Jesuit priest kidnapped and tortured during Argentina’s military dictatorship said he and a fellow abductee priest were not denounced to the rightwing junta by Pope Francis.
After the new pope came under intense scrutiny for allegedly playing a role in the arrest of Francisco Jalics and the late Orlando Yorio, Germany-based Jalics issued a statement Wednesday saying: “These are now the facts.
“Orlando Yorio and I were not reported by Father Bergoglio,” Jalics said, referring to Jorge Mario Bergoglio, now Pope Francis and formerly the head of the Jesuit order in Argentina.
The first pope to hail from Latin America has been criticized by leftists for his actions during Argentina’s “Dirty War,” in which 30,000 people died or disappeared from 1976 to 1983.
The two young Jesuits were taken in March 1976 to the notorious Naval School of Mechanics, a torture centre run by the military junta. They were freed after five months.
“I myself formerly tended to believe that we were reported. At the end of the ’90s, however, it became clear to me after numerous conversations that this assumption was baseless,” Jalics said.
“It is false to claim that our arrest was provoked by Father Bergoglio,” he added in the statement published on the German Jesuits’ website.
Jalics, who called himself Franz in the statement, said that after his arrest, the officer questioning him had asked for his identification papers and taken him for a Russian spy on seeing he had been born in the Hungarian capital Budapest.
The Vatican has rejected claims that Pope Francis failed to do enough to protect the two priests and says he in fact helped save lives.
Bergoglio himself has always denied any involvement in the case, and says he even intervened with the head of the junta, Jorge Videla, to beg for the Jesuits to be freed.