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Wednesday, April 03, 2013

Opposition from within Argentinian church hierarchy to Pope's election says close friend

Alicia Oliveira received the surprise from her friend, Eduardo Valdes, influential man in the Buenos Aires Peronist movement. It had been 48 hours since the election of Jorge Bergoglio as the new Pope Francis when Valdés told her that the President of the nation Cristina Fernandez had invited her to join the official delegation would travel to the Vatican to witness the inauguration of the Supreme Pontiff.

Oliveira accepted immediately. She shared the Lufthansa flight from Frankfurt-Rome with Father Carlos Accaputo, Head of the Social Pastoral Office of the Archbishop of Buenos Aires, the Villa Fiorito waste scavenger Sergio Sanchez, the head of the Chamber of Deputies, Julián Domínguez, and the representative of the UIA, José Ignacio de Mendiguren.

For Oliveira, the trip to Rome came to complete a cycle of her own biography. Catholic single mother of three children, former judge who was left unemployed by the civil-military dictatorship in April 1976, a member of CELS in its early days, Oliveira was always considered a close friend of the new Pope, whom she keeps calling by his first name: "Jorge".

Oliveira is known as one of the most fervent defenders of Pope Francis. Especially when the controversy over his tenure as Provincial of the Jesuit Order began to move across the world. In 1976, after being left unemployed as a judge- she was one of the few judges who dared to give effect to habeas corpus-Bergoglio started meeting her twice a week. The appointment was inevitably in the retreat house that the Jesuits own in Villa de Mayo, present municipality of Malvinas Argentinas.

"We made a meal, held a small religious ceremony, he greeted and took the opportunity to talk to people about the state of the country," Oliveira recounted in several reports. The lawyer says that the Pope came to state his own position of how the "very marked" youth of Argentina could escape.

After Bergoglio was chosen as new head of the Catholic Church, the stories of Oliveira received media coverage. In some cases, the attempt was made to contrast her testimony with the investigation, undertaken since the 90s, by the journalist Horacio Verbitsky on the kidnapping and torture of the Jesuits Francisco Jalics and Orlando Yorio (click on labels below for more details of this case, in which the Pope is accused on collaborating with the military junta).

Oliveira said she took up the defense of the Pope at the request of her children and Valdes, with whom she undertaken public service in the Chancellor's Office . Both were close to the former president of Sedronar and next head of Aeropuerstos Argentina 2000, Rafael Bielsa. In fact, during the administration of Bielsa as Chancellor, Oliveira was appointed director of Human Rights in the Palacio San Martin.

When asked about her current activity, the criminal lawyer, now retired, defines herself as an "observer". An observer, for one, who is very attentive to what happens in Buenos Aires and the Vatican.

In the two weeks that have passed since the white smoke over the Vatican, Oliveira spoke twice by phone with the brand new Pontiff who is trying to govern 1200 million adherents worldwide. "Things about friends, affectionate things. He was very angry because I said that when I was in Rome I made no effort to see him. Was crazy. Everybody wanted to go to see him and it was impossible," she tells Tiempo Argentino on the content of the conversation with Pope.

The telephone conversation also included a question about the alleged "dirty dossier" that had circulated in the Vatican in order to stop the election of Bergoglio. According to Oliveira, both agreed that if this maneuver really existed, it did not have among its sponsors the Argentine Ambassador to the Holy See, Juan Pablo Cafiero.

In another part of the interview with Time, Oliveira warns: "Let's see what happens at the next Te Deum." (this is sung in the Cathedral to celebrate Argentinian National Day- the President unlike her late husband, also President, has not been attending in recent years).  The comment sounds casual but is illustrative of the new winds of the relationship between the President's Residence and the former archbishop of Buenos Aires. This May 25 will mark ten years of the arrival in the Presidential office of Néstor Kirchner. It will be a very significant day for the government, which is preparing a major demonstration to celebrate it. "I hope the Te Deum is made in the Cathedral of Buenos Aires. I hope you have noticed that sometimes the religious vocabulary is not exactly equal to the vocabulary of politicians. They should have someone ready to explain some things" Oliveira slides in a somewhat cryptic message, which appears to have multiple recipients.
Most media made a contrast between your statements and Horacio Verbitsky's research on previous activity of Bergoglio in the case of the arrest of Jalics and Yorio (two Jesuits who were imprisoned and tortured) .

What is your opinion?

I was surprised it took so long to get them out (the journalist's notes on the performance Bergoglio as provincial of the Jesuits during the dictatorship), because in the other election (the election of Benedict XVI) the same thing happened. I noticed that later.

Verbitsky is not being faithful to the memory of Emilio Mignone, founder of CELS, and what he wrote in his famous book, Church and dictatorship?

Remove the word loyalty. I read that book, and I talked about it with Jorge ( Bergoglio) because I was in the CELS and never hid my friendship with him. The issue always generated a discussion with Emilio (Mignone). With him oJorge always discussed. And one day he held a Mass for the disappeared in the Church of the Holy Cross. We both attended . I remember we were there and I told Emilio: "Turn around and look who's among the faithful." Jorge was. Emilio said nothing. That was in the last years of the dictatorship and the beginning of democracy. I used to meet Jorge at the College of Saviour. I left the CELS and was going to see. And one day on meeting Emilio I said: "Look, I now I'm meeting George, why do not you stop fooling around and you come, and say hello and endthis story." I was so insistent, I convinced both. Emilio came with me. And we found Jorge. They greeted each other, there was a great conversation, and then we left. So to those that say there was no meeting... I witnessed that meeting.

Why do you think that Bergoglio is not coming to Argentina until December?

They said it is because of the election, right?

And what do you think of him not coming until after the election?

I do not think it right that comes before. It should not be used although it can be used ...on the one side or the other. And he can not fall into that game, in that game ... I remember within the ecclesiastical circles, in the hierarchy, there are people who do not want Jorge.

Why do they not want him?
They feel him very light, very leftist. For these groupings, which are the old story of the Church, Jorge is very light.

You mean the grouping representing the Archbishop of La Plata, Hector Aguer?

They tried to lobby for Bergoglio not to be elected Pope?

As I have understood it, although I cannot say with absolute certainty, Aguer is closely linked to (Leonardo) Sandri (the other Argentine cardinal who aspired to become Pope) and a man who was Secretary of the Religious Affairs Department with former President Menem: Esteban Caselli. They exerted their influence.
In terms of Argentinan politics, what is signified by Bergoglio and what is signified by Aguer?
I have no answer. I do not know about the political groups linked to Aguer.

And those linked to Bergoglio?

Was there or was there not an exercise of secret diplomacy, from the Vatican embassy in Argentina, to try to block the election of Bergoglio as Pope?

I know Pablo Cafiero very well- I cannot believe that Juan Pablo was involved. Look, when I discussed this Bergoglio, I have not talked about what I said or what I learned from others. No. Always, my testimonies were from things that I experienced with him directly. I did not experience that with Juampi (Cafiero) so I could not say anything about it. But his long political and human behavior, personality characteristics indicated he would not do that. That's what I can say. And when I telephoned, the Pope mentioned it and he said he thought agreed. More than that I can not tell. That does not mean that there have not been things that have not come to light.

The journalist Marcelo Longobardi said he had information from the United States and he was sure that Washington had exerted a decisive role in the appointment of Bergoglio. He cited the Cardinal of New York, Timothy Dolan. What do you think?

I do not believe Longobardi too much.

The New York Cardinal is an important man.

I do not know. I'm no expert on cardinals.

In that vein, a reading that the Church might be competing with popular and progressive movements in Latin America who take away its members, its mass base.

'These things says the comrade of La Matanza (Luis D'Elia). I think not.

I ask now about the personal relationship between President Cristina Fernandez and Pope Francisco. Is there still going to be the distance that characterized the link while Bergoglio was archbishop or will this change?

That the relationship is a bit aloof does not bother me. Do you remember what Peron said ? So that the relationship is not cluttered, they do not have to be bound closely all together. It can work well, cooperate with some distance, and assuming that the Church is one thing and the civil power is something else. Since this man was named archbishop, as far as I know, his main character has been the concern for people. We must wait. Because you have to see what Cristina does. Let's see what happens at the next Te Deum, you understand?

Do you think that the Argentina Catholic Church, as an institution, has made the necessary self-criticism of his role during the dictatorship?

I think not yet. But we must also remember that it was the whole Church who were members of the Church.
You mean those leading the Church?

Sure. In some places. The La Plata case ( Antonio Plaza), for example, that was terrible. Not only Monsignor De Nevares, not only La Rioja man (Enrique Angelelli), who was murdered, and Ponce de Leon, who was also killed. Many were victims of state terrorism.

But the Argentinian church did not have the same attitude as the Brazilian Church and the Church in Chile to the crimes of the respective dictatorships.

Certainly. Some hierarchs did not. But when he speaks of the Church I feel involved, because the Church is a community of faith and I am a member of the faith community. Church saying, I am referring to all, to be a community of faith.

Will the election of Bergoglio as Pope promote self-criticism of the role of the Church in Argentina during the dictatorship?

I hope so.

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