Fr Franz Jalics SJ, the Hungarian-born Jesuit who was closely involved in the events in Argentina, about which the press have been so busy recently, has published his own account of what happened. Many thanks to Gemma Simmonds CJ for translating it from the German.
I had been living in Buenos Aires since 1957. In 1974, following a growing inner desire to live the Gospel and to draw attention to the terrible poverty, and with the permission of Archbishop Aramburu and the former provincial superior Fr Jorge Mario Bergoglio, I went to live in a 'favela', a slum district of the city, together with a confrère. From there, we continued our teaching at the University.
In the circumstances of the time, similar to a civil war, approximately 30,000 people, left-wing guerrillas and innocent civilians, were killed by the military junta within one to two years. The two of us in the slum had contacts both with the junta and with the guerrillas. However, due to the lack of information at that time as well as through targeted misinformation our position also led to misunderstandings within the church. At this time, we lost contact with one of our lay colleagues as this person had joined the guerrillas.
Nine months later, after he was captured by the soldiers of the junta and interrogated, they learned that he was in contact with us. On the assumption that we were involved with the guerrillas, we were arrested. After a five-day interrogation, the officer who led the interrogation dismissed us with these words: "Fathers, you are not at fault. I will see to it that you can go back to the slums." Despite this promise, and inexplicably to us, we were subsequently held for five months, blindfolded and shackled in prison. I can take no position on the role of Fr Bergoglio in these events.
I left Argentina after our liberation. Only years later did we have a chance to discuss what had happened with Fr Bergoglio, who meanwhile had been appointed Archbishop of Buenos Aires. We then celebrated Mass together publicly and embraced one another solemnly. I am reconciled with these events and personally consider them as over.
I wish Pope Francis God’s rich blessing for his Office.
P. Franz Jalics SJ
15 March 2013
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