Man on a mission

The Pope has vowed to take the church in a new direction but is haunted by his country’s past

Tony Allen-Mills in Buenos Aires and John Follain in Rome Published: 17 March 201

Pope FrancisPope Francis with one of the Vatican’s Swiss guards (Paul Hanna)

Much of Argentina was still rejoicing at the election of Pope Francis last week when Patricia Astellara, a former inmate at the notorious La Perla prison camp for political detainees, took the witness stand in the long-delayed trial of her former captors.

Astellara spoke of a terrible period in Argentine history, when dissidents were swept from the streets and never seen again by their families; of the “dirty war” that has returned to haunt the former Archbishop of Buenos Aires as he begins a new life as the first non-European pope for 1,300 years.

At the Vatican, Catholic officials brusquely dismissed questions about Jorge Mario Bergoglio’s supposed collaboration with the military dictatorship of the 1970s as “old stories” that had never been proven and were politically motivated by “anti-clerical” forces.

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