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Vatican Breaks Silence, Rejects Dirty War Claims ABout Pope Francis

For the first time since the election of Pope Francis, the Vatican has defended him against accusations that he knew about human rights abuses in the so-called Dirty War in his home country of Argentina but failed to act to halt them.
Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said there had ''never been a credible accusation against him'' over the Dirty War in the 1970s, when he was the superior of the Jesuit order in Argentina.

Pope Francis, the former Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Buenos Aires, was elected by his fellow cardinals on Wednesday, and much of his behaviour since has seemed to indicate a Vatican shift of tone to a more humble and frugal approach.

When he addressed the cardinals on Friday, he frequently spoke without notes, addressing them as ''Brother Cardinals'' rather than more usual ''Lord Cardinals'', and the Vatican press office highlighted other shows of modesty and lack of formality since his election.

But the question of his past has persisted, rekindling accusations about the Argentine conflict in which as many as 30,000 people disappeared, or were tortured or killed by the military dictatorship.

At a news conference on Friday, Father Lombardi repeated claims by a prominent human rights campaigner that there had been ''no compromise by Cardinal Bergoglio with the dictatorship''.

The issue intruded into a day when Francis praised his predecessor, Benedict, saying his nearly eight years as Pope had ''lit a flame in the depths of our hearts''.
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