“As an institution, we have a complaint, and it’s that he never, even when he was the most powerful man in the church, talked about the disappeared,” Carlotto said. “He never called us to see what we needed.”
Bergoglio is also credited with protecting, and perhaps even saving, several people during the period. Human rights lawyer Alicia Oliveira told El Nacional newspaper on Friday that when the military issued an arrest warrant for her, Bergoglio offered her protection and regularly smuggled her into a school so she could see her child. He also gave his own identification papers and religious garb to a man so he could sneak across the border, she said.
Argentine Nobel Peace Prize winner Adolfo Pérez Esquivel said very few priests at the time actively challenged the military.
“I don’t think Jorge Bergoglio was an accomplice to the dictatorship,” he wrote on his website. “But I think he did lack the courage to join our fight for human rights during the most challenging of times.”
For some, the Dirty War debate is as much about politics as human rights.
Bergoglio’s relationship with the current administration “went from being cold in the beginning to outright confrontational later,” said Enrique López, a priest who has worked with Bergoglio for years. He called the Dirty War claims “a poorly planned media operation, because everyone knows where it’s coming from.”
Sergio Berenzstein, a political analyst, said the allegations are “totally exaggerated and politically motivated.”
“What we do know is that he tried to protect priests and sent those under his care to areas where there were less disappearances and torture,” he said. “For some that means he was cooperating with the dictatorship and to others, it means he was saving lives.”
For the moment, Argentina is embracing its hometown hero — the first pope ever to come from the Americas. Kirchner is traveling to Rome for his ascension ceremony Tuesday. The nation has declared a holiday and is erecting a massive screen in downtown Buenos Aires for locals to watch the event. That’s an honor usually reserved for Argentine World Cup finals. Bergoglio’s beloved San Lorenzo soccer team is adding a halo to their jersey.
Many here think Bergoglio might come to Argentina in July, when he’s already scheduled to visit Brazil for World Youth Day.
Cortez said she’s holding out hope that he might even visit the Alameda Foundation and its soup-kitchen.
“It would be great if he gave Mass here,” she said. “But we might have to do it outside. I don’t think everyone would fit in the building.”
Miami Herald special correspondent Daniel Politi contributed to this report.
The original article referred to a hat that “only” cardinals wear. Popes and bishops also wear the mitre.