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On video: what does Argentina think about the pope's past?

Several have sprung to the pope's defense while others attempt to discredit him for his actions during Argentina's days of repression.

Published: March 19, 2013 06:07 AM GMT

Updated: March 18, 2013 07:33 PM GMT

On video: what does Argentina think about the pope's past?

He has been praised for his devotion to the poor - a humble man who has lived a modest life.

As the first pope from Latin America, there are hopes that Jorge Mario Bergoglio will re-energise Catholicism in the region, where evangelical christianity has been gaining ground in recent years.

But within minutes of the announcement of his appointment, allegations resurfaced about his role during Argentina's dirty war.

In a letter last year, Argentine bishops, under the leadership of Cardinal Bergoglio, asked for forgiveness for not doing enough during the dirty war. However, the church's acknowledgment was preceded by a defence of their actions in the context of the conflict: 

"The Argentine homeland has lived difficult and critical moments during its 200 year history. A particular time of disagreement and painful confrontations was the decade of the 1970s. Many years have passed and there continue to emerge unanswered questions about the events that occurred and the responsibility that people and insitutitons had. To return to those events, it is necesary to take into account the socio-political context of the times and the many actors who intervened." (continued)

Despite his reputation as an advocate for the poor, Pope Francis has long been a critic of Liberation Theology, the school of thought born in Latin America among Catholic priests, that said the church must take an active political role in lifting people out of poverty and fighting injustice.

His selection comes at a particularly interesting time as the Vatican's role in social justice movements is being actively debated, both in the United States and Latin America.

So, what will be the political, cultural and religious impact of Pope Francis' ordination on the region? And what was his role in the country's dirty war? ….

…. "I think those allegations quite frankly are untrue ... I am in Buenos Aires right now, so I had been in the middle of all this, hearing the allegations back and forth, and I think it is very important to note that Adolfo Perez Esquivel who is an Argentine Nobel peace prize winner for 1980 - that's in the midst of the Argentine dictatorship - he wins a Nobel peace prize for the struggle against the dictatorship and in favour of human rights, has yesterday and today come out to claim openly that Bergoglio, the current pope, had no links to the dictatorship. Now, what is true, is that the Argentine Catholic Church rarely spoke out directly against the dictatorship." - Ivan Petrella, an Argentine social theorist

Full Story: Pope Francis: A symbol of change? 

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Source:Al Jazeera

Note: as well as the video contained in this article, a full length 25 minute investigation can be seen by following the Al Jazeera link.

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