According to Crux, on 10 December the Pope marked the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by reading a message at the start of a Vatican-backed conference. Francis said there were “numerous contradictions” in the way the U.N. declaration was applied and blamed the world’s profit-motivated economy, which exploits the poor, for the injustices experienced by the world’s most vulnerable.
“While one part of humanity lives in opulence, another sees their dignity unrecognized … their fundamental rights ignored or violated,” he said. He cited the unborn, those deprived of education and dignified work, and most tellingly, the “victims of forced disappearances and their families.” The mention of “forced disappearances” was seen as a rare public comment relating to the troubled past of his native Argentina.
Between 1976 and 1983 thousands of people in Argentina were killed or forcibly “disappeared” by the right-wing military government. Pope Francis was Jesuit superior during this period, in what is now known as the “Dirty War,” which began when the military government launched a crackdown on leftist dissidents.
According to Crux, official estimates state between 7,600-13,000 people were killed or “disappeared” during the crackdown, however, human rights activists believe the real number is as high as 30,000.
Despite only mentioning the war occasionally, Pope Francis has previously met with representatives of the “Mothers of Plaza de Mayo”. These women have campaigned for years for information about the disappeared and their children, many of whom were secretly taken from their birth families and given up for adoption.
According to Crux, in 2016 Francis authorized the opening of archives from the Vatican and the Argentine Church for consultation by victims and their families.
The Pope has been criticized by some quarters over the years for not speaking out publicly about the atrocities while a high-ranking Jesuit. However, he has also been credited with saving the lives of more than two dozen people, after giving them sanctuary in his seminary and helping them out of the country.