Pope Francis greets a baby wearing a shirt with the colors of Argentina's national soccer team during his general audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican May 3, 2017. CNS photo/Paul Haring

Argentine Church to release baptismal records from dictatorship period

  • March 14, 2018
BUENOS AIRES, Argentina – The Argentine Bishops' Conference will release to the justice system, in accordance with Pope Francis' wishes, dozens of baptismal records from the country’s dictatorship period.

The conference said it will release the records of 127 baptisms performed in the Stella Maris chapel of the Escuela Superior de Mecánica de la Armada, a naval school for technical instruction in Buenos Aires.

The school functioned as one of the largest clandestine centers for detention, torture and extermination during the military dictatorship in power from 1976 to 1983.

The Military Diocese recently found the records, which will be turned over to federal judge Sergio Gabriel Torres and attorney general Pablo Parenti.

According to the Associated Press, local courts have discovered a “systematic plan of stealing the children of disappeared women and illegally adopting them out during the dictatorship.” After detained women gave birth, the children were reportedly given new identities and illegally adopted out to military families.

However, the records to be turned over by the local Church are not believed to be illegally adopted children of the detained-disappeared, but rather children of soldiers who were baptized, said Bishop Santiago Olivera of the Military Diocese.

He clarified to the Argentine National News Agency Telam that an investigation into the records will bring certainty on this point.

“Sharing the sentiments and earnest desire of the Holy Father, the Argentine Bishops' Conference is making available to the justice system the totality of the recorded information and the aforementioned documentation, in continuity with the procedures of this conference as to the requirements of the justice system in recent years,” the committee said in a statement.

They also stressed that “these records can be accessible to well-recognized human rights organizations and researchers from various academic fields.”

“We have the firm conviction that the Church must maximize its efforts to contribute to the path of remembrance, truth and justice in all fields, especially in face of the gravity of the crimes against humanity perpetrated under State Terrorism,” the statement said.

The Executive Committee of the Argentine Bishop's Conference also stressed its “commitment to immediately inform the judicial authorities of any data and information that may come forth in the future.”

In January this year, Pope Francis authorized the publication of the chapel's baptismal records when he met in the Vatican with the Bishop for the Military Diocese, Santiago Olivera, Telam reported.

Also with the Holy Father's authorization, the Vatican initiated a system in October 2016 for relatives of those who were detained-disappeared to access the archives that the Holy See has on the dictatorship in Argentina.

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