March 16--VATICAN CITY -- As world leaders head to Rome for Tuesday's inaugural Mass of Pope Francis, there is one group that the new pope has politely asked to stay home: his fellow Argentinians.
On the night of his election he called the papal nuncio in Buenos Aires and told him to "tell the bishops to tell the people not to come. It's too expensive. Use the money you would have spent on travel to help the poor," said the Rev. Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman.
President Barack Obama has appointed Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr.; U.S. Rep. Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic House leader; New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez; and Georgetown University president John DeGioia as the U.S. delegation. Both Mr. Biden and Ms. Pelosi have drawn Catholic ire for their support of legal abortion, but they are the highest-ranking Catholics in the government, while Ms. Martinez is a Republican who opposes abortion.
The Vatican spokesman dealt with one other political matter, the recirculation of old accusations that Pope Francis, as Father Jorge Mario Bergoglio, had collaborated with an Argentinian dictatorship in the 1970s that murdered thousands of people, including priests and nuns who worked for human rights. He was accused of looking the other way as the Jesuit provincial superior when two of his priests were kidnapped and held for five months.
"There was never a concrete or credible accusation in this regard," a Vatican statement said. "Instead there have been many declarations demonstrating how much Bergoglio did to protect many persons at the time of the military dictatorship. Bergoglio's role, once he became bishop, in promoting a request for forgiveness of the church in Argentina for not having done enough at the time of the dictatorship, is also well known."
One of the kidnapped priests, the Rev. Franz Jalics, issued a statement Friday saying that during his captivity he was unaware of what Father Bergoglio did or did not do on his behalf and left the country as soon as he was freed.
"Only years later did we have the opportunity to discuss these events with Father Bergoglio, who had meanwhile been appointed archbishop," he wrote. "After our conversation, we celebrated Mass publicly and we embraced one another. I have made my peace with these events and, as far as I am concerned, the case is closed. I wish Pope Francis God's rich blessings for his office."
The Rev. Jeff Klaiber, the Jesuit author of "The Jesuits in Latin America," said that direct witnesses to the events in question have said that Father Bergoglio did try to help the imprisoned Jesuits, though "he could have been more forceful."
The Rev. Thomas Reese, a Jesuit political scientist at Georgetown University, said that the old accusation against the new pope "doesn't make sense." In part that's because Jesuits wouldn't have elected a superior who would maliciously endanger their lives, he said.
Meanwhile in Rome, Pope Francis continued to display a surprisingly egalitarian style. For breakfast with other cardinals, "he just goes around and finds the place that's available and sits down. ... There is no special place of honor for him. He is just at home among everybody," said the Rev. Thomas Rosica, a Vatican translator.
For a short talk to the cardinals Friday he had a text but ad-libbed many remarks. He gave an update on a cardinal who had suffered a heart attack and later visited the elderly man in the hospital. His unscripted remarks, the spokesmen told the journalists, make it impossible to provide advance texts or quick translations.
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