ROME — Italian journalist Nello Scavo has released a book entitled Bergoglio’s List, recounting the efforts of Pope Francis to help hundreds escape persecution by Argentina’s military dictatorship.
Scavo told CNA that his book was based on interviews with numerous eyewitnesses and on testimonies reconstructed after thorough research in Argentina.
“From all these stories emerges a list of persons saved by [then-Father] Bergoglio, which, by conservative estimates, includes more than 100 people.”
During much of the 1970s, Argentina was ruled by a right-wing military government, which “disappeared” thousands of left-wing activists and militants, accusing them of communism.
From 1976 to 1981, the country’s de facto president was Gen. Jorge Rafael Videla, whose regime disappeared as many as 30,000 Argentines and may have murdered as many as 15,000. Kidnappings, torture and other violations of human rights were rampant.
During the Videla regime, numerous priests and religious were killed for their work in the poor neighborhoods of Buenos Aires, which was considered a communist act.
During this time, from 1973 to 1980, Father Jorge Mario Bergoglio — now Pope Francis — was the Jesuit provincial in Argentina.
Father Bergoglio used his position to create an underground network of assistance and escape for those targeted by Videla’s government. Scavo says the list of witnesses of Father Bergoglio’s efforts continues to grow, and new stories continue to surface about how he helped dozens through his network.
“The witnesses tell us that the driving force behind this network was Father Bergoglio,” Scavo explained.
Scavo recounts in Bergoglio’s List, published Oct. 1 in Italian, that the future Pope “knew that if he wanted to help these people, he had to cover his tracks.”
The title of the book harkens to the famous list maintained by Oskar Schindler, the German businessman who saved some 1,200 Jews from being murdered during the Holocaust. His story is the basis for the award-winning film Schindler’s List.
Schindler, incidentally, lived for nearly 10 years in Argentina following World War II, while Pope Francis was a teenager and young adult.
Scavo makes clear that Bergoglio’s List “itself does not exist; it is only in the heart and mind of Pope Francis, who never wanted to speak about these things.”
Many of those helped by the future pope were sent by cargo ship to neighboring Uruguay, where Jesuits there provided them safe passage to other neighboring countries or to Europe.
Those aided expected to live in misery as refugees, but “Bergoglio’s network” provided them with food, shelter and other aid.
They were never made aware of the network until after having boarded the cargo ships, Scavo relates, when they were finally told they had been saved through the efforts of Father Bergoglio.
“It was impossible for these Jesuits in the rest of the countries of Latin America to operate autonomously without an order from the head of the Jesuits in Argentina, whose superior was Jorge Mario Bergoglio,” Scavo says.
“He acted with prudence, audacity and almost like a secret agent during a difficult time.”