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"In every secular and religious organization in Argentina, there was ongoing debate in this period as to what was most effective way to bring back the disappeared," he said. "Should they work quietly or confront the government?"
The goal, Harris said, was to get the victims - often young adults and teenagers - back from military custody. "They were convinced that they were being held in detention facilities." But many never came back.
"Most ended up in mass graves," he said.
The criticism of Bergoglio for not doing enough has prompted several prominent Argentine rights activists, including Nobel Peace Prize winner Adolfo Perez Esquivel, to come to his defense in recent days.
"There were some priests and bishops that helped the dictatorship, and others who spoke out and died because of it. But Bergoglio wasn’t a collaborator," said Graciela Fernandez Meijide, a politician and prominent human rights investigator whose 16-year-son vanished after being snatched from his bed by soldiers in the middle of the night.
It was an era during which the clerical vestments offered little protection, she said, and prominent members of the clergy were targeted. "And even if he wanted to denounce the government, who would he have turned to?" she said.
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