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Argentine Bishops Ask Forgiveness For Role In "Dirty War" April 29, 1996

BUENOS AIRES (CWN) - Argentina's bishops issued a joint statement on Saturday asking forgiveness for any role Catholics may have had in the country's "dirty war" during the 1970s. Cardinal Antonio Quarracino of Buenos Aires read the 39-point document unanimously approved by the bishops after six days of retreat and a year of discussion.

"We implore God's forgiveness for the crimes committed then, especially by sons of the Church, whether as members of the revolutionary guerrillas or as members of the state or the security forces," the National Bishops' Conference said in a statement.

More than 9,000 Argentines disappeared and are presumed dead after the military led a 1976 coup against the constitutional government of Isabel Peron. The military waged a "dirty war" against dissidents, leading to guerrilla warfare and social upheaval. Thousands of Argentines were tortured and imprisoned without trial.

The bishops in their statement said, "Many Catholics justified and participated in systematic violence as a road to 'national liberation,' attempting to take political power and establish a new society based on Marxist ideology. And other groups, including many sons of the Church, responded illegally to the guerrillas in an immoral and atrocious way that shames us all."

The Catholic bishops at the time were criticized by human rights groups for maintaining relations with the military rulers. "Many think that the bishops should have broken off relations with the authorities as a way to obtain freedom for the detained," the bishops said. "Only God knows what would have happened if that road had been followed, but there is no doubt that all that was done was not enough."

"In concluding this examination of conscience, we bishops humbly beg God's forgiveness for faults we may be charged with. We beg our brothers who were offended to forgive us," the document said.