Hebe de Bonafini, the head of the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo Association — an organization that strives to find persons who were disappeared during the last military dictatorship — has confirmed that she will be visiting Pope Francis at the Vatican at the end of this month if she is cleared by her doctors to do so. Bonafini, who has a reputation as a firebrand when it comes to her opposition to President Mauricio Macri’s administration as well as other factions and institutions, is far from the Pope’s biggest fan due to what she sees as his ties to the last military dictatorship.
“I’m getting a check-up to see if I can travel. People consider it a done deal but I still have to see what the doctors say […] I’ve been very sick and it’s a long trip. I’m almost 88 [so] I have to [travel] in good health,” explained Bonafini.
Despite a certain lessening of tensions once Jorge Bergoglio became Pope Francis, Bonafini has rejected various invitations to visit the Vatican before. Back in 2007, she said the following:
“Garbage goes together, [President Mauricio] Macri […] and [Pope Francis]. They’re the same kind. They’re fascism, they’re the return of the dictatorship. They’re the dictatorship itself,” she said back then.
But according to Infobae sources, she said she believes now, “It’s [a] good moment to go.” Bonafini herself told the press that she had placed conditions on her potential visit to Rome, including the Church’s acknowledgment of its participation in the military dictatorship.
“Bergoglio is always inviting me to go. I’ve asked for several things: if he complies [with them], I’ll go,” said Bonafini last year.
Last month, the Vatican revealed that it would declassify files from the last Argentine military dictatorship or “organize” them in order to publish their contents. Baby steps. This was apparently a gesture of rapprochement with the Mothers and the Grandmother of the Plaza de Mayo and may have influenced Bonafini’s decision to go.
- Read more: US Announces It Will Declassify Additional Documents Related To Last Argentine Dictatorship
As for what Bonafini may ask the Pope during her visit, she simply stated that:
“It will be a private affair and I can [only say] that I will not ask for anything personal, as always, the way we work at the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo [towards] what is good for everyone.”
The Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo Association strive to find disappeared children who were abducted by the military dictatorship between 1976-1983. The Mothers are separate from the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo Founding Line, from which they split in 1986 over political differences, as well as from the Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo, led by Estela de Carlotto, who search for children born in captivity who were given or sold to allies of the dictatorship. Carlotto stated in 2014 that “linking the Pope to the dictatorship was a mistake” and visited him with her newly found grandson.
Although Pope Francis was not an official part of the Catholic Church’s hierarchy during the 70s, there are allegations suggesting he collaborated with the dictatorship. As head of the Jesuit order, he has also been linked to the abduction of two priests, although there is not enough evidence to process him.