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BRUSSELS: British Prime Minister David Cameron said yesterday that Pope Francis had been wrong to say last year that Britain had “usurped” the Falkland Islands from Argentina, saying he respectfully disagreed with the new Pontiff.
Argentine media quoted Jorge Bergoglio saying at a mass last year to mark the 30th anniversary of the war over the islands between Britain and Argentina that the territory had been “usurped”. In 2010 he was quoted as saying it was “ours”.
When asked whether he agreed with the former archbishop of Buenos Aires on the issue, Cameron said yesterday:
“I disagree with him, respectfully,” adding that residents of the South Atlantic islands had made it clear in a referendum held earlier this week that they wanted to remain under British rule.
“There was a pretty extraordinarily clear referendum in the Falkland Islands,” Cameron told a news conference in Brussels, where he was attending a European Union summit.
“That is a message to everyone in the world that the people of these islands have chosen very clearly the future they want. That choice should be respected by everyone.”
Argentina, 500km to the west of the Falklands, has claimed the South Atlantic archipelago for almost 200 years and in 1982 invaded the islands only to be repelled in a 74-day war with Britain. Diplomatic rows between London and Buenos Aires have escalated in recent months, with Britain resisting calls by Argentina’s President Cristina Fernandez to renegotiate the sovereignty of the islands.
“The white smoke over the Falklands was pretty clear,” Cameron said, jokingly referring to the signal over the Sistine Chapel that announces the successful election of a new pope.
Meanwhile, the Vatican yesterday rejected claims that Pope Francis failed to do enough to protect two priests kidnapped and tortured by Argentina’s military junta and said he had in fact helped save lives. Jorge Mario Bergoglio, the first pope to hail from Latin America, has been criticised by leftist critics for his actions during Argentina’s “Dirty War” in which 30,000 people died or disappeared from 1976 to 1983.
His role in the arrest of two young Jesuits, Orlando Yorio and Francisco Jalics, who were taken to a notorious torture centre by the brutal right-wing junta, has come under intense scrutiny.
Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi said: “There has never been a credible, concrete accusation against him. The Argentinian justice system... has never charged him with anything.”
He said the campaign against Bergoglio was “well known” but claimed it was defamatory and aimed at discrediting the Church.
“The accusations come from parts of the anti-clerical left to attack the Church and must be denied,” said Lombardi, insisting that Bergoglio “did a lot to protect people during the dictatorship” when he was not yet a bishop.
Bergoglio himself has always denied any involvement in the case, and even says he intervened with the head of the junta, Jorge Videla, to beg for them to be freed. The two men were released after five months.
The newly-elected pontiff, who is also the first Jesuit pope, earlier urged the troubled Catholic Church that he has inherited not to succumb to “pessimism” and to find new ways of spreading the faith.Agencies