By Andrew W. Griffin
Red Dirt Report
March 21, 2013
OKLAHOMA CITY – As the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics continue to familiarize themselves with the newly elected Pontiff, Pope Francis, much is being said in Catholic circles and beyond about his role as an advocate for the poor and disenfranchised, while embracing “green” ideas by calling for increased protection of the environment.
And we here at Red Dirt Report support his efforts to encourage those with much to help those around the world that have so little. So far, Pope Francis has wowed the world with his accessibility and humility. A pope for the 21st century, it would seem.
And yet, one cannot overlook Pope Francis (the former Jorge Mario Bergoglio, archbishop of Buenos Aires, Argentina) and the many questions that Catholics, the media and many others have (including ones we have asked here at Red Dirt Report) regarding his role during Argentina’s merciless “Dirty War” (1976-1983), where the Argentinian Catholic Church is long believed to have withered in the face of the Videla-led military dictatorship, where thousands of leftists died in secret prisons or were thrown into the sea from high-flying airplanes.
In fact, in 2010, Videla claimed he kept the Catholic hierarchy informed about his regime’s policy of ‘disappearing’ political opponents and that Catholic leaders offered advice on how to “manage” that policy of disappearance.
The Vatican, of course, has denied Pope Francis (who was then the provincial for Argentina’s Society of Jesus – the Jesuits) did anything wrong during those years. When questioned during legal proceedings, the former Archbishop Bergoglio himself said he did what he could under the circumstances and even worked behind the scenes to have victims of the military junta freed.
Perhaps. Perhaps not. The details still remain a bit murky and as we all know, “actions speak louder than words.”
As all this was coming to light, we had heard that elderly, Zimbabwean despot Robert Mugabe, 89, himself a Catholic, had planned to be at the Vatican this week, to greet Pope Francis. But we didn’t know he would actually be treated as a VIP and get to shake the Pontiff’s hand. Of course being the brutal, racist dictator that he is, Mugabe has been banned from traveling to European Union nations, which presumably includes Italy (the international airport he landed at is in Rome). The U.S. has had economic sanctions against Zimbabwe for a decade now.
However, Vatican City is not affected by the ban, which Mugabe defied anyway, and made his way to the Vatican for Pope Francis’ inaugural mass on March 19th. Ironically, Mugabe and his wife were seated across the aisle from EU members including European Council President Herman Van Rompuy. Birds of a feather, as they say …
Mugabe – voted “worst dictator in the world” in 2009 – was reportedly treated as a VIP and would later tell media (including the Zimbabwean propaganda outlet The Herald in Harare) that he urged Pope Francis to visit Africa because he is “a man of God who will be praying for all of us, praying for the sinful world to repent.”
Of course that is a rather contemptuous and paradoxical statement to make in light of his own long list of “sinful” ways.
Mugabe, presumably with a straight face, then told journalists not to “twist” his words and for the members of the media to “go to church, lead a morally-guided life, avoid heavy drinking and write well,” according to news accounts.
Many are appalled that Mugabe was greeted by Pope Francis. In fact, the Pontiff, who shook Mugabe’s hand, appeared to bow before Mugabe and his wife Grace (who considered the trip an excuse to go on another shopping spree on the backs of her suffering ).
Some reports say Mugabe tried to engage Pope Francis at length but, according to The Australian, “a priest in charge of protocol intervened to move the Mugabes on.” Seems as if Mugabe still thinks he is in charge even when he’s outside of Zimbabwe.
And yet there is that photo of Mugabe being greeted, warmly even, by the new pope. Is this an example of Pope Francis once again avoiding an opportunity to stare down evil and order a monster and fellow Catholic like the ruthless Mugabe to beg for forgiveness for all his sins against his fellow human beings?
It would appear so. Pope Francis even smiles as Mugabe engages in conversation with him, as other world leaders wait their turn for an introduction. Perhaps what Argentina’s Gen. Videla said about the Catholic Church in that country, it being a collaborator in human-rights abuses and priests and bishops either endorsing their methods, or passively “looking the other way,” has a ring of truth … and historical precedence.
After all, as the late journalist Christopher Hitchens noted, approximately 25 percent of the Nazi SS were practicing Catholics and that no Catholic members of Hitler’s SS were excommunicated for participating in war crimes. And the Vatican would also provide the “ratline” to South America, giving war criminals cover via passports, money and contacts on that continent, a landmass which has experienced numerous vicious dictatorships based on the European fascist model that the Vatican has long approved.
One has to wonder if the Jesuit connection, considering Mugabe attended the exclusive Jesuit-run Kutama College and that the loner child Mugabe was often in the company of Jesuit priests growing up, had something to do with the Pope’s odd behavior when greeting Mugabe?
Regardless of the reason, Francis’s actions “speak louder than words.”
As Canada’s National Post reported, following the encounter: “Back in Mugabe’s unfortunate country, it’s business as usual: Police repression, subversion of democracy, unlawful detention and intimidation of opponents from Morgan Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change.”
And that’s only scratching the surface of the human-rights abuses that have been committed against his starving and brutalized countrymen during Mugabe’s seemingly endless “reign of terror.”
And yes, we mean “terror.” In 2008, Mugabe’s ZANU-PF goons, targeted the wife of an opposition leader, cutting off a hand and both of her feet before burning her alive after igniting a petrol bomb. That is but just one example of the Mugabe-approved murders committed against opponents in recent years. And let’s not forget the destruction of that country’s once vibrant agriculture sector (thanks to so-called anti-colonialist “land reforms”) and a ruined healthcare system that has lead to deadly outbreaks of cholera and other diseases.
Once the breadbasket of southern Africa, Zimbabwe is now an economic basket case and continues to be led by an iron-fisted despot who truly believes he is a “godly Catholic” by running his country into the ground. After all, The New York Times, in 2009, asked “How can Mugabe and his henchmen be held accountable for the catastrophe they created?”
And one other question, when Mugabe left, why wasn’t he nabbed at the Rome airport? Someone needs to explain why this criminal was allowed to get away.
Meanwhile, the Vatican – and Pope Francis – should immediately condemn Robert Mugabe and take the strong stance of excommunicating this obscene totalitarian who claims to be a man of faith. Considering the evidence stacked against Francis in light of his capitulation to the horrors of the junta in the 1970’s in his native Argentina, such a courageous move is unlikely.