Priest abducted by Argentine junta reconciled with past

A Jesuit priest whose arrest and torture by Argentina's military junta in the 1970s sparked criticism of Pope Francis said Friday he had come to terms with the events and wished the newly elected pontiff well.

Amid allegations that Jorge Mario Bergoglio, then archbishop of Buenos Aires, betrayed him to the military regime, Father Francisco Jalics said in a statement he had spoken to Bergoglio years after his release.

"Afterwards we celebrated mass publicly together and we embraced solemnly. I am reconciled with the events and, for my part, consider them finished," said Jalics, who has lived in Germany since 1978.

"I wish Pope Francis God's rich blessing for his office," he added.

Jalics and another young Jesuit, Orlando Yorio, who were both working in a slum in Buenos Aires, were taken to a notorious torture centre by the brutal right-wing junta in 1976. They were freed after five months.

In 2010, Bergoglio was questioned as a witness by judges probing the arrest and torture of the two young Jesuits.

Bergoglio, the first pope from Latin America, was alleged to have betrayed the young missionaries to the regime because they had become opposition sympathisers and he wanted to preserve the Jesuits' political neutrality.

The Vatican on Friday rejected claims that Pope Francis had failed to do enough to protect the two priests amid condemnation by leftist critics for his actions during Argentina's Dirty War, in which 30,000 people died or disappeared from 1976 to 1983.

Bergoglio has always denied any implication in the case of the two tortured missionaries, and insists he intervened with the then head of the junta, Jorge Videla, to beg for their freedom.

Touching on his time in Argentina and his abduction, Jalics said in his statement published on the German Jesuits website: "I can take no position on the role of Father Bergoglio in these events."

"After our release I left Argentina. Only years later we had the opportunity to discuss the events with Father Bergoglio who in the meantime had been named archbishop of Buenos Aires," he said.