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Vatican, Argentine Church to Open ‘Dirty War’ Archives

Argentine Dirty War: FILE - In this March 24, 1976 file photo, Gen. Jorge Rafael Videla, center, is sworn-in as president at the Buenos Aires Government House accompanied by Adm. Emilio Massera, second from left, and Brig. Orlando Agosti, second from right, members of the junta that overthrew President Isabel Peron. The former Argentine dictator died of natural causes Friday, May 17, 2013, while serving life sentences at the Marcos Paz prison for crimes against humanity. Videla took power in a 1976 coup and led a military junta that killed thousands of his fellow citizens in a dirty war to eliminate "subversives." He was 87.

The Vatican and Argentina's Catholic Church announced in a joint statement Tuesday they will open their archives from the country's brutal “dirty war'' in the near future.

Although no date was set, the statement said that they had finished organization and digitalization of the document pertaining to the Argentine government-sponsored crackdown on leftist dissidents during the so-called “dirty war” from about 1974 to 1983.

The archives will become available to victims and their relatives, who have long accused the church of complicity with the military dictatorship.

The statement said the decision to open the archives was made at the express direction of Pope Francis, “in the service of truth, justice and peace, in the continuation of the wish for dialogue and a culture of encounter.''

The related documents are held in the archives of the Vatican secretariat of state, the Vatican's Buenos Aires embassy and the Argentine bishops' conference.

Francis was the Jesuit superior in Argentina during the country's 1976-1983 dictatorship. When pressed by relatives of Argentina's “desaparecidos'' (disappeared), particularly the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo, Francis had promised to open the archives.

Human rights groups have accused many senior Argentinean clerics of complicity with the regime.

According to official estimates, about 13,000 people were killed or disappeared during Argentina's "dirty war.'' Human rights activists maintain that the real number was as high as 30,000.