P o p p i n g or F lo p p i n g ??
Pope Francis I
March 2013 will be best remembered as the month when the whole of the Catholic world (and much of the rest) went into Pope-mania, following the (shock-horror!) announcement that Pope Benedict VII had decided to resign from his supposedly lifelong, God-ordained position as the head of the Catholic church. This was promptly followed by a barrage of speculation about who could replace him, as the Cardinals mused over their options whilst billowing black smoke from Vatican. After much deliberation, the Cardinals decided to elect Jorge Mario Bergoglio, the then-Archbishop of Buenos Aires, as Benedict’s successor. So what has the verdict been since then – a popping or a flopping choice?
Well, for starters Bergoglio represents that Catholic church’s first ever Latin American Pope, which is pretty monumental news for the continent (although not so surprising given how many of the world’s Catholics live here). Secondly, one of the Pope’s first declarations was to declare his commitment to using his position to help the poor of the world, which definitely gives him another +1. Even better, he said that he would like to see a “a church that is poor and is for the poor”, so who knows whether he’ll be able to do something about that monstrous hypocrisy of the Catholic Church who claims to follow the teachings of Jesus and his whole “eye-of-the-needle” philosophy whilst also being one of the wealthiest institutions on the planet.
On the other hand, reports are already emerging accusing Bergoglio the types of misogyny and discrimination that we have all come to associate so heavily with the Catholic church. He previously claimed that women are “naturally unfit for political office” and that women have always been the “helper of the thinking and doing man, but nothing more”, which doesn’t exactly bode well for the cause of gender equality. He has also been accused of facilitating the “disappearance” of two Jesuit Priests at the hands the military authorities of Argentina during the Dirty War.
How his Papacy will play out will just have to be seen, but we suggest not keeping fingers crossed for radical change within the stubbornly traditional Catholic Church.
Guatemala Making History
The Trial of Efrain Rios Montt
If history was being made in March across the Atlantic in the Vatican, it was also being made right here in Guatemala with the start of the trial of Efraín Rios Montt, who faces charges of genocide for his role in the civil conflict of Guatemala during the 1980s. The trial of Rios Montt represents the first time a national court, in any part of the world, has started a prosecution against one of its own previous heads of state. The general faces charges of crimes against humanity in connection with the killing of 1,771 indigenous peoples during the period of 1982-1983, when he acted as head of the ruling mititary junta. “His arrest in January 2012”, Amy Ross explains*, “represented an extraordinary break with impunity in the Central American country; the decision to proceed with the trial, despite attempts to have the charges dropped, is of even greater significance. No ranking officer has been held responsible for the violence in which some 200,000 people, almost all civilians, lost their lives.”