Un-Christian Attitude Towards Falklands Prompts Shadow of Doubt on Newly-Elected Pope

by The Editor

The referendum in the Falklands Islands on 10-11 March was a clear signal to the world that their population would not surrender in the face of threats and aggressions from Argentina. Instead, it would be the master of its destiny. The results spoke for themselves, with a 92% turnout and 98.8% voting in favour of retaining their status as a British Overseas Territory. Only three people voted against. This exercise in democracy, fully backed by London, stands in contrast with Buenos Aires' insistence that the islanders do not exist, and her efforts to harm the economy of the Islands.

By Alex Calvo

The referendum in the Falklands Islands on 10-11 March was a clear signal to the world that their population would not surrender in the face of threats and aggressions from Argentina. Instead, it would be the master of its destiny. The results spoke for themselves, with a 92% turnout and 98.8% voting in favour of retaining their status as a British Overseas Territory. Only three people voted against. This exercise in democracy, fully backed by London, stands in contrast with Buenos Aires' insistence that the islanders do not exist, and her efforts to harm the economy of the Islands.

Although some voices had expressed a hope that a clear result may force Argentina to adopt a more pragmatic attitude, her immediate reaction did not point in that direction. Instead of asking themselves why only three people wished to become closer to Argentina, the country's leaders persisted in threatening the population, not having learned the lesson that blackmail does not work and is actually counterproductive.

Just two days after the polls closed, the election of a new Pope, an Argentine, brought a new twist to the story. As soon as the "white smoke" emerged from the Vatican, many searched for information on Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, Archbishop of Buenos Aires, who is taking the name "Francis". Some were looking for evidence of his positions on certain controversial issues, others wondered what the election of a Jesuit may entail, and there was also interest in his alleged links to past dictatorial regimes, but in Great Britain and the Falklands quite a few wondered what his position on the South Atlantic may be. Unfortunately, a look at past press reports paints a portrait of the Cardinal as a fanatic Argentine nationalist who defends the 1982 invasion and disregards the democratic wish of the islanders to retain their links to the UK.

This was clear on 1 April 2010, when on the occasion of a commemoration of the start of the 1982 war, Bergoglio went as far as claiming that "the Malvinas [Falklands] belong to us", adding that "many watered that land, which is Argentine, with blood."[1] Two years later, on another edition of the ceremony, he insisted on the same views, saying that the Argentine "fallen" had "gone out to defend their mother, the motherland, to reclaim what belongs to them, to the motherland, and which was forcibly taken away from them."[2] These lines reflect the traditional mixture of historical myth, fanaticism, and utter contempt for democracy, which sadly continue to dominate Argentine views on the Falklands. First of all, nothing could be "forcibly taken away" from Argentina among other reasons because the British presence in the Falklands predates her birth as an independent state. Second, the Islands have never been Argentine territory. Third, setting aside history for a second, the population does not want to be part of Argentina, as made clear in the 10-11 referendum.

Going a bit further, we could even ask ourselves whether Bergoglio's words are in accordance with Christian doctrine. The religion does not reject war as such, but lays down some conditions for it to be considered "just" and therefore acceptable. Was the 1982 invasion of the Falklands a "just" war? Was it "just" to force a foreign administration and alien laws on a civilian population? Was it "just" to go to war to keep popular support for a murderous regime? The only possible answer to these questions is no. What was indeed just was to fight against the aggressor and liberate the Islands, restoring democracy and the rule of law.

Cardinal Bergoglio likes to refer to the Argentine casualties in the 1982 war. He seems to forget that by toppling the Junta, Great Britain saved more Argentine lives than she rightly took in liberating the Falklands. From day one it was Great Britain which held the moral high ground, and today, more than 30 years later, when looking back at those long 100 days in the South Atlantic, this is clearer than ever. It is no coincidence that some days ago, in seeking to rally the Free World and his own citizens in the defence of international law and order at se, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe invoked Lady Thatcher and her defiance in the face of unprovoked armed aggression. What better example could there be?

The new Pope will need strong moral referents in order to rebuild the Catholic Church and leave behind the many scandals besetting it in recent years. This strong moral leadership is incompatible with his past utter disregard for human rights, democracy, and the Christian concept of "just war". Now that he is no longer the Archbishop of Buenos Aires but the Bishop of Rome, it is time for him to show intellectual leadership and a capacity for critical, independent thought. It is time for him to leave behind the senseless fanaticism fed to schoolchildren in Argentina, the mantra-like repetition of pseudo-historical facts, and the distorted view of the 1982 war, a war launched by a criminal regime to occupy a territory whose population wished to preserve their way of life and institutions.

Having said that, Francis deserves to be given the benefit of the doubt. We should wait until he has had the time to settle into his new post to pass judgement on him. Maybe now that he has wider responsibilities he will understand the immorality of his past defence of the Junta's attack on the Falklands. If that happens, he will be in an excellent position to begin working to reverse the indoctrination to which his fellow citizens have been and are subjected. Only if the people of Argentina learn the true history of the Falklands and the real meaning of democracy will there be peace in the South Atlantic and true democracy in Argentina herself.

The people of the Falkland Islands are already waiting for a gesture. Speaking shortly after his election was announced, Michael Bernard McPartland, apostolic prefect of the Catholic Church in the Islands, said that he "hoped" that Francis I would "do something" about the "sovereignty conflict". McPartland believes this conflict to be "artificial", fed by a "political ideology."[3] The anniversary of the war is just a few days away, so we shall soon see whether the Pope is motivated by this bankrupt political ideology, or by the values on which Christianity stands.

[1] "Bergoglio recordó a los caídos en Malvinas y dijo: 'Las islas son nuestras'", , 1 April 2010, available at http://www.mdzol.com/nota/200733/

[2] "Malvinas: Bergoglio pidió por quienes 'hayan estado o no' en combate ", Todo Noticias, 2 April 2012, available at http://tn.com.ar/politica/malvinas-bergoglio-reclamo-una-reinvindicacion...

[3] N. Niebieskikwiat "El jefe de la Iglesia Católica de Malvinas espera que Bergoglio haga algo en el conflicto", Clarin, 13 March 2013, available at http://www.clarin.com/mundo/Iglesia-Catolica-Malvinas-Bergoglio-conflict...

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