Portions of the Vatican's extensive archives on the 1976-1983 military dictatorship in Argentina are expected to be opened to scholars within months, Vatican Radio cited spokesman Federico Lombardi as confirming on Thursday.
Work is proceeding on cataloguing the materials from period, according to the "express intentions" of Pope Francis, Lombardi said, quoted by Vatican Radio.
While the work of cataloguing is being done, Lombardi said, “we try to answer specific questions about particular issues of a legal nature or humanitarian character.”
The Vatican will consult the Bishops’ Conference of Argentina on who will be granted access to the archive material, Lombardi said.
During the military dictatorship, 20,000 people were made to “disappear” by the Argentinian authorities, who saw them as subversives. The Vatican collected a large amount of information on these cases, principally through its ambassador in Buenos Aires, who met regularly with the military chiefs.
Francis in April last year ordered the archives to be opened after a meeting with Lita Boitano, president of the Argentinian human rights group Familiares (“Relatives”), whose two sons 'disappeared' during the dictatorship.
The move could help the families of thousands of victims of the military regime finally discover the fate of their loved ones.
The pope, then Jorge Bergoglio and head of the Jesuit order in Argentina during the military regime, has been accused by some of failing to protect two Jesuit priests who were seized by navy troops and tortured for five months.