The executive committee of the Bishops’ Conference of Argentina issued a statement on Tuesday calling on Argentineans to reconciliation in the wake of the life sentence imposed on Father Christian Von Wernich, accused of having contributed to the violation of human rights during the military dictatorship.
Von Wernich, 69, was chaplain of the police force of Buenos Aires during the military dictatorship of 1976-1983 and was found guilty of “crimes against humanity” and sentenced to life in prison.
Upon news of the verdict, the bishops of Argentina immediately issued a statement saying the Church in Argentina “is shaken by the sorrow we feel over the participation by a priest in serious crimes, according to the sentence by the Federal Court.”
“We believe that the steps taken by the courts to clear these matters up should serve to renew the efforts of all citizens in the journey to reconciliation and are a call to back away from both impunity and hatred or anger,” the statement said.
The Argentinean bishops reiterated what they said in 2000: “If some member of the Church, no matter what their condition, recommended or was complicit in these acts (the violent repression), he or she was acting under their own responsibility, erring and seriously sinning against God, humanity and his or her conscience.”
Together with the bishops, the Church’s National Committee for Justice and Peace expressed its “sorrow and regret for those actions which directly, in collaboration or complicity, were carried out by members of the Catholic Church and which lead to kidnapping, torture and the disappearance of persons during the military dictatorship in the country.”
“We wish to express our solidarity with all of the victims of that period of our history, and we hope that the application of justice can act as reparation and comfort for the survivors, their families and those who disappeared.”
“May the challenge of building a nation, which excludes nobody, help us to find paths to reconciliation and coming together that make the building of a country of brothers and sisters in justice and peace possible,” the committee said in conclusion.