Vatican Officials Defend Popes Past in Argentina

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Media reports allege new pontiff ignored human rights abuses as bishop, Vatican issues denials (Published Saturday, Feb 1, 2014)

    (NECN/NBC News: Jay Gray, Rome) –  The transition continues at the Vatican.

    Pope Francis again met with the Cardinals. As the new pope begins his role as the leader of more than a billion Catholics worldwide, there are questions about the future of the church -- and his past.

    Applause echoed through the Vatican this morning.  As Pope Francis gathered with the Catholic Cardinals -- those who elected him and others past the age of 80 not eligible to vote.

    He spoke briefly, in Italian.  And, noting the age of the men assembled, said:
    "Let us give this wisdom to young people; like good wine, it becomes better with age. Let us give to young people the wisdom of life."

    After his remarks Francis enthusiastically greeted each of the Cardinals. Some shared gifts with the new pontiff.

    "He is a holy and loving gentleman. I think we are very, very grateful to have him," said Cardinal Thomas Christopher Collins of Toronto.

    Also on Friday,  the seal was broken on the Papal apartment.  Pope Francis opened the door to his new home and some say to the future of the Catholic Church.

    As Vatican officials find themselves defending the new Pope's past.

    "There has never been an accusation concrete or credible in his regard," said Father Thomas Rosica, the Vatican Press Secretary.

    Media reports in Argentina allege before he was a bishop, Francis ignored severe human rights abuses during the so-called "dirty war."

    "The campaign against [Bishop] Bergoglio is well known and goes back to many years ago,” Rosica said. “It was carried forward or sustained by a publication that specializes in campaigns that are at times filled with lies and exist to defame others."

    The church dismissed the accusations and is clearly focused now on the inauguration of its new leader.

    The pope is scheduled to meet with the media Saturday and will offer a blessing to the thousands expected to gather in St. Peter's Square on Sunday.

    And on Tuesday, he will be honored at the Inaugural Mass.