Vatican defends pope against anti-clerical campaign

VATICAN CITY (AP) - The Vatican is pointing out that courts in Argentina have never accused Pope Francis of a crime as a result of his actions during Argentina's military junta from 1976 to 1983.

And in fact, a spokesman says, there's evidence he protected people from Argentina's military as it kidnapped and killed thousands of people, trying to eliminate leftist opponents.

The Vatican is denouncing what it calls an "anti-clerical left-wing" campaign to discredit the new pope. The most serious accusation against him is that as the military took over in Argentina, he withdrew his support for two slum priests, whose activist colleagues were disappearing. The priests were then kidnapped and tortured.

Like most Argentines, Jose Mario Bergoglio failed to openly confront the murderous dictatorship that took power in Argentina. But human rights activists differ on how much responsibility he personally deserves.

He ran the Jesuit order in Argentina during the dictatorship.

The Vatican noted today that a Jesuit who was kidnapped during the dictatorship -- in a case that involved Bergoglio -- has issued a statement today saying that the two have reconciled.