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Beatification Begun for Five Argentines

August 5, 2005

VATICAN CITY (AP) _ The archbishop of Buenos Aires started the beatification process for three priests and two seminarians killed in the 1970s during Argentina’s ``Dirty War,″ Vatican Radio said Thursday, seeking to have them declared martyrs for their faith.

The move _ the first step toward possible sainthood _ is significant because the Catholic Church in general and Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio in particular was criticized at the time for failing to call attention to atrocities of the military dictatorship then in power.

The five members of the Pallotine order, Revs. Pedro Duffau, Alfredo Leaden and Alfredo Kelly, and seminarians Salvador Barbeito and Emilio Barletti, were found shot to death July 4, 1976, inside the parish of St. Patrick in Buenos Aires.

Their killers were never found, but testimony gathered by police said the killers may have been agents from the Navy School of Mechanics, the chief detention center of Argentina’s past dictatorship, Vatican Radio reported.

It said Bergoglio, a Jesuit, had authorized an investigation into the lives of the men as well as ``the circumstances surrounding their death″ _ meaning he is considering declaring them martyrs.

Without such a move, the Vatican must confirm miracles attributed to each man’s intercession before any could be beatified. A martyrdom declaration, which means the men died for the church, could also have political ramifications in Argentina.

More than 12,000 people have been officially listed as dead or missing from Argentina’s 1976-83 dictatorship _ victims of what prosecutors call a systematic state crackdown on opposition. Human rights groups say the figure is closer to 30,000.

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