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Pope launched sainthood case for Argentine priests

Published on NewsOK Modified: April 9, 2013 at 3:01 pm •  Published: April 9, 2013

But the ambassador's cable, declassified in 2006 and posted by Wikileaks on the Internet this week, says police believed the two seminarians were involved in the Third World priests' movement, and "hence, they were considered fair game in a wave of vigilante-type executions police have carried out in retaliation" for the bombing.

They were philosophy teacher Salvador Barbeito, 29, rector of the San Maron school; and 23-year-old Emilio Barletti, who allowed young members of the Montoneros guerrilla organization to meet inside the parish house and use the mimeograph machine to print anti-dictatorship pamphlets, historian Roberto Baschetti said.

All five were Argentine, although Barbeito was born in Spain.

"Kelly told me and other colleagues, at a dinner on that July 3 at the parish, that he feared for his life because there was a letter floating around calling him a communist," said Rodolfo Capalozza, who was then a 20-year-old seminary student, and escaped death because he happened to stay at his parents' home that night.

"We talked a lot about the situation in the country and they all had different opinions; they weren't killed because of their ideology or politics but because they preached the gospel of life in a time when life was being threatened," added Capalozza, who now leads the Santa Isabel de Hungria church in Buenos Aires.

The slain churchmen were hardly radicals, but "their message of social commitment was amplified," making them targets, because they preached and worked in Belgrano, home to many Argentine elites, he said.

Sainthood would be "a just response" to the massacre, Capalozza said.

The bodies were found face-down on the living room carpet. Two messages were scribbled at the scene. One said: "These lefties died for brainwashing innocent minds and being MSTM," initials for the Third World priests' group.

Another referred to the July 2 attack on the police: "For our comrades blown up at Federal Security. We will prevail. Long live the Fatherland."

The police response Capalozza said: Nobody in the church would be immune if they spoke out against the country's rulers or got too involved in social work.

In 2001, the Pallottine order asked the Argentine Church to formally consider them to be martyrs. "As time went by the cause changed, and today we are asking for sainthood," said Pablo Bocca, the current priest at the church.

Bergoglio, who had been close to Kelly and heard his confessions, formally approved the sainthood investigation in 2005.

"I am a witness, because I was with Alfie in his spiritual guidance, in his confession, until his death. He only thought of God. And I name him because I am a witness to his heart, and when I mention him I mention all of them," Bergoglio said in his memorial homily.

Normally, proof of two miracles are required for sainthood. But martyrdom — dying for one's faith — counts as the first miracle. A Vatican tribunal must eventually rule, and the pope makes the final decision.

"I have a lot of hope in this process," Bocca said, "because now the pope is someone who knows the cause, who lived in this country and who shared the commitment of the church."