Pope meets priest kidnapped, tortured by Argentine junta

VATICAN CITY (AFP) - Pope Francis on Saturday met Father Franz Jalics, a priest whose kidnapping and torture by Argentina's brutal military dictatorship led to accusations that the future pope failed to help.

The Vatican has firmly denied these claims and there have since been many reports of the "quiet diplomacy" used by the then head of the Jesuit order in Argentina, Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio.

There was no official word on the content of the talks between the Pope and Father Jalics, who was born in Hungary and now lives in a German monastery.

Pope Francis has said he experienced "a period of great internal crisis" at the time of the junta and admitted to making mistakes in his leadership.

A recent book by an Italian journalist, however, said he took in many leftist students at risk of being jailed by the dictatorship and advised his priests on how best to avoid being spied on.

It also published transcripts from testimony given by then Cardinal Bergoglio to prosecutors investigating the crimes of the junta in which he said he lobbied for the release of Father Jalics and Orlando Yorio.

The two young Jesuits who were preaching in the slums were taken in March 1976 to the notorious Naval School of Mechanics, a torture centre run by the junta. They were freed after five months.

Following controversy after the pope's election in March, Father Jalics released a statement saying: "Yorio and I were not reported by Father Bergoglio."

"I myself formerly tended to believe that we were reported. At the end of the 1990s however it became clear to me after numerous conversations that this assumption was baseless," Father Jalics said.