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Rumors swirl around Pope Francis during his first days as pontiff

In this photo provided by the Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano, Pope Francis celebrates his inaugural Mass with cardinals, inside the Sistine Chapel, at the Vatican, Thursday, March 14, 2013. (AP Photo/L'Osservatore Romano, ho)

Newly elected Pope Francis is powerful - in terms of what he can and can't do. However, he doesn't have very much power when it comes to how people receive him.

Or for that matter, the rumors that seem to be popping up as the world learns more about the appointed pontiff.

"I think people here [Vatican City] think with his new style, it's going to attract people to the church," John Thavis, author of "The Vatican Diaries," told Seattle's Morning News.

Only learning who would lead the Catholic Church on Wednesday, means that in the past few days many questions, concerns and even rumors have popped up.

Thavis sat down with a Vatican official to talk about the most damning rumor: Bergoglio's complacentness during Argentina's 1976-1983 military junta.

"There is not truth to any accusations," said Thavis. The Vatican official he talked to was a diplomat in Argentina at the time of the war. "He knew Father Bergoglio at the time very well and he totally denied that there was any complicity."

Bergoglio, like most other Argentines, failed to openly confront the murderous dictatorship. Human rights activists differ on how much responsibility he personally deserves.

At the time of the war, Thavis said Bergoglio wasn't a high profile figure. "His job wasn't to denounce anything - but he [the Vatican official] denied that Bergoglio did anything but try to protect his priests."

Officials at the Vatican would much rather look towards what the future papacy of Francis means for the church.

Thavis said that cardinals decided during the conclave that they wanted someone who was going to make bureaucratic changes.

"He's going to need tough people helping him," said Thavis. "That's why we're all looking to see who his first appointments are going to be."

In the past few years, Thavis said the cardinals likely didn't fault Benedict XVI for issues in the Vatican - they rather faulted his top officials.

Aside from a firmer bureaucratic hand, Thavis predicts the popes will likely turn out to be very similar to each other - one more academic, the other more pastoral.

Read more:
Vatican: Anti-clerical campaign against pope
Pope's former neighbor recalls his 'love' letter

About the Author

Alyssa Kleven is an editor and content producer at She enjoys doting over her adorable dachshund Winnie - named for Arcade Fire front-man Win Butler.


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