Yesterday WikiLeaks announced the release of a new archive of U.S. diplomatic cables and other documents, 205,901 of which “relat[e] to former U.S. Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger." This new addition contains cables, intelligence reports and congressional correspondence from 1973-1976 and is part of the larger collection of almost two million documents and U.S. diplomatic cables that WikiLeaks’ founder Julian Assange has called, “the single most significant body of geopolitical material ever published.” WikiLeaks has grouped the material together in a searchable database called the “Public Library of U.S. Diplomacy.”  

The first of these cables to make a splash about Latin America is one that exposes the Vatican’s reaction to news of human rights atrocities in Chile under dictator Augusto Pinochet, who participated in the military coup that toppled the democratically-elected government of Salvador Allende in September of 1973. Pinochet was responsible for the torture and murders of thousands of people.

In the cable to then-U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, dated five weeks after the military take-over, the Vatican’s deputy Secretary of State Giovanni Benelli dismissed reports of torture and murders by the military government as “exaggerated coverage of events” and denounced the media’s coverage “as possibly greatest success of Communist propaganda,” lamenting that this showed “how Communists can influence free world media in future."

As if on cue from the CIA –whose covert operations in Chile were instrumental in the toppling of the Allende government- the cable insists that reports of torture, disappearances, and murders by the military regime were fabrications, “leftist propaganda”:

Despite Vatican’s efforts, leftist propaganda has been remarkably successful even with number of more conservative cardinals and prelates who seem incapable of viewing situation objectively.

Even more astounding are Benelli’s comments on the nature of the coup. The cable reads:

As is unfortunately natural following coup d'etat, Benelli observed, there has admittedly been bloodshed during mopping up procedures in Chile.

As the cable indicates, the Vatican knew about “bloodshed” in Chile immediately following the coup, but considered it to be “natural” and part of the inevitable process of ‘mopping up’ by the military dictatorship (of what can only be presumed to be the dangerous supporters of Salvador Allende’s democratically elected and peaceful government).

According to AFP, the cables also show that the Vatican maintained its silence, actually refusing to critique the dictatorship’s actions even after knowing for certain the extent of the atrocities committed by Pinochet and his military government.

Although not surprising, this news cannot be good for the Catholic Church, as it comes on the heels of the resurgence of accusations that the recently selected Pope Francis was complicit with the bloody dictatorship that ruled Argentina from 1976-1983 and even in the kidnapping and torture of two of his own priests.