Monday, November 10, 2014

Bergoglio's List (Saint Benedict Press)

From the period of 1976 to 1983, Argentina was a place undergoing political turmoil. It was known as "The Dirty War." Peron had just been deposed and the military took control of the government. It was a horrendous time and place to live, and that is putting it mildly. People were abducted, tortured, and murdered. Pregnant women gave birth to babies that were ripped from their arms. The babies were given to military families, and the mothers were killed. At least 30,000 people were murdered, and the world turned a blind eye to Argentina by and large. To make matters worse, people within Argentina (including some clergy of the Church) did the same or worse, assisted in the murder of these people. Not all in the Church were guilty. Some brave priests, bishops, religious, and laity did their part, either in secret or the open, to save as many people as they could. Jorge Bergoglio (now Pope Francis) was one of those priests who did what was right by defying the military government and helping people escape. The book Bergoglio's List highlights the stories of some of those who lived because of him.

The first three chapters of the book provide a mini-history of life during the Dirty War. In addition to detailing some of the general atrocities I listed above, we also learn about a few specific ones as well. For example, Alfredo Astiz lived among the Argentine people and pretended to be their friend. He was known as El Rubito or "the blonde guy." He was actually working for the military government and was giving the government information on who needed to be targeted and killed. The next ten chapters focuses on the stories of specific people that Bergoglio helped save. They were priests, scholars, unionists, Marxists, married couples, etc. The background or affiliation did not matter to Bergoglio. These were human lives, and everyone of them was precious.

I found myself struggling to read this book, particularly the early parts. After almost every chapter, I had to set the book down and step away from it, because it was a harsh reality to accept that things like this occurred not so long ago, and unbeknownst to me, probably still do. The firsthand accounts of people who were saved were tough as well. You knew they were going to escape, but you still feared for them as you read their stories. This is a book that you not only should read, but have to read. It shows us that ordinary people can do extraordinary things and that one person can make a difference. It also shows us firsthand the kind of man and leader our pope is.

This book was provided to me for free by Saint Benedict Press in exchange for an honest review. If you found this review helpful, please click here and hit Yes!