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In case you missed it, Franz Jalicsthe Jesuit whose kidnapping during Argentinas dirty war raised questions about Jorge Bergoglios interactions with the military juntareleased a statement Wednesday saying the new pope did not report him and another priest to the authorities. As reported by The Guardian on Thursday:

"I myself was once inclined to believe that we were the victims of a denunciation," Jalics said. "[But] at the end of the 90s, after numerous conversations, it became clear to me that this suspicion was unfounded. It is therefore wrong to assert that our capture took place at the initiative of Father Bergoglio." His words on Wednesday were unequivocal: "The fact is: Orlando Yorio and I were not denounced by Father Bergoglio."

The Guardian calls the comments a boost to the reputation of the new pontiff.The New York Times reports on a soon-to-be-published volume of the letters of Willa Cather, something that even the collections editors admit flagrantly violates the authors wishes. But publication, they argue,

advances the deeper purpose of Cathers restrictions: cementing her status as a major literary artist.These lively, illuminating letters will do nothing to damage her reputation, they declare. Instead they reveal her as a complicated, funny, brilliant, flinty, sensitive, sometimes confounding human being.

The whole article is here; excerpts from the letters are here. (Update:Cather postedthis letterto Commonwealin 1936.) Meanwhile, Chinua Achebe, author of Things Fall Apart and Anthills of the Savannah, has died at 82.Newly posted on our site, Julia G. Young on whether and how Pope Francis can address the challenges facing Catholicism in Latin America:

Today, Latin America and the Caribbean are home to about 40 percent of the worlds Catholics. Across the region, however, Catholics have been leaving the faith in droves. Most of those who have left converted to various strains of evangelical Protestantism, but many are also simply becoming secularized. According to the Pew Research Center, the share of the regions population that is Catholic has decreased from about 90 percent at the beginning of the twentieth century to 72 percent in 2010.The most striking fact about this attrition is how recently and rapidly it has occurred. According to scholar Virginia Garrard-Burnett, the Catholic population in BrazilLatin Americas most populous countryhas declined by 20 percent over the past thirteen years. In Guatemala over the past several decades, almost one-third of the countrys Catholics have left the church. Sociologist Roberto Blancarte estimates that the Catholic population in Mexicohas declined by 4 million (from 89 to 82 percent) since 2000.At the same time that Catholics are leaving the faith, the institutional Catholic Church in Latin America has faced a second, more enduring challenge: a long decline in its historical position of privilege, power, and political relevanceand a concurrent decline in its public image.

Read the whole thing here.Also new on our homepage this week: Barry Hudock on poverty in Appalachia forty years after the bishops of the region published the historic pastoral This Land Is Home to Me, and E. J. Dionne Jr. on Obamas Israel trip and fading hopes for a two-state solution.

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The article on the evolution of Catholicism in Latin America, plus MS Winters' article on the evolution of Catholicism in Quebec, make for a depressing read.

Theres another new and important article on the home page this week: Tom Quigleys Pope Francis & the Junta: What Did Bergoglio Do During the Dirty War?

"...the institutional Catholic Church in Latin America has faced a second, more enduring challenge: a long decline in its historical position of privilege, power, and political relevance"It's a little hard for me to think of that long decline in privilege, power, and political relevance as a bad thing for the Church. But no doubt things would be different today if Christ had had better connections and Pilate had let him off with a warning.