San Patricio Church massacre

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Plaque in memory of the Pallottine Fathers in the Church of St. Sylvester in Rome.
Forensic photo of the bodies of the Pallottine Fathers.

The San Patricio Church massacre was the murder of three priests and two seminarians of the Pallottine order on July 4, 1976, during the Dirty War, at St. Patrick's Church, located in the Belgrano neighborhood in the City of Buenos Aires, Argentina. The victims were priests Alfredo Leaden, Alfredo Kelly, and Pedro Duffau and seminarians Salvador Barbeito and Emilio Barletti. The murders were ordered by an Argentine Navy admiral.

The crime[edit]

At approximately 1:00 a.m. on July 4, 1976, three youths, Luis Pinasco, Guillermo Silva, and Julio Víctor Martínez, watched as two cars parked in front of the church of San Patricio. As the son of a soldier, Martínez thought it might be part of an assassination attempt on his father, so he went to Police Station No. 37 to make a complaint. Minutes later, a police car arrived on the scene and officer Miguel Ángel Romano spoke with people who were suspects in the case. At 2:00 in the morning Silva and Pinasco saw a group of people with rifles get out of the cars and enter the church. The next morning, at the time of the first Mass, a group of worshippers waiting in front of the church found the door closed.

Surprised by the situation, the young Fernando Savino, organist of the parish decided to enter through a window and found on the first floor the bodies of the five religious riddled with bullets, and lined up face down in a huge puddle of blood on a red carpet. The murderers had written with chalk on a door:

Por los camaradas dinamitados en Seguridad Federal. Venceremos. Viva la Patria.
(For the comrades blown up at Federal Security. We will prevail. Long live the Fatherland.)

They also wrote on a carpet:

Estos zurdos murieron por ser adoctrinadores de mentes vírgenes y son M.S.T.M.
(These lefties were killed for being indoctrinators of innocent minds and are [part of the] M.S.T.M.)

The initials "M.S.T.M." stand for Movimiento de Sacerdotes para el Tercer Mundo (the Movement of Priests for the Third World), while the first sentence about "Federal Security" refers to the bomb attack the Montoneros (whose motto was "Venceremos" ) had set off two days before in the dining room of the Argentine Federal Police headquarters, killing 20 people.[1]

On the body of Salvador Barbeito the murderers put a drawing by Quino, taken from one of the rooms, in which Mafalda appears pointing to a policeman's baton saying: «Este es el palito de abollar ideologías» ("This is the ideology-denting stick").[2]

The next day, the newspaper La Nación published a story about the slaughter which included the text of a communiqué from Area Command I of the Army that read:

Elementos subversivos asesinaron cobardemente a los sacerdotes y seminaristas. El vandálico hecho fue cometido en dependencias de la iglesia San Patricio, lo cual demuestra que sus autores, además de no tener Patria, tampoco tienen Dios.
(Subversive [leftist] agents have cowardly murdered the priests and seminarians. The barbaric incident was committed on the premises of St. Patrick's Church, which shows that the perpetrators are unpatriotic and godless.)[3]

Testimony before the CONADEP Commission in 1984 indicated that the San Patricio Church murders were carried out by the military on the orders of Rear Admiral Ruben Chamorro, head of Navy Petty-Officers School of Mechanics (ESMA).[4][5]

Cause for beatification[edit]

The superior general of the Pallottine fathers in Argentina, Bishop Seamus Freeman sought out his fellow Jesuit superior general Fr. Jorge Bergoglio for assistance.[6] He met with Bergoglio a second time in Rome to follow up.

With the support of Pope Francis (the former Jorge Mario Bergoglio, SJ) the cause for their beatification has begun.[7]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Denuncia penal por ataque terrorista de Montoneros en 1976". El Ojo Digital (in Spanish). August 21, 2005. Google translation
  2. ^ Marcelo Luna. "Mafalda – historieta con historia". Icaro Digital (in Spanish). Retrieved December 10, 2007. Google translation
  3. ^ La Nación. "Crimen en San Patricio" (in Spanish). La Nación, 5 de julio de 1976. Missing or empty |url= (help)
  4. ^ Patricia Marchak, God's Assassins: State Terrorism in Argentina in the 1970s, McGill-Queen's University Press, 1999, ISBN 0773520139; p. 160
  5. ^ Martin Edwin Andersen, Dossier Secreto: Argentina's Desaparecidos and the Myth of the "Dirty War", Westview Press, 1993, ISBN 0813382122; pp. 187-188
  6. ^ RTÉ1 (Raidió Teilifís Éireann, Ireland's National Public Service Broadcaster) Pat Kenny interviews Bishop Seamus Freeman on memories of the violent events of 1976, broadcast date March 14, 2013 (online podcast)
  7. ^ "They Lived Together And They Died Together". Archived from the original on March 29, 2013. Retrieved January 25, 2013.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

In English:

In Spanish: