The Pope met Saturday with victims of Spain’s “stolen babies” scandal, the dark chapter of the country’s history that saw up to 300,000 children stolen from their families and given to households loyal to the Franco dictatorship.

Driving the news

As Spanish paper El Confidencial reports, Francis received a dozen victims and representatives of Spain’s stolen babies associations in a private audience in the Vatican.

The victims said they had travelled to Rome to meet the Pope in order to raise public and legal awareness of the magnitude of the scandal.

Between the 1930s and the 1980s, tens of thousands of babies were stolen from their birthmothers and handed to adoptive families, often with the help of priests and nuns working at Catholic healthcare institutions.


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Ana Cueto, organiser of the meeting and president of the most representative victims’ association, Avidna, asked the Pope for a public “reprobation and condemnation” of the cases of stolen children in Spain, second only in amount in the world to the “stolen generations” of Australian Aborigines.

Cueto also called on the Pope to intercede with the Spanish State in order to advance the legal action currently in course.

Spanish politicians and courts are treading water on the issue, despite the fact that “the United Nations Convention against Enforced Disappearances, ratified by Spain in 2011 and of constitutional status in our country, obliges the State to undertake real and effective search actions”, Avidna legal advisers said.

Getting to the bottom of the stolen babies scandal “is the State’s responsibility, not the individual victims’, just the opposite of what is happening”, they denounced.

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For the record

“The courts haven’t resolved any [of the cases], despite the fact that the victims are reuniting through social networks or through laboratories”, Cueto added.

The president of Avidna revealed that she personally handed the Pope documentation that proves hospital authorities gave adoptive families babies that they told birth families were dead.

“The graves are empty, but the Prosecutor’s Office accepts the explanation of the National Institute of Toxicology that the corpses can disintegrate”, Cueto explained.

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What’s next

Cueto said that she had come out of the meeting with the Pope with hope for the future.

“This pontificate is really starting to tackle serious crimes”, she explained, referring to Francis’ determination to clean the Church of the clergy sex abuse crisis.

“With the Holy Father’s intercession before the Church and Spanish authorities, it may be possible to unblock this situation and, given that there’s still life to be lived, recover, as soon as possible, the present and the future for those thousands of separated families”, Cueto affirmed.

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PhD in ancient Jewish/Christian history and philosophy. University ethics lecturer with 4 years' experience in religion journalism.