Nightly News   |  March 15, 2013

Vatican denounces Pope Francis’ critics

Reports that the leader of Argentina’s Jesuits didn’t do enough to protect two priests kidnapped and tortured during Argentina’s military dictatorship are believed to be anti-clerical elements used to attack the church, according to the Vatican. NBC’s Anne Thompson reports.

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>>> day three of the new papacy of pope francis . as more becomes man about this man and his life more signs have come along indicating possible kaengs ahead. with a big audience of catholics in this country and around the globe anxious to see how it turns out anne thompson remains at the vatican . good evening.

>> reporter: good evening. pope francis is telling argentines to use their money to help the poor instead of attending his inauguration. today the vatican struck back at critics who claim the pope's humble demeanor masks an ugly past. strongly denouncing the jesuits he didn't do enough to protect two priests, kidnapped and tortured during argentina's military dictatorship in 1976 .

>> there has never been an accusation concrete or credible in his regard.

>> they reveal left wing elements, anti-clerical elements used to attack the church. they must be firmly and clearly denied.

>> reporter: one of the priests issued a statement today saying years later he and the pope, then archbishop of buenos aires celebrated mass publically and embraced one another. he considered the case closed. two dayses into his papacy francis still has not reappointed the heads of the curiae, the bureaucracy, suggesting there may be changes ahead.

>> this is a man not conceding to other people's concepts of how popes act. he's remaining himself.

>> reporter: unlike some of his predecessors francis speaks off the cuff. even when he stumbled today it was no big deal . the vatican released pictures to reinforce his informal image. riding the bus after his election and paying his hotel bill. at his meeting with the cardinals today the 76-year-old pope acknowledged that many of them are old men, but said they have wisdom that they must share with the young. he then greeted each cardinal, including francis george of chicago.

>> the style is the substance. you watch him. you see how he reacts and what he does. that's as important as what he says.

>> reporter: and the world is watching. tomorrow, pope francis will hold an audience for journalists. then on sunday he will give a public prayer and blessing in st. peter's square. brian?

>> anne thompson at the end of this eventful week in rome. anne, thanks.