Pope Francis has been criticized for silence while a bishop in Argentina while opening of files on other countries and second world war pope in question.
Official estimates say about 13,000 people were killed or disappeared in a government-sponsored crackdown on leftist dissidents during Argentina’s 1976-1983 dictatorship.
Human rights activists believe the real number was as high as 30,000.
The statement said the decision to open the church’s archives was taken at the express direction of Pope Francis ‘in the service of truth justice and peace’.
Francis – then the Rev Jorge Mario Bergoglio – was the young Jesuit superior in Argentina during the military dictatorship – making his decision to open the archives all the more remarkable.
Many senior clerics were close to Argentina’s military rulers at the time and human rights groups have accused them of complicity with the regime.
Francis himself had been criticized for not speaking out publicly about the atrocities but he has also been credited with saving the lives of more than two dozen people – giving them sanctuary in his seminary and helping spirit them out of the country.