During the 15-minute audience today, Batlle expressed gratitude for the Church’s support of the Peace Commission, set up to resolve the problem of those who disappeared during the military dictatorship of 1973-1985.
Press officials said John Paul II looked well but spoke with difficulty. The meeting was held in the Pope’s private library. Later, the Uruguayan Embassy explained that Batlle, 76, was in Italy on an official visit.
Archbishop Nicolás Cotugno of Montevideo was president of the Peace Commission, whose final report was made public by the Batlle government last April. During the military dictatorship, 26 Uruguayans disappeared; almost all were executed or tortured.
Batlle credited the members of the Peace Commission with helping the nation come to grips with a dark chapter in its history.
Commenting later on his meeting with the Pope, the Uruguayan president said: “I must say, I found him very well, very attentive. … Despite the difficulties of immobility and rigidity due to certain types of medicines taken by people who have Parkinson’s, in general I found him totally normal.”