Cardinal Salazar suggested Pope Francis was being attacked because of his focus on justice for the poor

The head of a council of Latin American bishops has spoken out against “attacks on the Pope as a person”, following controversy surrounding Archbishop Carlos Maria Viganò’s claims about the Pontiff.

The council, known as CELAM for its acronym in Spanish, was commemorating the 50th anniversary of a regional meeting of bishops that took place in Medellin, Columbia, in 1968, designed to work toward dismantling poverty and its ailments in the region.

Cardinal Ruben Salazar of Bogota, president of CELAM, said that just as the movement focused on the poor that sprang out of Medellin in the late 1960s had once been attacked, now the attacks are focused toward those who embraced it, such as Pope Francis.

The cardinal made the remarks during a Mass on Sunday, according to the Argentinian news agency AICA.

“If at that time they attacked the institution, today they attack the person,” Cardinal Salazar said, according to AICA.

The news agency said the comments were also later supported in a statement by the humanitarian agency Caritas Latin America, the Archdiocese of Medellin, and the Confederation of Religious in Latin America, known as CLAR. All four groups sponsored the congress marking 50 years since the Second General Assembly of the Bishops’ Conferences of Latin America and the Caribbean in Medellin.

The Pope’s ministry has been attacked, as well as the Pope as a person, “we could almost say in a shameful way,” said Cardinal Salazar.

When Latin American bishops approved documents expressing their concerns on religious, socioeconomic and political conditions in Latin America and how they were detrimental to the poor back in the 1960s, many, including in the Church, attacked them as being political and leftist. But they have maintained over the years that they follow a Gospel that teaches the church to care for the poor because that is what Jesus taught.