Argentina Church says it will hand over baptism documents for torture victims' children

The Catholic Church in Argentina will hand over more than 100 baptism documents of babies born to political prisoners in a torture centre during the country's dictatorship.

The Navy School of Mechanics served as a clandestine torture centre and was thought to have housed more than 5,000 dissidents between 1975 and 1984. Very few survived.

ReutersThe Argentine bishops said the decision came in light of a 'a longing of Pope Francis'.

A total of 127 baptism documents from a chaplaincy on the base will be handed over to federal judge Sergio Torres, who is handling cases related to the torture centre.

'We firmly believe the Church should make every effort to contribute to the path of memory, truth and justice in all fields, especially given the gravity of the crimes against humanity committed during the years of state terrorism from 1976 to 1983,' the Argentine Episcopal Conference said in a statement on Tuesday.

The babies were taken from their biological parents and illegally adopted, usually by military families. Human rights activists are hoping the certificates will allow the children of former political prisoners to be found.

The Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo group says at least 500 children were stolen from their dissident parents and adopted by others. The head of the Grandmothers, Estela de Carlotto, met with Francis at the Vatican on two occasions and had asked that the Church provide the information.

The Argentine bishops said their decision came in light of a 'longing of Pope Francis' – the former bishop of Buenos Aires in Argentina – who previously promised human rights groups that the church would hand over documentation to help clarify the crimes committed by the military regime.