Bolivian leader gives pope communist crucifix

The Rev. Robert Gahl, a moral theologian at Pontifical Holy Cross University in Rome, said it all boils down to Espinal’s intent in designing the cross and Morales’ intent in giving it to the pope.


He noted that John Paul had previously asked forgiveness of the world’s indigenous.

Francis said such cowardice is “a grave sin”.

The pope started the day in Santa Cruz, Bolivia, where he listened on as inmates told their stories of how they ended up at Palmasola and of the “judicial terrorism” that lets the wealthy bribe their way to freedom while the poor languish in squalor.

Serra has long been criticized for personally mistreating indigenous people (a claim many contest) or for being part of the Spanish imperial enterprise that brought devastation and disease to Native Americans, along with the Gospel.

In one of the sections on colonialism, he said: “I say this to you with regret: many grave sins were committed against the native peoples of America in the name of God”. Yet for decades, especially since John Paul II – who established a veritable “theology of apology” – popes have been making efforts to confess the church’s sins.

Pope Francis said that every blessing has a missionary objective, which is to share what we have received with others. And Alfredo Marco, 48, a taxi driver and representative of neighborhood councils in Santa Cruz, praised the pope as speaking the “same language as President Evo, the same words”.

Francis says there is a need for “a real change, a change of structures”.

“This system is by now intolerable”.

The indigenous groups burst into applause following his comments, with one leader, Adolfo Chavez, saying: “We accept the apologies”. But the scene that has set a thousand tongues wagging is a gift from Bolivian president Evo Morales.

Bolivia’s deputy minister for coordination with social movements says the Guarani would have been welcome had they actively sought participation.

Morales, who frequently expounds fiery anti-capitalist and anti-American rhetoric, said both countries needed to share a mutual respect before ambassadors could be reinstated. The Vatican hosted the first meeting past year.

Since becoming president of Bolivia in 2006 he has had a strained relationship with the Church, and once called the Church his “main enemy”.

The Vatican wasn’t expecting the unusual gift and it immediately raised eyebrows.

Earlier on Wednesday, Francis had stopped to pray at the site where Espinal’s body was found in 1980.

“The monopolistic concentration of media is ideological colonialism”, he said. Another described his surprise on arriving at finding “so many people sleeping on the floor like animals”.

Hundreds of faithful came from Argentina, Brazil and Colombia as well, hoping to catch a glimpse of their pope.

There are differing interpretations of Pope Francis’ thoughts on it. The government declared Thursday a national holiday so everyone could attend.

The disapproving look on the Pope’s face as he was presented with the gift made for an awkward photo op. The famously unpretentious pope used the fast food joint to change into his vestments before walking…

The staff at the restaurant were apparently more than happy to assist the Pope.

Later, Francis addressed a meeting of grassroots groups. In his speech, he condemned a system that “has imposed the mentality of profit at any price, with no concern for social exclusion or the destruction of nature”, The Guardian quoted. “That economy excludes. That economy destroys Mother Earth”, he said.

Francis said: “A memorable life needs (the participation) of others”.

“He is concerned with people”, Pope Francis said. “There is nothing to be done.’ Because then despair takes over our hearts”, he said during a huge Mass he celebrated in this eastern Bolivian city.

Crowds of people packed a central square of the prison complex, waving yellow and white balloons, the colors of the Holy See.

Many people spent the night in the plaza to get a spot for mass and a good view of the pontiff.


On the first leg of his tour, in Ecuador, the pope on Tuesday appealed to the world not to turn its back on the “reality” of environmental decay and its effects on the poor.

Angela Coimbra left the mother an inmate of the Palmasola prison waits outside the main gate with a friend as she attempts to deliver washing supplies to her son in Santa Cruz Bolivia Thursday