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Bolivian President Offers the Pope a ‘Communist Crucifix’ communist crucifix morales  620x330

Bolivian President Offers the Pope a ‘Communist Crucifix’

EvoFrancis-255x255  Bolivian President Offers the Pope a ‘Communist Crucifix’ EvoFrancis 255x255

The media has been buzzing with the news that when Pope Francis was in Bolivia last week, its president, Evo Morales, handed him a rather controversial “gift”: a crucifix carved in the shape of a hammer and sickle. It seems that this crucifix had been made from a drawing by the late Fr Luis Espinal, a Spanish Jesuit killed by Bolivian paramilitary squads in 1980.  According to some reports the Pope was not amused by the gift and responded, “That’s not right.” Yet other reports say he commented, “I did not know that.” Actually, if you look at the YouTube clip from Rome Reports (see below), he is looking serious and reflective rather than affronted, as you would expect when being suddenly offered such a potent, if controversial, symbol. As NewsBusters and the Wall Street Journal note, President Morales also “draped a medallion over [the pope’s] neck that bore the hammer and sickle.” [12][16] Fr Federico Lombardi, the papal press secretary, has admitted that “it wasn’t known what the Pope said”. [7]  Commenting on the Pope’s reaction, he said that it was more likely Pope Francis had expressed surprise at the origins of the gift.”I don’t think I would put this symbol on an altar in a church however,” he added.  [8]

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Reverend Luís Espinal

The crucifix was a replica of one designed by a Jesuit priest, the Reverend Luís Espinal, who was tortured and killed by Bolivian paramilitary squads in 1980. Francis prayed at the site of Espinal’s assassination upon his arrival in Bolivia.  [1] [3] The modified crucifix immediately raised eyebrows, with some questioning whether Morales, whose socialist and anti-church rhetoric is well-known, was trying to score a political point with a questionable, and possibly sacrilegious, melding of faith and ideology.  [3]  To make things worse, Pope Francis received this gift from a man (Morales) wearing a picture of Che Guevara on his jacket. [15]  Bolivia’s communications minister, Marianela Paco, told Bolivian radio: “The sickle evokes the peasant, the hammer the carpenter, representing humble workers, God’s people,” adding there was “no other” motive behind the gift. [8] [10] Francis, an Argentine Jesuit, said Espinal was well-known among his fellow Jesuits as a proponent of the Marxist strain of liberation theology. The Vatican opposed it, fearing that Marxists were using liberation theology’s “preferential option for the poor” as a call for armed revolution against oppressive rightwing regimes that were in power in much of Latin America in the 1970s and 1980s.  During a news conference en route home to Rome on Sunday, Francis said he interpreted Morales’ gift through the prism of Espinal’s Marxist bent and viewed it as protest art.  It was earlier reported that before he left Bolivia that Pope Francis had laid the ambiguous gift at the foot of a statue of Our Lady. However, he later said that he brought it home with him and left two medals, which had also been presented to him, instead.  [7] After taking into consideration the time in which he lived, Francis said: “I understand this work. For me it wasn’t an offense.”  Francis added that he brought the crucifix home with him. [1] [3]

pope-commie-francis  Bolivian President Offers the Pope a ‘Communist Crucifix’ pope commie francis

Pope Francis praised Bolivia for taking “important steps” in social security and to include the poor in the political and economic life of South American poorest country.  Morales, an anti-clerical champion of indigenous rights, has taken decisive steps to empower Bolivia’s 36 native groups and embed their rights in the country’s constitution. The president has also acted to change the constitution in 2009, making the Catholic nation a secular country and removed the bible and cross from the presidential palace when he took office in 2006.  Morales praised Francis as someone who is “helping in the liberation of our people”. He gifted the pontiff with a cross with the Communist symbol similar to the one belonging to Father Luis Espinal, a Jesuit priest who was detained, tortured and killed by Bolivia’s paramilitary squads. [13]

popecommie  Bolivian President Offers the Pope a ‘Communist Crucifix’ popecommieThe Pope himself has been accused of having Marxist leanings, after mounting strong criticisms of capitalism and inequality. Matthew Young, in an article in First Things, makes the interesting comment that President Morales “no doubt intended his gift to represent the joinder of Communist and Roman Catholic values”, adding that the image “may seem to represent a new vision of communism: Christ as the deliverer of the poor?” Or “Christ killed on a symbol of supposed human progress?” I’m not sure the President is that subtle. My own immediate response to the image was to think: “Is that communism trying to show the Bolivian people that it’s really Christ-like at heart?” Still, however you interpret it, there is still something moving, with an element of pathos, about the symbols of murderous ideology being clumsily yoked to the supreme Christian image of sacrificial love. [9]  Some theologians accused Morales of trying to use the Pope for political ends. Rev James Bretzke, a theologian at Boston College in Massachusetts, said: “Does this seem to be using the crucifix for political agenda? And I would say the answer is probably yes. “Therefore, I would judge it personally in bad taste and especially manipulative to present it to the Holy Father in a situation like that where it clearly hadn’t been cleared ahead of time,” he told the Associated Press, according to The Guardian. [2] One of the strongest reactions came from Spanish bishop Jose Ignacio Munilla, who tweeted: “The height of arrogance is to manipulate God for the service of atheist ideologies.” [8]

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“This is a provocation, a joke” said Bolivian Bishop Gonzalo del Castillo, quoted by the AFP news agency. There was also anger on the Facebook pages of the Catholic News Agency. “One cannot simply combine Communism and Christianity!” wrote one user. But one comment read: “This is no insult to Pope Francis, this is in memory of the Jesuit Martyr, who died defending the poor and oppressed of Bolivia.” [8]

[1] NICOLE WINFIELD, Pope says he wasn’t offended by ‘Communist crucifix’, Yahoo News, July 13, 2015 11:00 AM
[2] Jonathan Watts, Vatican bewildered by Bolivia’s ‘communist crucifix’ gift to Pope Francis, The Guardian, Thursday 9 July 2015 22.25 BST
[5] Alvaro de Juana and Elise Harris, Pope Francis apparently not amused by ‘communist crucifix’, Catholic News Agency, Jul 9, 2015 / 10:45 am
[9] Matthew H. Young, A COMMUNIST CRUCIFIX, First things, 7 . 10 . 15
[10] Peter Wilkinson, Pope Francis surprised by hammer and sickle crucifix, CNN, 2:19 PM ET, Fri July 10, 2015
[12] Katie Yoder, Pope Rejects Communist Crucifix from Bolivia President: ‘That’s Not Right’, News Busters, July 9, 2015 | 12:15 PM EDT
[13] Gianluca Mezzofiore, Pope Francis receives ‘Communist’ hammer and sickle crucifix from Bolivia president, International Business Times, July 9, 2015 12:04 BST
[15] DENNIS PRAGER, Why Pope Francis Is Keeping His Hammer-and-Sickle Crucifix, National Review, July 14, 2015 12:00 AM
[16] FRANCIS X. ROCCA, Pope Francis Celebrates Ethnic Diversity of Bolivia and Ecuador, The Wall Street Journal, July 8, 2015 10:21 p.m. ET
[17] Ed Krayewski, Communist Crucifix Too Far for Pope Francis, Reason, Jul. 9, 2015 3:38 pm


About Bill Wallace

Bill Wallace is a self-fashioned writter, a computer programmer and cybermarketer from Quebec City, Canada who decided to enter the political arena after his disillusionment with the socialist system under which he was living in the French Canadian province of Quebec.

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