In what will probably be the most uncomfortable moment of his tour of South America, Pope Francis rebuked Bolivian president Evo Morales after the left-wing South American leader proudly presented him with a crucifix mounted on a hammer and sickle – the international symbol of Communism.
The pontiff politely rejected the item, shaking his head and saying, “That’s not right.” The disapproving look on the pope’s face as he was presented with the gift made for an awkward photo op.
The atheist creed of communism is roundly denounced in the Catechism of the Catholic church.
Before he was presented with the inappropriate Commie crucifix, two large crucifix necklaces were placed around his neck. One of them also appears to be the crucified Christ attached to a homemade hammer and sickle, instead of a cross.
The UK Telegraph reports that the Bolivian president — an indigenous Indian — has had a confrontational approach towards the Roman Catholic Church and once referred to it as his “main enemy.”
He has frequently criticised its role in the colonisation of the continent, ordered the Bible and cross to be removed from the presidential palace and made the country a secular state.
Indeed, all official ceremonies in Bolivia are now preceded by rituals venerating the Andean earth goddess Pachamana. “I remain convinced that we Bolivians have a double religion, double faith,” the president said in January. “We are Catholics, but at the same time we have rituals of our own.”
In another awkward papal encounter, he reportedly gave Pope Francis’ predecessor, Benedict XVI, a letter calling on the church to abolish celibacy and allow women to be priests. Andean earth goddess Pachamama surely approved.