Pope Francis rebuked Bolivian President Evo Morales when he presented him with a crucifix mounted on the symbol of Communism – a hammer-and-sickle.
“That’s not right,” said the Pope, who appeared to be taken aback by the gift. He and Morales engaged in the customary exchange of gifts when the pontiff paid a courtesy call to the Bolivian president. A video of the encounter highlights the Pope’s obvious displeasure at the object, which combines the central Christian symbol with that of a system built on atheism and the destruction of religion.
Social media lit up with reactions to the polemical gift, with many voicing criticism of the Bolivian president for trying to “politicize” the papal visit, while many Catholics from around the globe rejected the gesture as offensive to the countless victims of communist totalitarian regimes.
According to Catholic World News, Morales often mixes Communist ideology and pagan practices with the symbols of the Catholic Church. Since becoming president of Bolivia in 2006 he has had a strained relationship with the Church, and once called the Church his “main enemy.”
Bolivian leaders said the hammer-and-sickly crucifix was a replica of one made by Father Luis Espinal, a Jesuit human rights activist and filmmaker who was killed in 1980. Pope Francis stopped to pray at the site of Espinal’s assassination before moving on to meet with Morales.