Bolivian President gives pope crucifix shaped like Communist hammer and sickle—UPDATED

Bolivian President gives pope crucifix shaped like Communist hammer and sickle—UPDATED July 9, 2015

And the pope’s reaction?

Take a look at the video below, via Rome Reports.

File this in the “What On Earth Was He Thinking?” File.

UPDATE: Here’s an answer to the “What on Earth Was He Thinking?” question.  A couple readers have pointed out that it’s apparently a replica of one that belonged to Fr. Luis Espinal, the martyred Jesuit.  There is a government human rights award that also uses this image. Espinal hoped for dialog between Christianity and Marxism, as did many liberation theologians.

UPDATE II: Some reaction and context from CNA: 

At a July 9 press briefing the Holy See press officer, Fr. Federico Lombardi remarked that Pope Francis had been unaware the crucifix was a replica of Fr. Espinal’s.

He also claimed that Fr. Espinal’s use of it was not ideological but expressed a hope for dialogue between communism and the Church, adding that Pope Francis’ remark likely expresed a sentiment of “I didnt’ know”, rather than “This is not right.”

Morales’ gift has sparked a worldwide controversy, and reactions were not long in coming. The majority of them accuse Morales of trying to politicize the Pope’s visit.

Morales is head of Bolivia’s Movement for Socialism party, and his adminstration has focused on implementing leftist policies in the nation. Since coming to power in 2006, Morales has frequently sparred with the Bolivian bishops.

Catholics from various Hispanophone countries rejected Morales’ gesture, considering it offensive to the numerous victims of terrorist groups in Latin America and of the historical totalitarian communist regimes.

Bishop Jose Munilla Aguirre of San Sebastián, a Spaniard, tweeted: “The height of arrogance is to manipulate God in the service of atheistic ideologies … Today, once again: #ChristCrucified”.

Fr. Espinal – whose “communist crucifix” was the model for Morales’ gift to the Pope – was a journalist who advocated for human rights and democracy, continues to be a source of controversy in Bolivia.

While en route from the La Paz airport to the presidential palace, Pope Francis stopped to pray at the location where Fr. Espinal’s corpse was found after his March 21, 1980 kidnapping and murder.

“Dear sisters and brothers. I stopped here to greet you and above all to remember. To remember a brother, our brother, a victim of interests who did not want him to fight for the freedom of Bolivia,” the Pope said to those gathered at the site, after arriving by way of an open popemobile.

“May Christ draw this man into himself. Lord give him eternal rest and may light shine for him that has no end.”

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