President Evo Morales announced that Pope Francis will receive him in audience on September 6 in the Vatican. The President said he will “take advantage of that meeting to share his messages and learn about Liberation Theology,” and also to invite the Pope to Bolivia, reported the official Bolivian News Agency ABI, in a dispatch on August 14 in the afternoon.
The Bolivian Episcopal Conference confirmed the news , but specified that it is the “usual” State visit, as the Pontiff has already had from several Presidents of Latin America and elsewhere. The President, elected in 2005 and re-elected in 2009 with 65% of the vote, has had difficult relations with the Church in Bolivia, which he accused of supporting the political Opposition, as well as being responsible for the thefts in the churches. Moreover, last June the government of President Morales promoted the creation of a Renewed Apostolic Catholic Church of the Pluri-National State, and in a trip to Rome in May 2010, he handed Pope Benedict XVI a letter — outside of protocol — after the audience, in which he advised him to abolish celibacy and open the priesthood to women.
The announcement of the audience was made by Morales himself. “”I want to anticipate to you – perhaps as a scoop – that Chancellor David Choquehuanca informed me that the Pope accepted a meeting with us on September 6. We are going to prepare a good delegation to go,” he said.
He made the announcement after arriving at the official platform of the folkloric entrance in honor of the Virgin of Urkupina, which took place in Quillacollo, Cochabamba,” indicated ABI agency.
The desire to meet the Pope was born after hearing two or three reflections which caught his attention during his participation in the World Youth Day of Rio de Janeiro, said the Bolivian President. The Bolivian Agency added that Morales also said that he was “interested in and pleasingly impressed by the message that one isn’t a revolutionary if one isn’t a Christian during these times.”
On August 15, the Bolivian President “took part actively, with prayers and canticles, in the Eucharistic ceremony in honor of the Virgin of Urkupina, advocating the promotion of human and Christian values in the country,” stated the Agency. And it adds: “In the homily of the solemn ceremony at the door of the church of Saint Ildefonso, the Auxiliary Bishop Luis Saenz of Cochabamba said: ‘Let’s work, then, so that values such as truth are more important than lies, that the value of forgiveness is an answer, and never vengeance.’” ABI specified that at the end of the procession the Bolivian President “shook hands with the auxiliary bishop and thanked him for his reflections.”