Did you see the photo of left-wing Bolivian president Evo Morales presenting the Pope with a stylized crucifix showing Jesus nailed to a hammer and sickle? You can view it on this AP story. Excerpt:
Bolivian President Evo Morales’ controversial gift of a “Communist crucifix” to Pope Francis threatened to overshadow the pope’s visit to Bolivia on Thursday, with the Vatican and Bolivia both insisting that no offense was intended or taken.
Morales gave Francis the crucifix carved into a hammer and sickle upon Francis’ arrival in Bolivia Wednesday, immediately raising eyebrows given Morales’ past attacks on the church and his socialist bent.
It turns out, the crucifix was originally designed by a Jesuit activist, the Rev. Luis Espinal, who was assassinated in 1980 by suspected paramilitaries during the months that preceded a military coup. Francis, a fellow Jesuit, stopped his motorcade to pray at the site where Espinal’s body had been dumped.
The Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, said Thursday the pope had no idea that Espinal had designed the crucifix and was surprised to receive it — a reaction clearly visible in the footage of the encounter. Some reports suggested the pope told Morales “This isn’t good;” one of Francis’ friends sent a tweet quoting him as saying such. But Lombardi said it wasn’t known what the pope had said.
Lombardi said Espinal had designed the crucifix as a symbol of dialogue and commitment to freedom and progress for Bolivia, not with any specific ideology in mind. Lombardi said he personally wasn’t offended by it.
“You can dispute the significance and use of the symbol now, but the origin is from Espinal and the sense of it was about an open dialogue, not about a specific ideology,” Lombardi said.
He noted the context in which Espinal was living: as a priest working for social justice in Bolivia during a period of instability that preceded a right-wing dictatorship known for human rights abuses.
However, one of Espinal’s friends and fellow Jesuits, the Rev. Xavier Albo, said Espinal’s intent was for the church to be in dialogue with Marxism, and said Espinal had altered his crucifix to incorporate the Communists’ most potent symbol: the hammer and sickle.
To his credit, Francis muttered, “That’s not right” to the appalling Bolivian president, and then the Vatican tried to minimize the incident. It’s not hard to imagine how Pope John Paul II, whose nation was enslaved by the ideology behind the hammer and sickle, would have treated this shocking insult. There would likely not have been any diplomatic b.s. forthcoming from the Vatican spokesman either. Francis should have turned and walked out of the room. Imagine if some right-wing state leader had presented a pope with Jesus nailed to a swastika.
According to the authoritative Black Book of Communism (Harvard), nearly 100 million people died at the hands of communists in power. A hundred million souls, exterminated.