SANTA CRUZ, Bolivia (CNS) — When Bolivian President Evo Morales gave Pope Francis a crucifix atop a hammer and sickle, eyebrows were raised, including the pope’s.
But, as Morales explained, the cross was created by Jesuit Father Luis Espinal, who was assassinated in 1980 after being active in the country’s pro-democracy movement.
The pope and president were surrounded with clicking cameras July 8 during the gift presentation in the government palace in La Paz.
A Vatican television camera was present but, as Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman, told reporters, the audio is almost impossible understand.
At least one media outlet reported the pope saying, “That’s not right,” (“No esta bien eso”) but several others said the pope, who was speaking Spanish, responded, “I didn’t know that” (“Eso no lo sabia”) when Morales explained the cross was based on a design by Father Espinal.
Father Lombardi, who said neither he nor the Jesuit pope had ever seen or heard of Father Espinal’s crucifix, said he believes it is much more likely that the pope admitted to not knowing its origin than to saying it was wrong.
After discussing the cross with several Jesuits July 9, Father Lombardi said that Father Espinal, who “was an artist, very creative,” made the crucifix as an expression of his belief in the need for dialogue involving all Bolivians at a time of great political tension and upheaval.
For Father Espinal “it was not ideological,” Father Lombardi said; he was not giving “a Marxist interpretation of the faith.”
How other people interpret the piece or use it today is another question, the spokesman said.
“Certainly, though, it will not be put in a church,” he said.
The crucifix, he added, was “an expression of what Father Espinal was living” at the time he made it.
Asked his personal reaction to the piece, Father Lombardi said he tried to understand the origin of the piece and what Father Espinal intended when he made it.
Background on Father Espinal and his crucifix can be found here.
In a time of crisis CatholicPhilly.com keeps the information flowing
During the current coronavirus crisis, you can help CatholicPhilly.com deliver the kind of news people need to know about the Catholic Church, especially in the Philadelphia region, and the world in which we live ― every day.
Budgets are tight at this time, and CatholicPhilly's is no different than those of most families. We make sure your donation in any amount will go a long way toward continuing our mission to inform, form in the Catholic faith and inspire the thousands of readers who visit every month.
Here is how you can help:
- A $100 gift allows us to present award-winning photos of Catholic life in our neighborhoods.
- A $50 gift enables us to cover a news event in a local parish, school or Catholic institution.
- A $20 gift lets us obtain solid faith formation resources that can deepen your spirituality and knowledge of the faith.
- A small, automated monthly donation means you can support us continually and easily.
Won't you consider making a gift today?
Please join in the church's vital mission of communications by offering a gift in whatever amount that you can ― a single gift of $40, $50, $100, or more, or a monthly donation. Your gift will strengthen the fabric of our entire Catholic community.
Make your donation by credit card here:
Or make your donation by check:
222 N. 17th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19103