Santa Cruz de la Sierra: Pope Francis’s trip to Bolivia has already stirred up news headlines for the pontiff’s desire to chew some coca leaves, but a gift from Bolivian president Evo Morales has added fuel to the fire.
According to reports by the Malay Mail, the president’s gift of a carving of Christ crucified on a hammer & sickle instead of a more conventional wooden cross were described as being a “provocation, [and] a joke” by at least one Bolivian bishop. The unusual carving was the work of Jesuit priest Luis Espinal, who passed away in tragic circumstances back in 1980 after being killed by right-wing assassins. While the hammer and sickle are more commonly associated as symbols of communism, Bolivia’s communication minister pointed out that the gift was symbolic: “The sickle evokes the peasant, the hammer the carpenter, representing humble workers, God’s people.”
In any event, Pope Francis was reported to have made no specific comment on the gift. We are unable to confirm if he was chewing any coca at the time.