Pope Francis, hammer and sickle cross, Bolivia: President Evo Morales confuses, then explains.

Bolivian President Confuses Pope by Handing Him Famous Symbol of Anti-Religious Ideology

Bolivian President Confuses Pope by Handing Him Famous Symbol of Anti-Religious Ideology

The Slatest
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July 9 2015 3:41 PM

Bolivian President Confuses Pope by Handing Him Famous Symbol of Anti-Religious Ideology

Bolivia's President Evo Morales, left, presents a figure of a cr
Bolivia's President Evo Morales, left, presents a figure of a crucified Christ resting on a hammer and sickle as a gift to Pope Francis in La Paz, July 8, 2015.

Photo courtesy Bolivian Presidency/Handout via Reuters

Above is an image from Wednesday of Bolivian president Evo Morales handing Pope Francis a cross that resembles a hammer and sickle. The pope seems briefly confused, likely because the hammer and sickle is the iconic symbol of Soviet Communism, an anti-religious ideology of which Francis' predecessor John Paul II was a famous opponent. In fact, Francis appears to respond initially to the item by saying "That is not okay." (In Spanish: "No está bien eso." The pope is a native of Argentina.) Video:

However, Morales went on to explain that the gift is a replica of a carving that Spanish Jesuit priest, poet, and filmmaker Luis Espinal Camps made in the 1970s. Espinal was tortured and murdered in 1980 by the Bolivian dictatorship of the time; before the gift presentation the pope, a Jesuit himself, had prayed at the site where Espinal's body was found. A Vatican spokesman said that the pope was told that Espinal originally made the hammer-and-sickle crucifix in the spirit of dialogue between ideologies, not as an endorsement of Communism. He also said the pope didn't have a "particularly negative reaction" to the gift.

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In other pope/Bolivia news, the Holy Father stopped at a Burger King to change clothes before giving a mass in the city of Santa Cruz.

Ben Mathis-Lilley is Slate’s chief news blogger. Follow the Slatest and Mathis-Lilley on Twitter.

Juliana Jiménez is a former Slate photo editor and now a contributor writing on Latin American politics and culture for the Slatest. She translates for Democracy Now! and writes in English and Spanish for publications in Latin America.