Francis with President Morales © dpa
Francis in Bolivia © dpa
Pope Francis' eagerly awaited appearance before the second worldwide congress of popular movements took on the character of an anti-capitalist political rally in places.
At the beginning of the event in a large exhibition hall, participants read out a "Declaration of Santa Cruz," in which they called for a new world economic order and an overcoming of "capitalist neoliberalism". The extensive leftist list of wishes also included self-determination "regardless of sexual orientation".
Accompanied by clenched fists, placards and chants demanding sea access for Bolivia, President Evo Morales began his speech. He wore a blazer with a portrait of Ernesto Che Guevara emblazoned on his chest. Morales was involved in building the communist dictatorship in Cuba in the 1960s alongside Fidel Castro, and died as a guerrilla fighter in Bolivia in 1967. Among the flags that were waved in the hall were Cuban flags.
Morales praises Greek government
In a long, combative speech that preceded that of the pope, Morales attacked the "North American empire" that was trying to fight the "democratic revolutions" in Latin America and divide the continent's peoples. At the same time, he praised the successes of his political movement, Movimiento al Socialismo. The starting point was the social movement of coca farmers and other unions. It had led to the reestablishment of the state in dignity and freedom. One of the visible successes was the nationalization of the extractive industries. The fight against privatization is a central concern of all Latin American popular movements.
In his half-hour speech, the leftist politician also attacked his liberal predecessor governments and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in a pugnacious all-out attack. He explicitly praised Greece's president Alexis Tsipras for his resistance to the austerity demands of the IMF and creditor states. What the Greek government is trying to do, he said, is the beginning of a revolution against the power of the financial world in Europe as well, which he wishes success to. Morales also criticized the state of Israel, the United Nations and the World Security Council. This, he said, was in fact a "world insecurity council".
Francis calls for conversion of hearts
Francis, whom Morales addressed several times as "Brother Pope Francis," followed the speech with a critical eye but did not comment on it. His own speech, delivered calmly and collectedly, was also peppered with demands for radical change at the national and international levels. The applause of about 3.000 participants for "our revolutionary pope," as he was announced, but was initially more restrained compared to the Bolivian president's whip-smart speech. Only when the pope called on the participants to take the process of political and economic change into their own hands did the applause grow.
His appeal not only to change structures, but also to strive for a conversion of hearts, met with only moderate enthusiasm. The strongest applause erupted when he asked for forgiveness for the sins of those clerics who had violated the rights of indigenous people in the conquest and missionization of Latin America. He did not forget to mention all those clergy and religious who have worked alongside the poor and disenfranchised over the past decades and centuries.
After his speech, the pope demonstratively donned the helmet of a Bolivian miner and personally blessed many of the popular movement leaders in attendance. He seemed much more relaxed than the Bolivian bishops, who left the hall at a rapid pace. Some of them have had conflicts with Morales in the past. They accused him of limiting the church's social impact and freedom of expression.