After arriving in Bolivia Wednesday, Pope Francis received, among other gifts, an unusual offering from Bolivian President Evo Morales — a wooden hammer and sickle with a figure of a crucified Christ resting on the hammer, in tribute to murdered Spanish Jesuit Priest Luis Espinal.
Espinal was a prominent figure of Liberation Theology, and made himself objects, such as the hammer and sickle crucifix, as a symbol of his commitment to social struggles and of his sympathy for communist ideals.
Pope Francis himself paid tribute to the priest during his visit to Bolivia, stopping to pray at the site the priest was murdered 35 years ago for his ideas, which were at the time labeled subversive.
Luis Espinal, born in Spain in 1932, entered the Society of Jesus age 16, which sent him on a mission to Bolivia. When, in 1971, he was granted Bolivian nationality, he dedicated his life to serving under-privileged populations and criticized some of the Catholic Church’s more conservative positions.
In his visit to La Paz, the Pope commemorated Espinal, who was assassinated in 1980 during the dictatorship of Luis Garcia Meza.
“"Espinal preached the gospel and the gospel upset (Meza’s government) so it eliminated him. Let's take a minute of silence in prayer and then pray together," said the Pope.
Pope Francis arrived in Bolivia after a successful three-day visit to Ecuador, where the pontiff also spoke out in favor of Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa's efforts to redistribute wealth and attend to the social needs of the population.