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  • Pope Francis, standing alongside President Evo Morales (R), is welcomed in La Paz, Bolivia, July 8, 2015.

    Pope Francis, standing alongside President Evo Morales (R), is welcomed in La Paz, Bolivia, July 8, 2015. | Photo: ABI

Published 9 July 2015

Pope Francis also called for dialogue with Chile to resolve the long-standing dispute over Bolivia's demand for access to the sea.

Remarking on the “historic moment” that Bolivia is living, Pope Francis praised President Evo Morales' efforts to redistribute wealth and promote social inclusion.

Pope Francis, who has often delved into political topics, said that Bolivia was "taking important steps to include broad sectors in the economic, social and political life of the country.”

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President Morales received the pontiff at an airport near the capital of La Paz, saying he had arrived to a “land of peace that seeks justice.”

The pope appeared to be unaffected by La Paz's high altitude. He was expected to chew coca leaves to offset the altitude sickness, but this did not happen. However, a flight attendant said that aboard the plane the pope did drink a tea made of a mix of coca leaves, chamomile and anise seeds to ward off illness.

Among the many gifts given to Pope Francis, Morales gave the pontiff a wooden hammer and sickle with a figure of a crucified Christ resting on the hammer.

In recognition of the Catholic Church's complicated history and its role in the colonization of indigenous peoples, the theme for Pope Francis' visit to Bolivia is "Reconciliation and Renewal."

"In many historic moments, the Church was used for domination, subjugation and oppression. Now the Bolivian people receive you with joy and hope," said President Morales. "We welcome you as the chief representative of the Catholic Church coming to support the liberation of our Bolivian peoples," he added.

Morales also made a point of commenting on Bolivia's ongoing struggle to obtain sovereign access to the sea, saying that it was a land that had “been maimed of it right of access to the sea as a result of an invasion.”

In response, Pope Francis called for “open and frank dialogue” between fraternal countries.

"Building bridges instead of building walls; all topics, however thorny they may be, have reasonable, equitable and lasting solutions and in any case must never be a reason for aggression, hatred or enmity that aggravates the situation and makes a resolution more difficult,” said Pope Francis.

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.

In an interview with CNN, Correa said that in his private meeting with the pope that he “greatly appreciates the process that is underway here in Ecuador.”

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