Published On: Sat, Jul 11th, 2015

Pope Francis accepts ‘Fascist’ hammer and sickle Cross from Bolivia’s Evo Morales

Pope Francis couldn’t hide the expression on his face when he received a wooden crucifix laid on a hammer and sickle, the Communist symbol conceived during the Russian Revolution.

The Pope received the gift from Bolivian President Evo Morales on the latest leg of his South American tour. He later celebrated Mass with nearly 1 million Bolivians in Santa Cruz.

Morales told Francis that the “Communist crucifix” was modeled on a design created by the Rev. Luis Espinal, a politically active priest murdered by right-wing “extremists” in Bolivia in 1980.

The Pope stopped and prayed at the location of the shooting on Wednesday evening.

Pope Francis's reaction when receiving the strange "Communist Crucifix" screenshot of CNN's coverage

Pope Francis’s reaction when receiving the strange “Communist Crucifix” screenshot of CNN’s coverage

Regarding the bizarre crucifix, Vatican spokesman Rev. Federico Lombardi told reporters, “Certainly, it will not be put in a church.”

He added that the Pope was unaware that Espinal was involved in the design of the crucifix, which was conceived as a symbol of dialogue. “You can dispute the significance and use of the symbol now, but the origin is from Espinal and the sense of it was about an open dialogue, not about a specific ideology,” Lombardi said.

Bolivia’s communications minister, Marianela Paco, defended the gift as symbolic: “The sickle evokes the peasant, the hammer the carpenter, representing humble workers, God’s people.”

“That was the intention of this gift, there was no other,” she told Radio Patria Nueva.

Rev James Bretzke, a theologian at Boston College in Massachusetts, said: “Does this seem to be using the crucifix for political agenda? And I would say the answer is probably yes.

“Therefore, I would judge it personally in bad taste and especially manipulative to present it to the Holy Father in a situation like that where it clearly hadn’t been cleared ahead of time,” he told the Associated Press, according to The Guardian.

Back in his home region, serving as an archbishop in Argentina, Francis tries to strike a delicate balance between championing the poor and avoiding class warfare.

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