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Pope Celebrates First Mass in Bolivia

  • VOA News

Pope Francis waves from his popemobile as he arrives to celebrate Mass at Christ the Redeemer square in Santa Cruz, Bolivia, July 9, 2015.

Pope Francis waves from his popemobile as he arrives to celebrate Mass at Christ the Redeemer square in Santa Cruz, Bolivia, July 9, 2015.

Addressing hundreds of thousands in Christ the Redeemer square in Santa Cruz, Bolivia, Pope Francis called on the faithful to reject consumerism, which he says only creates barriers between people.

Pope Francis was greeted by Bolivian President Evo Morales when he arrived Wednesday on the second leg of his three-nation tour of his home continent of South America.

The pontiff told a crowd of thousands who gathered at the airport in the capital of La Paz that Bolivia "is making important steps towards including broad sectors in the country's economic, social and political life."

Pope Francis is presented with a gift of a crucifix carved into a wooden hammer and sickle, the Communist symbol uniting labor and peasants, by Bolivian President Evo Morales in La Paz, Bolivia, Wednesday, July 8, 2015.

Pope Francis is presented with a gift of a crucifix carved into a wooden hammer and sickle, the Communist symbol uniting labor and peasants, by Bolivian President Evo Morales in La Paz, Bolivia, Wednesday, July 8, 2015.

Morales said the visit of the Argentinean-born pope represents support for the "liberation" of the Bolivian people. Relations between Bolivia's Catholic Church and the Bolivian government became strained after Morales, the country's first indigenous leader, first took office in 2006, but have improved since Francis's election in 2013.

The pope later traveled into La Paz for talks with Morales and other political and civic leaders. During the trip, Francis stopped his motorcade at the spot where the body of Jesuit priest Luis Espinal was found in 1980 after he arrested and tortured by Bolivian paramilitary squads.

After a four hour stay in La Paz, Pope Francis flew to the city of Santa Cruz, where he will remain for the rest of his visit to Bolivia. La Paz is located over 4,000 meters above sea level, raising concerns among Vatican officials for the 78-year-old pontiff's health, who lost part of one of his lungs during his youth.

During his flight from Ecuador, Francis drank a special tea mixed with coca leaves, which are chewed by natives to alleviate altitude sickness.

Among the items on the pope's agenda while in Bolivia include a trip to the notoriously violent Palmasola prison, where at least 30 inmates were killed in 2013 during gang fighting.

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