If we watch the video posted here, the Pope actually was puzzled by this gift and said to the Bolivian president something to the effect of "I didn't know". Originally it was thought that he said, "This is not right," but Fr Lombardi at the Vatican says this is most likely not what he said, and the audio was muffled, and that he said, "I didn't know." This may have meant that the pope had no idea that the gift had its origins from a fellow Jesuit activist that came to Bolivia and was killed in the 1980s, or it may have been just a surprise to him that he received the gift. I have no idea if he knew anything about the "crucifix" or not. Pope Francis however did know some of the story of the Jesuit priest behind it. You can watch the video below and see for yourself what happened, and it is nothing to laugh about. The pope does not give a disapproval, but acts puzzled and or intrigued. Notice also that the hammer and sickle crucifix is also put around his neck. But there is more to the story which we will get to after the video.
For any Catholic trying to live the faith in today's secular atheistic world, this whole event should obviously not come across as a knee slapping, tears to my eyes, side splitting comedy. The Bolivian president had an agenda and there is more to it than meets the eye. For one, this is a typical publicity stunt by the Bolivian president to garner support through the media so it seems that the pope supports his ideology. To give you an idea about Morales, he has said that the monster Che Guevara is one of his heroes and that he is "Catholic" only when he goes to weddings. Also in 2009 the Bolivian constitution was changed under his regime to eliminate state support of the Catholic Church. But there is also another interesting historical fact that no one has picked up on. The Vatican spokesman Fr. Lombardi says the Jesuit Fr. Luis Espinal Camps, who made the original "crucifix" was murdered in 1980, and that he apparently had the "crucifix" made to open dialog with the communists.
When digging a bit more into this affair however, it seems that this Jesuit priest was more of a political activist than a missionary priest in the traditional sense. When I pulled up several articles on the priest I found that he was not opposed to the socialist regime that was attempting to overthrow the right wing regime in power at that time in 1980. The priest was a radical civil rights leader who was involved in producing a TV show and also participated in many public civil rights marches and other public rallies such as a hunger strike in 1977 that almost cost him his life. The priest himself was murdered by a right wing group who radically opposed the socialist group trying to usurp power. The right wing group however was certainly no model of virtue and was involved with drug cartels and other shady business. At the time there was also a crisis of poverty in the country. There are some on the Internet saying that the priest was murdered by socialists, and this is not correct. He was murdered by the regime of Luis García Meza Tejada. On this trip the pope visited the gravesite to give honor to this Jesuit priest. The Jesuit priest however appears to have been killed for his political activism in support of a socialist leaning ideology, which was opposed to the Tejeda regime. I will not judge the priests motivations. You can do your own research on his story if you wish.
It would seem that this image now has deeper symbolism than one may have realized now that we have some background information of what happened with this priest and the origins of the image. The current Bolivian president seems to have been giving a subtle approval to the pope and some of his statements concerning politics, the environment and the supporting of government welfare, etc. It does appear that to some extent that the pope and Morales share some of the same ideological views, but at this time in charity I do not think it is fair to label Pope Francis a socialist. This was a perfect time for the Bolivian president to take advantage of this visit. Surely the pope put himself in a difficult spot here being that when someone hands you something your first reaction is to look at it and take it, and no matter what you do after that point is of little matter, since even handing it back in this setting makes it appear that you accepted the gift.
I can argue that one thing we can deduce from this event is that the pope's public image in the eyes of faithful Catholics has once again been tarnished, and only a buffoon like Mark Shea would find all of this a sidesplitting comedy. There is really nothing to laugh at here. We have a pope who cannot speak clearly and articulate the Catholic faith in an effective manner and it seems that everyday there is something he does that is stalling the Church's mission to evangelize the world. Where is the outcry of the Supreme Court decision here in the US by the pope? Will he speak out against these types of atrocities publicly when he visits the US or will he put himself in another conundrum when he meets Obama? I can only imagine what "gift" the Whitehouse has in store for him. I can guarantee that Pope Pius X would have never sat back in silence without speaking out against such immoral acts against God and the human race that have been committed here in the US. We have a crisis of faith in the Church and in the world that is of cosmic proportions that has never been seen before, and day after day all we see is confusion from this pope.. We need to pray for Pope Francis and the Church.
From the Catholic News Agency , at a July 9 press briefing the Holy See press officer, Fr. Federico Lombardi, said that Pope Francis' remark likely expressed a sentiment of “I didn't know”, rather than “This is not right.” Fr. Lombardi noted the lack of clarity in the audio of the exchange, and remarked that Pope Francis had been unaware the crucifix was a replica of a Spanish Jesuit.....The cross with a hammer and sickle is a reproduction of another carved during the 1970s by Fr. Luis Espinal Camps, a Spanish Jesuit who was a missionary in Bolivia who was killed in 1980 during the Bolivian dictatorship. Fr. Lombardi claimed that Fr. Espinal's use of it was not ideological but expressed a hope for dialogue between communism and the Church.