Pope Francis arrived in Bolivia on the second leg of his South
American tour and immediately insisted that the Catholic Church continue
to play an important role in society amid efforts by the Government of
President Evo Morales to curb its influence.
He later called for dialogue between Bolivia and Chile over their longtime border dispute.
hugged the Pope as he descended from the plane and hung a pouch around
his neck of woven of alpaca with indigenous trimmings.
A feather headdress worn by one of Bolivia’s indigenous people frames
the Pope as he arrives at the airport yesterday. Photo / AP
It is of
the type usually used to hold coca leaves, which are chewed by people in
the Andes to alleviate altitude sickness. It wasn’t known if Francis
chewed any leaves, though he was served mate tea made with coca leaves,
chamomile and anise on the plane from Quito, Ecuador.
A man bearing a cross waits for the arrival of Pope Francis. Photo / AP
La Paz is 4000m above sea level, and the Vatican decided
to keep the Pope’s stay to just four hours to limit any problems for the
78-year-old, who has only one full lung.
Francis, though, seemed
in fine form, bundled against the cold and wind by a white shawl that
he donned for his Popemobile ride into town past thousands of people who
came to greet him.
At an airport welcoming ceremony with Morales
by his side, Francis praised Bolivia for taking “important steps” to
include the poor and marginalised in the political and economic life of
the country, South America’s poorest.
The Pope flew to Santa Cruz in Bolivia’s central lowlands, where he will spend the rest of his visit to the country.