Bolivian president visits pope ahead of papal trip to Chile

Bolivian president visits pope ahead of papal trip to Chile

Pope Francis greets Bolivian President Evo Morales during a private meeting Dec. 15 at the Vatican. (Credit: CNS photo/L’Osservatore Romano.)

Bolivian President Evo Morales implied in a Tweet that he and Pope Francis had discussed Bolivia's territorial dispute with Chile during a meeting at the Vatican Dec. 15.

VATICAN CITY — Bolivian President Evo Morales implied in a Tweet that he and Pope Francis had discussed Bolivia’s territorial dispute with Chile during a meeting at the Vatican Dec. 15.

According to the Vatican, the 30-minute private meeting “took place in a cordial atmosphere.”

During their conversation, the Vatican said, “appreciation was expressed for the contribution the church has given and continues to ensure in favor of the human, social and cultural progress of the population of the country, and mention was made of the updating of the framework of agreements between the Holy See and Bolivia.”

In his official Twitter account, President Morales said his meeting with the pope “gives me more strength and more commitment” to serving the most abandoned.

The pope’s “reflections on the poorest, his prayers for peace and against injustice are always for reflection,” he tweeted after the meeting.

Although the Vatican said Morales and the pope spoke about “various themes of common interest,” there was no mention in the Vatican statement of the ongoing dispute between Bolivia and Chile. Francis will visit Chile Jan. 15-18.

Bolivia and Chile share a border of more than 400 miles, but do not have diplomatic relations. The sour relations are the product of a long history: Chile defeated Bolivia and Peru in the War of the Pacific in 1879 and seized a mineral-rich region of Bolivia, turning Bolivia into a landlocked country.

Access to the sea is a common call from Bolivia, but Chile considers the case closed.

Morales has tried to draw Francis into the issue. When he welcomed the pope to Bolivia in 2015, Morales told him, “You have arrived in a country mutilated by its lack of access to the sea,” and gave him a gift, the “Book of the Sea.”

Francis responded by saying, “Dialogue is indispensable,” along with “building bridges instead of building walls.”

In a second tweet Dec. 15, Morales said Bolivia “still has very emotional memories” of the pope’s visit, and he thanked the pope for his support of their claim to sea access, using the hashtag #MarParaBolivia (#SeaForBolivia).

Arriving in the papal library, Morales warmly greeted the pope saying, “Brother Pope, good morning.”

As they sat down, the Bolivian president told Francis that he looked “much younger.”

“Yes, everybody tells me the same thing,” the pope responded.

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