Pope Francis arrived in Bolivia on Wednesday on the second leg of his South American tour.
He was welcomed by President Evo Morales and given a pouch of woven alpaca, used to hold coca leaves, which is the main ingredient of cocaine.. These are chewed by people in the Andes to alleviate altitude sickness.
On route to the centre of La Paz, the administrative capital of Boliva, the pope stopped at the spot where the body of Jesuit Father Luis Espinal Camps was found in 1980. The priest, who was a strong supporter of the rights of miners, was murdered by paramilitaries.
Addressing the crowds the pope said:
“I stopped here, to greet everyone, and above all to pay a tribute. To remember a brother, our brother, a victim of interests that didn’t want him to fight for the freedom of Bolivia.”
Francis is using this part of his trip to insist on the relevance of the Catholic Church in a country where the government is trying to curb its influence.
For health reasons the 78-year-old, who lost part of one lung to disease when a young man, was in La Paz which stands 4,000 metres above sea level for a short time.
Pope Francis who is on a seven-day three-nation tour will be leaving Bolivia for Paraguay on Friday.
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