With a friendly reunion with Pope Francis, Bolivian President Evo Morales closed off his European visit. In contrast to the tense relationships between the chief executive and the Bolivian Catholic Church, the atmosphere for this audience was affectionate.
"How are you Mr. President? Good morning!”
"Your Holiness. What a joy to see you again.”
"I'm glad to see you.”
"For me, you are Brother Francis.”
"That's how it should be.”
The Vatican issued a statement saying both leaders discussed topics like socioeconomic and religious situations in Bolivia, and the fight against inequality and poverty.
They also spoke about the Church's contributions to this South American country in areas like education, health, and the welfare of children, families and the elderly.
One of the topics noticeably absent was the parallel Church Evo Molares promotes, but is heavily criticized by the Bolivian Episcopal Conference. But the statement alluded to the need for stronger ties between the Church and State.
Pope Francis gave Morales a papal medallion and two books, including the Aparecida Document, which summarizes the main ideas from the 2007 summit of Latin American bishops. The document is always among the gifts Pope Francis gives to Latin American leaders he meets with.
For his part, the Bolivian president gave the Pope a book about the country's historical claims to an outlet to the Pacific Ocean.
The Pope and Morales ended the meeting with an embrace. Moments later the president met in private with the Vatican's secretary of state, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone.