May 20, 2007

The Church and Evo Morales

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The 5th General Conference of the Latin American and Caribbean Bishops has began, and with it, the controversy between the Bolivian government and the Catholic Church. The controversy started by the words the Pope and the Bolivian Cardinal spoke in the conference.

Pope Benedict XVI, in his remarks in the inaugural session, made an allusion about the region and he said that "Latin America and the Caribbean, as other regions, has evolved to democracy, even though there are motives to worry over certain forms of authoritarian forms of government or subject to certain ideologies thought gotten over with and which do not correspond with men's and society's christian vision, as the Church teaches us." (translation from Spanish: En América Latina y el Caribe, igual que en otras regiones, se ha evolucionado hacia la democracia, aunque haya motivos de preocupación ante formas de gobierno autoritarias o sujetas a ciertas ideologías que se creían superadas, y que no corresponden con la visión cristiana del hombre y de la sociedad, como nos enseña la Doctrina social de la Iglesia.)

Moreover, in his intervention on May 15, Cardenal Julio Terrazas Sandoval, said: "In general, this beginning (that of the government's agenda) caused happyness and hope in some and suffering and disillusion in others. In less than a year it can be detected that some sectors of society and regions are pushing to demand the much advertized economic benefits, multiplying that way pressures and conflicts. To this can be added the awakening of an Andean indigenism, which denies the strong mestizo facton in Bolivia. There is talk of revenge, confrontations and armed resistance. (translated from the Spanish: En general este inicio causó gozo y esperanza en unos, sufrimientos y desilusiones en otros. A un poco más de un año de este proceso, se constata en diversos sectores sociales y regiones un cierto apresuramiento para exigir los beneficios económicos profusamente publicitados, multiplicando de esta manera presiones y conflictos. A esto se añade el despertar de un indigenismo sobre todo andino, desconocedor del fuerte mestizaje boliviano. Se suscitan posturas revanchistas, la incitación a las confrontaciones y hasta se habla de resistencias armadas.

The Morales government did not like the two remarks and is asking, as we speak, clarification to the Pope's representative in Bolivia. Morales said that the Church should decide whether it should pray or do politics.

This is the latest tension between the church and the Morales government. It really started when some administration officials were suggesting to reform religion education by including indigenous or Andean religion in the curriculum.

It is unclear, at this point, why has the church chosen to publically critisize Morales. They were in good terms until this week.