VATICAN CITY – Pope Francis I met on Saturday with Bolivia’s President Evo Morales and discussed a variety of topics, ranging from the obligation of working towards a world with more solidarity and peace to the ongoing soccer world cup being played in Russia.
This was the sixth meeting between the pontiff and Morales since the latter took office in 2006.
The audience started with Morales effusively greeting the head of the Catholic Church and addressing him as “brother pope,” while Francis replied with a simple “welcome” before the two leaders embraced.
They then had an informal chat focused on the FIFA World Cup.
Francis, whose secular name is Jorge Bergoglio, said about his country of origin: “We will see about Argentina,” when asked by Morales about the Argentine team’s hopes in the tournament.
The Bolivian leader pointed out that four out of five South American teams had made it past the group stage and were poised to play the round of 16, referring to Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Uruguay and Peru (which failed to qualify for the next stage).
The formal and private meeting took place after the soccer-focused banter and lasted for 36 minutes, after which the two dignitaries proceeded with the traditional exchange of gifts.
Morales gifted the pontiff a wooden chess set with indigenous motifs along with a photograph in which the pope could be seen hugging a Bolivian child during his 2015 trip to the Andean nation.
“Look, how nice,” was Francis’ reaction.
The pope, on the other hand, handed Morales a selection of his papal texts, a transcript of his speech for the World Day of Peace and a medallion featuring the Angel of Peace.
“This represents the angel who chains and vanquishes the demon of war,” the pontiff explained. “It speaks for peace between nations.”
He then read the medallion’s inscription out loud: “To work for a world of solidarity and peace, built upon justice.”