LA PAZ – President Evo Morales on Thursday urged both Catholics and non-Catholics to take part in the visit to Bolivia by Pope Francis this summer, a trip during which he will travel to the cities of El Alto, La Paz and Santa Cruz.
At a joint press conference with the Bolivian Bishops Conference in the central city of Cochabamba, where the bishops since Wednesday have been holding their 99th general assembly, Morales read the communique issued by The Vatican on Thursday confirming that Pope Francis will be in Bolivia on July 8-10.
Morales expressed his happiness over the confirmation of the visit of the pontiff, whom he thanked for having accepted the invitation of his government and the Bolivian Catholic Church.
“Our people, Catholics and non-Catholics will participate in this very important visit by the pope because when it’s about religious faith we forget our ideological differences,” the president said.
Meanwhile, the president of the Bishops Conference, Oscar Aparicio, said “we hope that, with a generous and massive participation, the Bolivian people will show how to welcome he who comes in the name of the Lord to different events, (at) his arrival in the city of El Alto, his stop in the city of La Paz and at the main celebrations scheduled in Santa Cruz.”
The pope’s agenda, which has not been specified as yet, will include meetings with Morales, “with political and civil authorities, with the bishops, priests, religious workers and the faithful.”
According to Aparicio, the pontiff expressed his wish to “pay particular attention to the peripheries of pain and marginalization.”
Local media reported that it is possible the pontiff in Santa Cruz will visit the Palmasola prison, one of the most violent in the country, although the details of his agenda will be made known in the coming days.
The visit of Pope Francis to Bolivia will be part of a South American tour that will also include papal stops in Paraguay and Ecuador.
The only prior visit by a pope to Bolivia was that made by John Paul II in 1988.