VATICAN CITY – Welcoming the first Bolivian ambassador named by President Evo Morales, Pope Benedict XVI said polarizing Bolivian society will not bring the justice and economic well-being for which all Bolivians hope.
“It is not possible to remain indifferent when social tension is rising and spreads an atmosphere that does not encourage understanding,” Pope Benedict said March 14 in his speech welcoming Ambassador Carlos de la Riva Guerra.
“I think we all share the conviction that the positions, which sometimes have been encouraged and applauded, hamper the constructive dialogue needed to find solutions of economic fairness and justice for the common good, especially for those who have difficulty living in a dignified way,” the pope said.
De la Riva told the pope: “We cannot deny” that at the beginning of Morales’ mandate as president in 2006 “some voices of confrontation were raised against the Catholic Church.”
But, he said, the discussions that followed helped government officials come to a greater understanding of the role of the church in Bolivia and its contributions to society, especially in helping the indigenous and poor farmworkers, who share Morales’ background.
Bolivia has not had an ambassador to the Vatican since Morales became president.
“Holy Father, I ask you not to see this vacancy as an act of uncertainty or even opposition,” de la Riva said.
In the past two years, he said, traditional government practices have been put in question as Morales attempts “a transformation so that the exercise of power is accomplished with a vision that begins not with the well-off, but with the poor.”
In fact, he said, the president appointed him ambassador knowing that de la Riva is a practicing Catholic whose political stance was formed in the light of church teaching and whose church involvement led to “my dedication for many years to the education of indigenous and poor farmworkers, a work I realized thanks to the action of the Catholic Church.”
Pope Benedict said the Catholic Church, “knowing well the needs and hopes of the Bolivian people,” is committed to helping them grow spiritually, to educating them and helping them reach their full potential.
“Faithful to its mission, it is always ready to collaborate to bring peace and human and spiritual development to the country, proclaiming its doctrine and, also, publicly expressing its opinion about questions involving the social order,” the pope said.