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Bolivian President Evo Morales meets Pope Benedict XVI

Evo Morales at the closing ceremony of the climate summit on 22 April 2010
Mr Morales' relations with the Catholic Church have been strained at times

Bolivian President Evo Morales has met Pope Benedict XVI for talks at the Vatican on Monday as part of his European tour.

Mr Morales has been critical of the Catholic hierarchy, even listing the church among his political opponents.

Under a new constitution backed by Mr Morales, Bolivia has declared itself a secular state.

Ahead of the visit, Mr Morales said he was a Catholic but that he also held indigenous beliefs.

'Demoralising bishops'

He said that all beliefs were recognised under the new constitution, which scrapped Catholicism as the country's official religion.

Mr Morales has been critical of Catholic bishops in Bolivia, whose behaviour he said demoralised him. He has in the past accused them of lying to the Bolivian people.

Speaking ahead of the meeting, Mr Morales said he would talk to the Pope about climate change and the conclusions reached on the subject at a conference held in Bolivia last month.

He also said that Monday's meeting had been requested by the Pope after Mr Morales was denied an audience with him in 2007.

As part of his trip, the Bolivian leader will also visit Norway and Finland and attend the summit of Latin American and European nations in Madrid on Tuesday.



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