This news appeared prior to Pope Francis visit to Bolivia… as I hoped, he DID NOT chew anything! He knows better than that… anyway I thought it would be nice to publish it after he left my beloved Bolivia!
Two articles on the subject follow:
From the Malaysian Insider:
The Pope getting high in Bolivia?
Pope Francis has not confirmed whether he will chew coca leaves on his trip to Bolivia, but may well do so given his respect for local customs, his spokesman said Tuesday.
Coca leaves, the raw ingredient for cocaine, are regarded as an illegal narcotic by many countries, but are widely used in Bolivia as a mild stimulant or to relieve aches and pains and combat the effects of altitude sickness.
Bolivian Culture Minister Marko Machicao said on Sunday the pontiff had specifically requested to have some leaves to chew during his July 8-10 visit to the Andean country.
“He can do as he wishes. It seems this is a popular custom for altitude sickness,” Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi told reporters.
“I don’t know what he will do. He has not told me,” he added. “It is a local custom like a (coca-infused) tea, and you know how much the holy father likes to partake of local customs.”
Coca leaves are also consumed in certain provinces in northern Argentina, Francis’s homeland.
The leaves are outlawed by the 1961 UN convention on narcotic drugs. Bolivia has long been critical of the convention’s provisions in relation to the leaf and expressed a reservation over them when it became a party to the accord in 2013.
Bolivia says the consumption of coca leaves is part of its cultural heritage and has a religious significance for some of its citizens.
Francis will visit Bolivia as part of an eight-day trip to South American in which he will also visit Ecuador and Paraguay. – AFP, June 30 2015.
From BBC News:
Pope Francis ‘did not chew coca in Bolivia’
Pope Francis has said he did not chew coca during his recent trip to Bolivia.
The Bolivian authorities earlier said the pontiff had requested to chew coca to help him cope with the effects of the high altitude in La Paz.
The Pope made the remark when questioned by a journalist as to the secret of his energy during his South American tour, which ended yesterday.
Pope Francis said that mate, the traditional tea popular in his native Argentina, helped to keep him going.
“You wanted to ask me what is my drug of choice? Well, mate helps me. But I haven’t tried coca, I want to make that clear,” said the Pope during the flight from the Paraguayan capital, Asuncion, to Rome.
Coca leaves, which are the raw ingredient for cocaine, are used legally for medical and religious purposes in Bolivia.
The leaves are chewed or brewed in teas and work as a mild stimulant, helping also to alleviate nausea caused by high altitudes.
Bolivia’s left-wing President Evo Morales began his political life as the leader of the cocaleros, traditional coca leaf producers.
The pontiff, who had part of a lung removed when he was young, only stayed in the La Paz area – which lies 3,650m (12,000ft) above sea level – for about four hours.
The pontiff returned to Rome this morning after an eight-day trip to Ecuador, Bolivia and Paraguay, some of Latin America’s poorest countries.
Pope Francis addressed inequality, poverty and indigenous rights during his South American tour.
Crucifix and selfies
The pontiff’s visit to Bolivia was marked by controversy when Mr Morales gave him a crucifix sculpted in the shape of a hammer and sickle.
The Pope looked visibly surprised and it was rumoured that the crucifix had been left behind in Bolivia.
But Pope Francis has now clarified that he took it back with him to the Vatican.
The crucifix was based on a design by Luis Espinal, a Jesuit Priest assassinated in 1980 by right-wing militia.
“It was a surprise indeed. I didn’t know that Father Espinal was also a poet and a sculptor,” he said.
“He was killed in 1980, a time when the [Catholic Church’s] Liberation Theology embraced so many different groups and one of them adopted Marxist views.”
Pope Francis also shared his views on the popularity of selfies:
“Today a policeman, a man in his forties, asked to take a selfie with me. I told him: But are you a teenager?
“It is a different culture. I respect it but I feel like a great-grandfather,” said Pope Francis.