- Caballero was not dismissed by the new government but opted to resign instead.
- Morales established an extraordinary relationship with the Argentine Pope.
- Catholicism is still very strong in Bolivia, but it is estimated that it has gone from being the religion of 90% to that of 60% of Bolivians.
Thanks to a decision by Pope Francis, a Bolivian will be responsible for the office of the Pontifical Commission for Latin America, in charge of spreading the Catholic faith on the continent. The Pope’s new appointee is Julio César Caballero, who assumes the role after having been Evo Morales’ ambassador to the Vatican for four years.
He was also among the few diplomats appointed by Morales who were not dismissed last November by the interim government of Jeanine Áñez. He, however, resigned from the position last March. Caballero comes from Santa Cruz, where he served for a long time as a television journalist. It was in 2016 that he was first appointed as an ambassador to the Vatican by the then Bolivian President, Evo Morales’ administration.
At the time, Caballero said in his acceptance speech that, as a Catholic, and as a man of the church, he humbly offered himself as a bridge between Bolivian Catholicism and the government. He gave his speech after he was confirmed by the Senate. At that time, relations between Morales and the main Bolivian church were experiencing a moment of strong recovery, thanks to Pope Francis’ visit to Bolivia in July 2015.
Before his pontificate began, in 2013, Evo Morales was perceived as anti-Catholic. His approval of a new Constitution separated church and state. Morales also engaged in disputes with the ecclesial hierarchy regarding the political rights of the opposition, and the incorporation into the official protocol of indigenous polytheistic rites.
Morales established an extraordinary relationship with the Argentine Pope. So close, in fact, was the relationship between Morales and Francis that Chile became concerned about its implications. Bolivia and Chile, both strongly Catholic countries, were engaged in a maritime dispute.
Catholicism is still very strong in Bolivia, but it is estimated that it has gone from being the religion of 90% to that of 60% of Bolivians. This is thanks to the growth of other beliefs, particularly evangelical ones. There are no official statistics for the opposition of the local Catholic Church to the inclusion of a question about religion in the last population census of 2012.
With Áñez, the Bolivian evangelicals have, for the first time in history, someone of their confession in the country’s presidency. Anez, a 52-year-old conservative took over the reins of power in Bolivia amid a power vacuum following Evo Morales’ resignation under pressure last year.
Morales had been re-elected in a controversial election in which the opposition accused him of having rigged the vote. Tensions and demonstrations escalated across the country, with the Bolivian army and police deserting him. They joined the country’s citizens in demanding his resignation, after which he left Bolivia for exile.
The Pope’s new appointee has his job well cut out for him. Among the issues that he’ll have to deal with in his new role is the decline in Catholic parishioners in Latin America.