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The Latest: Pope says world leaders cowards on environment

Pope Francis greets the crowd in Santa Cruz, Bolivia, Thursday, July 9, 2015. The pope is heading to his first public event of the day in Bolivia, an open-air Mass in Santa Cruz's Christ the Redeemer square. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)

SANTA CRUZ, Bolivia (AP) — Here are the latest developments from Pope Francis’ trip to South America:

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7:40 p.m.

Pope Francis has ended a powerful speech before a gathering of social movements with a fierce condemnation of the world’s governments for what he calls “cowardice” in defending the Earth.

Francis said such cowardice is “a grave sin.”

Echoing his environmental treatise of last month, the pope said the Earth is, in his words, “being pillaged, laid waste and harmed with impunity” while “one international summit after another takes place without any significant result.”

Francis made the comments Thursday evening to more than 1,500 activists — mostly from South America and many from his native Argentina. He told them the future of humanity is fundamentally not in the hands of great powers and elites but of the common people.

He urged them to keep up their struggle. Then he asked them to pray for him — and to send “good vibrations.”

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7:20 p.m.

Pope Francis has apologized for the sins and “offenses” committed by the Catholic Church against indigenous peoples during the colonial-era conquest of the Americas.

History’s first Latin American pope “humbly” begged forgiveness Thursday during an encounter in Bolivia with indigenous groups and other activists and in the presence of Bolivia’s first-ever indigenous president, Evo Morales.

Francis noted that Latin American church leaders in the past had acknowledged “grave sins were committed against the native peoples of America in the name of God.” St. John Paul II issued a sweeping apology in 2000 for the sins of the church in the past and in 2001 sent an email apologizing for missionary abuses against the aborigines of Oceania.

But Francis went farther and directed his apology to the indigenous peoples of his home continent.

In his words, “I humbly ask forgiveness, not only for the offenses of the church herself, but also for crimes committed against the native peoples during the so-called conquest of America.”

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6:55 p.m.

Pope Francis is calling for changes in a world economic order that he says only follows the logic of profits and excludes many people and also destroys the environment.

He made the comments in a speech to World Meeting of Popular Movements in Santa Cruz, Bolivia.

Francis says there is a need for “a real change, a change of structures.”

In his words, “This system cannot stand, it can’t be endured by the peasants, it can’t be endured by the workers, it can’t be endured by communities, it can’t be endured by the people nor can it be endured by the land.”

The pope is in Bolivia on the second leg of a three-nation tour in South America.

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5 p.m.

A top leader of one of Bolivia’s largest indigenous groups is expressing frustration for not getting accredited to attend a social summit with Pope Francis on Thursday evening.

The Guarani has been at odds with the government of President Evo Morales’ government over its decision to open up the country’s 22 protected wilderness areas to oil and natural gas exploration.

Guarani leader Celso Padilla says: “The summit is strictly controlled by people from the government. The government has only accredited people close to it. We’ve been left out.”

Bolivia’s deputy minister for coordination with social movements says the Guarani would have been welcome had they actively sought participation.

Xavier Albo, a Jesuit priest, author and leading authority on Bolivia’s indigenous, says it’s curious the pope is not holding any separate meetings with indigenous groups on his entire eight-day visit in South America.

He says: “There isn’t a single act that is explicitly for the indigenous, but rather they are included within encounters with social movements together with other sectors.”

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4:30 p.m.

The pope is scheduled to give a late-afternoon speech to delegates at the second World Meeting of Popular Movements, a colorful gathering of Latin America’s dispossessed and groups — including the Catholic charity Caritas — who advocate for them.

The first such meeting was held at the Vatican in October. Its Justice and Peace council organized this meeting with Bolivia’s government, which chose the more than 1,500 delegates.

Inside a Santa Cruz sports hall, land rights advocates from Peru swapped experiences with people displaced by hydroelectric projects in Brazil, Bolivia’s main labor federation and of mining collectives were prominent, along with Brazil’s CUT labor federation.

Prominent, too, are delegates from CONAMAQ, Bolivia’s main highlands indigenous organization, representing the dominant Quechua and Aymara ethnicities.

And then there are the truly poor, including nearly a dozen collectives of trash-pickers, “cartoneros,” from Argentina, organizations especially dear to the pope.

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2:45 p.m.

The Vatican is seeking to explain the “Communist crucifix” given to Pope Francis by Bolivian President Evo Morale, saying it’s a symbol of dialogue and not an offensive melding of faith and ideology.

Morales gave the crucifix carved into a hammer and sickle to Francis when they met Wednesday upon Francis’ arrival in Bolivia.

The Vatican wasn’t expecting the unusual gift and it immediately raised eyebrows.

It turns out, the crucifix was originally designed by Jesuit activist Luis Espinal, who was assassinated in 1980 by suspected paramilitaries during the months that preceded a military coup. Francis is a fellow Jesuit and he stopped to pray at the site where Espinal’s body was dumped.

The Vatican spokesman is the Rev. Federico Lombardi, and he said Thursday the pope had no idea that Espinal had designed such a crucifix.

Lombardi said Espinal’s fellow priests said he had designed the crucifix as a symbol of dialogue and commitment to freedom for Bolivia during a turbulent time.

Many church theologians have bitterly denounced the Marxist influences on Liberation Theology, but Francis has tried to rehabilitate the movement — without the Marxism.

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1:15 p.m.

Argentina’s government is mounting an extensive operation to provide health services for more than a million Argentines expected to flood across the border to neighboring Paraguay for a Mass celebrated by their countryman, Pope Francis.

The Health Ministry says it’s creating temporary health stations at points along the border with Paraguay, where the pope is to arrive on Saturday.

The effort includes extra ambulances, helicopters and specially outfitted airplanes, as well as military hospital tents and portable bathrooms.

Many Argentines have already set off for Paraguay because Thursday is a national holiday.

The pope is skipping Argentina on this visit, in part because the Vatican tries to avoid countries where a presidential election is imminent.

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12 a.m.

With a vast crowd and a temporary altar, Pope Francis needed someplace to change before saying Mass. The closest place at hand was a Burger King.

So the famously unpretentious pope used the fast food restaurant before walking to the altar. The restaurant was closed for business due to the Mass, in which the pope denounced consumerism.

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11 a.m.

Celebrating his first Mass in Bolivia, Pope Francis is calling on the faithful to reject consumerism, which he says only creates barriers between people.

Francis is addressing hundreds of thousands in Christ the Redeemer square in Santa Cruz.

He says consumerism includes a logic in which everything becomes an object that can be consumed and negotiated. He says that excludes people, but the contrary is necessary for a fulfilling life.

Francis said: “A memorable life needs (the participation) of others.”

After the Mass, Francis’ main event of the day is a keynote speech to a summit of grass-roots groups whose advocacy for the poor and marginalized has been championed by history’s first Latin American pope.

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10:15 a.m.

Pope Francis has begun celebrating an open-air Mass in the Bolivian city of Santa Cruz.

Hundreds of thousands have packed into Christ the Redeemer square and the streets beyond. Overnight, several thousand slept in square to get a spot close to the front.

Francis arrived in the Andean nation late Wednesday after three days in Ecuador.

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9:30 a.m.

Pope Francis is out and about on the popemobile heading to his first public event of the day in Bolivia, an open-air Mass in Santa Cruz’s Christ the Redeemer square.

Francis’ bodyguards jogged alongside his popemobile at a fast clip as the pope waved to the crowds. His motorcade route was lined by flag-waving Bolivians held back by a human chain of police.

After the Mass, Francis’ main event of the day is a keynote speech to a summit of grass-roots groups whose advocacy for the poor and marginalized has been championed by history’s first Latin American pope.

Overnight, several thousand slept in square to get a spot close to the front.

Francis arrived in the Andean nation late Wednesday after three days in Ecuador.

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