Pope Francis Becomes First Pontiff to Visit Myanmar
Pope Francis has landed in Myanmar, making him the first pope to ever visit that country.
The pontiff landed in Yangon on Monday, the start of a delicate visit for the world’s most prominent Christian to majority-Buddhist Myanmar, which the US has accused of “ethnic cleansing” its Muslim Rohingya people.
The Myanmar army has denied the accusations of murder, rape, torture and forcible displacement.
After leaving Rome, the Pope told reporters on his plane, “They say it’s too hot (in Myanmar). I‘m sorry, but let’s hope it will at least be fruitful.”
Only about 700,000 of Myanmar’s 51 million people are Roman Catholic.
Thousands of them travelled by train and bus to Yangon, and they joined crowds at several roadside points along the way from the airport to catch a glimpse of the Pope.
“We come here to see the Holy Father. It happens once in hundreds of years,” said Win Min Set, a community leader who brought a group of 1,800 Catholics from southern and western states of the country.
“He is very knowledgeable when it comes to political affairs. He will handle the issue smartly,” he said, referring to the sensitivity of the pope’s discussions about the Rohingya.
The trip is so delicate that some papal advisers have warned him against even saying the word “Rohingya”, lest he set off a diplomatic incident that could turn the Buddhist-majority country’s military and government against minority Christians.
The pope will also visit Bangladesh, where more than 620,000 Rohingya have fled to escape what Amnesty International has dubbed “crimes against humanity”.