Pope Francis to Head to Bangladesh to Meet Refugees and Myanmar
By Mei Manuel, November 23, 2017 05:11 AM
Pope Francis will be meeting up with the head of the Myanmar army and Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh, both originally not part of the tour of the Pope in Myanmar and Bangladesh next week.
On Wednesday, Vatican spokesman Greg Burke said that the Pope would be meeting Myanmar Army Senior General Min Aung Hlaing on November 30 in a church residence in Yangon. The meeting was set up by Myanmar Cardinal Charles Maung Bo, who have spoken to the Pope on Saturday and suggested he meet up with the general as the issue in the region is becoming the most politically sensitive since Pope Francis was elected in 2013. Both Pope Francis and the General agreed to the plan.
The Pope would also be meeting with a small group of Rohingya refugees in an inter-religious meeting for peace in Dhaka, Bangladesh on December 1. At least 600,000 Rohingya refugees have fled to Bangladesh due to the alleged atrocities done by the Myanmar government in the stateless Rakhine which the UN and human rights groups have reported in recent months.
The Myanmar government denied the claims of atrocities and even said their investigations did not see any evidence of wrongdoings from its troops.
Pope Francis would also be meeting with Aung San Suu Kyi in Naypyitaw on November 28 as cited in his original schedule in the region.
The Vatican spokesman did not detail how the Rohingya would be selected for the meeting with the Pope, but a source in Dhaka cited by Reuters reports that these refugees would be able to share their experiences to the pope.
Cardinal Bo had also advised the pope to not use the word "Rohingya" while in Myanmar because the word is provocative in the country which does not recognize the people as an ethnic group. Burke said that the pope took this advice seriously but added: "We will find out together during the trip... it is not a forbidden word."
Pope Francis was originally scheduled to travel to both countries on November 26 to December 2 as a part of his apostolic tour of the two nations. He would be meeting with several government and church officials, including the Buddhist supreme council, hold a Mass for the youth, meet with seminarians, novices, priests and the youth of Bangladesh and pay homage to Bangladesh's martyrs and the father of the nation. He would also be visiting the home run by the Missionaries of Charity of Mother Theresa.
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