Pope Francis ends Asia tour after meeting Rohingya


Pope Francis expresses his support to the congregation at the Church of the Holy Rosary in Dhaka, Bangladesh. Francis waited until he arrived in neighbouring Bangladesh to demand the worldwide community intervene to resolve the crisis and help Bangladesh cope with the influx of more than 620,000 refugees fleeing a military crackdown in Rakhine state. However, "I described the situation" publicly, knowing "I could go further in the private meetings" with government officials.

Despite his apparent sympathy toward Suu Kyi's tenuous position in dealing with the Burmese military, Francis said he made sure his true feelings were known in private, especially during his meeting Monday with the general, who is responsible for what the army says are "clearance operations" against Rohingya militants in Rakhine.

Francis said he was speaking from personal experience and urged the nuns and priests to "Please, bite your tongue" which means to consider your words carefully before speaking.

Most Rohingya are stateless and they are regarded in Myanmar as illegal immigrants form Bangladesh. He had been advised by Church leaders in the country that to do so would inflame tensions and place the Catholic population in jeopardy.

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In his speeches in Myanmar, Pope Francis repeatedly referred to the obligation to defend the lives and human rights of all people.

The meeting was initially scheduled for Thursday before the papal departure to Bangladesh.

When asked about the meeting on Saturday, the Pope said Snr-Gen Min Aung Hlaing asked him for the meeting and it was a good and civilized meeting. The military have denied accusations of ethnic cleansing by the United States and United Nations.

They have given consistent accounts of mass rape, killings and villages deliberately burned to the ground by soldiers and Buddhist militia.

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Myanmar's leader Aung San Suu Kyi, left, listens as Pope Francis delivers his speech at the International Convention Center of Naypyitaw.

He then gave a reporter a mischievous grin and ended his answer with the Latin phrase "Intelligenti Pauca", which means "Few words are enough for those who understand", strongly hinting that he had used the word the military detests while in their presence. But he said it was hard to judge what is possible in a country undergoing a political transition after decades of military dictatorship. "Myanmar has to be able to look forward to the building of the country".

"I was crying and tried to hide it", Francis said on the plane, recounting how moved he felt when the refugees recounted their ordeals to him.

In troubling times like these, with the leader of the free world re-tweeting racist videos, and the protests in Pakistan calling for stringent anti-Ahmadi laws, Pope Francis, when he met with Rohingya Muslims in Bangladesh, proves to us that inter-faith harmony still exists.

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