Thu, Nov 30, 2017 - Page 6 News List

Pope Francis preaches forgiveness in Myanmar Mass

MINORITIES:The pontiff urged his Burmese audience, many of whom ‘bear the wounds of violence,’ to forgo anger and respond with ‘forgiveness and compassion’

AFP, YANGON, Myanmar

Catholics pray together as Pope Francis conducts a Mass at a stadium in Yangon, Myanmar, yesterday.

Photo: AFP

Pope Francis spread a message of forgiveness in a historic open-air Mass before a sea of worshipers in Yangon yesterday, during a visit to conflict-torn Myanmar that has been framed so far by his public sidestepping of the Rohingya crisis.

Ranks of nuns sang in Latin, accompanied by organ music, as Francis — making the first papal visit to the mainly Buddhist nation — delivered a homily urging compassion, opening his speech with minglabar, Burmese for “hello.”

“I can see that the Church here is alive,” he said of a Catholic community numbering about 700,000 — a tiny fraction of the nation’s 51 million people.

Earlier, Francis smiled and waved as he moved through the estimated 150,000 faithful in his “popemobile.” Many worshipers held Myanmar national flags and wore colorful costumes from the nation’s myriad ethnic groups.

“I never dreamed I would see him in my lifetime,” said Meo, an 81-year-old from the Akha minority in Shan state.

Like many others at the Mass Meo hails from one of the nation’s conflict-riddled borderlands, where minority groups have long been marginalized by the Buddhist-

dominated state.

In his homily, the pontiff noted that many Burmese “bear the wounds of violence, wounds both visible and invisible,” but he urged his audience to forgo anger and respond with “forgiveness and compassion.”

The pope is set to hold a meeting with Buddhist leaders later yesterday, on a visit that has strong political as well as religious overtones.

The pontiff arrived on Monday in a country on the defensive after an outcry from the international community over the plight of its Rohingya Muslim minority, who have been driven to Bangladesh in huge numbers.

He held private talks with both civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi and powerful army chief Min Aung Hlaing, who are part of a delicate power-sharing arrangement as the nation emerges from decades of junta rule.

Francis avoided mentioning the crisis — or the Rohingya — directly in a speech in the capital, Naypyidaw, on Tuesday, calling simply for “respect for rights and justice.”

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