WHAT’S BEING CLAIMED:
- Pope Francis will visit Myanmar and Bangladesh, two nations in the middle of a crisis over the Rohingya Muslim minority.
- In November, the pope will meet Myanmar’s top Buddhist monks, the country’s military generals and civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi.
- He will be the first pope to visit Myanmar and the second to visit Bangladesh, as Pope John Paul was the first to visit in 1986.
The Vatican released the full program of the pope’s trip on Nov. 26-Dec. 2. Pope Francis will perform two masses in Myanmar and one in Bangladesh, which is mainly Muslim.
The pope arrives on Nov. 27 in Yangon, the nation’s largest city, after a 10-hour flight. He will rest there for a day before going to the country’s capital Naypyitaw.
He will talk with President Htin Kyaw and Suu Kyi separately and privately. Suu Kyi serves as State Counsellor and Foreign Minister, making her the country’s civilian leader.
According to a senior Vatican official, Pope Francis will address politicians and diplomats in a public meeting, where military leaders are expected to attend. This is where the pope will give the keynote speech of the trip.
Buddhist-majority Myanmar is experiencing global scrutiny over the predicament of the Rohingya community. The pope said they had been tortured and murdered just because they wanted to embrace their culture and Muslim faith.
Last August, some die-hard Buddhists were riled with the pope spoke about “the persecution of our Rohingya brothers and sisters” and asked Catholics to pray for them, saying that they should be given “their full rights”.
Pope Francis will address the Sangha Maha Nayaka, the country’s highest Buddhist authority, on Nov. 29. The Sangha is a government-appointed body of senior monks overseeing and regulating the Buddhist clergy.
The United Nations refugee agency said that border guards in Bangladesh reported over 11,000 Rohingya refugees crossing from Myanmar on one day alone.
The government offensive has drawn international criticism and U.N. accusations of ethnic cleansing. The Myanmar government denied the allegations.
Myanmar has a population of about 51.4 million, only about 700,000 were Roman Catholics according to the country’s cardinal, Charles Maung Bo.
Bangladesh has a minority of Catholics. The first pope who visited the country was Pope John Paul II in 1986.