Pope Francis will go to Myanmar and Bangladesh
The announcement made today by the Holy See Press Office and at the same time in Dakha and Yangon. From November 27 to 30, Francis will visit Yangon and Nay Pyi Taw. From November 30 to December 2, he will visit Dhaka. Yesterday's appeal on the persecution of Rohingya.
Vatican City (AsiaNews) - Pope Francis will travel to Myanmar from 27 to 30 November and from November 30 to December 2 will be in Bangladesh: the Vatican Press Office announced today that the Pontiff welcomed the invitation of "the respective Heads of State and Bishops. " In Myanmar, the pontiff will visit Yangon and the new capital Nay Pyi Taw.
For Bangladesh, the Vatican Press Office only says that he will visit Dhaka, but that the detailed schedule will be published shortly.
A possible trip to Bangladesh had been mentioned by the same pontiff in October 2016. In December of the same year, the Bangladesh premier had sent a letter to the Pope to invite him to his country.
Along with Bangladesh, the Pope thought he could visit India and there were some steps from the nuncio of Delhi and the Indian government. But it is very likely that the rise of incidents involving Hindu nationalist fundamentalists against Christians has forced a postponement of this leg of the journey.
The possibilities of a leg in Myanmar increased during this year: in March, diplomatic relations between Holy See and Myanmar were re-established; In May Aung San Suu Kyi came to Vatican in her role as Minister of Foreign Affairs.
The Catholic Church has similar characteristics in the two countries, especially in terms of numbers: in Bangladesh, a country with over 160 million inhabitants, Catholics are less than 400,000 (about 0.3%). In Myanmar, out of a population of 50 million, Catholics are about 700,000 (just over 1%). In both countries, the faithful mainly belong to ethnic minorities, often marginalized by the Bangladeshi and Muslim, or Burmese and Buddhist majority. But in both cases, the Catholic Church is making an essential contribution to the development of the two nations, with strong growth, despite the shocks caused by Islamic terrorism in Dhaka and conflict with minorities in Myanmar.
A common problem is that of the Rohingya minority: These migrants of Bengal origin live in Myanmar without citizenship rights. For some years, nationalist groups, through clashes and violence, have been trying to force them to return to Bangladesh, but the authorities in Dhaka refuse to welcome them. In recent days, armed groups of Rohingya have assaulted some soldiers and policemen. In response, the army targeted hundreds of Rohingya in Bangladesh, but the country's border police repelled them, under Burmese military fire. Several dozen were killed.
Just yesterday Pope Francis appealed against the "persecution" of the minority. After recalling the flood victims in Bangladesh and South Asia, he said: " Sadly,” the pope said in his address, "There have been reports about the persecution of our brothers and sisters, the Rohingya religious minority. I would like to express all my closeness to them. Let all of us ask the Lord to save them and encourage men and women of goodwill to help them, and give them full rights. Let us also pray for our Rohingya brothers and sisters "and he paused for silence.