Pope Francis’ trip to Myanmar and Bangladesh will offer moments to recognise each nation’s struggle for independence, underline interreligious respect and encourage the local minority Catholic communities, CNS reports.
The Pope will visit Myanmar from November 27–30, just months after the Holy See announced it had established full diplomatic relations with the southeast Asian nation. He will meet with Aung San Suu Kyi, the country’s de facto leader and 1991 Nobel Peace Prize winner.
The visit also comes as serious questions have been raised about her government’s treatment of the Rohingya people, who are Muslim.
Francis has appealed for their protection on several occasions, calling the Rohingya, “good people” who “are our brothers and sisters. They have been suffering for years. They have been tortured, killed, just because they want to keep their traditions and their Muslim faith.”
Another highlight on the trip — the Pontiff's 21st trip abroad in his five-year pontificate — will be meeting with the high-ranking Buddhist monks at the capital’s peace pagoda.
According to the Vatican’s latest statistics, Myanmar has about 659,000 Catholics out of a population of about 51 million.
Francis will visit the capital of Bangladesh from November 30–December 2; he will ordain new priests and visit a Missionaries of Charity centre for assisting poor children.
According to Vatican statistics, there are about 375,000 Catholics in Bangladesh, about 0.3 percent of the population. The vast majority of people in the country are Muslims.