SPEAKING in Myanmar’s capital, the religious leader of over one billion Catholics mounted a strong appeal to Myanmar in defence of minorities. He called on religious communities to reconcile the ethnic groups and called on the country to resolve conflicts through peaceful means.
In his first address in the country, Pope Francis placed emphasis on the peace process and diversity of religion. He did not use the word “Rohingya” but said that Myanmar’s future must be based on respect for “each ethnic group and its identity”, adding that religious differences must not be “a source of division and distrust”.
A leading Catholic peer told The Myanmar Times that the Holy Father, a leader from Rome, will be well-versed with the saying “Rome wasn't built in a day”, and nor will Myanmar be transformed in the short term, but people “hope and pray that the visit of Pope Francis will encourage the resolution of armed conflict and a determination to build a just and peaceful society.”
Erosion of trust in Rakhine
State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi gave a welcoming speech before the papal address. She said that the country is “proud and happy” that the pope has come to the country after a mere six months following the establishment of diplomatic ties between the Holy See and Myanmar, which ushers in “a new era and a revival of old ties” that people in her generation “remember with affection and appreciation”.