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If recent reports are to be believed, Pope Francis is set to visit Burma later on this year, making him the first Catholic pontiff to ever do so.
According to the Union of Catholic Asian News, the Pope will be touring the country in the last week of November at the invitation of President Htin Kyaw. “Senior Catholic sources” told UCAN that the Pope will reportedly arrive on 27 November, and will be spending four nights in Burma.
The Pope had initially made plans to visit Bangladesh and India during that period, but sources indicate that the latter trip has proved difficult to arrange. Instead, he will now reportedly be making a stop in Burma before going on to Bangladesh, and will spend time in both Naypyidaw and Rangoon.
In May, State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi paid a visit to the Vatican and met with Pope Francis while on a tour of Europe. Following their meeting, the Vatican released a statement announcing the establishment of full diplomatic relations between the two countries, including the appointment of full-fledged ambassadors in each country. A Reuters article at the time suggested that the move meant “the Vatican will have much more diplomatic influence in Myanmar.”
Despite the historic significance of the event (should it take place), whether or not Pope Francis will be welcomed by the public is another question.
An address that the Pope gave in February drew ire in Burma as he described the country’s Rohingya population as “good and peaceful people” who “have been suffering, they are being tortured and killed, simply because they uphold their Muslim faith.” He also called on his followers to pray “for our Rohingya brothers and sisters who are being chased from Myanmar and are fleeing from one place to another because no one wants them.”
This story was originally published by Coconuts Yangon here.