Pope Francis described migrants and refugees as the world’s “weakest and most needy” on Monday, using his traditional New Year’s address to “give voice” to people he has urged leaders to do more to help.
Pope Francis ended a diplomatically tricky trip to Asia on Saturday, seeking the forgiveness of Rohingya Muslim refugees in Bangladesh after his controversial decision to not directly refer to their plight when he visited their homeland, Burma.
Pope Francis called on Thursday for decisive measures to resolve the political reasons that caused mostly Muslim refugees in Burma to flee to Bangladesh and urged countries to help the Dhaka government deal with the crisis.
The Vatican on Wednesday defended Pope Francis’s decision not to use the word “Rohingya” in public during his visit to Burma, saying his moral authority was unblemished and that his mere presence drew attention to the refugee crisis.
Pope Francis called on the people of Burma on Wednesday to embrace peace and reconciliation as their country emerges from nearly five decades of military rule still riven by ethnic conflicts and communal strife.
Pope Francis on Tuesday urged the leaders of majority-Buddhist Burma, mired in a crisis over the fate of Muslim Rohingya people, to commit themselves to justice, human rights and respect for “each ethnic group and its identity.”
Pope Francis met leaders of several faiths in majority-Buddhist Burma on Tuesday, stressing the importance of “unity in diversity” but making no mention the Rohingya Muslims who have fled en masse to Bangladesh after a military crackdown.
Leading figures in the Catholic Church and international politics have advised Pope Francis not to use the term Rohingya during a trip to Burma due to political sensitivities, but human rights groups want him to uphold international law on self-identity.
With Pope Francis due to visit Burma and Bangladesh next month, a Christian leader from the latter has said he is expecting the Catholic pontiff to urge leaders of the two countries, and the world, to view both Buddhists and Muslims simply as human beings.
Pope Francis will meet Burma’s top Buddhist monks, its military generals and civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi in November when he visits that country and Bangladesh, both caught up in a crisis over the Rohingya Muslim minority.
Pope Francis will almost certainly visit Burma and Bangladesh, two countries caught up in a crisis over the Rohingya Muslim minority, before the end of the year, a senior Vatican source said on Wednesday.
Pope Francis issued a stinging criticism of atrocities against Burma’s Rohingya minority on Wednesday, saying they had been tortured and killed simply because they wanted to live their culture and Muslim faith.