© L'Osservatore Romano

Holy Father's Wednesday Audience

Reflections on Recent Journey to Myanmar and Bangladesh

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This morning’s General Audience was held at 9:15 in Paul VI Hall, where the Holy Father Francis met with groups of pilgrims and faithful from Italy and from all over the world.
In his address in Italian, the Pope reflected on his recent trip to Myanmar and Bangladesh.
After summarizing his catechesis in several languages, the Holy Father addressed special greetings to groups of faithful present.
The General Audience ended with the singing of the Pater Noster and the Apostolic Blessing.
* * *
 The Holy Father’s Catechesis
 Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Today I would like to talk about the Apostolic Journey I undertook in past days to Myanmar and Bangladesh. It was a great gift of God, and so I thank Him for everything, especially for the meetings I was able to have. I renew the expression of my gratitude to the Authorities of the two countries and to the respective Bishops, for all the work of preparation and for the welcome that was given to me and to my collaborators. I wish to give a heartfelt “thank you” to the Burmese people and to those of Bangladesh who showed me so much faith and so much affection: thank you!
For the first time a Successor of Peter visited Myanmar, and this happened shortly after diplomatic relations were established between that country and the Holy See.
In this case also, I wished to express the closeness of Christ and of the Church to a people that has suffered due to conflicts and repressions, and that now is walking slowly to a new condition of freedom and peace. A people in whom the Buddhist religion is strongly rooted, with its spiritual and ethical principles, and where Christians are present as a small flock and leaven of the Kingdom of God. I had the joy of confirming in the faith and in communion this Church, alive and fervent, in the meetings with the Bishops of the country and in the two Eucharistic celebrations. The first was in the great sports area in the center of Yangon, and the Gospel of that day recalled that persecutions caused by faith in Jesus are normal for His disciples, as occasion of testimony, but not a hair of your head will perish” (Cf. Luke 21:12-19). The second Mass, last act of the visit in Myanmar, was dedicated to young people: a sign of hope and a special gift of the Virgin Mary, in the Cathedral that bears her name. In the faces of those young people, full of joy, I saw the future of Asia: a future that will not be of those that construct arms, but of those that sow fraternity. And ever in the sign of hope, I blessed the stones of 16 churches, of the Seminary and of the Nunciature: eighteen.
In addition to the Catholic community, I was able to meet the Authorities of Myanmar, encouraging the efforts for the country’s pacification and hoping that all the different components of the nation, not one excluded, will be able to cooperate in this process in mutual respect. In this spirit, I wished to meet the representatives of the different religious communities in the country. In particular, I manifested to the Supreme Council of Buddhist monks, the Church’s esteem for their ancient spiritual tradition, and the confidence that Christians and Buddhists will be able together to help people to love God and their neighbor, rejecting all violence and opposing evil with goodness.
Having left Myanmar, I went to Bangladesh, where, as the first thing, I rendered homage to the martyrs of the struggle for Independence and to the “Father of the Nation.” Bangladesh’s population is in very great part of Muslim religion and, therefore, my visit in the footsteps of Blessed Paul VI and of Saint John Paul II – marked a further step in favor of respect and of dialogue between Christianity and Islam.
 I reminded the country’s Authorities that, since the beginning, the Holy See has supported the will of the Bangladeshi people to constitute themselves as an independent nation, as well as that in it the need of religious freedom be always protected. In particular, I wished to express solidarity with Bangladesh in its commitment to help the Rohingya refugees who have flocked en masse to its territory, where the population density is already among the highest in the world.
The Mass celebrated in a historic park of Dhaka was enriched by the Ordination of sixteen priests, and this was one of the most significant and joyful events of the trip. In fact, be it in Bangladesh as well as in Myanmar and in other countries of South East Asia, thank God vocation are not lacking, a sign of living communities, where the Lord’s voice resounds, who calls to follow Him. I shared this joy with the Bishops of Bangladesh, and I encouraged them in their generous work for families, for the poor, for education, for dialogue and social peace. And I shared this joy with many priests, and consecrated men and women of the country, as well as with the seminarians and men and women novices, in whom I saw seeds of the Church in that land.  
 At Dhaka, we lived an intense moment of inter-religious and ecumenical dialogue, which enabled me to stress the importance of openness of heart as a basis of the culture of encounter, of harmony and of peace. In addition, I visited “Mother Teresa’s House,” where the Saint stayed when she was in that city, and which receives very many orphans and persons with disabilities. There, in keeping with their charism, the Sisters live every day the prayer of Adoration and the service to Christ, poor and suffering. And a smile is never lacking on their lips. Sisters that pray so much, that serve the suffering continually with a smile. It’s a beautiful testimony. I thank these little Sisters so much.
The last event was with the Bangladeshi young people, rich in testimonies, songs, and dances. But how well they dance, these Bengalese! They know how to dance well! A celebration that manifested the joy of the Gospel received by that culture; a joy fecundated by the sacrifices of so many missionaries, so many catechists, and Christian parents. Also present at the meeting were young Muslims and <youths> of other religions: a sign of hope for Bangladesh, for Asia and for the whole world.
[Original text: Italian]  [ZENIT’s translation by Virginia M. Forrester]
  In Italian
 A warm welcome goes to the Italian-speaking pilgrims.
I greet the parish groups, the schools adhering to the project of formation to legality of the Archdiocese of Capua, and the Associations, in particular: the Friends of Raoul Follereau-Italy; the Italian Catholic Businessmen; the parents of children affected by leukemia or tumors, as well as the members of the Civil Protection of Cerveteri. May the visit to the Eternal City help each one to live intensely the time of Advent in preparation for the birth of the Lord Jesus. I welcome the faithful from Episcopia, and I gladly bless the golden crown that will be placed on the effigy of Our Lady who is venerated in the local Shrine.
I greet and receive with joy the group of Syro-Iraqi refugees residing in Italy, as well as the priests, the Sisters and lay people from Myanmar and from Bangladesh, who are present here to return my recent visit to their countries of origin.
A special thought goes to young people, the sick and newlyweds. Today is the Memorial of Saint Nicholas of Bari. Dear young people, put the search for God and His love above everything; dear sick, may the example of the Saints help and comfort you in moments of greatest need, and you, dear newlyweds, with the grace of God, every day make your union more firm and profound.
[Original text: Italian]  [ZENIT’s translation by Virginia M. Forrester]
The Holy Father’s Appeal
 My thoughts now turn to Jerusalem. In this regard, I cannot remain silent about my deep concern for the situation that has developed in recent days and, at the same time, I wish to make a heartfelt appeal to ensure that everyone is committed to respecting the status quo of the city, in accordance with the relevant Resolutions of the United Nations.
Jerusalem is a unique city, sacred to Jews, Christians, and Muslims, where the Holy Places for the respective religions are venerated, and it has a special vocation to peace.
I pray to the Lord that such identity be preserved and strengthened for the benefit of the Holy Land, the Middle East and the entire world, and that wisdom and prudence prevail, to avoid adding new elements of tension in a world already shaken and scarred by many cruel conflicts.
[Original text: Italian]  [Translation by the Holy See] © Libreria Editrice Vatican

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Virginia Forrester

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