“For the first time, a Successor of Peter visited Myanmar, and this occurred shortly after diplomatic relations were established between this country and the Holy See.” Pope Francis recalled December 6, 2017, during his General Audience in Paul VI Hall.
The Holy Father noted that Myanmar is a nation that has suffered conflict and repression but is now “slowly journeying towards a new condition of freedom and of peace.” He continued: “In the faces of those young people, full of joy, I saw the future of Asia: a future that will not belong to those who build weapons, but to those who sow joy.”
In addition to meeting in Myanmar with Catholics, the Pope met with representatives of other religious, government and civic organizations. During his Wednesday audience, he expressed the hope that “all the different members of the nation, none excluded, may cooperate in this process in mutual respect.”
Pope Francis also visited Bangladesh, and he reminded the crowd in the Vatican hall that “the Holy See has supported from the beginning the will of the Bangladeshi people to constitute themselves as an independent nation, as well as the need for religious freedom always to be protected in this.
“In particular, I wished to express my solidarity with Bangladesh in its commitment to assisting Rohingya refugees which have entered the country in large numbers, where the population density is already among the world’s highest.”
Catechesis of the Holy Father
Dear brothers and sisters, good morning!
Today I would like to speak about the apostolic trip I made in recent days in Myanmar and Bangladesh. It was a great gift from God, and therefore I thank Him for everything, especially for the encounters I was able to have. I would like again to express my gratitude to the authorities of the two countries and to their respective bishops for all the work of preparation and for the welcome reserved to me and to my collaborators. I would also like to give heartfelt thanks to the Burmese and Bengalese people, who showed me such faith and such affection: thank you!
For the first time, a Successor of Peter visited Myanmar, and this occurred shortly after diplomatic relations were established between this country and the Holy See.
In this case too, I wanted to express the closeness of Christ and of the Church to a people that has suffered due to conflicts and repressions, and which is now slowly journeying towards a new condition of freedom and of peace. A people among whom the Buddhist religion is deeply rooted, with its spiritual and ethical principles, and where Christians are present as a small flock and leaven of the Kingdom of God. This Church, living and fervent, I have had the glory of confirming in faith and in communion, in the meeting with the bishops of the country and in the two Eucharistic celebrations. The first was in the large sports area in the center of Yangon, and the Gospel of that day reminded us that persecution on account of faith in Jesus was normal for His disciples, as an occasion for witness, but also that “not a hair of their head will perish” (cf. Lk 21, 12-19). The second Mass, the final act of my visit to Myanmar, was dedicated to the young: 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 belong to those who build weapons, but to those who sow joy. And again as a sign of hope, I blessed the first stones of sixteen churches, the seminary and the nunciature: eighteen!
Besides the Catholic community, I was able to meet the authorities of Myanmar, encouraging efforts for the pacification of the country and expressing my hope that all the different members of the nation, none excluded, may cooperate in this process in mutual respect. In this spirit, I wished to meet the representatives of the different religious communities present in the country. In particular, I expressed to the Supreme Council of Buddhist monks the Church’s esteem for their ancient spiritual tradition, and the confidence that Christians and Buddhists together can help people love God and neighbor, rejecting every form of violence and opposing evil with goodness.
After leaving Myanmar, I went to Bangladesh, where first of all I paid homage to the martyrs to the struggle for independence and to the “Father of the Nation”. The population of Bangladesh is for the most part of Muslim faith, and therefore my visit – following the footsteps of Blessed Paul VI and of Saint John Paul II – marked a further step in favor of respect and dialogue between Christianity and Islam.
I reminded the authorities of the country that the Holy See has supported from the beginning the will of the Bangladeshi people to constitute themselves as an independent nation, as well as the need for religious freedom always to be protected in this. In particular, I wished to express my solidarity with Bangladesh in its commitment to assisting Rohingya refugees which have entered the country in large numbers, where the population density is already among the world’s highest.
The Mass celebrated in a historic park in Dhaka was enriched by the ordination of sixteen priests, and this was one of the most meaningful and joyful events of the trip. Indeed, both in Bangladesh and in Myanmar, and in the other countries of south-east Asia, thanks to God there is no lack of vocations, a sign of living communities where there resonates the voice of the Lord Who calls them 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 for social peace. And I shared this joy with many priests and consecrated persons of the country, as well as seminarians and novices, in whom I saw the seedlings of the Church in that land.
In Dhaka, we lived an important moment of interreligious and ecumenical dialogue, which enabled me to underline the openness of the heart as the basis for the culture of encounter, harmony, and peace. I also visited the “Mother Teresa House”, where the saint stayed when she was in the city, and which welcomes many orphans and people with disabilities. There, in accordance with their charism, the nuns live every day as a prayer or adoration and service to the poor and suffering Christ. And a smile is never, ever missing from their lips: nuns who pray a lot, who serve the suffering, and continually, with a smile. It is a beautiful witness. I thank those dear nuns.
The final event was with young Bangladeshis, rich in testimonies, hymns, and dances. But how well they dance, these Bangladeshis! They know how to dance well! A celebration that expressed the joy of the Gospel, welcomed by that culture; a joy made fruitful by the sacrifices of so many missionaries, so many catechists, and Christian parents. The meeting was also attended by young Muslims and members of other religions: a sign of hope for Bangladesh, for Asia and for the whole world. Thank you.
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