Pope meets Myanmar clergy after holding mass

2017-11-30 02:34:03 GMT2017-11-30 10:34:03(Beijing Time) Sina English

Pope Francis called on Myanmar's top Buddhist monks to conquer "prejudice and hatred" in a country scored by communal divisions, after holding the nation's first-ever papal mass, attended by 150,000 Catholics on Wednesday.

The pontiff's four-day visit has so far been marked by a public avoidance of the crisis in northern Rakhine state and Myanmar's treatment of its Rohingya Muslim community.

"If we are to be united, as is our purpose, we need to surmount all forms of misunderstanding, intolerance, prejudice and hatred," the pope told monks of Myanmar's highest Buddhist body, called a Sangha.

In recent months the Sangha has moved to rein in radical monks who have played a key role in fanning Islamaphobia, helping to calcify attitudes toward the Rohingya.

Earlier on Wednesday, the pope delivered a message of forgiveness in an open-air mass before a sea of worshippers in Yangon, many wearing colorful costumes from the country's myriad ethnic groups.

"I never dreamed I would see him in my lifetime," said Meo, an 81-year-old from the Akha minority in Shan state.

A choir of Myanmar nuns sang in Latin, accompanied by organ music, as Francis - making the first papal visit to the mainly Buddhist nation - delivered a homily urging compassion, opening his speech with "minglabar," Burmese for "hello."

"I can see that the Church here is alive," he said of a Catholic community numbering around 700,000.

The pontiff noted that many Myanmar people "bear the wounds of violence, wounds both visible and invisible."

But he urged his audience to forgo anger and respond with "forgiveness and compassion."

His visit has been as much political as religious in a country on the defensive after the global outrage over the plight of the Rohingya.

He held private talks with both civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi and the army chief Min Aung Hlaing, who are part of a delicate power-sharing arrangement as the country emerges from decades of junta rule.


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