Southeast Asian country has been experiencing struggle between native Buddhists and migrant Rohingya
Pope Francis will become the first bishop of Rome to visit Myanmar when he visits the southeast Asian nation this fall, it was learned Monday.
Ucanews.com reported that the Pope Francis will fly to the country formerly known as Burma in the last week of November. He was personally invited by President Htin Kyaw.
The Pontiff may focus on trying to improve the situation of about a million ethnic Muslim Rohingyas when he visits the country.
But not everyone is happy about the prospect of a papal visit, according to the website, which emphasized that the trip has still not been announced officially.
“No, no, don’t come,” “don’t visit if you come to Myanmar for Bengalis,” and “we oppose the visit if he used the word Rohingya,” several Buddhists posted on their Facebook pages, Ucanews.com reported. It noted that hard-line Buddhist groups have fanned sectarian violence and protest, especially against the Rohingya and other Muslims, over the past five years.
But Bishop Raymond Sumlut Gam of Banmaw in Kachin State said a visit by Pope Francis to Myanmar is most likely, although he said he had not officially been informed.
“The Catholic bishops invited Pope Francis before the 500th anniversary of Catholicism in Myanmar in late 2014,” Bishop Gam told Ucanews.com. “Some improvements have occurred such as diplomatic relations between Myanmar and Vatican plus the appointment of an apostolic nuncio.”
The surprise announcement seems to be in place of a hoped-for trip to India. The Vatican has not been able to make arrangements with the Indian government.
Senior Catholic sources told Ucanews.com that Pope Francis would arrive in Myanmar on Nov. 27 and stay for four nights:
According to information shared with top clergy only two weeks ago, the pope is expected to first visit the jungle capital Naypyidaw where he will meet President Htin Kyaw and the country’s de-facto leader, State Counsellor and Foreign Affairs Minister Aung San Suu Kyi. It is expected that he will hold at least two Masses before heading to the country’s largest city and business capital Yangon for a large open air Mass. It is also expected that he will visit and say Mass at the St. Joseph’s Catholic Major Seminary in Yangon. There are about 700,000 Catholics in Myanmar, served by 16 bishops, more than 700 priests and 2,200 religious.