Pope lands in Bangladesh after controversial Myanmar visit

Source:AFP Published: 2017/11/30 23:18:40

Pope Francis on Thursday arrived in Bangladesh, where hundreds of thousands of Muslim Rohingya refugees have sought sanctuary after fleeing  Myanmar.

Francis - the first pope to visit Bangladesh in 31 years - will spend three days in the mainly-Muslim country, which is grappling with a rise in Islamist extremism that has seen Catholics attacked for their faith.

Pope did not use the word "Rohingya" during his four-day trip in Myanmar in which he held two Masses and private meetings with civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi and army chief Min Aung Hlaing.

The Vatican has rejected suggestions that the pope's reticence to tackle the Rohingya crisis head-on represented a failure of moral leadership.

A spokesman said the pope's presence alone drew attention to Myanmar's myriad troubles and his "moral authority" remained undimmed. "He's not afraid of minefields," Vatican spokesman Greg Burke told a press conference.

In Dhaka he will meet some of the refugees from the Rohingya community, whom he has described as his "brothers and sisters," and lead a Mass for Bangladesh's tiny Catholic minority.

On Friday he will lead a Mass in central Dhaka that is expected to be attended by about 100,000 people.

Bangladesh's Catholic community accounts for less than 0.5 percent of the population of 160 million and have for centuries lived in relative harmony with their Muslim neighbors.

Tens of thousands of Catholics have traveled to the capital hoping to catch a glimpse of Pope Francis, who is to travel to the park for Friday's Mass on a traditional cycle rickshaw.

The 80-year-old Argentine pontiff has established a reputation for his down-to-earth manner, vowing to stamp out extravagance among the clergy and bring the Catholic Church closer to the poor.

He was greeted at Dhaka airport by two Bangladeshi children who presented him with a large bouquet of flowers and by the Bangladesh President Abdul Hamid.


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