Vatican City (AsiaNews) – Interreligious dialogue with Buddhists and Muslims and encouragement of witness for Catholics marked Pope Francis’ journey to Myanmar and Bangladesh, which was also an opportunity to express support to countries that are experiencing serious difficulties. Francis dedicated his general audience with eight thousand people present in the Paul VI hall to his recent visit.
In his greeting to Arabic-speaking faithful, the Pope said he was “very touched by the meeting with the Rohingya refugees and I asked them to forgive us for our failings and for our silence, asking the international community to help them and to help all the oppressed and persecuted groups present in the world “.
Previously, he had remembered being the first Pope to travel to Myanmar. “In this case, too, I wanted to express the closeness of Christ and of the Church to a people who suffered because of conflicts and repressions, and who are now slowly walking towards a new condition of freedom and peace. A people in which 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 “.
During the first Mass he celebrated in the country, he continued, “the Gospel of that day recalled that the persecutions because of faith in Jesus are normal for his disciples, as an occasion of witness, but that not even one of those hairs will be lost. ‘(cf. Lk 21: 12-19). The second Mass, the last act of the 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 his 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 who build arms, but those who sow fraternity. And always in a sign of hope I blessed the first stones of 16 churches, the seminary and the nunciature “.
“In addition to the Catholic community, I was able to meet with the authorities of Myanmar, encouraging the country’s efforts to peace and hoping that all the different components of the nation, no one excluded, can cooperate in this process with mutual respect. In this spirit, I wanted to meet the representatives of the different religious communities present in the country. In particular, I expressed the Churches’ esteem the towards the Supreme Council of Buddhist monks for their ancient spiritual tradition, and the confidence that together Christians and Buddhists can help people to love God and neighbor, rejecting all violence and opposing evil with good”.
In Bangladesh, “I reminded the country’s Authorities that the Holy See has supported the will of the Bengali people to establish themselves as an independent nation from the outset, as well as the need for religious freedom to be safeguarded in it. In particular, I wanted to express solidarity with Bangladesh in its commitment to help the Rohingya refugees pouring en masse into a territory, where the population density is already among the highest in the world “.
“The Mass celebrated in a historic park in 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, both in Bangladesh as well as in Myanmar and in the other countries of Southeast Asia, thanks to God vocations are not lacking, a sign of a living community, where the voice of the Lord resounds calling to follow Him “.
“In Dhaka we experienced a strong moment of interreligious and ecumenical dialogue, which gave me the opportunity to underline the importance of opening ones’ heart as a basis for the culture of encounter, harmony and peace. I have also visited the “Mother Teresa House”, where the saint was staying when she was in that city, and which welcomes many orphans and people with disabilities. There, according to their charisma, the sisters live every day the prayer of adoration and the service to the poor and suffering Christ. The last event was with the young Bengalis, full of testimonies, songs and dances. A feast that manifested the joy of the Gospel welcomed by that culture; a joy fertilized by the sacrifices of many missionaries, of many catechists and Christian parents. Young Muslims and other religions were also present at the meeting: a sign of hope for Bangladesh, for Asia and for the whole world “.
“The Mass celebrated in a historic park in Dhaka has been enriched by the ordination of sixteen priests, and this was one of the most significant and joyful events of the trip. In fact, both in Bangladesh as well as in Myanmar and in the other countries of Southeast Asia, thanks to God vocations are not lacking, a sign of living community, where the voice of the Lord resounds calling to follow him “.
In the greetings to the linguistic groups, Francis thanked the Poles for the Christmas tree donated for St. Peter’s Square. Finally, he greeted the “group of Syrian-Iraqi refugees living in Italy” and priests, nuns and lay people “coming from Myanmar and Bangladesh, who are here to return my recent visit to their countries of origin”.