Pope Francis asks Rohingya Muslims for forgiveness

Pope Francis asks Rohingya Muslims for forgiveness

POPE Francis has demanded that the worldwide community take "decisive measures" to resolve the causes of the mass exodus of Rohingya Muslims from Myanmar, breaking his recent silence over what the United Nations has declared to be a textbook case of "ethnic cleansing". "Let us continue to work to ensure that their rights are recognised", he said. The violence escalated late August, when the military responded to an attack by Rohingya militants with a heavy crackdown. "I now appeal to your big heart, that you're able to grant us the forgiveness we seek".

Through translators, he also spoke to a group of Rohingya refugees from three families, Crux reported, including 12 men, two women in niqabs, and two girls.

But as in Myanmar, he refrained from using the word "Rohingya", instead referring to "refugees from Rakhine state".

The term is politically sensitive because many there refuse to see the Rohingya as a distinct ethnic group. Around 100,000 Bangladeshi Catholics crammed into a park in central Dhaka, cheering and chanting "viva il papa" ("long live the pope") as Francis was driven through the crowd in a partly open Popemobile made specially for the occasion.

Security was tight for Friday's mass, which follows a rise in attacks on religious minorities in Bangladesh by Islamist extremists.

GETTYPope Francis met with the Prime Minister of Bangladesh Sheikh Hasina in Dhaka
GETTYPope Francis met with the Prime Minister of Bangladesh Sheikh Hasina in Dhaka

Thousands of Catholics from different parts of the country attended the mass prayer seeking harmony and peace in the world.

Some 620,000 Rohingyas, who are Muslims originally from Bangladesh, have fled there after a campaign of repression that has spurred a wave of world condemnation, including from the pope.

He has praised Bangladesh for giving refuge to the Rohingya, who have brought with them stories of horrific abuse at the hands of the Myanmar military and local Buddhist mobs, including rape, arson and murder.

Vatican spokesman Greg Burke dismissed the idea that the Pope diminished his moral authority by avoiding a direct reference to the group during his visit to Myanmar, the first by a Pope to the Buddhist-majority country. He became the first Catholic leader to visit Dhaka since 1986.

Christians make up less than 0.5 per cent of Bangladesh's population of 160 million and community leaders say some have left as it becomes more hard to practise their faith openly.

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