VATICAN CITY – The Vatican Press office announced on Tuesday the program of a week-long visit of Pope Francis to Myanmar and Bangladesh, where it is hoped he may play a mediating role in the emergency situation that has developed there due to a mass migration of people.
The pope is set to meet in Myanmar’s former capital, Yangon (Rangoon), with the Sangha, or Supreme Council of Buddhist monks.
“The search for peace is an open-ended task, a responsibility that never ends and that demands the commitment of everyone,” the Pope wrote on his Twitter account on Tuesday.
His trip will see him in the troubled regions between Nov. 26 and Dec. 2.
During the second leg of his trip, he is to attend an interreligious and ecumenical meeting for Peace in Dhaka, Bangladesh.
The voyage will take Francis to an area currently gripped by the ongoing drama of the Burmese Muslim Rohingya minority who are fleeing across the Myanmar-Bangladeshi border after Myanmar’s authorities labeled the Roghinyas as Bengal illegal aliens.
A Burmese military backlash was prompted by alleged Roghinya attacks against Burmese police stations.
However, Francis’ schedule does not foresee visiting the Rohingya refugee camps nor any direct talks with them; however, their fate will undoubtedly be one of the visit’s main talking points.
The pope has already denounced the persecution the Rohingyas are subject to and has demanded equal rights for this Muslim minority.
The Pope is due to meet with Burmese president, Htin Kyaw, and the de-facto head of government, Foreign Affairs minister, State Councilor and Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi.
The population of Myanmar, formerly Burma, is 90 percent Buddhist with a 4 percent of Christian faith minority.
Francis will officiate a youth mass at Yangon Kyaikkasan Ground stadium on Nov. 29.
A day later he is due to fly out of Yangon to the neighboring state of Bangladesh where his first official event will be to visit the Monument to the Fallen in the 1971 Liberation War against Pakistan.
Later he would meet the president of Bangladesh, Abdul Hamil and attend a reception with authorities, civil society and the diplomatic corps at the presidential palace.
On Dec. 1, Francis will hold a Holy Mass, meet the Bangladeshi prime minister and attend an interreligious and ecumenical meeting for peace at the gardens of the archbishop.
On Dec. 2 he will pay a private visit the house of Mother Teresa in Tejgaon, to visit the charitable work that assists over 100 mental and physical handicapped; this will be followed by a meeting with young people prior to his official farewell at Dhaka airport and his return flight to Rome.