YANGON, Myanmar – Pope Francis held a field Mass in Yangon on Wednesday with over 150,000 faithful practitioners attending the event, where he also praised the help of the small Catholic community in Myanmar, provided without distinction of religion and ethnicity.
During his speech at the first Mass of his visit to Asia, held at the Kyaikkasan Stadium, the Pontiff praised those who offered “practical assistance and solidarity to the poor and suffering” in the midst of so much poverty and difficulties in the country.
Amid a large number of faithful Catholics from all over Myanmar and nearby nations such as Thailand and the Philippines, he acknowledged that the Church is helping a large number of men, women and children regardless of their religion or ethnic background.
Myanmar is a country where 135 different ethnic groups live together with difficulties, such as the Karen, the Kachin or the Mon, as well as the Rohingya, a Muslim minority group that is not recognized as citizens and which has been severely persecuted by authorities in an operation described by the UN as a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing,” resulting in a huge influx of Rohingya refugees to Bangladesh.
Pope Francis also said that the Catholic Church in Myanmar, with very limited means, has brought “the healing balm of God’s mercy to others, especially those most in need.”
He pointed out that “even with very limited means, many communities are proclaiming the Gospel to other tribal minorities, never forcing or coercing but always inviting and welcoming.”
“I can see that the Church here is alive,” said Pope Francis.
The Pope presented himself as “a fellow pilgrim to listen and to learn,” who wanted to offer “words of hope and consolation” to Catholics in Myanmar, which constitute about 650,000 out of the total 52 million population of the country.
The Pontiff stressed that “many in Myanmar bear the wounds of violence, wounds both visible and invisible,” and urged them not to cure those wounds with “anger and revenge,” because “the way of revenge is not the way of Jesus.”
“His message of forgiveness and mercy uses a logic that not all will want to understand, and which will encounter obstacles. Yet his love, revealed on the cross, is ultimately unstoppable,” he said.
The Pontiff urged the attendees to carry this message to others “to anoint every hurt and every painful memory,” adding that “in this way, you will be faithful witnesses of the reconciliation and peace.”
The final wish of the Argentine pontiff, who spoke in Italian and was translated into Burmese by a priest, was that Catholics in Myanmar are “messengers of true wisdom, heartfelt mercy to those in need.”