YANGON, Myanmar – Pope Francis, currently on a visit to Myanmar, met on Wednesday with bishops from the country and thanked the local Catholic community for their commitment to the poorest and displaced people in the country.
The pope began the third day of his trip by holding Mass for 150,000 Catholics, according to Myanmar authorities, who reached Yangon from all over the Asian country, as well as from nearby Thailand and the Philippines.
After the gathering, the pontiff proposed three words to the bishops in order for the Catholic Church in Myanmar to take inspiration.
The first word that he mentioned was “healing,” adding that it had particular resonance in Myanmar, as the country was working towards overcoming deeply-rooted divisions and building national unity.
“The Catholic community in Myanmar can be proud of its prophetic witness to love of God and neighbor, as expressed in its outreach to the poor, the disenfranchised, and above all in these days, to the many displaced persons who lie wounded, as it were, by the roadside,” he said.
Pope Francis did not mention the word “Rohingya,” as advised by the country’s Catholic Church, but in speaking about the displaced included the various ethnicities who suffered from discrimination in the country as well as the Muslim minority Rohingyas, who are brutally persecuted by the Myanmar authorities.
“I ask you to offer my thanks to all who, like the Good Samaritan, work so generously to bring the balm of healing to these, their neighbors in need, without regard for religion or ethnicity,” he added.
He also said that he prayed that the country’s Catholic Church’s sustained efforts to initiate dialogue and unite with followers of other religions in weaving peaceful relations would succeed in attaining reconciliation in the nation.
The second word that the pope mentioned was “accompaniment.”
“As bishops, your lives and ministry are called to model this spirit of missionary outreach, above all through your regular pastoral visitation of the parishes and communities that make up your local churches,” he said in this context.
The pope further urged the bishops to make a special effort for the young and teach them sound moral principles that would guide them in confronting the challenges of a rapidly changing world.
His third word was “prophecy,” and he said that the church in Myanmar witnessed the Gospel daily thanks to its efforts in education and charity, its defense of human rights and its support for democratic rule.
“May you enable the Catholic community to continue to play a constructive part in the life of society by making your voices heard on issues of national interest, particularly by insisting on respect for the dignity and rights of all, especially the poorest and the most vulnerable,” he added.