DHAKA – Pope Francis on Thursday visited two places symbolic of Bangladesh’s independence – the National Martyr’s Monument and the Bangabandhu Museum – something almost obligatory for all visiting heads of state.
Following the welcome ceremony at Dhaka airport, where, after his visit to Myanmar, the pontiff was received by President Abdul Hamid, they made their way to the Martyr’s Monument, which commemorates those who died in the country’s war for independence from Pakistan in 1971.
This is the second visit by a Pope to Bangladesh after John Paul II in 1986, as during Paul VI’s visit it was still a part of Pakistan.
Francis arrived at the Martyr’s Monument accompanied just by some people from the government and the army.
He laid a wreath there while escorted by two soldiers, and, as per tradition, the pontiff also planted a tree as a symbol of peace.
On his way to the presidential palace, he also visited the museum dedicated to the Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, considered the Father of the Nation and known as Bangabandhu, literally meaning Friend of Bengal in Bengali.
Bangabandhu, father of current Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, was the first president of Bangladesh and was killed during a military coup in 1975.
Pope Francis then made his way to the presidential palace, known as Bangabhaban, where he had a private meeting for about 20 minutes with the president.