Pope holds Mass with youth before travelling to Bangladesh

Pope Francis on Thursday led a Mass for youth in Myanmar’s commercial hub Yangon, preaching a message of hope and “good news” in spite “so much injustice, poverty and misery” in the world.

The Mass marked the pope’s final public event during his four-day stay in Myanmar before departing for neighbouring Bangladesh.

The two countries are at the heart of a refugee crisis that has seen some 620,000 Rohingya Muslims flee over the border to Bangladesh following an army crackdown in Myanmar’s Rakhine State.

Human rights groups have criticised the pope’s failure to address alleged atrocities against the Rohingya Muslim minority during his visit, but papal spokesman Greg Burke said on Wednesday: “the pope is not going to lose moral authority on this.”

The pope plans to stay in Bangladesh until Saturday on a trip that was planned before the Rohingya crisis escalated.

An interreligious meeting in Dhaka on Dec. 1 which includes some Rohingya will be a focal point of the Bangladesh leg of the papal trip, but it is not clear how much contact the persecuted minority will have with Francis.

Days before the pope’s arrival, Myanmar and Bangladesh signed a deal on the repatriation of Rohingya refugees, but according to the UN it is still unsafe for them to return home. (dpa/NAN)

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