y Pyi Taw, Nov 27: Pope Francis arrived in Myanmar on Monday on his first papal visit to the country as part of a six-day two-tion South Asia tour.
Francis has become the first pope to ever visit Myanmar. His visit comes amid an ongoing humanitarian crisis after the Myanmar military carried out operations against the Rohingya Muslim minority in Rakhine forcing some 620,000 Rohingyas to flee to Bangladesh.
He arrived in Yangon where he will stay at the archdiocese's headquarters where he will hold an interfaith dialogue with Myanmar religious leaders, reports Efe news.
On Tuesday, the pontiff will head to the capital city y Pyi Taw, where he will be officially welcomed by President Htin Kyaw and State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi. Pope Francis is also scheduled to attend a major Mass on Wednesday, after which he will hold a meeting with the Supreme Council of Myanmar's Buddhist monks and another meeting with bishops. On Thursday, he will officiate a new Mass dedicated to the children at the Cathedral of Santa Maria, and then meet Army chief General Min Aung Hlaing.
According to some observers, the Pope is likely to act as a mediator for the humanitarian crisis in Bangladesh, which the UN has dubbed a "textbook example of ethnic cleansing".
The military operation - which has killed hundreds of people and led to multiple rapes, burning of villages as well as crops since the end of August - has forced more than 620,000 Rohingyas to flee to Bangladesh.
The President of the Catholic Bishops Conference of Myanmar, Bishop Felix Lian Khen Thang, did not deny the Pope's possible role in mediation. The Holy Father can accelerate the reconciliation process between the two parties, the Bishop told Efe. The visit was organised before the crisis, when the Pope met Suu Kyi at the Vatican in May.
After Myanmar, the pope will travel to Bangladesh on Thursday, becoming the first Catholic leader to visit Dhaka since 1986. In Bangladesh, Francis is scheduled to meet a small group of Rohingya refugees in a symbolic gesture. (IANS)