CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 9 December 2017

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Respect dignity and rights of all pope says

Hong Kong (SE): At end of his four-day visit to Myanmar on November 30, Pope Francis had met with the country’s president, Htin Kyaw; state counsellor, Aung San Suu Kyi; its senior military general and army chief, Min Aung Hlaing; as well as leaders of the Buddhist, Muslim, Baptist and Jewish faiths.
 
To the dismay of some observers and rights advocates, not once while in Myanmar did he publicly use the word, Rohingya.
 
A day later however, he referenced the persecuted minority by name saying, “The presence of God today is also called Rohingya.”
 
The BBC reported that the pope’s unscripted comment was made during an interfaith meeting in Dhaka during his visit to Bangladesh when he also met with a group of 16 Rohingya refugees and listened to their stories.
 
Mindful of words of advice from various quarters—including the bishop of Yangon, Charles Cardinal Bo (Sunday Examiner, November 26)—the pope walked a delicate line to keep the issue in the spotlight while not setting off hardline nationalists.
 
“If I would have used the word, the door (for dialogue) would have closed,” he explained to reporters on December 2.
 
While a guest of Suu Kyi at the presidential palace in the capital, Naypyidaw, Pope Francis was reported by Catholic News Service as saying, “Religious communities must play a role in the process of reconciliation and integration” and that “religious differences need not be a source of division and distrust, but rather a force for unity, forgiveness, tolerance and wise nation building.”
 
In his thinly-veiled speech he stressed, “The future of Myanmar must be peace, a peace based on respect for the dignity and rights of each member of society, respect for each ethnic group and its identity, respect for the rule of law, and respect for a democratic order that enables each individual and every group—none excluded—to offer its legitimate contribution to the common good,” 
 
Phil Robertson, deputy director of Human Rights Watch’s Asia division, was quoted by The New York Times as saying that the pope had missed an opportunity by not using the Rohingya name.
 
However, The Guardian reported the European Union’s ambassador to Myanmar, Kristian Schmidt, as saying, “He didn’t need to. It was written all over the speech, between the lines.” 
 
Catholic News Service reported that on the flight back to Rome on December 2, Pope Francis explained to reporters: “I knew that if, in an official speech, I would have used the word, they would close the door in my face.” 
 
He said, “I described the situation” publicly, knowing “I could go further in the private meetings” with government officials.
 
The pope said that in private  “I dared to say everything I wanted to say.”
 
He said, “I did not have the pleasure of making a pubic denunciation, but I had the satisfaction of dialoguing, allowing the other to have his say and, in that way, the message got across.”
 
Prior to his speech, the pope met with Buddhist, Hindu, Muslim, Christian and Jewish leaders, and stressed that unity in diversity is the secret to peace, UCAN reported.
 
“‘How good and how pleasant it is, when brothers dwell together as one,’” he said, quoting Psalm 133, pointing out that “united does not mean the same; unity is not uniformity, even within the same confession,” he said, adding, “Let’s not be afraid of differences.”
 
According to various media sources, Pope Francis also met separately with controversial Buddhist monk, Sitagu Sayadaw, who has publicly supported the crackdown on the Rohingya.
 
Greg Burke, the Vatican spokesperson, said that the meeting was part of the pope’s “effort to encourage peace and fraternal coexistence as the only way ahead.”
 
AsiaNews reported that the pope did not shy from alluding to Myanmar’s turbulent history during his first public Mass at the Kyaikkasan sports grounds in Yangon on November 29.
 
“I know that many in Myanmar bear the wounds of violence, wounds both visible and invisible.  The temptation is to respond to these injuries with a worldly wisdom… We think that healing can come from anger and revenge,” Pope Francis said. 
 
“Yet the way of revenge is not the way of Jesus. Jesus’ way is radically different. When hatred and rejection led him to his passion and death, he responded with forgiveness and compassion,” he said.
 
Later, when meeting with the Supreme Sangha Council of Buddhist Monks, the pope called for a renewal and strengthening of friendship and respect between Buddhists and Catholics, and the affirmation of a commitment to peace, respect for human dignity and justice. 
 
“For when we speak with one voice in affirming the timeless values of justice, peace and the fundamental dignity of each human person, we offer a word of hope. We help Buddhists, Catholics and all people to strive for greater harmony in their communities,” he said.
 
The pope noted that the challenge lay in helping people be open to transcendence and realise that they do not exist in isolation from each other.
 
On his final morning in Myanmar, Pope Francis celebrated Mass with around 5,000 young people at St. Mary’s Cathedral in Yangon. 
 
He challenged them to consider how to be messengers of the gospel. He urged them to “shout with your lives, with your hearts” as a sign of hope to those who need encouragement: the sick, strangers and the lonely.
 
“Do not be afraid to make a ruckus, to ask questions that make people think, and don’t worry if sometimes you feel that you are few and far between,” he told them.

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