Pope says his defence of Rohingya got through in Burma


Still, finally being able to meet some of the Rohingya refugees December 1 in Bangladesh was an emotional moment.

The pope met Burma's military leaders privately on 27 November, shortly after his arrival in the nation's biggest city, Yangon.

"If I would have used the word, the door would have closed", he told reporters December 2 during his flight from Dhaka, Bangladesh, to Rome. But he did not specifically mention the Rohingya, a Muslim minority from Rakhine state.

This photo combo of two images show Pope John Paul II riding in a three-wheeled bicycle rickshaw at the Vatican Mission in Dhaka, Bangladesh, during his one-day visit to the city, on November 19, 1986, on left and Pope Francis riding a traditional Bangladesh rickshaw as he arrives at an interfaith and ecumenical meeting for peace in the garden of the archbishop's residence, in Dhaka, Bangladesh, Friday, Dec. 1, 2017.

Myanmar's military has denied the allegations.

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Since the military action began in Rakhine in August, after some militants attacked security forces' post, over 6 lakh Rohingyas have fled the state to neighboring countries, especially to Bangladesh.

Tears run down the face of Rohingya refugees as they pray during their meeting with Pope Francis in Dhaka. However, "I described the situation" publicly, knowing "I could go further in the private meetings" with government officials.

It is true, he said, "I did not have the pleasure" of making "a public denunciation, but I had the satisfaction of dialoguing, allowing the other to have his say and, in that way, the message got across".

Human rights groups have criticised Burma's de facto civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi, a Nobel Peace Prize victor who was under house arrest for a total of 15 years, for not taking a stand against the generals.

Francis said he was speaking from personal experience and urged the nuns and priests to "Please, bite your tongue" which means to consider your words carefully before speaking. "I want my torturers to be punished", she said.

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The pope was asked what he thought of recent criticism by human rights groups of Aung San Suu Kyi, the Nobel Peace Prize laureate and de facto leader of Myanmar's civilian government, over her handling of the Rohingya crisis. When asked about the change in schedule and if he felt he was politically manipulated by the general to show who was the most superior in the country, the Pope replied: "I don't know the intentions but I was interested in dialogue". "Maybe we can't do much for you, but your tragedy has a place in our hearts", Francis told them.

He added: "They wept too".

Myanmar is at a "turning point" where it will be hard to move forward, he said, but it also would be hard to back away from change.

A Rohingya refugee man wipes his eyes, as he waits to meet Pope Francis, during an inter-religious conference at St. Mary's Cathedral in Dhaka, Bangladesh December 1, 2017.

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