Pope Francis says, 'I wept' at meeting with Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh
ope Francis had to take some flak for not speaking out harder against Myanmar's treatment of its Rohingya Muslim minority on his recent to the country, but he managed to finesse the delicate matter in his characteristic manner,
But Vatican officials noted that Francis had to tread a delicate balance in Myanmar which has some extremist Buddhist nationalists who could threaten the tiny Roman Catholic minority of 700,000 as well as jeopardizing his visit.
The Pope said on Dec. 3 after he had left Bangladesh on the second part of his trip that he wept hearing the plight first-hand of Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh.
The meeting was a condition set for his trip to Myanmar and Bangladesh, Agence France-Presse reported and Francis mentioned the "word" Rohingya there
The Dhaka Tribune headlinesd its report on Francis' visit to Bangladesh, "Rohingya, realpolitik, and a strategic halo."
"All through this human catastrophe, what became evident plus perturbing at every step was the assertive presence of realpolitik over simple moral imperative....
"I am not blaming the spiritual leader, whose visit was more of a show of solidarity rather than to achieve anything tangible for the oppressed," editorialized Towheed Feroze in the newspaper.
More than 620,000 Rohingyas have fled from Myanmar since Aug. 25 facing assaults, home destruction and rape in what the United Nations has described as a "text book case of ethnic cleansing."
Francis defended his silence while in Myanmar on the humanitarian crisis, saying he spoke privately to the nation's leaders about the issue, according to Huffington Post.
The Pope said that he had spoken more openly about the issue in private with Myanmar's leaders,
He noted he was "very, very satisfied" with his meetings with the country's de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi ― a Nobel Peace Prize laureate who has been strongly criticized herself been for failing to stand up for the Rohingya ― and the country's military chief, General Min Aung Hlaing.
"It was a good conversation and the truth was non-negotiable," Francis said of the meetings, Reuters reported. "For me, the most important thing is that the message gets through."
The Rohingya meeting was a highly symbolic gesture of solidarity with the Muslim minority fleeing violence in Myanmar, and the Pope told journalists on his plane flying back to Rome that the refugees cried as well.
"I wept, I tried to do it in a way that it couldn't be seen," he said of the encounter, AFP reported. "They wept too."
Francis spoke to reporters during his return flight to the Vatican, following a two-day stop in Bangladesh, and he defended his decision to skirt the Rohingya issue during his public appearances in Myanmar.
"If I had used the word ['Rohingya'] during an official speech, I would have slammed the door," he said.
Using translators, Francis spoke personally to 16 Rohingya refugees during an interfaith gathering in Dhaka on Dec. 1.
The Pontiff avoided using the word "Rohingya" during the first leg of his six-day tour, when he was in Myanmar.
On the second leg of his trip, however, he used it at the meeting in Bangladesh with the refugees, when he asked for their forgiveness for what he called the "world's indifference" to their plight.