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The Pope arrived in Burma
The Pope Francis arrives in Burma today at 1.30 pm and was received by tens of thousand of people who greeted him on his way from the airfield to Yangon. Catholics crowded the sidewalks in downtown St. Mary's Cathedral, many with a Myanmar banner in one palm and a cell called.
Francis will be in Burma for four nights before he travels to Bangladesh. It is the first time that a Papal has visited Burma, and followers of the Holy Roman Catholics have said that they are expecting his journey to contain a message of stability and demands for religious liberty. Of Burma's 51 million population, only 700,000 are Catholics, although several million are Christians of other faiths, especially among the country's minority nationalities.
Pope Benedict will gather with members of inter-religious groups in Yangon before heading to Burma's Naypyidaw, where he will be received by President Htin Kyaw and State Councillor Aung San Suu Kyi. There has also been a report of a briefing with Burma's head of the armed forces, Senior General Min Aung Hlaing.
Ten thousand Catholics are due to attend Mass at Kyite Ka San Stadium on Wednesday when Holy Father Francis presides over the Mass. He was pervaded by concerns about his possible impact on the boiling tension in Burma's West Rakhine state. Both the UN and the US recently charged Burma's Buddhist minority with "ethnic cleansing" against the Rohingya Muslim population.
While in Bangladesh, Pope Francis will tour refuges in which more than 600,000 Rohingya have taken refuge. Fugitives flocked across the frontier to avoid Burma's armed operation that began on 25 August following a fatal Rohingya militants' assault on Burma's Rakhine state frontier patrol.
While Amnesty International has described the armed actions as "crimes against humanity," Chief Commander Min Aung Hlaing has denied the allegations, while Burma's head Suu Kyi was de facto reluctant to acknowledge any outrage. Myanmar recognizes few Rohingya as a citizen and refuses to use the word "Rohingya" in all ambassadors.
Francis has already been warned about the sensibility towards the Rohingya in Burma. Last months Cardinal Charles Maung Bo, the oldest Catholic in the county, asked the Holy Father not to make any statements during his time there.