Visit MyanmarExplore Myanmar
Probably the most strained moment of the journey from 26 November to 2 December will be personal encounters with Aung Hlaing, Chief of the Armed Forces, and Aung San Suu Kyi, the civil guide, as well. Rohingya is neither a citizen nor a group with its own identities, which is a predicament for Francis as he is visiting a 51 million-person nation with only about 700,000 Catholics.
"But I admire the Holy Father and his skills, but someone should have told him not to go," he said. According to Vatican sources, some in the Holy See believe that the journey was prematurely concluded after full diplomatic relations were forged in May during a visit by Suu Kyi, whose worldwide acclaim as a Nobel Peace Prize winner was clouded by doubt about the accusations of abuses of rights and non-condemnation of the army.
"against all odds, Pope Francis must be tough. On the second stage of his journey to the Bangladeshi capitol Dhaka, Francis Rohingya will encounter migrants. He also met General Min Aung Hlaing at a later date after Myanmar's elder minister, Cardinal Charles Bo, joined the army in talks.
Franziskus said in a videotape sent to Myanmar last weekend that he wanted to guide the journey to "reconciliation, pardon and peace" in order to promote the gospel value of "dignity for every man and woman" and to promote unity and teamwork. In two Vatican pleas this year, the Holy Father has already used the term Rohingya.
When asked if he would say it in Myanmar, Vatican spokesperson Greg Burke said that Francis takes the counsel given to him seriously, but added: "We will find it out together during the journey.... it is not a outlaw. Older Vatican authorities said the Holy Father would be careful not to do anything that could endanger Myanmar's democratic transformation.
"Today the Pope is one of the most esteemed ethical figures in the rest of the worid, and for this purpose his visit will be important," said Richard Horsey, a Yangon-based analytical and former United Nations high-ranking officer in Myanmar. "However, he will be aware that public sentiment in Myanmar is strongly behind the administration and against the Rohingya and that the involvement of a Western religious leadership in this matter could spark feelings rather than promote a good movement," Horsey said.
As Amnesty International said, Rohingya and Muslims in general in the state of Rakhine have been exposed to "systemic societal and civic exclusion" for decade-long periods and blamed the armed forces for "crimes against humanity" in the last two years, which included assassination, persecution and expulsion. Myanmar's administration has rejected most of the allegations, and the armed forces have said that their own spacecraft has found no proof of misconduct by forces saying their action is a reaction to militias attacking 30 policing stations and a civilian outpost.
"Vatican has few cars and canes to help," said Kuok, Brookings' colleague.