Wanted to visit Rohingya camps: Pope

Pope Francis

Pope Francis

DHAKA : Pope Francis on Saturday held his traditional in-flight press conference en route to Rome following his visit to Myanmar and Bangladesh, saying he had wanted to visit Rohingya camps in Bangladesh, reports UNB.

“I would have liked to go. I would have liked to go, but it wasn’t possible. The things are studied and it wasn’t possible for various factors, also the timing and the distance… but other factors as well,” he told reporters at the briefing.

Pope Francis, however, said the refugee camp came with a representation.

Apart from Rohingya people, nuclear arms, globalisation and future travel plans came up during the briefing, according to a text of the briefing shared by Vatican Radio.

Responding to a question, he said there were groups of terrorists there who sought to take advantage of the situation of the Rohingyas, who are a people of peace.

“This is like all the ethnicities, in all the religions there is always a fundamentalist group. We Catholics also have them. The military justify their intervention because of these groups,” Pope Francis said.

“I try not to speak with these people. I try to speak with the victims because the victims were the Rohingya people who on the one hand suffered that discrimination and on the other were defended by terrorists – and the government of Bangladesh has a very strong campaign, this is what I was told by ministers, of zero tolerance for terrorism not only for this, but to avoid other points.”

He said the first plan was to go to India and Bangladesh, but then the process to go to India was delayed and the time was pushing so he chose these two countries: Bangladesh and next door Myanmar.

Pope Francis flew back to Rome from Dhaka airport on Saturday afternoon, concluding his 21st foreign visit outside Italy that took him to Myanmar and Bangladesh.

The Pope was given an official farewell at Dhaka airport, where Foreign Minister AH Mahmood Aliwas present to see him take off on a Bangladesh Airlines aircraft on his flight back to Rome.

After his arrival in Dhaka on November 30, Pope Francis met the nation’s authorities, the diplomatic corps and civil society, and expressed appreciation for Bangladesh’s generosity and solidarity for Rohingya Muslims fleeing Myanmar.

He called on the international community to find a solution to the Rohingya crisis and help Bangladesh meet the emergency.

He also stressed that the name of God be never invoked to justify hatred and violence on others.

During an open-air Mass on Friday, the only papal Mass in this trip, the Pope ordained 17 new priests and reminded them of their call to serve Christ the teacher, priest, and shepherd and help build the people of God, the Church.

But the highlight of the entire Myanmar-Bangladesh visit came on Friday evening in a deeply moving encounter with 16 Rohingya refugees from Myanmar who have sought shelter in Cox’s Bazar.

Grasping the hands of each of the 12 men, 2 women and 2 young girls, at the end of an interfaith and ecumenical meeting in the capital, the Pope intently listened to their stories of horror, suffering and pain.

“The presence of God today is also called ‘Rohingya,’ the Pope said, asking their forgiveness for all the hurt and indifference they have endured, and demanded their rights be recognised.

On Saturday, the last day of his three-day visit to Bangladesh, the Pope visited a home for orphans, unwed mothers and destitute elderly run by the nuns of Mother Teresa.

In off-hand remarks to the nuns and priests there he praised Bangladesh for having what he called some of the best inter-religious relations in the world.He later met priests, religious and seminarians.

His last meeting of the entire trip was with young Bangladeshis among whom were also Muslims and followers of other religions.

Speaking to them at the Notre Dame College of Dhaka, he urged the young people to reject the false promises of happiness and go out of their self-centeredness to foster an environment of harmony, reaching out to others.

Commending Bangladesh’s respect for the elderly, the Pope urged them to talk to their parents and grandparents, without playing with their phones the whole day, ignoring everything around them.


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