Pope Francis concluded his visit to Myanmar, and continued onto Bangladesh for the second leg of his 21st Apostolic Journey outside of Italy.
As the Holy Father’s time in Myanmar drew to a close, our correspondent, Philippa Hitchen, spoke with those involved in organizing the papal voyage. Among them was Father Mariano Soe Naing, spokesman for the Bishops’ Conference of Myanmar. Fr Mariano spoke about the cooperation offered by the people of Yangon for the somewhat hastily organized trip. He also expressed his appreciation for the hospitality of Buddhist groups who welcomed Catholic pilgrims from around the country.
Asked about concerns of rising nationalist among some Buddhist groups, Fr Mariano noted that this kind of nationalism was only found among a small minority. “First of all,” he said, “we need to understand that this is not shared by the majority of the Buddhists, neither monks nor the ordinary people.” He said many people feel that such nationalism is motivated primarily by politics.
Father Mariano was also asked about the Pope’s meeting with Aung San Suu Kyi. “I think that from the messages we heard in Nay Pyi Taw, [it] is very much affirming to her, very positive on the efforts she is making to build this nation.” He expressed his hope that “if the international community wants to be really sincere and open to the message of the Holy Father… it is time that they have another view of the crisis, and to the effort Aung San Suu Kyi is making.”
Finally, Philippa asked Fr Mariano about what he considered the most important part of the Pope’s visit. He pointed to the Pope’s concern for young people, and the need “to give authentic education to the young people.” He mentioned in particular the Pope’s call “to really care for the future of the young people, not to rob them of the future, of their hope, not to steal the constructive idealism that they have.”
Listen to the full interview of Father Mariano Soe Naing with Philippa Hitchen: