Pope Francis on Wednesday reflected on his just-ended apostolic journey to Myanmar and Bangladesh highlighting the value of interreligious dialogue undertaken in the first leg of the journey, and expressing solidarity with Bangladesh’s efforts to provide relief to the Rohingya refugees flooding into the nation during the second leg of his visit.
The Pope was addressing pilgrims gathered in the Paul VI Hall for the weekly General Audience.
Journey to Myanmar and Bangladesh gift from God
Interrupting briefly his series of catechetical reflections on the Sacraments, Pope Francis told those present that he wished to speak of the apostolic journey that took him to Myanmar and Bangladesh in the past days describing it as a great gift from God.
Noting that for the first time ever the successor of Peter was able to set foot on Myanmar soil, he spoke of witnessing a nation that is gradually moving towards a new experience of freedom and peace.
Importance of interreligious dialogue in Buddhist Myanmar
He recalled some of the highlights of the visit including a meeting with young people and an open air Mass in Yangon, and he remarked on his encounter with interreligious leaders in that predominantly Buddhist country where he was able to express the importance of dialogue and cooperation in the building of a society in which everyone, with the exclusion of none, is accepted and respected.
Christian Muslim dialogue in Bangladesh
And then he spoke of his time in Bangladesh in the footsteps of Popes Paul VI and Saint John Paul II. In this nation of Muslim majority, he said, it represented yet “another step forward in favour of respect and dialogue between Christians and Muslims”.
Solidarity with Rohingya refugees
He also spoke of his opportunity, whilst he was in Bangladesh, to express solidarity with the country’s efforts to provide relief and assistance amid the crisis of the Rohingya refugees.
Pope Francis mentioned the joy expressed during his final Mass celebrated with young people in Dhaka which, he said, was attended also by young followers of Islam and other religions.
Sign of hope for Asia
“In this way, the Pope concluded, my Pastoral Visit ended in a sign of hope for Bangladaesh, for all of Asia, and for the whole world”.