- Feb 23, 2020
From a distance, it’s easy to judge the situation in Myanmar, and therefore the challenges awaiting Pope Francis in the country, in absolutes. On the ground, the reality appears much more complicated, with widely varying takes on issues such as how much sympathy the Rohingya actually deserve, how flawed the government of Aung San Suu Kyi really is, and how much one can expect from a three-day papal visit.
As Pope Francis began his tour to Myanmar and Bangladesh, Catholics in neighboring India regret missing a chance to meet him in their homeland, nostalgically recalling past papal visits.
Pope Francis on Monday had a “courtesy visit” with the leaders of Myanmar’s powerful military, just hours after arriving in the country. The pope and Gen. Min Aung Hlaing, who was accompanied by three other generals and a lieutenant colonel, met in the Yangon archbishop’s residence, where the pope is staying.
The Vatican has released the official schedule for Pope Francis’s trip to Chile and Peru, taking place Jan. 15-21. The Peru-Chile trip will be the pontiff’s fourth to South America. In July 2013, he visited Brazil for World Youth Day. In July 2015, he traveled to Ecuador, Bolivia and Paraguay. His trip to Colombia in September was his third visit to the continent as pope.
Founded in 1991, Burma Campaign UK is one of the leading international organizations seeking reform in the country. Its director Mark Farmaner says Pope Francis is likely to face a challenging time when he visits Burma, also known as Myanmar, in a trip which is expected in late November. The pope has spoken up many times to protest the treatment of the Rohingya, a minority Muslim population facing persecution in the country.
Bishops in South Sudan wrote in a statement that Pope Francis’s decision not to visit the country this year is motivated in part by security concerns, but they offered reassurances that a future visit could be possible if people in the country renew their commitment to peace.