Bangladesh, Myanmar youths are a sign of hope for Asia, pope says

IMAGE: CNS/Paul Haring

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Young people in Myanmar and Bangladesh
are a source of hope for a peaceful future in their countries after years of
war and suffering, Pope Francis said.

As is
customary, at his general audience Dec. 6, the first after his Nov. 27-Dec. 2
trip to Asia, Pope Francis reviewed his visit.

“In the faces of those young people, full of joy, I saw
the future of Asia: A future that doesn’t belong to those who build weapons,
but to those who sow brotherhood,” the pope said.

As temperatures in Rome hovered just above 40 degrees, the
audience was held in
the Paul VI audience hall to avoid the chilly weather.

The pope entered the hall, stretching his hands to each side of the aisle to greet people who
reached out to touch him.

After telling the estimated 8,000 pilgrims that he wanted to
speak about his recent visit, four Bangladeshi priests cheered loudly and held
up a banner that read, “Thank you, Papa.” The pope smiled and waved at the small

Noting that it was “the first time a successor of Peter
visited Myanmar,” the pope said he hoped to express “the closeness of
Christ and the church to a people who have suffered due to conflict and
repression and that now is slowly moving toward a new condition of freedom and

Catholic Church in Myanmar is “alive and fervent,” he said, adding
that he had “the joy of confirming them in the faith and in

He also said his Nov. 29 meeting with a group of senior
Buddhist monks was a
moment to “manifest the church’s esteem for their ancient spiritual
tradition and the trust that Christians and Buddhists together can help people
to love God and neighbor while rejecting every kind of violence and opposing
evil with good.”

Pope Francis said his visit to Bangladesh “followed in
the footsteps of Blessed Paul VI and St. John Paul II” and “marked a
further step toward respect and dialogue between Christianity and Islam.”

He also praised the country’s care for religious liberty and
its welcoming of welcoming hundreds of thousands of Rohingya refugees from

“I wanted to express my solidarity with Bangladesh in
their commitment to aid the Rohingya refugees flowing en masse in their
territory, where the population density is among the highest in the
world,” the pope said.

The “most significant and joyful event” of
ordaining 16 new priests in Dhaka, he said, was “the sign of a living
community where the voice of the Lord resounds, calling on them to follow

This joy was also evident during his visit to the home in Dhaka where the
Missionary of Charity sisters care for “so many orphans and people with
disabilities,” Pope Francis said.

“And they never lack a smile on their lips,” the
pope said. “Sisters who pray together, who serve the suffering
continuously with a smile. It is a beautiful witness. I thank these little
sisters so much.”

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Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju.

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