Pope Francis asks Rohingya Muslims for forgiveness

Pope Francis asks Rohingya Muslims for forgiveness

Through translators, he also spoke to a group of Rohingya refugees from three families, Crux reported, including 12 men, two women in niqabs, and two girls.

There are fewer Catholics in Bangladesh than there are in Myanmar.

"The presence of God today is also called Rohingya", he said in an improvised remark after meeting 16 refugees brought to the Bangladeshi capital Dhaka from their camps in Cox's Bazar near the border with Myanmar.

"Let us continue to do the right thing and to help them".

"Let us not close our hearts, let us not look the other way".

The pope made the comments in a speech shortly after arriving from Myanmar, where he walked a diplomatic tightrope, staying away from allegations that the army is waging an ethnic cleansing campaign against Rohingya Muslims, despite pressure to publicly confront the incendiary issue. He had been warned by his Catholic representatives in the country not to use the term for fear of alienating the Buddhist majority and causing difficulties for the nation's 600,000 Catholics.

Hours after arriving in Bangladesh he addressed the issue head-on, calling for "decisive" worldwide measures to address the "grave crisis".

But as in Myanmar, he refrained from using the word "Rohingya", instead referring to "refugees from Rakhine state".

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He apologised for the "indifference of the world" to their plight and then said their ethnic group's name.

Previous year he took three Syrian families, all Muslim, back to the Vatican after visiting them on the Greek island of Lesbos, a hotspot for asylum seekers.

On Friday, the Pope is expected to meet a group of Rohingya refugees, as well as hold talks with Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.

Security was tight for Friday's mass, which follows a rise in attacks on religious minorities in Bangladesh by Islamist extremists.

"I feel like I am blessed to join the Pope's prayers", said 60-year-old widow Pronita Mra, who had travelled from her village in northeastern Bangladesh.

"I'll pray for my late husband and parents so that they go to heaven".

Thousands of Catholics from different parts of the country attended the mass prayer seeking harmony and peace in the world. They make up about 0.2 per cent of the population, about 450,000 people, compared to about 600,000 in Myanmar.