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In airplane press conference, Pope defends handling of Rohingya crisis

December 04, 2017

Pope Francis explained his decision not to mention the Rohingya crisis directly during his visit to Myanmar, in an exchange with reporters during his return flight to Rome after his Asian trip.

The Pontiff said that “everyone knows what I think” about the treatment of the Rohingya, reminding reporters that he had spoken out several times, in public audiences, about the crisis. He remarked that he had also addressed the subject indirectly in Myanmar, by speaking in defense of the rights of minorities.

However, the Pope said that he had been advised by local Church leaders that an explicit reference to the human-rights crisis in Myanmar would provoke a negative reaction. “If I had said that word in the official speech, it would have been like slamming the door in the face of my interlocutors,” he said. He added that in meeting with the military leaders of Myanmar, “I have not negotiated the truth.” He said that he had sought to advance a dialogue on the role of human rights.

Pope Francis met with Rohingya refugees, and spoke about the crisis, during the second stop of his Asian trip, in Bangladesh. He said that a meeting with representatives of the oppressed people was a high priority: “a set condition of the trip.”

Touching on one other issue during his in-flight interview, the Pope reiterated his belief that nuclear weapons must be abolished, and that nuclear deterrence cannot be morally justified. “This can be discussed,” he said, “but it is my firm opinion.” While St. John Paul II had been unwilling to condemn nuclear deterrence, Pope Francis said that much has changed since that time, and with the proliferation of sophisticated nuclear weapons “we are at the limit of lawfulness.”


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  • Posted by: rpp - Dec. 05, 2017 12:01 PM ET USA

    Compare Bergoglio's behavior and words on his visit to Myanmar with Pope St. John Paul II when he first visited Poland in 1979 as Pope. Some real courage there.