Pope embarks on tricky trip to Asia

What happened?

In one of the most diplomatically complex trips in recent papal history, Pope Francis has visited Burma, becoming the first pontiff to do so. After landing on Monday, he met the country’s military chief, General Min Aung Hlaing. The military has been accused of serious human rights abuses against Rohingya Muslims.

Francis was also scheduled to meet the under-pressure State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi, before going to Bangladesh on Thursday.

What commmentators are saying

Coverage was dominated by one question: would the Pope say the word “Rohingya”? In the New York Times, Jason Horowitz observed that the Rohingya were “exactly the sort of persecuted and downtrodden people in the global periphery whose rights Francis has made it his pastoral mission to champion”.

But it is a “no-win scenario”: if he uses the word, it could provoke nationalists whose willingness to use violence is already clear. “If the Pope appears to take sides with the Rohingya, he risks angering extremist monks who have warned the Pope to steer clear.”

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