YANGON, Myanmar – Pope Francis arrived on Monday in Yangon, the former capital of Myanmar – for the first visit by a Pope to the country.
Hundreds of Roman Catholics received him at the airport, amid tight security.
The Pope was set to travel in his popemobile to the archdiocesan headquarters – where he would stay – with people gathering to welcome him at various points en route.
Francis was welcomed by a group of children carrying the flags of Myanmar and the Vatican, dressed in t-shirts with his image on them.
Representatives of different ethnic groups of Myanmar were also present in traditional costumes, while dances and traditional songs were performed in the Pope’s honor.
The Pope has no engagements on the first day, and will begin his public program on Tuesday, traveling to the capital Naypyidaw where he will participate in the official welcome by President Htin Kyaw and State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi.
Before leaving for Naypyidaw, the pontiff will hold an interfaith dialogue with Myanmar religious leaders at the archdiocesan headquarters.
The Pope is scheduled to visit Bangladesh after Myanmar and according to some observers, likely to act as a mediator for the humanitarian crisis there, labeled by the United Nations as a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing.”
The president of the Catholic Bishops Conference of Myanmar, Bishop Felix Lian Khen Thang, did not deny the Pope’s possible role in the mediation.
The Pope can accelerate the reconciliation process between the two parties, the Myanmar bishop told EFE.