YANGON – Pope Francis met on Wednesday with the “Sangha” Supreme Council, made up of leaders of the Theravada branch of Buddhism, and urged them to make efforts to heal the wounds from the conflicts that have divided the country.
On the third day of his visit to Myanmar, the Pope met the Burmese Buddhist leaders at the Kaba Aye, a symbolic place in the country where Buddhism is the state religion.
The Pope’s visit comes amid widespread international criticism of the Myanmar authorities over its treatment of the mostly Muslim minority Rohingyas, who have fled by the hundreds of thousands since an outbreak of violence at the end of August.
The pontiff again avoided using the word “Rohingya,” but urged Buddhists to use their wisdom to heal the wounds caused by the divisive conflict in Myanmar.
Despite using the word prior to the trip, he was advised by the local Cardinal Maung Bo and advisers not to use the term during his visit in order to prevent violent reprisals against the Christian minority in the country.
The pontiff hoped that the tenets of Buddhism would help encourage efforts to promote patience and understanding, and heal the wounds from the conflicts that over the years have divided people from different cultures, ethnicities and religious beliefs.
The pope, who took off his shoes before entering the Buddhist center – as is the norm – explained that Wednesday’s event was important to renew and strengthen the bonds of friendship and respect between Buddhists and Catholics.
He also said it was an opportunity to reaffirm the commitment towards peace, respect for human dignity and justice for all men and women.
The Pope underlined the need for religious leaders, not only in Myanmar but also across the world, to stand united against all forms of hatred and intolerance.