Bangladesh PM Hasina calls on Pope Francis

Pope Francis Prays Alongside Rohingya Muslim Refugees During Trip To Bangladesh

POPE Francis has demanded that the worldwide community take "decisive measures" to resolve the causes of the mass exodus of Rohingya Muslims from Myanmar, breaking his recent silence over what the United Nations has declared to be a textbook case of "ethnic cleansing".

But on the advice of the local Catholic Church he avoided using the term Rohingya on his three-day trip to Myanmar earlier this week.

After his speech in Dhaka, the Pope met a group of Rohingya refugees one-by-one, giving some of them blessings and listening to the stories of others, CNN reported. "In the name of everyone, of those who persecute you, those who hurt you, and especially of the world's indifference, I ask for your forgiveness".

"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.

Myanmar's government denies the Rohingya are an ethnic group, insisting they are "Bengali" migrants who are not entitled to full citizenship.

Some 620,000 Rohingyas, who are Muslims originally from Bangladesh, have fled there after a campaign of repression that has spurred a wave of world condemnation, including from the pope.

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But speaking to Muslim, Buddhist and Hindu leaders, Francis praised the country's commitment to religious freedom, which he said "stands as a subtle yet firm rebuke to those who would seek to foment division, hatred and violence in the name of religion".

The Holy Mass was attended by more than 80,000 people from around the country.

She later told AFP she escaped to Bangladesh after losing her entire family in an attack by the military in Myanmar.

His visit comes days after the disappearance of a Catholic priest in the same village where suspected Islamist extremists hacked a Catholic grocer to death past year.

Francis - the first pope to visit Bangladesh in 31 years - will spend three days in the mainly-Muslim country, which is grappling with a rise in Islamist extremism that has seen Catholics attacked for their faith.

Christians make up less than 0.5 per cent of Bangladesh's population of 160 million and community leaders say some have left as it becomes more hard to practise their faith openly.

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