YANGON: Pope Francis will be meeting with leaders of Myanmar’s different religious communities at the Catholic archbishop’s residence in Yangon.
He arrived in the country on Monday and is scheduled to meet separately Tuesday with the country’s leader Aung San Suu Kyi in the capital.
Myanmar is predominantly Buddhist with small Muslim, Hindu and Christian populations.
The country’s most revered and prominent Buddhist leader Sitagu is not among the religious leaders expected to meet the pope on Tuesday though the monk met with Francis’s predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI.
Sitagu has been criticized for using ethnic slurs against Muslims, particularly the Rohingya, who are denied citizenship in Myanmar and the target of a much-criticized military crackdown.
Earlier this year, Sitagu was awarded the title ‘Honorable, Excellent, and Great Teacher of Country and State’ by the country’s civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi.
Pope Francis begins his first full day in Myanmar traveling to the country’s capital to meet with the civilian leader, Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, a day after hosting the military general in charge of the crackdown on the country’s Rohingya Muslim minority.
Francis’ speech Tuesday to Suu Kyi, other Myanmar authorities and the diplomatic corps in Naypyitaw is the most anticipated of his visit, given the outcry over the crackdown, which the U.S. and U.N. have described as a campaign of “ethnic cleansing” to drive out the Rohingya.
Myanmar’s Catholic leaders have stressed that Suu Kyi has no voice to speak out against the military, and have urged support for her efforts to move Myanmar toward a more democratic future that includes all its religious minorities, Christians included.