VATICAN CITY (AP) – Pope Francis on Sunday condemned the suffering of refugees in Myanmar and called for houses of worship to be respected as neutral places of refuge.
He told the public gathered in St. Peter’s Square for his customary midday remarks Sunday that he was joining his voice with that of the Asian nation’s bishops by also asking for humanitarian corridors.
Francis lamented that thousands of displaced people in Myanmar are “starving.” The violence, including the devastation of villages, has become endemic since the army took power in February, toppling the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi.
A nonviolent civil disobedience movement is challenging the military rule, but the junta’s attempt to suppress it with deadly force has fueled resistance.
Francis noted that the Catholic bishops of Myanmar launched an appeal last week, “drawing the attention of the world to the heartbreaking experience of thousands of people in that country who are displaced and starving.” He added that he was joining the ecclesiastical call for humanitarian corridors to allow the safe passage of those who flee.
Echoing the bishops, Francis also insisted that “churches, pagodas, monasteries, mosques, temples, as well as schools and hospitals, be respected as neutral places of refuge.”
The pope then prayed for peace in Myanmar before pointing out that Sunday was World Refugee Day, an initiative promoted by the United Nations.
“Let us open our hearts to the refugees,” the Pope said. “Let us make his sadness and his joys ours, let us learn from his courageous resilience,” Francis said.
In that way, he said, “all together, we will develop a more humane community, a great family.”