Pope heads to Bangladesh with Rohingya crisis looming large » Manila Bulletin News

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By Associated Press

Pope Francis is wrapping up his visit to Myanmar with a Mass for young people before heading to neighboring Bangladesh where the Rohingya Muslim refugee crisis is expected to take center stage.

Pope Francis poses for a group photo with children as her arrives at St. Mary's Cathedral for a meeting with the bishops of Myanmar, in Yangon, Myanmar, Wednesday, Nov. 29, 2017. The pontiff is in Myanmar for the first stage of a week-long visit that will also take him to neighboring Bangladesh. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini, Pool/MANILA BULLETIN)

Pope Francis poses for a group photo with children as her arrives at St. Mary’s Cathedral for a meeting with the bishops of Myanmar, in Yangon, Myanmar, Wednesday, Nov. 29, 2017. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini, Pool/MANILA BULLETIN)

Francis has so far refrained from speaking out about Asia’s worst humanitarian crisis in decades, out of deference to his Burmese hosts who consider the Rohingya “Bengalis” and don’t recognize them as an ethnic group.

The Vatican has defended Francis’ silence, saying the pope wants to “build bridges” with the predominantly Buddhist nation.

But human rights groups and Rohingya themselves have expressed disappointment that Francis, a tireless and fearless advocate for refugees and the world’s most marginal, has refrained from condemning what the U.N. has said is a textbook case of “ethnic cleansing.”

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