Pope Francis waves from Pope mobile as Myanmar Catholics wave flags ahead of the holy mass on Wednesday in Yangon.
Yangon - In a speech on Tuesday, he avoided the highly charged term 'Rohingya', following advice of Vatican insiders
Pope Francis on Wednesday urged Myanmar's top Buddhist monks to reconcile people of different ethnicities and religions as their country emerges from nearly five decades of military rule still riven by ethnic conflicts and communal strife.
That echoed a call for peace he made at a Mass earlier on the third day of a visit fraught with diplomatic risk over a military crackdown that has triggered the flight of about 625,000 Muslim Rohingya from the Buddhist country.
In a speech on Tuesday, he avoided the highly charged term 'Rohingya', following advice of Vatican insiders who feared it could set off a diplomatic incident and turn Myanmar's military and government against minority Christians. However, his call for justice, human rights and respect for all were widely seen as applicable to the Rohingya, who are not recognised as citizens or as members of a distinct ethnic group.
In his address at the Supreme Sangha Council of Buddhist monks in Yangon, Francis called for "a common witness by religious leaders" and lamented that the "wounds of conflict, poverty and oppression persist" in many places.
The meeting, he said, was an opportunity for Buddhists and the tiny Catholic community "to affirm a commitment to peace, respect for human dignity and justice for every man and woman". "If we are to be united, as is our purpose, we need to surmount all forms of misunderstanding, intolerance, prejudice and hatred," he said.
Again, he made no reference to the exodus of Rohingya from Rakhine state, which began at the end of August.
Bhaddanta Kumarabhivamsa, leader of the government-appointed Buddhist council, told Francis that all religions had the goals of peace and love, and terrorism arose from a lack of belief.
Only about 700,000 of Myanmar's 51 million people are Roman Catholic. Thousands travelled from far and wide to see Francis.