Pope Francis arrived in mainly Buddhist Myanmar Monday on a highly sensitive visit to a country facing sharp global criticism for the alleged ethnic cleansing of its Rohingya Muslim minority.
The 80-year-old pontiff, the first to travel to Myanmar, was welcomed by children from different minority groups in bright, bejewelled clothes, who gave him flowers and received a papal embrace in return.
Nuns in white habits were among the devotees who travelled from across the country in his honour, waving flags as his motorcade swept by the golden Shwedagon Pagoda to the archbishop’s residence in downtown Yangon, where the pope will stay on Monday night.
But the joyful scenes stood in stark contrast to the gravity of the main issue that frames his trip.
Myanmar’s military stands accused of waging a campaign of ethnic cleansing against the Rohingya Muslims.