Pope: ‘I kneel on the streets of Myanmar and say stop the violence’

500 years of Christianity in the Philippines mass at the Vatican
Pope Francis holds a mass to mark 500 years of Christianity in the Philippines, in St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican, March 14, 2021. Tiziana
Fabi/Pool via REUTERS

By Philip Pullella, Reuters

Pope Francis appealed on Wednesday for an end to bloodshed in Myanmar, saying: “Even I kneel on the streets of Myanmar and say ‘stop the violence'”.

Francis made the appeal, his latest since a Feb. 1 coup, at the end of his weekly general audience, held remotely from the Vatican library because of COVID-19 restrictions.

More than 180 protesters have been killed as security forces try to crush a wave of demonstrations.

“One more time and with much sadness I feel the urgency to talk about the dramatic situation in Myanmar, where many people, most of them young, are losing their lives in order to offer hope to their country,” he said.

In language symbolising what protesters have done, Francis said: “Even I kneel on the streets of Myanmar and say ‘stop the violence.’ Even I open my arms and say ‘Let dialogue prevail’.”

Francis may have been referring to a video and photographs of a Catholic nun pleading with security forces on her knees not to shoot protesters last week in the Myanmar city of Myitkyina, both of which went viral on the Internet.

The nun, Sister Ann Rose Nu Tawng, later told reporters she had told the police to spare the children and shoot her instead.

There are fewer than 800,000 Roman Catholics in the predominantly Buddhist country.

Francis, who visited Myanmar in 2017, said: “Blood does not resolve anything. Dialogue must prevail.”

Myanmar’s Roman Catholic leader Charles Maung Bo, has also called for an end to the bloodshed.