The Holy See Press Office confirmed that Pope Francis will visit Bangladesh and Myanmar between late November and early December.
The press release informs that the detailed program will be announced later. Meanwhile, we know that the Pontiff will travel to Myanmar from 27 to 30 November, and then to Bangladesh, from 30 November to 2 December. A short trip, during which the Pontiff will visit the city of Nay Pyi Taw, capital of Myanmar since 2006, and the old capital Yangon, and later the city of Dakha, capital of Bangladesh.
This is the first time a pope goes to Myanmar, a Buddhist-majority country, largely following the ancient Theravada tradition. Christians account for about 6 percent of the population and Catholics for about 1 percent. Myanmar (formerly Burma) is best known in the West through the figure of Aung San Suu Kyi, Nobel Peace Prize, currently Minister of Foreign Affairs of the country. Recently, news from Myanmar has also reported on Western media about perpetuated UN human rights violations against the Muslim minority of the Rohingya, forced to flee and seek shelter in Bangladesh. Just last Sunday at the Angelus, Pope Francis again appealed to help these populations.
Prior to Francis, St. John Paul II visited Bangladesh on November 19, 1986 as part of a longer apostolic pilgrimage including Australia, Fiji, New Zealand, the Seychelles and Singapore. During this trip, the Pontiff celebrated Mass with priestly ordination and gave a talk to various members of the Catholic Church in the country. He also met a Delegation of the Church in Burma.
Bangladesh is a Muslim-majority country, which gained independence through a secession from Eastern Pakistan in 1971. It is among the countries with the highest population density in the world. Christians are about 0.5 percent and Catholics 0.3. In the Consistory of November 19, 2016, Pope Francis created the first Cardinal of Bangladesh, in the name of Archbishop Patrick D’Rozario, Archbishop of Dhaka.
This apostolic journey also presents itself as a journey to the outskirts of the outgoing Church, towards the geographical and existential peripheries, which Pope Francis made us accustomed to. He is returning to Asia after apostolic journeys to the Republic of Korea (2014), and the Philippines and Sri Lanka (2015), as well as to the Holy Land and Turkey (2014) and Central Asia – Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia (2016).