Facing heavy criticism for failing to mention Rohingya refugees by name in Myanmar, Pope Francis explained his controversial decision on Saturday, saying that he did not want to risk shutting down dialogue with the country’s leaders, CNN informs.
“Had I said that word, I would have been slamming the door. What I thought about it was already well known,” the Pope told journalists on the flight back from Bangladesh, adding that he mentioned their plight on various occasions from the Vatican.
The Pope added that in his private meetings he was able to go beyond his public words. “I didn’t have the pleasure of slamming the door publicly, a denouncement, but I had the satisfaction of dialogue,” the Pope said.
The Pope said he was initially annoyed that the Rohingya were not treated properly by some of the event organizers who put them in a single-file line and rushed them through their meeting. Listening to their stories one by one, the Pope said he felt moved to make some spontaneous remarks.
“I don’t know what I said but I know at a certain point I asked for forgiveness. I was crying. I tried to hide it; they were crying, too.” the Pope said.
Francis characterized his private meeting with Myanmar’s Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, commander in chief of Myanmar’s armed forces, as a good conversation, noting that it was specifically requested by the senior general.
“I did not negotiate the truth. I made sure he understood that old ways are not viable nowadays. He received the message,” the Pope stressed.