The people of Myanmar must not despair in the face of evil or allow themselves to be divided, Pope Francis said on Sunday at a special Mass for the Myanmar community in Italy.
Myanmar’s military seized power in a Feb. 1 coup, derailing the country’s tentative progress towards full democracy and triggering protests that have been met with a bloody crackdown.
Francis, who visited the Southeast Asian country in 2017, has repeatedly denounced the coup and on Sunday held a special service for the Myanmar faithful in St. Peter’s Basilica.
“Your beloved country of Myanmar is experiencing violence, conflict and repression,” the pope said in a toughly worded homily, urging the congregation to draw inspiration from the final hours of Jesus Christ before his crucifixion.
“He does not resign himself to evil, he does not let himself be overwhelmed by grief, he does not retreat into the bitterness of the defeated and disappointed,” he said.
Myanmar is a predominantly Buddhist country and is home to fewer than 800,000 Roman Catholics.
Francis, who has been one of the most outspoken global leaders on the Myanmar crisis, said people should not lose their faith or hope “even in the dark night of grief, even when evil seems to have the upper hand”.