Pope Francis has said he did not negotiate truths in the meeting with Myanmar’s military leaders including armed forces’ commander in chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing as he met them during his Burma tour.
“I did not negotiate the truth . . . I made sure he understood that old ways are not viable nowadays (and) he received the message,” the Pope told newsmen accompanying him at the papal plane after his departure from Dhaka wrapping up his historic Myanmar and Bangladesh tour.
A CNN correspondent who accompanied the pontiff on board said Francis characterized his “private meeting” with the general as a good conversation, noting that it was specifically requested by the senior general.
According to a Reuters journalist onboard, the Pope strongly hinted that he used the term “Rohingya”, the word Myanmar military detests, during the meeting with the Burmese generals.
“I used words in order to arrive at the message and when I saw that the message had arrived, I dared to say everything that I wanted say,” the Pope said as asked if he used the word Rohingya during the meeting with the military leaders.
The journalists onboard said 80-year-old Francis then gave a reporter a mischievous grin and ended his answer with the Latin phrase “Intelligenti Pauca,” which means “Few words are enough for those who understand”.
Talking to the accompanying newsmen, the Pope also defended his strategy of avoiding the term Rohingya” in Myanmar, saying that he did not want to risk shutting down dialogue with the country’s leaders and believed he got his message across to both the civilian and military leaderships without endangering the dialogue process.
“Had I said that word, I would have been slamming the door . . . (but) what I thought about it was already well known,” Francis said, adding that he mentioned their plight on various occasions from the Vatican.
He added: “For me, the most important thing is that message gets through, to try to say things one step at a time and listen to the responses.”
“I knew that if in the official speeches I would have used that word, they would have closed the door in our faces. But (in public) I described situations, rights, said that no one should be excluded, (the right to) citizenship, in order to allow myself to go further in the private meetings,” he said.
Predominantly Buddhist Myanmar does not recognise the mostly Muslim Rohingya as an ethnic group with its own identity but as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh while reports suggested Myanmar’s Roman Catholic Church authorities had advised him not to say it because it could spark a backlash against Christians and other minority groups.