Pope Francis celebrates Mass in Myanmar

  • Andrew Medichini/Associated Press

    Pope Francis incenses the altar as he celebrates Mass in the Kyaikkasan Ground in Yangon, Myanmar, Wednesday.

  • Andrew Medichini/Associated Press

    Faithful wait for the arrival of Pope Francis to celebrate a mass in the Kyaikkasan Ground, Yangon, Myanmar, Wednesday.

  • Andrew Medichini/Associated Press

    Faithful wait for the arrival of Pope Francis to celebrate a mass in the Kyaikkasan Ground, Yangon, Myanmar, Wednesday.

  • Andrew Medichini/Associated Press

    Pope Francis arrives to celebrate Mass in the Kyaikkasan Ground in Yangon, Myanmar, Wednesday.

  • Gemunu Amarasinghe/Associated Press

    Myanmar Catholics participate in holy mass conducted by Pope Francis Wednesday.

  • Gemunu Amarasinghe/Associated Press

    Pope Francis waves from pope-mobile as Myanmar Catholics wave flags ahed of a Mass Wednesday in Yangon, Myanmar.

Pope Francis preached a message of forgiveness to a huge crowd in his first public Mass in Myanmar, a predominantly Buddhist nation.

The scene at Yangon’s Kyaikkasan Ground park on Wednesday was joyous. Many people dressed in matching outfits or wore hats bearing the pope’s image.

In his homily, Francis referred to the suffering that Myanmar’s ethnic and religious groups have endured, a reference to the decades of conflicts between Myanmar’s ethnic minorities and the military that continue today in parts of the country.

“I know that many in Myanmar bear the wounds of violence, wounds both visible and invisible,” Francis told the crowd in Italian that was translated into Burmese. Although he said the temptation is to respond with revenge, he urged a response of “forgiveness and compassion.”

“The way of revenge is not the way of Jesus,” he said, speaking from an altar erected on a traditional Buddhist-style stage.

Before Mass, Francis looped around the park in his open-sided popemobile, waving to the flag-waving crowds that continued to pour in as the service began. Government and political officials were on hand, as were members of Myanmar’s mostly Christian Kachin minority.

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