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Pope Francis utters the word 'Rohingya' after criticism

Francis meets Rohingya refugees in Dhaka after coming under fire for failing to mention them in a speech in Myanmar.

Francis shakes hands

Pope Francis has uttered the word "Rohingya" on a trip to Bangladesh, where hundreds of thousands of Rohingya refugees from Myanmar have sought safety.

Critics had decried his avoidance of speaking about the months-long persecution of the Rohingya during his four-day visit to Myanmar.

But as he met a multi-faith group in Dhaka on Friday, at St Mary's Cathedral, he told refugees: "The presence of God today is also called Rohingya."

In the past, Francis - whose papacy so far has been widely characterised by advocacy for refugees and vulnerable minorities - has repeatedly condemned violence against the mostly Muslim minority, calling them "our Rohingya brothers and sisters" and labelling the Christians who refuse to treat them humanely as "hypocrites".

But he came under fire after meeting with Myanmar's de facto leader, Aung Sang Suu Kyi, and failing to mention the minority in his speech.

More than 600,000 Rohingya have fled to neighbouring Bangladesh in fear of abuses by Myanmar soldiers.

The ethnic group is subject to a raft of discriminatory measures by Myanmar's government, such as being deprived of citizenship.

Journalists and human rights groups have documented widespread rape, killing, and destruction of homes by government troops but Aung San Suu Kyi has yet to recognise the atrocities and condemn the Myanmar military.


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