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In Bangladesh, Pope Francis Gets Closer to Saying ‘Rohingya’

DHAKA — After staying uncharacteristically quiet in Myanmar about the persecution of that nation’s Muslim Rohingya minority, Pope Francis began to find his voice on the humanitarian crisis upon arriving here on Thursday afternoon.

Speaking behind a flower-covered lectern at Bangladesh’s presidential palace, Francis mentioned the plight of “refugees from Rakhine State” and called for “decisive measures to address this grave crisis.”

He said he admired Bangladesh’s sacrifice in extending humanitarian care to the more than 600,000 Rohingya refugees who have streamed across the border to escape the Myanmar military, and noted that this good deed “has also been done before the eyes of the whole world.”

“None of us can fail to be aware of the gravity of the situation,” he said.

Disappointed critics have said that Francis, who has made championing the downtrodden a trademark of his papacy, did not adequately raise such awareness during the first leg of his trip, to Myanmar, from which he departed on Thursday. At a news conference on Wednesday night, the Vatican spokesman bristled at the notion that the pope’s silence on the issue while in Myanmar risked his moral authority.

The Rohingya have suffered systematic murder, rape and forced exile by the Myanmar military and widespread prejudice and occasional violence by nationalist Buddhist monks.

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