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, Reuters reports.
Francis, who visited Myanmar in 2017, has repeatedly denounced the coup and on Sunday held a special service for the Myanmar faithful in St Peter’s Basilica.
Myanmar is a predominantly Buddhist country and is home to fewer than 800,000 Roman Catholics.
“Your beloved country of Myanmar is experiencing violence, conflict and repression,” the pope said in a toughly worded homily.
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”.
He also urged the people of Myanmar not to yield to “the logic of hatred and vengeance”, nor to compromise their values. Unity is vital, he said.
Since the coup, the junta has struggled to govern. Protests, strikes and a civil disobedience campaign have crippled businesses and the bureaucracy, while an armed resistance has also caused chaos in the northwest of the country.
The military has claimed its takeover was aimed at protecting democracy after a November election that it said was marred by fraud. The country’s electoral commission rejected the military’s claims of irregularities.
Francis also denounced the renewed violent conflict between Israelis and Palestinians, which has erupted this week with a surge of deadly air attacks which mark the most violent clashes between Israel and Hamas since the 2014 Gaza War.
The pontiff called the violence “unacceptable” during his Sunday blessing, the Associated Press reported.
He said the deaths of children in particular signals “they don’t want to build the future but want to destroy it”.
The pope also appealed for peace in a tweet on Sunday, reiterating his particular compassion for young victims.
“Let us pray constantly that the Israelis and Palestinians may find the path of dialogue and forgiveness,” he wrote.
Most recently, Israeli airstrikes on Sunday alone killed at least 42 people according to the AP, the deadliest single attack in the latest round of violence.