Health workers take part in an anti-coup protest in Mandalay on Feb. 9. (Photo: UCA News)
Pope Francis has urged Myanmar’s military to release detained political leaders while condemning last week’s coup.
His appeal came during his address to ambassadors from across the world in the Vatican on Feb. 8.
He said the path to democracy undertaken in recent years was “brusquely interrupted by last week’s coup d’etat.”
“This has led to the imprisonment of different political leaders who I hope will be promptly released as a sign of encouragement for a sincere dialogue aimed at the good of the country,” the pope said.
It’s the second time the pope has spoken about the coup. On Feb. 7, he expressed his solidarity with the people of Myanmar and called on Myanmar’s leaders to work for the common good and harmonious and democratic coexistence.
Pope Francis made a first historic visit to Myanmar in November 2017 and regards the country with much affection.
During that visit, the pope had an unscheduled meeting with military chief Min Aung Hlaing in Yangon ahead of an official meeting with civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi and the president in Naypyitaw. The pope told Min Aung Hlaing to work for peace, according to church sources.
The pope’s concern over the Myanmar crisis comes as nationwide protests intensify against the coup and the removal of Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy-led government.
From commercial hub Yangon in the south to the Christian stronghold of northern Myanmar, thousands of people took to the streets on Feb. 8 to show defiance to military rule.
State-run television warned on Feb. 8 evening that action must be taken according to the law against offenses that disturb, prevent and destroy state stability, public safety and the rule of law.
Gatherings of more than five people were banned and a curfew imposed from 8pm to 4am in the townships of Yangon and Mandalay.
Despite warnings, thousands of people including teachers and doctors took to the streets in Yangon and Mandalay in the latest protests on Feb. 9.
The UN Human Rights Council will hold a special session on the Myanmar crisis following a call by Britain and the European Union.
“The Church is aware that her essentially religious mission includes defending and promoting human rights,” Cardinal Charles Bo of Yangon said in a tweet on Feb. 8.
The outspoken Catholic leader has called for the release of Suu Kyi and other detained leaders and to pursue dialogue.
Cardinal Bo has posted several messages about justice, human rights and peace while sharing photos of priests and nuns supporting peaceful anti-coup protests.