Pope Francis’ visit to Myanmar | Sunday Observer

Pope Francis’ visit to Myanmar

I want to visit and embrace all the people and encourage the building of an inclusive society.

That and much else in the same vein is what His Holiness Pope Francis said as he set out on his very recent visit to mostly Buddhist Myanmar and Muslim Bangladesh.

Turning to much better thoughts

This cat’s title for this Sunday’s chat may cause surprise and surmise in her readers. Is the cat getting feline rabies, they may well ask or has she gone bonkers? Nein, she shouts! Why the conjectures? Because, this cat has never gone overseas before. Her comments have been confined geographically to this island home of cats and all other humanity calling themselves Sri Lankan, as they should. However, this Sunday she is ready to pontificate on one of the holiest and gentlest men alive in the whole wide world - Pope Francis, the 266th and current Pope of the Catholic Church, a title he holds ex officio as Bishop of Rome, and sovereign of Vatican City. Incidentally, he chose Francis as his papal name in honor of Saint Francis of Assisi – that saint who suffered all animals to come unto him as he loved them dearly. So does Pope Francis - loves ‘em all, animals and humans.

What was this cat’s reason to switch to a good and holy man and to travel overseas in thought, to write her piece? Because she is sick to the gills, oops! nay whiskers, of the endless read-about bonds and corruption and listen to people, all know-alls, shouting about these.

Diplomacy at the highest level

His Holiness the Pope tread carefully and diplomatically into the minefield that is Myanmar now, this last Monday. In a first papal visit to the country, the Pope met with Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing, the commander in chief of Myanmar’s military, which has driven more than 620,000 Rohingya Muslims out of the country in what the United States has called a ‘campaign of ethnic cleansing.’ He met with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, the Nobel Peace Prize laureate and de facto leader of the government, on Tuesday. She has been widely criticized as a complicit, for her silence in the face of the slaughter. Her hands are severely tied, however, as she walks a tightrope with the army watching closely and Myanmar having democracy as a touch-and-go process.

His Holiness the Pope was in the country to meet his tiny flock of adherents, striking a careful balance by maintaining his moral authority without endangering his followers in the country. Thus was evident the highest level of decent diplomacy. Not once, it is reported, did he mention the word Rohingya, though others, including the UN, have denounced the murder, rape and pillaging of these Muslims in western Myanmar as ethnic cleansing, but the Pope was apparently advised by the Roman Catholic Church in the country not to utter the word Rohingya, for fear of aggravating the situation or of being exploited for domestic politics. Not that His wise Holiness needs such advice, he being the soul of knowing what to say. What he does is showing absolutely unbiased love for humans, especially, those poor and depressed. And he chooses to visit conflicted countries to spread the message of tolerance and mercy not by preaching but by his very demeanour.

Born on December 17, 1936, in Flores, Buenos Aires, Argentina, he is the ninth-oldest Pope having been 76 years at election. But, he has travelled much and been a very welcome guest in all countries he visited. This feline remembers his visiting Sri Lanka and people of all religions flocking to see and hear him at Mass on Galle Face Green. He walked out actually touching people’s heads – the sick, the maimed, the unkempt, the hair-oiled. (In sharp contrast to a politician. It was rumoured that the politico who loved to show the common touch by holding babies aloft – much to the toddlers discomfort - would approach only the marked child, it having been shampooed and bathed and perfumed and of course, very firmly pamper-panty sealed!!)

A much respected person not invited

Which brings this feline’s mind to another great good man of religion who is said to have expressed some time ago his desire to visit the Buddhist sites that munificently dot our island. Yes, I speak of his Holiness the Dalai Lama, leader of the Tibetan Buddhists and much revered person worldwide, except in China of course. Being so tied up with China economically, we in Sri Lanka have had our leaders complying with them. The Dalai Lama has not been invited. President Obama defied the unsaid censorship of the Holy Personage and invited him to White House. America can cock a snook, not tiny poor us.

The weather, oh the weather!

This feline crept into bed on Wednesday night with a blanket, yes a blanket, and gloomy thoughts of how people must be suffering in coastal huts and frail dwellings. The wind was raging outside. Too cruel to think of the homeless, mercifully much less now. The Disaster Management Department has swung into action with warnings being sounded and TV news at 9.30 had a Red Alert. It’s El Nino this cat mutters without actually knowing the meaning of her mutter. So she googled and retrieved this:

“El Niño is the warm phase of the Southern Oscillation (commonly called ENSO) and is associated with a band of warm ocean water that develops in the central and east-central equatorial Pacific and the displacement of normally cold water.‎- La Niña is sometimes referred to as the cold phase of ENSO and El Niño as the warm phase.” We cannot be complacent that El Nino is so far away, for “These deviations from normal surface temperatures can have large-scale impacts not only on ocean processes, but also on global weather and climate, which can result in intense storms and droughts at the same time.” Sri Lanka suffered this phenomenon recently. The Pacific phenomenon has gone on for thousands of years but now intensified by global warming et al.

Say fifty years ago and beyond, we suffered floods and landslides ever so infrequently. Now, it’s entirely different, nature’s sudden rages augmented by man’s misuse of natural resources. Thus we suffer.