Bangladesh PM Hasina calls on Pope Francis

Pope Francis speaks at the Presidential palace in Dhaka

Myanmar's government denies the Rohingya are an ethnic group, insisting they are "Bengali" migrants who are not entitled to full citizenship.

But speaking to Muslim, Buddhist and Hindu leaders, Francis praised the country's commitment to religious freedom, which he said "stands as a subtle yet firm rebuke to those who would seek to foment division, hatred and violence in the name of religion". Most Rohingya are stateless and seen as illegal immigrants by Buddhist majority Myanmar.

Through translators, he also spoke to a group of Rohingya refugees from three families, Crux reported, including 12 men, two women in niqabs, and two girls.

Thousands of Catholics from different parts of the country attended the mass prayer seeking harmony and peace in the world.

Mainly-Muslim Bangladesh has a tiny Christian population but they turned out in large numbers for Friday's service, many having queued for hours to get into the park where some 4,000 police and security forces had been deployed.

He is the first pope to visit Bangladesh in 31 years.

"I'll pray for my late husband and parents so that they go to heaven".

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Some 620,000 Rohingyas, who are Muslims originally from Bangladesh, have fled there after a campaign of repression that has spurred a wave of world condemnation, including from the pope.

"We have come to see our great leader".

On Friday, the Pope is expected to meet a group of Rohingya refugees, as well as hold talks with Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.

"It is imperative that the worldwide community take decisive measures to address this grave crisis, not only by working to resolve the political issues that have led to the mass displacement of people, but also by offering immediate material assistance to Bangladesh in its effort to respond effectively to urgent human needs". His Bangladesh visit comes days after a priest, Walter William Rosario, went missing in Natore district, where a Christian businessman was murdered previous year.

Since 2015 at least three Christians, including two converts from Islam, have been hacked to death in attacks blamed on Islamist militants.

Christians make up less than 0.5 percent of officially secular Bangladesh's population of 160 million and community leaders say it has become more hard to practise their faith openly.

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