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Pope Francis to meet top Buddhist monks, military leaders and Aung San Suu Kyi during Myanmar trip

(Reuters/Andreas Solaro/Pool)Pope Francis looks on during a private audience with German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier (not pictured) at the Vatican October 9, 2017.

Pope Francis will be meeting meet top Buddhist monks, military generals and civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi in Myanmar when he visits the country and Bangladesh in November.

During his visit, the pope will say two Masses in Buddhist-majority Myanmar and one in Bangladesh, which is predominantly Muslim, according to a full program of the Nov. 26–Dec. 2 trip released by the Vatican on Tuesday.

Both countries are at the center of a refugee crisis that has seen the displacement of 520,000 Rohingya Muslims. Hundreds of thousands of Rohingya have reportedly fled from Myanmar to Bangladesh to escape Myanmar's crackdown on the minority group.

The itinerary makes no mention of a papal meeting with Rohingya in either country, but the pontiff is likely to refer to the issue when he addresses Suu Kyi, government officials and Myanmar's diplomatic corps in the political capital, Nay Pyi Taw, on Nov. 28.

On Nov. 29, Francis will be meeting with the Sangha supreme council of Myanmar's Buddhist monks, which is one of the most socially and politically influential institutions in the country, according to ABC News.

The pope has previously denounced the "persecution of our Rohingya brothers" on several occasions from the Vatican. In February, he said that the minority group had been tortured and killed simply because they wanted to live their culture and their Muslim faith.

In August, Francis asked Catholics to pray for Rohingya, and insisted that they should be given "their full rights."

Myanmar's offensive against the minority group has drawn international condemnation, with the United Nations describing it as "textbook ethnic cleansing."

According to the United Nations refugee agency, there were more than 11,000 Rohingya refugees crossing into Bangladesh from Myanmar on Monday alone.

Myanmar's Catholic cardinal, Charles Maung Bo, has defended Suu Kyi against criticisms over the issue, saying her role is limited by the constitution, adding that the army is the main power-broker in the country.

Maung Bo noted that there are about 700,000 Catholics in the country, out of a population of about 51.4.

Father Mariano Soe Naing, a spokesman for the Catholic Bishop's Conference of Myanmar, said that while the pope will be meeting with the main Buddhist authority, there will be no other interfaith meetings during the visit due to the lack of time. He said that an estimated 200,000 will be attending the mass led by Francis in Kyaikkasan Grounds, a stadium in Yangon, the country's largest city.

Francis will be the first pope to visit Myanmar and the second to visit Bangladesh, where Catholics make up a tiny minority.

Bangladesh, which gained independence from Pakistan in a bloody war in 1971, was visited by Pope John Paul in 1986. Francis is expected to address delicate interfaith relations in the country during an interreligious meeting that will take place in the garden of the archbishops' residence on Dec. 1.

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