Pope Francis celebrates huge outdoor Mass to ordain new priests in Bangladesh

More than 100,000 people attended the Mass in Dhaka’s Suhrawardy Udyan Park, site of a memorial and museum of Bangladesh’s independence from Pakistan in 1971, where Francis arrived in an open popemobile. 

Catholics make up less than one per cent of the population of 169 million people in majority-Muslim Bangladesh. 

“I know that many of you came from afar, for a trip for more than two days,” the Holy Father told the crowd in his homily. 

“Thank you for your generosity. This indicates the love you have for the Church.” 

At an inter-religious gathering later today, the Pope Francis is due to meet 18 Rohingya refugees who have fled to Bangladesh from Burma where authorities have been accused of ethnic cleansing by the United States and United Nations. 

The government denies wrongdoing. 

In calls for peace in the country, he did not use the word Rohingya to describe the refugees, which is contested by the Rangoon government and military. 

The refugees were brought to the Bangladeshi capital from Cox’s Bazar, to where 625,000 Rohingya from Burma’s Rakhine state have fled. 

The exodus followed a military crackdown in response to Rohingya militant attacks on an army base and police posts on August 25. 

Scores of Rohingya villages were burnt to the ground, and refugees arriving in Bangladesh told of killings and rapes. 

On Thursday night, Pope Francis called for decisive measures to resolve the political reasons that caused the refugee crisis and urged countries to help the Dhaka government deal with it.