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Pope Francis: ‘I too kneel on the streets of Myanmar and say stop the violence’

Pope Francis at his general audience address in the library of the Apostolic Palace March 17, 2021 Pope Francis at his general audience address in the library of the Apostolic Palace March 17, 2021/ Vatican Media

Pope Francis made an emotional appeal Wednesday for an end to violence against protesters in Burma.

“Once again and with great sadness, I feel the urgency to speak about the tragic situation in Myanmar, where many people, mostly young people, are losing their lives to give hope to their country,” Pope Francis said at the end of his general audience on March 17.

“I also kneel in the streets of Myanmar and say: ‘stop the violence.’ I too stretch out my arms and say: ‘may dialogue prevail.’”

The pope made reference to a striking image circulating around social media this month of a Catholic nun in Burma kneeling before police, begging them not to use violent force against people protesting the sudden military coup which overtook the country on Feb. 1.

At least 149 people have been killed in Burma since security forces began a crackdown on the protest movement, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.

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“Blood does not solve anything. Dialogue must prevail,” Pope Francis said.

It is the fourth time that the pope, who visited the Southeast Asian country in 2017, has spoken publicly of his concern about the violent aftermath of the coup.

The pope made an appeal to the international community on March 3 to “ensure that the aspirations of the people of Myanmar are not stifled by violence.” In his speech to all the diplomats accredited to the Holy See in early February, Pope Francis expressed his wish that “the path towards democracy taken in recent years by Myanmar may be resumed through the concrete gesture of the release of the various political leaders imprisoned.”

In his general audience address, offered via live broadcast from the Vatican’s Apostolic Palace due to Italy’s coronavirus lockdown, the pope spoke about the importance of the Holy Spirit in one’s prayer life.

“Every time that we begin to pray to Jesus it is the Holy Spirit who draws us on the way of prayer by his prevenient grace. Since he teaches us to pray by recalling Christ, how could we not pray to the Spirit too? That is why the Church invites us to call upon the Holy Spirit every day, especially at the beginning and the end of every important action,” the pope said, quoting the Catechism.

Pope Francis said that the Holy Spirit “writes the history of the Church and the world.”

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“The first task of Christians is indeed to keep alive this flame that Jesus brought to the earth, that is, the Love of God, the Holy Spirit. Without the fire of the Spirit, the prophecies are extinguishes, sorrow supplants joy, habit substitutes love, and service turns into slavery,” the pope said.

“The image of the lighted lamp next to the Tabernacle, where the Eucharists is kept, comes to mind. Even when the church empties and darkness falls, even when the church is closed, that lamp remains lighted, and continues to burn; no-one sees it, yet it burns before the Lord. Thus the Spirit in our heart is always present, like that lamp.”

At the end of his virtual audience, the pope also appealed for Paraguay, where police have clashed with protesters, who took to the streets over the government’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.

“Through the intercession of Our Lady of Miracles of Caacupé, I ask the Lord Jesus, Prince of Peace, that a way of sincere dialogue can be found to find adequate solutions to the current difficulties, and thus build together the long-awaited peace,” Pope Francis said.

“Remember that violence is always self-destructive. With it, nothing is gained, but much is lost -- sometimes everything.”

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