VATICAN CITY: The Vatican and Myanmar established full diplomatic relations on Thursday in the latest step in the former pariah Asian state’s rehabilitation by the international community.
The Vatican said it would appoint a papal nuncio to Yangon and that the country would open an embassy at the Vatican, formally wrapping up an accord approved by Myanmar in March.
The move came as Myanmar’s de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi met Pope Francis on the latest leg of a European tour overshadowed by her country’s treatment of the Rohingya, a persecuted minority Muslim group in the 90-percent Buddhist country.
Pope Francis has spoken out in the past on behalf of the Rohingya while Nobel peace prize winner Suu Kyi has come under fire for not condemning repression of them by her country’s security forces.
Kuu Syi and a small group of officials spent around 20 minutes in Thursday’s audience with the leader of the world’s 1.3 billion Catholics.
Francis presented the former dissident with a bronze medallion with an image of a blooming desert.
Francis denounced the treatment of the Rohingya in February, describing them as “brothers and sisters” who were were being tortured and killed for their faith.
He described the Rohingya as “good and peaceful people who have suffered for years,” and urged Catholics to pray for them.
Estimates of the number of Roman Catholics in Myanmar vary between 500,000 and 800,000.
The Holy See’s request for diplomatic relations dates back to 1990 and, until now, its interests have been represented by an “apostolic delegate” – a rank below a Nuncio or ambassador – with the role filled by the ambassador to neighboring Thailand.