Pope says he symbolically kneels in plea for Myanmar peace

Anti-coup protesters test improvised weapons made to fight with government security forces in Yangon, Myanmar, Wednesday, March 17, 2021. (AP Photo) (Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

VATICAN CITY – Pope Francis on Wednesday appealed for bloodshed to end and dialogue to prevail in Myanmar, saying he symbolically kneels in that country's streets, where protests against the military takeover were continuing and the death toll has mounted.

At the end of his traditional public comments to faithful worldwide, Francis said “yet again, and with so much sadness,” he felt the need to “evoke the dramatic situation in Myanmar, where so many persons, above all young people, are losing their life to offer hope to their country.”

In an apparent reference to widely broadcast images of a nun in Myanmar, kneeling in the street in front of armed security forces, Francis said, “I, too, kneel on the streets of Myanmar and say: may violence cease; I, too, extend my arms and say: may dialogue prevail.”

“Blood doesn’t resolve anything, may dialogue prevail,” Francis said, concluding his plea.

The verified death toll among protesters since the Feb. 1 coup ousted the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi has surpassed 200, according to the independent Assistance Association for Political Prisoners. The coup reversed years of slow progress toward democracy in Myanmar.

Because of COVID-19 pandemic precautions, Francis delivered his remarks from the library of the Apostolic Palace without pilgrims or other rank-and-file faithful attending the weekly appointment.