VATICAN CITY: Pope Francis on Sunday (Feb 7) expressed "solidarity with the people of Myanmar" following last week's military coup, urging the army to work towards "democratic coexistence" as protesters took to the streets.
The pope was speaking as tens of thousands of protesters poured on to the streets of Yangon in the biggest rally yet against Monday's military coup.
"I pray that those in power in the country will work... towards the common good," he said from the balcony overlooking St Peter's Square after his recital of the Angelus prayer Sunday.
The pope, who visited Myanmar in 2017, called for "social justice, national stability and harmonious democratic coexistence".
Some estimates put the number of protesters in Yangon at 100,000 and there were reports of large demonstrations in other cities, with rallies condemning the coup that brought Myanmar's 10-year experiment with democracy to a crashing halt.
The surge in popular dissent over the weekend overcame a nationwide Internet blockade, similar in magnitude to an earlier shutdown that coincided with the arrest of ousted leader Aung San Suu Kyi and other senior leaders on Monday.
Online calls to protest have prompted bold displays of defiance, including the nightly deafening clamour of people banging pots and pans - a practice traditionally associated with driving out evil spirits.
Protesters announced that they would return to the streets at 10 am local time on Monday, defying the state of emergency imposed by the military and indicating no let-up in their resistance to the coup.
They also called on civil servants and people employed in other industries to not go to work and join the protests.