VATICAN CITY: Pope Francis will visit Myanmar and Bangladesh around the end of November, the Vatican announced on Monday (Aug 28).
The leader of the world's 1.2 billion Catholics will visit mainly Buddhist Myanmar on Nov 27-30, and mostly Muslim Bangladesh on Nov 30-Dec 2.
The visit to Myanmar will be the first by any pope to the country formerly known as Burma. Former Pope John Paul II visited Bangladesh in 1986.
On Sunday, Pope Francis appealed for an end to the persecution of the Rohingya minority as fresh fighting erupted in Myanmar's northwestern Rakhine state.
The fighting caused hundreds of civilians to flee remote villages in Rakhine state in northern Myanmar with most of them aiming to cross the border into Bangladesh.
Conducting his weekly Angelus prayer in the Vatican, the Pope expressed his "full closeness" to the Rohingya and urged the faithful to ask God to save them.
"Sad news has arrived over the persecution of the religious minority, our Rohingya brothers. I would like to express my full closeness to them. Let us all ask the Lord to save them, and to elicit men and women of good will to help them, for them to be given their full rights. Let us also pray for our brothers, the Rohingya."
The Vatican said Francis would visit Yangon and capital Naypyidaw while in Myanmar and Bangladesh's capital Dhaka on the second leg of his trip.
The full programme has yet to be finalised.
Earlier this year Francis issued a stinging criticism of atrocities against the Rohingya, saying they had been tortured and killed simply because they wanted to live according to their culture and Muslim faith.