Vatican defends Pope Francis' decision to avoid using the term 'Rohingya' in Myanmar visit

Pope Francis' decision not to use the term "Rohingya" during his recent three-day visit to Myanmar does not diminish his advocacy for the oppressed Muslim minority, says the Vatican.

(Osservatore Romano / Handout via Reuters)Pope Francis blesses as he arrives to celebrate a Mass with youths at St. Mary's Cathedral, in Yangon, Myanmar November 30, 2017.

During a press conference in Yangon on Nov. 29, Vatican spokesman Greg Burke told the media that Pope Francis' decision to avoid the term "Rohingya" did not mean that his support for them has lessened. When asked for a response on the reported disappointment of international human rights groups over the issue, the veteran journalist acknowledged that they were "entitled to their own opinion," Crux relayed.

"I find it hard to believe [the pope] has lost any moral authority on this," commented Burke. "People are not expected to solve impossible problems."

"I'm very happy that people think the pope is all-powerful, but he's not," he added. "Nobody ever said Vatican diplomacy's infallible."

Burke said it was also possible that Pope Francis might have chosen to talk about certain topics behind closed doors instead of doing so in his public appearances.

Sam Naeem, a Rohingya Muslim who attended the Mass on Wednesday, agreed with Burke. He told Crux that Pope Francis visited Myanmar to bring a message of peace and healing and that he should not be blamed for not using the term "Rohingya."

However, Naeem criticized the government for the "very embarrassing" move of blocking Pope Francis from referring to the Rohingyas.

As he left the country, Pope Francis sent a telegram expressing his appreciation to the people of Myanmar. He thanked President Htin Kyaw and the citizens for welcoming him and offered his prayers for harmony and peace, the Vatican Radio reported.

Meanwhile, the local church in Myanmar defended State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi amidst criticism over her position in the issue of the persecuted Rohingya Muslims

"I think it is right for the Catholic Church to come in a very strong stance for her," said Myanmar Catholic bishops' conference spokesman, Father Mariano Soe Naing. "Two years ago, we couldn't have done this [press conference], we would not have been here, if it were not for the bloodshed in the streets. We need to go on with the democratic reform of this nation."