Pope Francis arrived in Burma on Monday for a four-day visit and was greeted by two dozen children in traditional attire and the nation’s bishops.

The arrival ceremony at the Yangon airport was brief and led by an envoy of the president, because the formal welcome was scheduled for the next day in Naypyitaw, which has been the capital since 2005.

Pope Francis also had a “courtesy visit” with the leaders of the nation’s powerful military. The Pope and General Min Aung Hlaing, who was accompanied by three other generals and a lieutenant colonel, met that first evening in the Yangon archbishop’s residence, where the Pope was staying.

Greg Burke, director of the Vatican press office, told reporters the meeting lasted 15 minutes. The two exchanged gifts after discussions about “the great responsibility authorities in the country have at this moment of transition”.

The Pope gave the general a medal commemorating his visit to Burma and the general gave the Pope a “harp in the shape of a boat and an ornate rice bowl”, Mr Burke said.

Pope Francis had been scheduled to meet the general on Thursday, his last morning in Burma. Although the country is undergoing a transition from military rule to democracy, the general has the power to name some legislators and to nominate government ministers.

​How to continue reading…

This article appears in the Catholic Herald magazine - to read it in full subscribe to our digital edition from just 30p a week

The Catholic Herald is your essential weekly guide to the Catholic world; latest news, incisive opinion, expert analysis and spiritual reflection