Pope Francis (L) shakes hands with Myanmars civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi (R) during their meeting in Naypyidaw on November 28, 2017.
Pope Francis held talks with Myanmar's leader Aung San Suu Kyi on November 28, a pivotal moment in a visit aimed at alleviating religious and ethnic hatreds that have driven huge numbers of Muslim Rohingya from the country. / AFP PHOTO / POOL / MAX ROSSI        (Photo credit should read MAX ROSSI/AFP/Getty Images)
MAX ROSSI/AFP/Getty Images
Pope Francis (L) shakes hands with Myanmars civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi (R) during their meeting in Naypyidaw on November 28, 2017. Pope Francis held talks with Myanmar's leader Aung San Suu Kyi on November 28, a pivotal moment in a visit aimed at alleviating religious and ethnic hatreds that have driven huge numbers of Muslim Rohingya from the country. / AFP PHOTO / POOL / MAX ROSSI (Photo credit should read MAX ROSSI/AFP/Getty Images)
Now playing
01:31
Pope Francis delivers speech in Myanmar
Pope Francis gives his speech during his weekly general audience, at the Vatican, Wednesday, Aug. 29, 2018. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)
Andrew Medichini/AP
Pope Francis gives his speech during his weekly general audience, at the Vatican, Wednesday, Aug. 29, 2018. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)
Now playing
00:36
Pope addresses Ireland's child sex abuse scandal
Pope Francis
CNNI
Pope Francis
Now playing
01:30
Pope Francis speaks out on sex abuse scandal
Pope Francis delivers his speech during his audience for members of the International Pilgrimage of the Ministrants at St Peter's Square on July 31, 2018 in Vatican City. (Photo by Andreas SOLARO / AFP)        (Photo credit should read ANDREAS SOLARO/AFP/Getty Images)
ANDREAS SOLARO/AFP/Getty Images
Pope Francis delivers his speech during his audience for members of the International Pilgrimage of the Ministrants at St Peter's Square on July 31, 2018 in Vatican City. (Photo by Andreas SOLARO / AFP) (Photo credit should read ANDREAS SOLARO/AFP/Getty Images)
Now playing
00:51
Pope on sex abuse report: 'we abandoned the little ones'
Pope Francis prays during a weekly general audience in St Peter's square on May 23, 2018 in Vatican. (Photo by Alberto PIZZOLI / AFP)        (Photo credit should read ALBERTO PIZZOLI/AFP/Getty Images)
ALBERTO PIZZOLI/AFP/AFP/Getty Images
Pope Francis prays during a weekly general audience in St Peter's square on May 23, 2018 in Vatican. (Photo by Alberto PIZZOLI / AFP) (Photo credit should read ALBERTO PIZZOLI/AFP/Getty Images)
Now playing
00:20
Pope declares death penalty inadmissible
MALMO, SWEDEN - OCTOBER 31:  Pope Francis gives a speech during the 'Together in Hope' event at Malmo Arena on October 31, 2016 in Malmo, Sweden. The Pope is on 2 days visit attending Catholic-Lutheran Commemoration in Lund and Malmo.  (Photo by Michael Campanella/Getty Images)
Michael Campanella/Getty Images
MALMO, SWEDEN - OCTOBER 31: Pope Francis gives a speech during the 'Together in Hope' event at Malmo Arena on October 31, 2016 in Malmo, Sweden. The Pope is on 2 days visit attending Catholic-Lutheran Commemoration in Lund and Malmo. (Photo by Michael Campanella/Getty Images)
Now playing
01:38
Gay man: Pope told me 'God made you like that'
On Sunday (April 15) Pope Francis comforted a child who lost his father during a visit to a poor district of Rome, saying God has a "dad's heart".
During a meeting Francis answered questions from children and one of them, Emanuele, was too shy to speak at the microphone so the pontiff decided to invite him onto stage. The child started crying and hugged Francis and whispered his question into the pope's ears, saying he was afraid that his father, who was an atheist, could not go to heaven.
Francis comforted Emanuele and said that it is God who decides who goes to heaven and that, since God has a 'dad's heart', he will not abandon the boy's dad, even if he was not a believer.
The leader of the world's 1.2 billion Catholics visited the parish of St. Paul of the Cross in Rome's Corviale neighbourhood and met with children of the poor district of the Italian capital and celebrated Mass for the parish community.
Reuters
On Sunday (April 15) Pope Francis comforted a child who lost his father during a visit to a poor district of Rome, saying God has a "dad's heart". During a meeting Francis answered questions from children and one of them, Emanuele, was too shy to speak at the microphone so the pontiff decided to invite him onto stage. The child started crying and hugged Francis and whispered his question into the pope's ears, saying he was afraid that his father, who was an atheist, could not go to heaven. Francis comforted Emanuele and said that it is God who decides who goes to heaven and that, since God has a 'dad's heart', he will not abandon the boy's dad, even if he was not a believer. The leader of the world's 1.2 billion Catholics visited the parish of St. Paul of the Cross in Rome's Corviale neighbourhood and met with children of the poor district of the Italian capital and celebrated Mass for the parish community.
Now playing
01:03
Boy asks pope if atheist father is in heaven
Mountain Butorac
Now playing
01:36
Watch boy who survived cancer get Pope's kiss
Pope Francis marries flight attendants Carlos Ciuffardi, left, and Paola Podest, center, during a flight from Santiago, Chile, to Iquique, Chile, Thursday, Jan. 18, 2018. Pope Francis celebrated the first-ever airborne papal wedding, marrying these two flight attendants from Chile's flagship airline during the flight. The couple had been married civilly in 2010, however, they said they couldn't follow-up with a church ceremony because of the 2010 earthquake that hit Chile. (L'Osservatore Romano Vatican Media/Pool Photo via AP)
L'Osservatore Romano Vatican Media/Pool Photo via AP
Pope Francis marries flight attendants Carlos Ciuffardi, left, and Paola Podest, center, during a flight from Santiago, Chile, to Iquique, Chile, Thursday, Jan. 18, 2018. Pope Francis celebrated the first-ever airborne papal wedding, marrying these two flight attendants from Chile's flagship airline during the flight. The couple had been married civilly in 2010, however, they said they couldn't follow-up with a church ceremony because of the 2010 earthquake that hit Chile. (L'Osservatore Romano Vatican Media/Pool Photo via AP)
Now playing
01:32
Pope performs impromptu wedding on plane
A general view shows the crowd during the Easter Sunday mass on April 16, 2017 at St Peter's square in Vatican. Christians around the world are marking the Holy Week, commemorating the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, leading up to his resurrection on Easter. / AFP PHOTO / Filippo MONTEFORTE        (Photo credit should read FILIPPO MONTEFORTE/AFP/Getty Images)
FILIPPO MONTEFORTE/AFP/AFP/Getty Images
A general view shows the crowd during the Easter Sunday mass on April 16, 2017 at St Peter's square in Vatican. Christians around the world are marking the Holy Week, commemorating the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, leading up to his resurrection on Easter. / AFP PHOTO / Filippo MONTEFORTE (Photo credit should read FILIPPO MONTEFORTE/AFP/Getty Images)
Now playing
01:03
The outlaw origins of the Catholic Church
Now playing
01:59
Pope's farmer reveals pontiff's favorite food
Mountain Butorac
Now playing
00:46
Little girl tries to steal Pope's hat
Host TV
Now playing
01:20
President Trump, Pope Francis exchange gifts
Pope Francis meets with Polish bishops at Wawel royal castle in Krakow, on July 27, 2016 during World Youth Days.
Pope Francis heads to Poland for an international Catholic youth festival with a mission to encourage openness to migrants. / AFP / WOJTEK RADWANSKI        (Photo credit should read WOJTEK RADWANSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
WOJTEK RADWANSKI/AFP/AFP/Getty Images
Pope Francis meets with Polish bishops at Wawel royal castle in Krakow, on July 27, 2016 during World Youth Days. Pope Francis heads to Poland for an international Catholic youth festival with a mission to encourage openness to migrants. / AFP / WOJTEK RADWANSKI (Photo credit should read WOJTEK RADWANSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
Now playing
01:05
Pope Francis' most memorable moments
Charlene, Princess of Monaco (2-L) kisses the hand of Pope Francis, as her husband Prince Albert II of Monaco (L) looks on prior to a private audience with the pontiff at the Vatican on January 18, 2016.     / AFP / FILIPPO MONTEFORTE        (Photo credit should read FILIPPO MONTEFORTE/AFP/Getty Images)
FILIPPO MONTEFORTE/AFP/AFP/Getty Images
Charlene, Princess of Monaco (2-L) kisses the hand of Pope Francis, as her husband Prince Albert II of Monaco (L) looks on prior to a private audience with the pontiff at the Vatican on January 18, 2016. / AFP / FILIPPO MONTEFORTE (Photo credit should read FILIPPO MONTEFORTE/AFP/Getty Images)
Now playing
01:31
Papal etiquette when meeting the Pope
VATICAN CITY, VATICAN - MARCH 29:  Pope Francis waves to the faithful as he leaves St. Peter's Square at the the end of Palm Sunday Mass on March 29, 2015 in Vatican City, Vatican. On Palm Sunday Christians celebrate Jesus' arrival into Jerusalem, where he was put to death. It marks the official beginning of Holy Week during which Christians observe the death of Christ before celebrations begin on Easter.  (Photo by Franco Origlia/Getty Images)
Franco Origlia/Getty Images Europe/Getty Images
VATICAN CITY, VATICAN - MARCH 29: Pope Francis waves to the faithful as he leaves St. Peter's Square at the the end of Palm Sunday Mass on March 29, 2015 in Vatican City, Vatican. On Palm Sunday Christians celebrate Jesus' arrival into Jerusalem, where he was put to death. It marks the official beginning of Holy Week during which Christians observe the death of Christ before celebrations begin on Easter. (Photo by Franco Origlia/Getty Images)
Now playing
02:01
Things Donald Trump has said about the Pope

Story highlights

Pope Francis is the first pontiff to visit the southeast Asian country

He has been vocal in the past about Myanmar's treatment of Rohingya Muslims

(CNN) —  

In an historic mass to some 150,000 worshipers in Yangon, Myanmar, Pope Francis on Wednesday urged the country’s Catholics to respond to hatred and rejection with “forgiveness and compassion.”

The pontiff’s first visit to the staunchly Buddhist southeast Asian country, and the first ever by a sitting Pope, comes amid allegations of ethnic cleansing of the minority Rohingya Muslims in northern Rakhine State.

In his sermon, the Pope said: “I know that many in Myanmar bear the wounds of violence, wounds both visible and invisible…We think that healing can come from anger and revenge. Yet the way of revenge is not the way of Jesus.”

Squinting in the sun, crowds of Burmese worshipers waved Vatican and national flags while Francis passed them in the Popemobile, as he made his way to the temporary altar at the Kyaikkasan Sports Ground in Yangon.

“Many of you have come from far and remote mountainous areas, some even on foot,” he spoke in Italian to the crowd. “I have come as a fellow pilgrim to listen and to learn from you, as well as to offer you some words of hope and consolation.”

Pope Francis waves to Myanmar Catholic well wishers prior to an open air mass in Yangon on November 29, 2017.
VINCENZO PINTO/AFP/Getty Images
Pope Francis waves to Myanmar Catholic well wishers prior to an open air mass in Yangon on November 29, 2017.

Dressed in pink, Daw Hseng said she left her home in Myitkyina, the capital of Kachin State, around 1,600 kilometers (1,000 miles) from Yangon, nearly a week ago to make it to the Mass in time.

“We slept on the road,” she told CNN. “The train just went direct, we didn’t stop. We rode the whole night.”

Asked about the violence currently endured by the Rohingya Muslims amid ongoing fighting between Muslim militants and Myanmar’s military, she said: “Of course I hope for peace.”

“I want things to become peaceful because it’s not easy. It’s not easy to live and find work and eat. It’s very difficult,” she said.

Thousands of Catholic faithful attend an open air mass held by visiting Pope Francis in Yangon on November 29, 2017.
YE AUNG THU/AFP/Getty Images
Thousands of Catholic faithful attend an open air mass held by visiting Pope Francis in Yangon on November 29, 2017.

Pope Francis will spend three days in Myanmar before he travels to Bangladesh on Thursday, where he’s expected to meet at least a small group of Rohingya refugees while in the capital Dhaka. The last pope to visit Bangladesh was Pope John Paul II in 1986.

Nuns take photos prior to an open air mass by pope Francis in Yangon.
LILLIAN SUWANRUMPHA/AFP/Getty Images
Nuns take photos prior to an open air mass by pope Francis in Yangon.

Avoids saying ‘Rohingya’

One of the biggest challenges facing Pope Francis before he had even set foot in Myanmar was whether he would say the word “Rohingya” when referring to the ethnic minority that has fled southern western Rakhine State en masse to neighboring Bangladesh.

More than 620,000 Rohingya have become refugees since violence broke out in August. They allege that Myanmar’s military has murdered children, raped women and razed villages. Burmese authorities deny the accusations. They say they are targeting militants responsible for killing security personnel after coordinated attacks on police posts in August.

Pope Francis (L) stands with Myanmar's civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi (R) during their meeting in Naypyidaw on November 28, 2017.
MAX ROSSI/AFP/Getty Images
Pope Francis (L) stands with Myanmar's civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi (R) during their meeting in Naypyidaw on November 28, 2017.

Myanmar’s de-facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi has only ever used the term “Rohingya” publicly when referring to the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army or ARSA, the militant group active in the region.

On Tuesday Suu Kyi and Pope Francis both spoke publicly and both avoided controversy.

“Of the many challenges that our government has been facing, the situation in the Rakhine has most strongly captured the attention of the world,” Suu Kyi said. “It is the aim of our Government to bring out the beauty of our diversity and to make it our strength, by protecting rights, fostering tolerance, ensuring security for all.”

Pope Francis’ comments would likely disappoint human rights activists who, together with foreign diplomats, including US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, have condemned Myanmar and accused its military of ethnic cleansing.

On Tuesday, Francis didn’t specifically address allegations of ethnic cleansing, but said religion has an important role to play in solving the crisis.

“The arduous process of peace-building and national reconciliation can only advance through a commitment to justice and respect for human rights,” he said, according to a translation provided by the Vatican.

Journalist Manny Maung reported from Yangon, CNN’s Jamie Tarabay reported and wrote from Hong Kong.