Pope meets with powerful Myanmar military chief

YANGON, Myanmar (AP) — Pope Francis has met with Myanmar’s powerful military chief and spoken about the “great responsibility” that authorities have in Myanmar’s transition.

The Vatican said the meeting with Gen. Min Aung Hlaing and three officials from Myanmar’s bureau of special operations took place Monday evening at the residence of the Myanmar archbishop and lasted about 15 minutes.

Vatican spokesman Greg Burke didn’t provide details of the private meeting other than to say that “they spoke of the great responsibility of the authorities of the country in this moment of transition.”

Min Aung Hlaing is in charge of military operations in Rakhine state, where security forces have launched a scorched earth campaign against Rohingya Muslims that has forced more than 620,000 to flee to neighboring Bangladesh in what the U.N. says is a campaign of “ethnic cleansing.”

Francis’ meeting with the commander had been scheduled for Wednesday morning, but was moved up to just a few hours after he landed in Yangon on a trip to Myanmar and Bangladesh.