Against the milieu of the ongoing Rohingya refugee crisis, Pope Francis has set off on a six-day visit to Myanmar and Bangladesh.
Pope Francis left Rome en route for Yangon, Myanmar's main city and will touch down around 0700 GMT on Monday to make efforts to check the crisis that has seen many of the Rohingya Muslim ethnic minority in the mostly Buddhist Myanmar flee their homes and take sanctuary in filthy refugee camps over the border in Bangladesh.
"I ask you to be with me in prayer so that, for these peoples, my presence is a sign of affinity and hope," Francis told 30,000 believers in St Peter's Square, shortly before the departure.
As I prepare to visit Myanmar and Bangladesh, I wish to send a message of greeting and friendship to everyone. I can't wait to meet you!â€” Pope Francis (@Pontifex) November 25, 2017
Some 620,000 Rohingya have fled from Myanmar's Rakhine state to Bangladesh since August as a result of violence that the UN and the United States have described as ethnic cleansing.
Aides say Francis will seek to encourage reconciliation, dialogue and further efforts to alleviate the crisis following last week's tentative agreement between Myanmar and Bangladesh to work towards a return of some of the Rohingya to Myanmar.
(With Agency inputs)