RANGOON—The sight of Pope Francis greeting about 100,000 Burmese pilgrims on Wednesday was deeply moving, even for a long-since-lapsed Catholic like myself. Some of the pilgrims had journeyed for days down dirt roads and dilapidated mountain highways to reach the weather-beaten pavilions of Kyaikkasan Grounds, which once held a racetrack frequented by Burma’s moneyed elite. The first pilgrims had begun assembling at midnight and had sweated through a stifling morning, but the arrival of Pope Francis dispelled the torpor. Waving the flags of Burma and the Vatican, the faithful cheered as the pontiff graced them with his customary benevolent wave.
Two years ago, the Catholic Church celebrated its 500th anniversary in Burma and the first ever appointment of a Burmese cardinal.