Nov. 27 (UPI) -- Pope Francis visited Myanmar Monday to call for peace, as tens of thousands of Rohingya Muslims trample the country's borders to escape what's been classified as a humanitarian catastrophe there.
The pope arrived in Myanmar before continuing on to neighboring Bangladesh, where more than 600,000 Rohingya have so far fled to get away from violence in the western state of Rakhine.
Hundreds of schoolchildren greeted the pope on the tarmac, chanting "Viva il Papa." Monday's arrival marked the first ever visit to Myanmar by any pontiff.
Yangon Cardinal Charles Bo said Pope Francis "has to be very careful about what terms he will use" so "we request him just to refrain from using the word Rohingya."
The Vatican's official motto for the papal visit is "love and peace."
"The whole of Myanmar is waiting to see with us our dear Holy Father Francis," Bo said.
"He'll arrive at a moment in which the country is in the news because of the migration of thousands of people. There's a great hope that his presence touches everyone's heart turning the country into a lasting peace."
The pope has previously been vocal about the persecution of Rohingya Muslims in the Rakhine State, asking that they be given "full rights."
Prior to leaving for Myanmar, the pope said he was headed there to "encourage the small but fervent Catholic community and meet believers of diverse religions."
Although Myanmar is predominantely a Buddhist nation, nearly 700,000 Catholics are estimated to live there -- comprising less than 1.5 percent of the population.
The crisis began in August as violence against the Rohingya minority by Myanmar's military erupted, causing hundreds of thousands to escape to Bangladesh. The violence reportedly included government security forces raping and killing members of the minority group, an act termed "ethnic cleansing" by both the United Nations and the United States.