Pope Francis preached a message of forgiveness to a huge crowd in his first public Mass in Myanmar, a predominantly Buddhist nation.

The scene at Yangon's Kyaikkasan Ground park on Wednesday was joyous. Many people dressed in matching outfits or wore hats bearing the pope's image.

In his homily, Francis referred to the suffering that Myanmar's ethnic and religious groups have endured, a reference to the decades of conflicts between Myanmar's ethnic minorities and the military that continue today in parts of the country.

"I know that many in Myanmar bear the wounds of violence, wounds both visible and invisible," Francis told the crowd in Italian that was translated into Burmese. Although he said the temptation is to respond with revenge, he urged a response of "forgiveness and compassion."

"The way of revenge is not the way of Jesus," he said, speaking from an altar erected on a traditional Buddhist-style stage.

Before Mass, Francis looped around the park in his open-sided popemobile, waving to the flag-waving crowds that continued to pour in as the service began. Government and political officials were on hand, as were members of Myanmar's mostly Christian Kachin minority.

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