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Pope Francis on Friday celebrated a huge open-air mass and ordained 16 Bangladeshi priests on the second day of his historic three-day visit to the Muslim-majority country. The 80-year-old pontiff, who arrived in an open popemobile, led the service at Dhaka's main Suhrawardy Udyan park in the presence of over 80,000 Catholic Christians, who make up 0.02 per cent of the country's 160 million population. Pope thanked those who came out for the mass, noting that some people had travelled two days to attend. "Thank you for your generosity... this indicates the love that you have for the church," the pope said. He sought blessings for the newly ordained priests. The rituals started at 10:45 AM and ended just after 12 PM (local time), when the pope left the park. The ceremony, also attended by foreign diplomats and government leaders, mirrored the ordination mass at the same park which Pope John Paul II celebrated during his Bangladesh visit in 1986. Pope Francis arrives to celebrate mass and the ordination of new priests at the Suhrawardy Udyan park, in Dhaka, Bangladesh | AP/PTI In the same park, Bangladesh's founder Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman delivered a speech laying the groundwork for the country's independence in a decisive moment for the country on March 7, 1971. The pope is also expected to host an interfaith peace prayer alongside Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist and other Christian leaders at the archbishop's residence later today. He is expected to meet a group of Rohingyas at another church and meet Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina at the Vatican embassy. Yesterday, a red carpet welcome was accorded to the pope who arrived here on a special plane after wrapping up his Myanmar tour.
A contingent of Bangladesh's armed forces gave him a guard of honour. It is the second leg of pope's tour to the region amid the heightened Rohingya crisis. About 620,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled Myanmar's Rakhine State to Bangladesh since August to avoid military crackdown at their home. Rohingyas, who have faced persecution and discrimination in Myanmar for decades, are denied citizenship. Though they lived there for generations, the situation worsened in August when the army began what it called clearance operations in the northern Rakhine state following attacks on security positions by Rohingya militants.