Pope Francis refers to Rohingya during Bangladesh meeting

Click to play video: 'Pope meets Myanmar’s Suu Kyi in shadow of Rohingya crisis'
Pope meets Myanmar’s Suu Kyi in shadow of Rohingya crisis
ABOVE: Pope Francis held talks with Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi on Tuesday, on the second day of a visit fraught with tension after the United States had accused the Southeast Asian nation of "ethnic cleansing" against its Muslim Rohingya people – Nov 28, 2017

DHAKA – Pope Francis on Friday used the word “Rohingya” for the first time during his current trip to Asia to refer to refugees who have fled in large numbers from violence in Myanmar.

“The presence of God today is also called Rohingya,” he said in an improvised remark after meeting 16 refugees brought to the Bangladeshi capital Dhaka from their camps in Cox’s Bazar near the border with Myanmar.

“In the name of all of those who have persecuted you, hurt you, I ask forgiveness. I appeal to your large hearts to give us the forgiveness that we are asking,” Francis added.

READ MORE: Pope Francis calls on Myanmar to improve human rights, without mentioning Rohingya

More than 625,000 Rohingya Muslims have run away to Bangladesh since late August following a crackdown by the Myanmar military in response to attacks on security forces by Rohingya militants. Most Rohingya are stateless and seen as illegal immigrants by Buddhist majority Myanmar.

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The pope looked sombre as each member of the group, which included 12 men and four women, including two young girls, told him their stories through interpreters at the end of the gathering.

WATCH: Pope Francis exchanges ‘Popemobile’ for rickshaw in Bangladesh

Click to play video: 'Pope Francis exchanges ‘Popemobile’ for rickshaw in Bangladesh'
Pope Francis exchanges ‘Popemobile’ for rickshaw in Bangladesh

On the first leg of his current trip, in Myanmar, he did not use the word Rohingya to describe the refugees. The term “Rohingya” is disputed by the Yangon government and military.

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