Pope Benedict XVI added his voice yesterday to calls for Burma's military leaders to peacefully end their crackdown on protesters demanding democracy, as demonstrators took to the streets of several capital cities across the globe to show solidarity.
"I am following with great trepidation the very serious events [in Burma]," the Pope told pilgrims at his summer residence in Castel Gandolfo, outside Rome.
He expressed his spiritual closeness to the "dear" people of Burma during their "painful trial" and asked the entire Catholic church to follow his lead in praying intensely for them. He said he: "strongly hoped that a peaceful solution can be found for the good of the country."
About 3,000 demonstrators marched past Downing Street in central London and called for the international community to step up pressure on Burma's rulers. There were also gatherings in cities such as Newcastle and Brighton, arranged through discussion groups on the internet.
In London, the march was led by a Buddhist monk while various members of the UK's Burmese community, many of whom have fled persecution, carried banners, flags and large portraits of Aung San Suu Kyi. John Jackson, a founding member of the Burma Campaign UK, said he was very hopeful that continuing international pressure would make its mark.
"In Burma, the organisation, discipline and strength of the demonstrations have been the most remarkable thing," he said. "That is what makes me think that this time it is not a movement that will simply just be put down by troops on the streets."
About 800 Burmese nationals and 80 Japanese demonstrated in a downpour in Tokyo, while in Seoul, South Korea, about 300 people joined a protest outside the Burmese embassy.