Despite tensions and violence building up in the western front, the tiny Catholic Church of Myanmar (former Burma) is getting ready to welcome Pope Francis in less than 3 months. The Vatican announced on Aug. 28 that the Pope will make a 2-nation apostolic visit that will first take him to Myanmar, Nov 27 to 30, then to neighbouring Bangladesh, Nov. 30 to Dec. 2.
Tiny but devoted Church
"Myanmar Catholics are looking forward to giving the Holy Father a warm welcome,” said Bishop Alexander Pyone Cho of Pyay. “We are very happy. Ours is a very devoted community, dedicated to prayer and church life," he told told AsiaNews.
Holy See-Myanmar relations
The Holy See and Myanmar established full diplomatic relations between them shortly after a private meeting between Pope Francis and State Counsellor and Foreign Minister of Myanmar, Aung San Suu Kyi in the Vatican on May 4. On August 12, the pontiff appointed Archbishop Paul Tschang In-Nam as apostolic nuncio to the country.
Of Myanmar’s some 51. 4 million mostly Buddhist population, Catholics number only about 700,000, according to the country’s cardinal, Charles Maung Bo, Archbishop of Yangon. Although a small minority, local Catholics rejoiced when they heard the news about the Pope’s visit, Bishop Cho said.
Resurgence of violence
Violence has flared up again in Rakhine state following an Aug. 25 clash between insurgents and security forces. A new wave of Rohingya Muslims is now fleeing into neighbouring Bangladesh.
In Myanmar, Pope Francis will visit Yangon and Nay Pyi Taw. “The places the Holy Father will visit are peaceful, there is no reason to fear for his security," Bishop Cho assured.
Explaining the clashes, he said there are no religious motives behind the violence, but economic interests. "Armed [Muslim] fighters want to seize resource-rich lands belonging to local ethnic groups," he said. (Source: AsiaNews)