When a diocese or church asks its faithful to dress correctly for Mass, you would expect the older parishioners to nod their heads in approval. But in the archdiocese of Yangon, it has been surprisingly well accepted by young people too. The archdiocese recently published an announcement calling for men to dress decently in shirts with collars and for women to cover their heads in church. Archbishop Charles Bo was prompted to make the appeal after a trip to South Korea last month. “I was very surprised to see all the women wearing veils during the church celebration,” he says. “Koreans have been greatly influenced by IT and modern technology, but they still observe the traditions and teachings of the Church.” “I’m not forcing our parishioners, but asking them to keep our culture and show respect when they come to worship.” Thomas Hla Sein 20, the youth leader of Our Lady of Fatima Church in Yangon, agrees with the archbishop. “It’s good to remind people about this, especially the young, because the majority of the younger generation try to follow and act according to the modern world.” Angelica Nu War Aung, an 18-year-old from the same parish, is also in favor. “I used to go freestyle, so I could take it easy and go shopping and meet my friends after the Mass, as it is a holiday,” she says. “In fact I only used a veil for my first Communion and my Confirmation day. But now it’s become normal and habitual to go to Church without a veil and most of us youngsters don’t clearly understand the significance of using them.” The archbishop has also requested parishioners to clean their mouths and hands for Mass, especially if they plan to receive Communion. “We want people to have a clear intention when they come to church, by making the right external preparation,” says Fr. Aye Thaung, head of the archdiocese’s liturgy commission. “Jewish and Muslim people wash their hands and feet when entering their place of worship. Coming to church is not the same as going to a fashion show, so we need to have respect for God and for other church goers.” Speaking for the older generation, 60-year-old Rosy thinks that parents have a major role to play. “I really do agree with the bishop’s request and repeated reminders are essential during Sunday Mass,” she says. “But young girls are not familiar with veils and parents need to show them good examples.” “The Church’s influence over young people is very dim,” says one other middle-aged parishioner. “Advocacy is essential so they follow the instruction of the Church.”
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