Pyay Diocese covers 50,292 square kilometers and the whole Rakhine State, in the extreme west of Myanmar. One township in the extreme Southern Chin State, the extreme northern part of Bago Division has six townships and the extreme southern part of Magwe Division includes six townships.
Pyay Diocese is largely populated by the Rakhines in the Rakhine State and largely populated by the Burmese in Bago and Magwe Divisions. Minority races living in these divisions as well as the state are the Chins, the Kayins and Bangalis who are intermingling with the Burmese and the Rakhines who make up the biggest national races in the diocese of Pyay.
The history of the Diocese of Pyay (until Oct 8, 1991, Diocese of Prome) dates back to the early times when the Portuguese introduced Christianity to the Rakhine (Arakan) State. Dominicans and Jesuits were the first pioneers who worked hard in these areas. There were also the Augustinian Fathers and the Theatine Fathers who spent much of their zeal and energy but without much success. From 1785 to 1852 no missionary work was possible because of the persecution of the missionary priests and very little hope was left. In 1834, West Bengal was erected as a Vicariate; it included Rakhine (Arakan). In 1850, Rakhine (Arakan) was restored to Myanmar (Burma) ecclesiastically under Bishop Balma, the Vicar Apostolic of Ava and Bago (Pegu). In 1870, Rakhine (Arakan) came again under Indian Territory as part of the Diocese of Dacca. The Holy Cross Fathers worked in Rakhine (Arakan) from 1870 to 1875. In 1918, with the end of the World War I the Holy Cross Fathers resumed the Rakhine (Arakan) apostolate. The Bangladesh Mission Sandoway (Thandwe) was opened around the year 1922 and Gyeitkaw in 1928. In 1927, Chittagong became a separate diocese from Dacca, and Rakhine (Arakan) - what is now a parish in the Diocese of Pyay - became part of Chittagong. Ten years later in 1937, the Bangladesh Mission was handed over to the missionaries of Our Lady of La Salette from the United States.
In 1940 the Prefecture Apostolic of Sittwe (Akyab) was erected and Father Thomas Newman appointed as its first Prefect Apostolic. Later on with the approval of Rome the La Salette Missionaries took charge of the Prome-Thayet area and in 1958 Pyay (then Prome) became the centre and the name of the Apoptoplic Prefecture was changed into Prefecture Apostolic of Prome. In 1961, Prome became a diocese and Msgr. Thomas Newman became its first Bishop. He was consecrated by Pope John XXIII in Rome on May 21, 1961.
The La Salette Fathers withdrew from the Mission in 1976 and the administration of the Diocese was handed over to the diocesan clergy with Bishop Joseph Thaung Shwe as the head of it. In 1985, Father Gregory Taik Maung was consecrated a bishop and became the administrator of the diocese. On Oct. 8, 1991, the name of Prome Diocese was changed into Pyay Diocese.
It is hot and humid throughout the year, with temperatures cooling down from late October to February. In summer (March to early May), the temperature goes up to 40-42 degrees Celsius in Pyay.
The main occupation of the Catholics in the diocese is agriculture. The people are traditionally farmers and cultivators. For that reason they are just above poverty line.
For the local people, culture and worship are interwoven. At large, people are spirit worshipers (Animists) since from the time of their ancestors. They have their own social values and customs such as literature, dress, dances, festivals which they are preserving to this very day. Myanmar Buddhist culture (Theravada and Mahayana) dominates the whole area.
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