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Bishop in Myanmar's Catholic stronghold dies at 65

Bishop Stephen Tjephe hailed for leadership, spiritual guidance and fatherly care

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Bishop in Myanmar's Catholic stronghold dies at 65

Bishop Stephen Tjephe died in Loikaw on Dec. 16. (Photo: CBCM OSC)

Catholics in Kayah state, a stronghold of Catholicism in Myanmar, are mourning the death of an ethnic Kayah bishop.

Bishop Stephen Tjephe of Loikaw died in a hospital in Loikaw, the capital city of Kayah state, on Dec. 16. He was 65.

Bishop Tjephe, who suffered from diabetes, was in a critical condition and admitted to hospital on Dec. 5. He had been in a coma since then.

His funeral service will be held at the Christ the King Cathedral in Loikaw on Dec. 18 with limited numbers in compliance with coronavirus guidelines from health officials.

Bishop Justin Saw Min Thide of Hpa-an in eastern Myanmar said Bishop Tjephe’s death was a great loss for Loikaw Diocese as well as for the Myanmar Church.

“He was surely respected and beloved, particularly for his leadership, spiritual guidance, fatherly care and as a good shepherd to the people of God in the Diocese of Loikaw,” Bishop Min Thide said.

“We extend our deepest sympathy to all of you, most especially to the entire family members of the deceased bishop who mourn and pray for peace and comfort at this difficult time.”

The late bishop was born on Aug. 1, 1955, and was ordained as a priest on March 28, 1984. He was ordained as an auxiliary bishop on Nov. 21, 2009.

He was appointed as bishop of Loikaw on Nov. 15, 2014, and his installation was on Jan. 11, 2015.

He was the chairman of the Episcopal Commission for Clergy at the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Myanmar.

Kayah state is regarded as a stronghold Catholicism in Myanmar and ethnic groups such as the Kayah, Kayan, Kayaw reside in the green remote, under-developed and mountainous region. About 90,300 Catholics live in a state with a population of 355,000.

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