Cardinal Bo uses installation of new bishop in civil war-hit nation to urge prelates to lead people towards peace
In this photo taken on March 8, 2023 members of ethnic rebel group Ta'ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) take part in a training exercise at their base camp in the forest in Myanmar's northern Shan State. (Photo: AFP)
Cardinal Charles Maung Bo has renewed the Catholic Church’s call for peace in Myanmar during the installation of a new bishop in the civil war-hit Southeast Asian nation where armed rebels, including Christians, are fighting against the ruling military.
Bo, president of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conference (FABC), urged the country's bishops to lead the people towards peace at the episcopal ordination of Bishop Henry Eikhlein of Pathein in St. Peter’s Cathedral in the Irrawaddy division of southern Myanmar on Aug.25.
“Peace is possible. The only way forward is peace, not with guns and bullets,” Bo said in his homily.
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“The Catholic bishop of Myanmar today is a wounded healer,” the 74-year-old cardinal noted while asserting a new bishop has to be ‘a peacemaker’ to become the shepherd who gives “the bread of the basic needs, the bread of hope, and the bread of human security.”
The cardinal earnestly urged Catholics, who make up 1 percent of the nation's 54 million people, to pray frequently for bishops, including 64-year-old Bishop Eikhlein.
Thousands of Catholics attended the episcopal ordination where Cardinal Bo led the Eucharistic celebration along with Msgr. Andrea Ferrante, Charge d’ Affairs of the Vatican to Myanmar, bishops, and priests.
“The last months have seen unrelenting violence across Myanmar"
Pathein diocese has not been hit by the ongoing ethnic conflict, though the dioceses of Loikaw, Pekhon, Hakha, Kalay, and Mandalay in other parts of the nation are affected.
Some of them in predominately Christian areas, have seen churches, convents, and institutions becoming the prime target of airstrikes and shelling by the ruling military junta.
The cardinal’s renewed call came a day after the United Nations Security Council called on the military, which seized power after toppling the civilian government in February 2021, to end the violence, and expressed deep concern over civilian causalities.
“The last months have seen unrelenting violence across Myanmar. We strongly condemn the killing of civilians and in particular the continued use of airstrikes, and reaffirm the need to respect international law and protect civilians,” said a joint statement by the Security Council on Aug.23.
With the exception of Russia and China, the 13-member council in the statement reiterated its repeated call for “full, safe and unhindered humanitarian access to all people in need” in the strife-torn nation.
Over 18 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance, 2 million are displaced, and over 15 million people are food-insecure in Myanmar, according to the statement.
The military has beefed up its attacks against local militia groups and rebels across the country, using airstrikes and shelling in Chin, Kayah, Karen, and Kachin states as well as the Bamar-heartland of Sagaing and Magwe regions where the junta still faces strong resistance.
The US, a party to the Security Council statement, on Aug. 23 expanded its sanctions on Myanmar. The new curbs will be slapped on foreign firms and individuals who help the military procure fuel for jets that are used to mount airstrikes.
State Department spokesman, Matthew Miller, said while referring to Myanmar by its former name, “This expands our ability to exert pressure on Burma’s military regime while further supporting the people of Burma.”
The United States will continue to seek to deprive the military of the resources to oppress people, Miller said.
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