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Myanmar

First Kachin bishop in Myanmar dies at 81

Archbishop Grawng was born poor and lived through ferocious war and periods of tears for the Kachin people

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First Kachin bishop in Myanmar dies at 81

Archbishop Paul Zinghtung Grawng of Mandalay was proud of his Kachin roots. (Photo: UCA News)

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Catholics in Kachin state in northern Myanmar and elsewhere are mourning the death of the country’s first Kachin bishop.

Archbishop Emeritus Paul Zinghtung Grawng of Mandalay Archdiocese died in Mandalay, the second-largest city of Myanmar, on Oct. 24. He was 81 years old.

His funeral service will be held in Myitkyina, the capital of Kachin state, on Oct. 27.

He was the first priest as well as the first bishop from the ethnic Kachin community in the Christian stronghold of Kachin state. He succeeded the late Columban Bishop John Howe as bishop of Myitkyina.

Church leaders and Catholics remembered Archbishop Grawng as a softly spoken, kind person who lived a simple life.

“There will never be another one like him. The Kachins, the Catholics and every Burmese with a heart that had space for everyone will miss the prelate,” Cardinal Charles Bo of Yangon said.

He said the late prelate was “a great gift of God to Kachins, Catholics and Myanmar.”

Cardinal Bo said in a message that “for five decades, his wisdom, his intelligence and his inspiring example steadied the Church. His quiet but firm qualities helped in building the Church.”

Archbishop Grawng was born poor and lived through ferocious war and periods of tears and brokenness for the Kachin people, yet he steadied the people through his calmness, fortified by a vibrant faith, the cardinal said.

“Yet his quietness hid a strong character that helped him to pursue priesthood despite many challenges,” Cardinal Bo noted.

He said the late prelate will be remembered for his love for the Kachin people as he was a proud Kachin who loved the Kachin language, culture and food.

“But that had not prevented him from loving other tribes. He was a soothing presence in any church function anywhere, in any tribe,” Cardinal Bo asserted.

Bishop John Saw Yaw Han, general secretary of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Myanmar (CBCM), said Archbishop Grawng was close to his people and understood their sufferings, trials and tribulations.

“We extend our deepest condolences to our dearest priests, religious and faithful of Myitkyina and Mandalay,” Bishop Yaw Han said in a letter.

Archbishop Grawng was born on March 20, 1939. He was ordained a priest on March 27, 1965, and appointed bishop of Myitkyina on April 3, 1976. He was installed as archbishop of Mandalay on June 16, 2003.

He served Mandalay Archdiocese for 11 years until he reached the retirement age of 75 in 2014.

The late prelate served as president of the CBCM and on several commissions. He was also chairman of the philosophy department at St. Joseph's National Catholic Major Seminary in Pyin-Oo-Lwin.

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