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Myanmar observes Marian feast in the midst of airstrikes

On the occasion, devotees prayed for Aung San Suu Kyi whose health has deteriorated and exact location unknown

The grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes in Yangon Archdiocese

The grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes in Yangon Archdiocese. (Photo: Our Lady of Lourdes, Nyaunglebin Parish)

Published: September 08, 2023 11:20 AM GMT

Updated: September 08, 2023 11:24 AM GMT

Despite the violence and continuing army abuses, Catholics in civil war-hit Myanmar celebrated the Feast of the Nativity of Mary on Sept. 8.

 “We hear the bad news on a daily basis, such as people have no homes as they were reduced to ashes and the whole village has been torched,” Myanmar Cardinal Charles Maung Bo said in his homily at the Mass at St. Anthony church in Yangon archdiocese on Sept.8.

We are now “in the midst of suffering and difficult situation that we haven’t expected and wanted,” the cardinal said.

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The 74-year-old cardinal, who also acts as the president of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conference (FABC), stressed, “Mary trusted the Holy One and found courage and faith to go through difficult situations.”

Stay firm on faith and not “lose hope as good days may come in our country,” Bo noted.

Marian devotees, including Hindus, came to St. Anthony church with some of them wearing saffron clothes like Buddhist monks and others barefoot to express humility and devotion.

Thousands of Catholics attended the novena, a nine-day prayer, prior to the feast in various parishes across the Southeast nation on Sept.8.

The feast took place amid worsening conflict where the junta has unleashed airstrikes and artillery shelling against civilians and on places of worship, schools, clinics, and refugee camps in the predominantly Christian states of Chin, Kayah, Kachin and Karen, as well as in the Bamar regions of Sagaing and Magwe regions in central Myanmar.

Armed rebels, including Christians, are fighting against the army that toppled in February 2021 the civilian government of Aung San Suu Kyi, whose health is reported to have worsened recently. 

Detained since the coup, the Nobel Peace Prize winner has been moved from prison to house arrest in the capital Nay Pyi Taw. The exact location, however, is unknown.

One Marian devotee, Dawson, identified by the first name, wrote on social media, “Our Lady of Velankanni [an Asian name for St. Mary], pray for Aung San Suu Kyi and heal all the sufferings of Myanmar.”

Yangon archdiocese is not been hit by the ongoing ethnic conflict, triggered by the military coup on Feb.1, 2021. But the dioceses of Loikaw, Pekho, Hakah, Kalya, and Mandalay are affected.

On the sidelines of the ongoing ASEAN-UN summit in the Indonesian capital Jakarta, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said that the world body was concerned at the “worsening political, humanitarian, and human rights situation” in Myanmar.”

The four-day Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit, which started on Sept. 5, is attended by United States Vice President Kamala Harris and Chinese Premier Li Qiang. Myanmar is a member of the ASEAN.

Massive numbers of refugees are living in “desperate conditions” in Myanmar, Guterres told the media on Sept.7. 

According to the United Nations, nearly 18 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance, 2 million are displaced, and over 15 million people are food insecure in Myanmar.  The Buddhist-majority nation is home to 54.2 million people.

Guterres further said, “I reiterate my urgent call on the military authorities of Myanmar to listen to the aspirations of its people, release all political prisoners, and open the doors to the return to democratic rule.”

In August, the military officially postponed the election it had promised to hold and extended the state of emergency it imposed in the aftermath of the coup. The generals cited violence as the reason for the delay.

In a statement on Sept.6, the summit condemned violence in Myanmar and urged armed forces to stop “targeted attacks on civilians, houses and public facilities, such as schools, hospitals, and markets.”

However, the junta flayed the ASEAN, and said: “The views are not objective and decisions are biased and one-sided.”


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