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Myanmar welcomes new priests amid conflict

Cardinal Charles Bo, who presided over the priestly ordination, hailed them as a blessing and hope for the wounded nation

Myanmar welcomes new priests amid conflict

Smoke and fire rise from Thantlang town in Myanmar's Chin state after shelling by military forces on Oct. 29, 2021. (Photo: AFP)

Published: March 21, 2022 05:10 AM GMT

Updated: March 21, 2022 06:55 AM GMT

The Catholic Church in Myanmar has welcomed 13 new priests who were hailed as a blessing and hope for the minority Christian community in the conflict-torn nation.

Cardinal Charles Bo presided over the priestly ordination concelebrated with two auxiliary bishops, John Saw Yaw Han and Noel Saw Naw Aye, at St. Mary’s Cathedral in Yangon on March 19.

The newly ordained priests are from the Archdiocese of Yangon, dioceses of Pathein and Pyay, and the religious congregations of the Society of Jesus and the order of Friar Minor.

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Cardinal Bo hailed them as a blessing and hope for the wounded Church in Myanmar, where thousands are displaced and millions struggle for their daily survival faced with uncertainty and turmoil due to the Covid-19 pandemic and the political turmoil since the military coup in February 2021.

The cardinal invited the new priests to become “wound healers” for the people of Myanmar and to help usher in “a new dawn of hope” for the nation.

“You are called to serve the people who are oppressed and weak. You also have a duty as the army of God to bring justice and human dignity,” Cardinal Bo said in his homily.

Churches have been attacked, clergy arrested and thousands of fellow community members displaced as a result of the military junta’s combat operations

The minority Catholic community in Myanmar has more than 1,000 priests, around 2,000 religious nuns and hundreds of catechists serving in the 16 dioceses across the country.

Churches have been attacked, clergy arrested and thousands of fellow community members displaced as a result of the military junta’s combat operations.

At least four dioceses — Loikaw, Pekhon, Hakha and Kalay — of the 16 have been severely affected by conflict.

Myanmar’s military has used airstrikes and heavy weapons in the escalating fighting with the combined forces of ethnic armed groups and recently emerged people’s defense forces in Kayah, southern Shan, Chin, Karen and Kachin states.

At least 1,600 people including Christians have lost their lives in brutal killings by the military and over 12,000 have been detained since the coup.

The junta has ignored repeated calls by world leaders including Pope Francis to end violence and return to the negotiation table and achieve peace.

Civilians from ethnic regions, including the predominantly Christian areas, have borne the brunt of the recent conflict where people have historically faced oppression and persecution under decades-old military rule.

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