Updated: May 17, 2021 02:16 AM GMT
A protester in Hpakant holds a sign on May 16 that reads 'Stay strong Mindat, Hpakant is behind you' in support of the town in Chin state where a civilian defense force has clashed with the military. (Photo: Kachinwaves/AFP)
Pope Francis has celebrated a Mass for the Myanmar community living in Rome on the Solemnity of the Ascension to pray for peace in the embattled Southeast Asian nation.
The pope’s gesture on May 16 came after he asked the faithful to say a special prayer for military-ruled Myanmar during the Marian month of May with the intention of achieving peace and reconciliation.
“During this month we ask our Heavenly Mother to speak to the hearts of all those who have responsibility in Myanmar so they may find the courage to walk the path of encounter, of reconciliation and of peace,” he said after the recitation of the Regina Coeli prayer on May 2.
“On behalf of the Catholics of Myanmar and all the people of Myanmar, it is my pleasant duty to express our heartfelt gratitude to Our Shepherd,” he said on Twitter.
Pope Francis has spoken several times about the crisis in Myanmar, which he regards with much affection after visiting the country in 2017
“It is very encouraging and a kind of moral support and comfort to us, especially the people in Kachin state who are facing a difficult situation due to daily clashes, airstrikes and bombing,” Bishop Gam told UCA News.
The bishop said it was a privilege to get so much attention from the pope over Myanmar’s crisis and he hoped God would fulfill the mission of the Holy Father in achieving peace in the country.
Pope Francis has spoken several times about the crisis in Myanmar, which he regards with much affection after visiting the country in 2017.
He has also called for military leaders to stop the violence and pursue dialogue toward peace in the conflict-torn nation.
The Catholic Church in Myanmar has attracted global attention through the inspiring example of Sister Ann Rosa Nu Tawng from Kachin state who bravely confronted security forces and pleaded with them not to shoot unarmed civilians in February and March.
Catholics have been involved in peaceful protests, prayer vigils for peace and providing food to pro-democracy protesters.
Nearly 800 people have been killed and more than 3,000 detained since the military coup on Feb. 1.
In the largely Christian states of Kachin and Karen, thousands of people have been displaced by airstrikes and heavy artillery by the military in its conflict with ethnic guerrillas.
The military has stepped up its attacks by using helicopters and artillery against the Chin Defense Force in Mindat, a small town in Chin state in northwest Myanmar. At least five civilians have been killed in Mindat in recent days.