The Church in Myanmar has welcomed 10 new priests and a deacon as a blessing for the Catholic minority amid the conflict triggered by the military coup in February 2021.
Newsroom (27/11/2022 6:19 PM, Gaudium Press) — Bishop Peter Hla from Pekhon diocese presided over the priestly and diaconate ordination joined by hundreds of priests at Christ the King Cathedral in Loikaw, capital of Kayah state, on Nov. 20.
Hundreds of Catholics and newly ordained priests’ relatives joined the Holy Eucharist.
Among the 11, nine newly ordained priests are from the Diocese of Loikaw, and the other priest and the deacon are from the congregation of the Missionary of Faith.
In the sermon, Bishop Hla urged the new priests to listen to Christ the King’s words and fulfil the people’s spiritual and physical needs, especially the displaced.
“At present, thousands of people have been displaced due to the conflict and they are taking shelter in Loikaw diocese and other dioceses. They are thirsty for the Bible, for justice and peace and for truth,” said the prelate.
“You are chosen by God to become a pastor so try to fulfill the spiritual and physical needs of the displaced people,” he added.
“It is a special day and blessing for the diocese as well as the Church in Myanmar as we get a chance to celebrate the Solemnity of Christ the King and priests’ ordination,” Father Celso Ba Shwe, apostolic administrator of Loikaw diocese, said.
Loikaw diocese is in one of the regions hardest hit by the conflict. Several parishes have been entirely abandoned by priests, nuns and parishioners who fled to safe areas following intensified fighting since May 2021.
At least 170,000 civilians in Kayah state — more than half of its population of 300,000 — have been forced to abandon their homes, according to the Karenni Civil Society Network.
The Catholic community in Myanmar has more than 1,000 priests, around 2,000 religious nuns and hundreds of catechists serving in 16 dioceses.
At least five dioceses — Loikaw, Pekhon, Hakha, Kalay and Mandalay — have been severely affected by conflict.
The military has used air strikes and heavy weapons in the fighting with the combined forces of ethnic armed groups and recently emerged people’s defence forces in Kayah, Shan, Chin, Karen and Kachin states, predominantly Christian areas.
At least 2,500 people have lost their lives in the brutal crackdown on opponents of the regime, and over 16,000 have been detained since the military coup on Feb. 1, 2021.
- Raju Hasmukh with files from UCAN News