The bishops of Myanmar (formerly Burma) urge the country’s Catholic minority to fast and especially pray for peace in the country, as a military coup had just overthrowen the ruling power on February 1, 2021.
At the request of Cardinal Charles Bo, Archbishop of Rangoon and President of the Myanmar Bishops’ Conference (CBCM), the bishops and heads of religious institutes from the sixteen dioceses in the country called for a special day of prayer, fasting, and adoration on February 7th.
“We urge priests to celebrate Masses on February 7, with the intention of bringing peace to the country, calling all Catholics to participate in special prayers, fasting, and adoration,” said the signed press release by the Secretary General of the CBCM, Msgr. John Saw Yaw Han.
The Episcopal Conference also called on the bishops to relay in their homilies Cardinal Bo’s recent message to the people of Myanmar, the military, and the international community.
The leader of the Burmese Catholic Church recalled on February 4 that “politics is a vital area of evangelization because it also aims, like the Church, to lead people towards the common good.”
He also took the opportunity to condemn the coup d’état of February 1, 2021, calling for the abstention from all violence, and the release of all detainees, including leader Aung San Suu Kyi.
Indeed, a little more than ten years after a release which had put an end to her fifteen years of house arrest during the military dictatorship, the former dissident and now State Councilor (the equivalent of a prime minister) of Burma, Aung San Suu Kyi, was arrested by the army, along with many political figures, on February 1st.
By establishing a state of emergency in the country, the Tatmadaw, the armed forces, has just executed its fourth coup in sixty-three years: the military fear that the power they have in Parliament will erode, especially since the victory of “Mother” Suu Kyi—as the Burmese call her—in the last legislative elections.
Catholics in Burma represent 5% of the 57.5 million inhabitants of a predominantly Buddhist country and are considered as second-class citizens. Their involvement in political life is quite low.
In this context, Cardinal Charles Bo wishes to stir things up: known in Burma for never having hidden his support for Aung San Suu Kyi, the high prelate is trying to encourage the Catholic community to come forward more in public life, in order to make the Church more visible.