Catholics welcome new priests in war-torn Myanmar – UCA News

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Hundreds of faithful attend ordination ceremony of 10 new priests and a deacon on Nov 20

Catholics welcome new priests in war-torn Myanmar – UCA News
 Catholics welcome new priests in war-torn Myanmar

This handout photo from the ‘Kantarawaddy Times’ taken on May 24, 2021 shows a damaged church in which four people taking refuge were killed by army shelling in Loikaw in Myanmar’s eastern Kayah state. (Photo: Kantarawaddy Times/AFP)

By UCA News reporter Published: November 21, 2022 06:41 AM GMT

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.

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 along with the relatives of newly ordained priests joined the Holy Eucharist.

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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 homily, Bishop Hla urged the new priests to listen to the words of Christ the King and fulfill the spiritual and physical needs of the people, 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 completely abandoned by priests, nuns and parishioners who fled to safe areas following intensified fighting since May 2021.

At least seven Catholic churches and a convent in the diocese have been hit by artillery shelling and air strikes by Myanmar’s military.

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.

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

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 defense forces in Kayah, Shan, Chin, Karen and Kachin states, which are 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.

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