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Pope Francis ordains 16 priests in Bangladesh

November 30, 2017 CNA Daily News 0

Dhaka, Bangladesh, Nov 30, 2017 / 10:17 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Celebrating Mass in the Bangladeshi capital on Friday, Pope Francis ordained 16 men to the priesthood.

“Beloved brothers and sisters: because these our sons … are now to be advanced to the Order of priests, consider carefully the nature of the rank in the Church to which they are about to be raised,” he exhorted the crowd in his homily, which is that provided in the Roman Pontifical.

The Dec. 1 Mass was said at Suhrawardy Udyan, a park and national memorial in Dhaka.

“Our great Priest himself, Jesus Christ, chose certain disciples to carry out publicly in his name, and on behalf of mankind, a priestly office in the Church … priests are established co-workers of the Order of Bishops, with whom they are joined in the priestly office and with whom they are called to the service of the people of God,” the Pope preached.

“After mature deliberation, these, our brothers, are now to be ordained to the priesthood in the Order of the presbyterate, so as to serve Christ the Teacher, Priest, and Shepherd, by whose ministry his body, that is, the Church, is built and grows into the people of God, a holy temple.”

He reflected that the newly ordained would be consecrated “to preach the Gospel, to shepherd God’s people, and to celebrate the sacred Liturgy, especially the Lord’s sacrifice.”

Turning to the ordinandi, he said: “For your part, you will exercise the sacred duty of teaching in the name of Christ the Teacher. Impart to everyone the word of God which you have received with joy. Meditating on the law of the Lord, see that you believe what you read, that you teach what you believe, and that you practice what you teach.”

“Let the holiness of your lives be a delightful fragrance to Christ’s faithful, so that by word and example you may build up the house which is God’s Church,” he added.

“Likewise you will exercise in Christ the office of sanctifying. For by your ministry the spiritual sacrifice of the faithful will be made perfect, being united to the sacrifice of Christ, which will be offered through your hands in an unbloody way on the altar, in union with the faithful, in the celebration of the sacraments. Understand, therefore, what you do and imitate what you celebrate. As celebrants of the mystery of the Lord’s death and resurrection, strive to put to death whatever in your members is sinful and to walk in newness of life.”

Referring to their duties in the sacraments and in the recitation of the Divine Office, he called them to remember “that you are taken from among men and appointed on their behalf for those things that pertain to God. Therefore, carry out the ministry of Christ the Priest with constant joy and genuine love, attending not to your own concerns but to those of Jesus Christ.”

“Finally, dear sons, exercising for your part the office of Christ, Head and Shepherd, while united with the Bishop and subject to him, strive to bring the faithful together into one family, so that you may lead them to God the Father through Christ in the Holy Spirit. Keep always before your eyes the example of the Good Shepherd who came not to be served but to serve, and who came to seek out and save what was lost.”

Having finished the exemplar homily from the Pontifical, Pope Francis then addressed extemporaneously the crowd attending the Mass.

“Thank you for your generosity,” he told them. “This shows the love you have for the Church. This shows the love you have for Jesus Christ. Thank you all. Thank you all for your generosity. Thank you for your faithfulness.”

“Today I ask you in a special way always to pray for these new priests … the People of God sustain their priests with prayer. Your responsibility is to sustain your priests.”

“Don’t get tired of sustaining your priests with prayer. I know you will do this.”


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Your faith and enthusiasm are a welcome sight, Pope tells Burmese youth

November 29, 2017 CNA Daily News 0

Yangon, Burma, Nov 29, 2017 / 09:46 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The Catholic young people of Burma are “a welcome sound” of encouragement, Pope Francis told them Thursday at a Mass said at St. Mary’s Cathedral in Yangon.

“Dear young people of Myanmar … you are a beautiful and encouraging sight, for you bring us ‘good news’, the good news of your youth, your faith and your enthusiasm. Indeed, you are good news, because you are concrete signs of the Church’s faith in Jesus Christ, who brings us a joy and a hope that will never die,” Francis said Nov. 30 in the largest city of Burma (also known as Myanmar).

The Pope’s Mass with Burmese youth comes at the conclusion of his visit to the country, where he arrived Nov. 27. He also met with government officials, religious leaders, Buddhist monks, and the country’s bishops. The previous day, he said Mass in Yangon’s Kyaikkasan Ground, attended by much of the country’s Catholic population. From Burma, he will continue on to Bangladesh before returning to Rome.

“As my visit to your beautiful country draws to a close, I join you in thanking God for the many graces we have received in these days,” he stated.

“Some people ask how it is possible to speak of good news when so many people around us are suffering? Where is the good news when so much injustice, poverty and misery cast a shadow over us and our world?”

In the face of this suffering, he said it is important that the Burmese youth “are not afraid to believe in the good news of God’s mercy, because it has a name and a face: Jesus Christ. As messengers of this good news, you are ready to bring a word of hope to the Church, to your own country, and to the wider world.”

“You are ready to bring good news for your suffering brothers and sisters who need your prayers and your solidarity, but also your enthusiasm for human rights, for justice,” and for Christ’s love and peace.

The Pope’s words about solidarity, human rights, and justice come as international attention on Burma is focused on the Rohingya, a predominantly Muslim ethnic minority who have been denied citizenship and who face general persecution in the Buddhist-majority country. In recent months, more than 600,000 Rohingya have fled the country for Bangladesh amid state-sponsored violence against them.

At the same time, Pope Francis challenged his listeners with three conditions of salvation given in St. Paul’s Epistle to the Romans which was proclaimed at the Mass, and which ask us “to think about our place in God’s plan.”

“In effect, Paul asks three questions, and I want to put them to each of you personally,” he said. “First, how are people to believe in the Lord unless they have heard about him? Second, how are people to hear about the Lord unless they have a messenger, someone to bring the good news? And third, how can they have a messenger unless one is sent?”

While wanting all of his listeners “to think deeply about these questions,” the Pope offered guidance to “help you to discern what it is that the Lord is asking of you.”

First, he said, it is important to listen for God’s voice: “Our world is full of many sounds, so many distractions, that can drown out God’s voice. If others are to hear and believe in him, they need to find him in people who are authentic. People who know how to listen … But only the Lord can help you to be genuine, so talk to him in prayer. Learn to hear his voice, quietly speaking in the depths of your heart.”

“But talk also to the saints,” he added, pointing to Saint Andrew, whose feast was celebrated at the Mass. “Andrew was a humble fisherman who became a great martyr … But before he became a martyr, he made his share of mistakes, and he needed to be patient, and to learn gradually how to be a true disciple of Christ. So do not be afraid to learn from your own mistakes!”

Pope Francis urged Burma’s youth to “let the saints lead you to Jesus and teach you to put your lives in his hands. You know that Jesus is full of mercy. So share with him all that you hold in your hearts: your fears and your worries, as well as your dreams and your hopes. Cultivate your interior life, as you would tend a garden or a field. This takes time; it takes patience. But like a farmer who waits for the crops to grow, if you wait the Lord will make you bear much fruit, a fruit you can then share with others.”

The Pope then turned to young people’s need to be “messengers of the good news of Jesus, above all to your contemporaries and friends. Do not be afraid to make a ruckus, to ask questions that make people think!”

“Don’t worry if sometimes you feel that you are few and far between,” he told them, in consideration of the fact that Catholics make up only about one percent of Burma’s population. “The Gospel always grows from small beginnings. So make yourselves heard.”

<blockquote class=”twitter-tweet” data-lang=”en”><p lang=”en” dir=”ltr”><a href=”;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#Pope</a> to young people in Yangon: “Do not be afraid to make a ruckus, to ask questions that make people think!… Make yourselves heard. I want you to shout! But not with your voices. No! I want you to shout with your lives, with your hearts, &amp; in this way to be signs of hope…” <a href=””></a></p>&mdash; Edward Pentin (@EdwardPentin) <a href=””>November 30, 2017</a></blockquote>
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“I want you to shout … with your lives, with your hearts, and in this way to be signs of hope to those who need encouragement, a helping hand to the sick, a welcome smile to the stranger, a kindly support to the lonely.”

Finally, Pope Francis discussed being sent forth at the conclusion of Mass “to take with us the gifts we have received and to share them with others. This can be a little daunting, since we don’t always know where Jesus may be sending us. But he never sends us out without also walking at our side, and always just a little in front, leading us into new and wonderful parts of his kingdom.”

To be sent by Christ is to follow him, the Pope added. “The Lord will invite some of you to follow him as priests … Others he will call to become religious or consecrated men and women. And yet others he will call to the married life, to be loving fathers and mothers. Whatever your vocation, I urge you: be brave, be generous and, above all, be joyful!”

Francis concluded by given Burma’s young people the example of Mary, who though young, “had the courage to trust in the ‘good news’ she had heard, and to express it in a life of faithful dedication to her vocation, total self-giving, and complete trust in God’s loving care. Like Mary, may all of you be gentle but courageous in bringing Jesus and his love to others.”

“Dear young people, with great affection I commend all of you, and your families, to her maternal intercession. And I ask you, please, to remember to pray for me. God bless Myanmar!”


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Burmese bishops say despite pressure, Suu Kyi has their support

November 29, 2017 CNA Daily News 0

Yangon, Burma, Nov 29, 2017 / 10:56 am (CNA).- As international criticism mounts for Burmese leader Aung Sun Suu Kyi over perceived inaction on the nation’s Rohingya refugee crisis, Catholic bishops say they support her, fearing too much pressure could lead to a collapse of their newly-formed democracy, which is still struggling to take root.

“We need to really rebuild our nation,” said Fr Mariano Soe Naing, spokesman for the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Burma. He noted that even two years ago, it would not have been possible for the bishops to be vocal about their stand given the tumultuous political climate.

“We are only here (because of) the lives that have been shed on the streets, so we have gone through such a struggle in this country and we cannot compromise the lives, the blood, that this country has given,” he said. “We need to go on with our democratic reform of this nation.”

Fr. Soe Naing spoke to journalists at a press briefing on the second full day of Pope Francis’ Nov. 27-30 visit to Burma, also known as Myanmar. The Pope will next travel to Bangladesh Nov. 30-Dec. 2 before returning to Rome.

The visit comes at a precarious time for Burma as it continues to struggle in transitioning to democracy. Burma functioned as a military dictatorship for more than 50 years, until democratic reforms began taking root in 2011. In November 2015, Suu Kyi and her party, the National League for Democracy, were elected by an overwhelming majority, putting an end to a five-decade military dictatorship.

Suu Kyi and her party had also won the election in 1990, but the results were not recognized by the military government, and she was put under house arrest. However, despite her success in 2015, she is still barred from officially becoming president, and holds the title of “State Counselor” and Foreign Minister, while a close associate is acting as president.

Despite emerging signs of democratic reform in Burma, the transition has been rocky. The military still wields considerable political authority, including the appointment of cabinet ministers, and one-quarter of the nation’s legislature.

Compounding the issue, the Pope’s visit also takes place amid a sharp increase in state-supported violence against the Rohingya, a largely Muslim ethnic group who reside in Burma’s Rakhine State, prompting the United Nations to declare the crisis “a textbook example of ethnic cleansing.”

With an increase in persecution in their home country, many of the Rohingya have fled to neighboring Bangladesh, with millions camping along the border as refugees. More than 600,000 Rohingya have fled Burma for Bangladesh in recent months.

However, despite widespread use of the term “Rohingya” in the international community, the term is controversial within Burma. The Burmese government refuses to use the term, and considers them illegal immigrants from Bangladesh. They have been denied citizenship since Burma gained independence in 1948.

In many ways this crisis has overshadowed the Pope Francis’ trip, the first-ever visit from a Pope to the Asian nation. Specific attention has been paid to whether or not Francis will use the term “Rohingya” while on Burmese soil. So far, he has refrained, upon the request of the country’s Catholic leaders.

In the Nov. 29 news briefing, Vatican Spokesman Greg Burke said while the topic of migrants and refugees is a major concern for Pope Francis, the plight of the Rohingya “was not the original intention for making the trip.”

Differing from the Pope’s 2016 daytrip to the Greek island of Lesbos, which Burke described as a “refugee trip,” the visit to Burma was made as an official visit to a country with whom the Holy See has just established diplomatic relations, and the refugee crisis happened to escalate at the same time.

The decision to officially form diplomatic ties was made in March, and relations were further cemented in May when Suu Kyi visited Pope Francis at the Vatican, with both leaders agreeing to send ambassadors to each other’s countries.

With Catholic bishops in Burma backing Suu Kyi and her government, the decision to establish ties and schedule a papal visit so soon after was likely made in a bid to support democracy in the country amid fears it could crumble under too much pressure from both inside and outside of the country.

In his first speech of the trip, given to Burmese authorities and diplomats Nov. 28, the Pope said healing and peace in the nation can only be achieved through the pursuit of justice and the promotion of human rights.

He also advocated for “the consolidation of democracy and the growth of unity and peace at every level of society.” He further advanced the cause of democracy in his speech to bishops earlier today, during which he told them to spread the Gospel through charity and the “support for democratic rule.”

In the lead-up to Francis’ visit, the heat has been turned up on Suu Kyi, with many claiming the leader isn’t doing enough to defend the Rohingya.

On Monday the Oxford City Council voted to strip Suu Kyi of her “Freedom of Oxford” award over what they said was a failure to speak out on abuses committed against the Rohingya. She was initially given the award in 1997 and collected it personally in 2012 after 15 years of house arrest.

However, the bishops have continued to support Suu Kyi. In a September statement, they called for an end to persecution of the Rohingya, while also emphasizing the complicated nature of the political, military, and humanitarian situation in the country, and saying that lasting reform will take time and that placing sole blame on Suu Kyi is counterproductive.

“Thousands of citizens went on the street against the socialist government and gave their lives on the streets of Yangon,” Fr. Soe Naing said at the press conference. “So we cannot just forget all these struggles to have a democratic transition in this country.”

And this democracy is now in danger again, the priest said, explaining that when Suu Kyi is criticized, the pressure comes in two ways: “the international community and the people in the country.”

He argued that the leader, and therefore democracy, is suffering as some criticize her on the Rohingya front, while others use her weakened public standing as an opportunity question the benefits of democracy for Burmese society.

Soe Naing said “we have to come up with a clear stand that we are for development of the country. We have just 18 months of her rule and then we met this crisis, and she is under pressure from all sides,” so the Church is eager to provide support.

Also present at the press conference was Bishop Hsane Hgyi, Vice President of the Catholic Bishops Conference of Burma (CBCM); Bishop Felix Liankhenthang, President of the CBCM; and Bishop John Saw Yaw Han, auxiliary bishop of Yangon.

In comments to journalists, Bishop Hgyi stressed the importance of both knowing and focusing on the truth on the political situation.

“We know Aung Sun Suu Kyi has been sacrificing and suffering for many years, not for herself and not for her family, but for her country,” he said, and cautioned against believing everything that’s read in the papers.

People ought to look for authoritative sources, he said, and suggested that critics “go into the field to study the reality and study the history well” before speaking, because “just hearing from other people won’t be enough.”

When asked whether there is fear that the Rohingya might be disappointed that Pope Francis has decided not to use the term during his visit to Burma, Burke said “Vatican diplomacy is not infallible,” and that everyone is entitled to form their own opinion on the matter.

“That’s part of what diplomatic work is about,” he said, explaining that the main goal of the Holy See is “building bridges” in a nation with which they are just starting to form diplomatic relations.

“We’re in the start of a relationship. The Holy See only recently began full diplomatic relations here, it’s a very tiny Church,” Burke said, adding while the Pope “is very persuasive” and enjoys great moral authority, “he doesn’t parachute” into regions to solve problems immediately, but takes things one step at a time.




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Pope to Burmese bishops: Healing must be a pastoral priority

November 29, 2017 CNA Daily News 0

Yangon, Burma, Nov 29, 2017 / 04:39 am (CNA/EWTN News).- In a meeting with the bishops leading Burma’s small Catholic community, Pope Francis stressed the need to prioritize healing and pastoral accompaniment as the nation continues to reel from both past and present conflicts.

In a Nov. 29 meeting with Burma’s bishops, Pope Francis said the Gospel they preach “is above all a message of healing, reconciliation and peace.” This message, he said, is especially potent in Burma, which is still working “to overcome deeply-rooted divisions and to build national unity.”

Many Catholic faithful in the country “bear the scars of this conflict and have borne valiant witness to their faith and their ancient traditions,” he said, explaining that the preaching of the Gospel “must not only be a source of consolation and strength, but also a summons to foster unity, charity and healing in the life of this nation.”

Echoing his words to interreligious leaders on his first full day in the country, Francis said this unity “is born of diversity. It values people’s differences as a source of mutual enrichment and growth (and) invites people to come together in a culture of encounter and solidarity.”

He prayed that the Lord would guide the bishops in their efforts to promote healing and communion at all levels in the Church, so that “God’s holy people can be salt and light for hearts longing for that peace the world cannot give.”

Pope Francis met with the bishops during his Nov. 27-30 visit to the country – also known as Myanmar – after which he will travel to neighboring Bangladesh from Nov. 30-Dec. 2 before returning to Rome.

He arrived Nov. 27 and has so far met with both religious and civil leaders. The meetings were politically charged on various levels, stemming from the fact that Christians are a small minority in Burma, as well as the fact that the nation is still working to transition to a democratic government after more than 50 years of military rule.

In his speech to the bishops, Pope Francis offered three words for reflection: healing, accompaniment and prophecy.

He praised efforts made by the local Church to care for the poor and the displaced, many of whom are members of the Rohingya Muslim minority who have been forced to flee their home in Burma’s Rakhine State as a result of what the United Nations has called “a textbook case of ethnic cleansing” in the area.

The Pope voiced his thanks to those who “bring the balm of healing to these, their neighbors in need, without regard for religion or ethnicity.”

This healing, he said, is also relevant when it comes to inter-religious dialogue, and prayed that the bishops would continue building bridges of dialogue and join followers of other religions “in weaving peaceful relations will bear rich fruit for reconciliation in the life of the nation.”

Francis then stressed the importance of pastoral accompaniment, saying a good shepherd is always at his flock’s side, and must constantly “bear the smell of the sheep.”

He emphasized the need to go out to the peripheries, telling the prelates that in their role as bishops, “your lives and ministry are called to model this spirit of missionary outreach,” which is primarily carried out by regular visits to the parishes and communities in their local Churches.

In the spirit of the first missionaries who evangelized the country, bishops, as pastors, must “continue to imbue the laity with a spirit of true missionary discipleship and seek a wise inculturation of the Gospel message in the daily life and traditions of your local communities.”

To this end, the role of catechists is essential, he said, adding that “their formation and enrichment must remain among your chief priorities.”

With few bishops and clergy ministering to the entirety of Burma’s small Catholic population, catechesis plays a key role in the formation and education of the faithful in the country.

Burma is a majority Buddhist country. Catholics are a small minority, making up just 1.3 percent of a population of nearly 52 million.

They are led by 22 bishops; 888 priests, both diocesan and religious; 128 non-ordained male religious and just two permanent deacons, making the ratio of Catholics to priests in the country around 742 to one. Women religious serving in Burma number just under 2,000. The country includes three archdioceses and 13 dioceses.

Given the unique challenges of being a minority, Pope Francis stressed the importance of pastoral accompaniment, specifically of the youth.

He urged the bishops to give special attention to their formation “in the sound moral principles that will guide them in confronting the challenges of a rapidly changing world,” including the threats of “cultural and ideological colonization.”

Turning to the upcoming synod of bishops on youth in 2018, to be held at the Vatican, Francis said young people are one of the greatest blessings of the Church in Burma, and pointed to the high number of seminarians studying in both minor and major seminary in the country, numbering around 1,100 total.

In the spirit of the Synod, which will listen to the stories of young people and help them discern how best to proclaim the Gospel in their lives, Francis asked the bishops to “please engage them and support them in their journey of faith, for by their idealism and enthusiasm they are called to be joyful and convincing evangelizers of their contemporaries.”

Francis then emphasized the importance of the Church’s prophetic witness in Burma, and recognized their daily efforts to bear witness to the Gospel through works of charity and education, but also through the defense of human rights and “support for democratic rule.”

He prayed that they would enable the Catholic community “to continue to play a constructive part in the life of society by making your voices heard on issues of national interest, particularly by insisting on respect for the dignity and rights of all, especially the poorest and the most vulnerable.”

With a word on the importance of protecting the environment and preserving the rich natural resources in Burma, Pope Francis concluded his speech with a bit of pastoral advice for bishops themselves.

Recognizing the demands of their ministry, the Pope noted that the bishops, along with their priests, “often labor under the heat and the burden of the day.”

He urged the bishops to be balanced in caring for their spiritual and physical health, while also keeping a paternal eye on the health of the priests in their care.

Francis encouraged the bishops to spend time daily in prayer and in “the experience of God’s reconciling love,” which he said “is the basis of your priestly identity, the guarantee of the soundness of your preaching, and the source of the pastoral charity by which you guide God’s people on the path of holiness and truth.”

Prayer is the first duty of bishops, he emphasized.

In a special greeting to the Pope, Bishop Felix Lian Khen Thang, president of the Catholic Bishops Conference of Burma, told Francis that his visit brings them “courage, joy and hope in trying to live and witness our faith, as we take part in peace and nation building process.”

“Like the dry parched land that is waiting for the first rain, we are also eagerly waiting for your visit which will be like the morning dew, a great blessing for our people and our country,” he said, adding that Pope’s “timely visit” fills their hearts with love and peace as they strive to be “the salt of the earth and the light of the world” in their nation.

He wished the Pope “good health and peace of mind” during his visit, and assured him that they would always be “your faithful collaborators in the mission of peace and love.”




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True justice and peace are for all people, Pope tells Buddhist leaders

November 29, 2017 CNA Daily News 0

Yangon, Burma, Nov 29, 2017 / 03:34 am (CNA/EWTN News).- In a meeting with Buddhist monks in Burma on Wednesday, Pope Francis stressed that true and lasting justice and peace cannot be achieved unless the dignity of all people is protected.

“Authentic justice and lasting peace can only be achieved when they are guaranteed for all,” Pope Francis said Nov. 29.

He emphasized that his meeting with the Buddhist monks is an opportunity to strengthen the bonds of friendship between Catholics and Buddhists as well as “affirm a commitment to peace, respect for human dignity and justice for every man and woman.”

Pope Francis met with the State Sangha Maha Nayaka Committee, a group which oversees Buddhist clergy in Burma, at the Buddhist Kaba Aye complex, which includes Kaba Aye Pagoda, just 6 miles north of Yangon.

The meeting took place during the Pope’s Nov. 27-Dec. 2 apostolic trip to Burma – also known as Myanmar – and Bangladesh, which comes amid a serious uptick in state-supported violence against the Rohingya, a largely Muslim ethnic group who reside in Burma’s Rakhine State.

In recent months, the violence has reached staggering levels, causing the United Nations to declare the situation “a textbook example of ethnic cleansing.”

“In every age, humanity experiences injustices, moments of conflict and inequality among peoples. In our own day these difficulties seem to be especially pronounced,” the Pope said.

Even though we’ve made great technological advancements, and people around the world are more and more aware of “their common humanity and destiny,” he said, still “the wounds of conflict, poverty and oppression persist, and create new divisions.”

“In the face of these challenges, we must never grow resigned,” he continued, because our “respective spiritual traditions” show us the way forward, “a way that leads to healing, mutual understanding and respect. A way based on compassion and loving kindness.”

Burma’s religious makeup is predominately Buddhist, with 89 percent of the population practicing the Theravada tradition of Buddhism. In the encounter, Pope Francis expressed his esteem for those who follow the Buddhist tradition in Burma, saying that through their religion, the people “have been formed in the values of patience, tolerance and respect for life.”

A great challenge of today, Francis said, is to help people be open to the “transcendent,” being able to know themselves in such a way as “to realize that we cannot be isolated from one another.”

But if we are to be united, we must work to overcome “all forms of misunderstanding, intolerance, prejudice and hatred,” he said, noting that the words of Buddha and St. Francis can offer a guide for how to go about doing this.

In Dhammapada, Buddha says to “overcome the angry by non-anger; overcome the wicked by goodness; overcome the miser by generosity; overcome the liar by truth,” the Pope quoted.

A similar message can be found in a prayer attributed to St. Francis of Assisi, he noted: “Lord, make me an instrument of your peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love. Where there is injury, let me bring pardon… Where there is darkness, let me bring light, and where there is sadness, joy.”

May the wisdom contained in these words, he said, continue to inspire patience and understanding, “to heal the wounds of conflict that through the years have divided people of different cultures, ethnicities and religious convictions.”

He stressed that overcoming conflict and injustice is not only the work of religious leaders, but of the whole of society, though it is a particular responsibility of religious and civil leaders to guarantee that everyone’s voice is heard.

Francis said that for this work to bear lasting fruit, religious leaders will need to work together in even greater collaboration, stating that in this, “the Catholic Church is a willing partner,” ready to continue to walk together the path of “peace and healing, compassion and hope.”

He also praised the two-day peace meeting held by the local Catholic bishops’ conference in April – which included leaders of different religious communities as well as ambassadors and representatives of non-governmental agencies – as “essential” for deepening understanding of one another.



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Revenge can’t heal wounds, Pope Francis tells Burma’s Catholics

November 28, 2017 CNA Daily News 0

Yangon, Burma, Nov 28, 2017 / 08:03 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Encouraging Burma’s minority Catholic community on Wednesday, Pope Francis preached the forgiveness and compassion of Christ in the face of violence and injury.

“I know that many in Myanmar bear the wounds of violence, wounds both visible and invisible. The temptation is to respond to these injuries with a worldly wisdom that … is deeply flawed. We think that healing can come from anger and revenge. Yet the way of revenge is not the way of Jesus,” the Pope said during his homily at Mass Nov. 29.

Christ “responded with forgiveness and compassion” when “hatred and rejection led him to his passion and death,” Francis reflected during the Mass, said at the Kyaikkasan Ground in Yangon, the largest city of Burma (also known as Myanmar).

“By the gift of his Spirit, Jesus enables us each to be signs of his wisdom, which triumphs over the wisdom of this world, and his mercy, which soothes even the most painful of injuries,” the Pope added.

Francis arrived in Burma Nov. 27, and has already met with military and government officials and with religious leaders. He will remain in the country until midday Nov. 30, when he will travel to neighboring Bangladesh.

Burma was ruled by a military junta for 50 years, and has only recently begun a transition toward democracy. International attention has focused recently on the Rohingya, a predominantly Muslim ethnic minority who have been denied citizenship and general persecution. In recent months, more than 600,000 Rohingya have fled the country for Bangladesh amid state-sponsored violence against them.

The country’s Christian minority (about one percent of the population) has also faced persecution from the government and the Buddhist majority. The US Commission on International Religious Freedom reported last year that Burmese Christians face discrimination, forced conversions, violence, and the desecration of churches.

Pope Francis’ words to the country’s Catholics have, therefore, a certain poignancy to them.

“Many of you have come from far and remote mountainous areas, some even on foot. I have come as a fellow pilgrim to listen and to learn from you, as well as to offer you some words of hope and consolation,” he told them.

Christ is “the ultimate interpreter of God’s mysteries,” he said. “Jesus did not teach us his wisdom by long speeches or by grand demonstrations of political or earthly power but by giving his life on the cross.”

“Sometimes we can fall into the trap of believing in our own wisdom, but the truth is we can easily lose our sense of direction. At those times we need to remember that we have a sure compass before us, in the crucified Lord. In the cross, we find the wisdom that can guide our life with the light that comes from God.”

The cross is also a source of healing, Pope Francis taught, exhorting them: “May we always have the wisdom to find in the wounds of Christ the source of all healing!”

Turning to the re-presentation of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross, Pope Francis said that in the Eucharist we “learn how to rest in his wounds, and there to be cleansed of all our sins and foolish ways. By taking refuge in Christ’s wounds, dear brothers and sisters, may you know the healing balm of the Father’s mercy and find the strength to bring it to others, to anoint every hurt and every painful memory.”

“In this way, you will be faithful witnesses of the reconciliation and peace that God wants to reign in every human heart and in every community.”

He noted with appreciation that the Church in Burma is already working “to bring the healing balm of God’s mercy to others, especially those most in need. There are clear signs that even with very limited means, many communities are proclaiming the Gospel to other tribal minorities, never forcing or coercing but always inviting and welcoming.”

The Pope commended the local Churches for offering “practical assistance and solidarity to the poor and suffering … regardless of religion or ethnic background.”

“I can see that the Church here is alive, that Christ is alive and here with you and with your brothers and sisters of other Christian communities. I encourage you to keep sharing with others the priceless wisdom that you have received, the love of God welling up in the heart of Jesus.”

Christ “will surely crown your efforts to sow seeds of healing and reconciliation in your families, communities and the wider society of this nation,” he said. “His message of forgiveness and mercy uses a logic that not all will want to understand, and which will encounter obstacles. Yet his love, revealed on the cross, is ultimately unstoppable.”

Pope Francis concluded his homily by invoking Mary, Mother of God, recalling that “she accompanies us at every step of our earthly journey. May she obtain for us the grace always be to messengers of true wisdom, heartfelt mercy to those in need, and the joy that comes from resting in the wounds of Jesus, who loved us to the end.”

“May God bless all of you! May God bless the Church in Myanmar! May he bless this land with his peace! God bless Myanmar!”


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Pope in Burma: Peace requires justice, respect for human rights

November 28, 2017 CNA Daily News 0

Yangon, Burma, Nov 28, 2017 / 04:13 am (CNA/EWTN News).- In a major speech in Burma, Pope Francis told the nation’s leaders to leave conflict behind and work for peace by promoting justice and respect for the rights of all citizens, regardless of religion or ethnicity.

“The arduous process of peace-building and national reconciliation can only advance through a commitment to justice and respect for human rights,” the Pope told Burmese civil authorities Nov. 28.

Speaking from the capital of Yangon on the first full day of a six-day visit to Burma and Bangladesh, Francis noted how justice is historically understood as “a steadfast will to give each person his due,” and is often viewed as “the basis of all true and lasting peace.”

This understanding is what, after the experience of two world wars, led to the formation of the United Nations and their subsequent declaration on human rights as the foundation for global efforts to promote justice, peace and human development, and to resolve conflict through dialogue, “not the use of force.”

With a past marred by internal conflict and a present filled with ongoing political tensions, Pope Francis said the future of Burma “must be peace.” This peace, he said, must be “based on respect for the dignity and rights of each member of society,” as well as respect “for each ethnic group and its identity.”

It must also be founded on a keen respect “for the rule of law, and respect for a democratic order that enables each individual and every group – none excluded – to offer its legitimate contribution to the common good.”

Pope Francis landed in Yangon Nov. 27 for the first phase of his third tour of Asia, which will take him to both Burma – also called Myanmar – and Bangladesh. He will be in Burma Nov. 27-30, and will visit two cities before moving on to Dhaka, Bangladesh, where he will stay Nov. 30-Dec. 2.

His visit to Burma, in particular, is significant not only because the country has a small Christian minority, but also due to a contentious political situation that has roots in both a recent regime change and an ongoing crisis over their minority Rohingya Muslim population.

Francis’ visit comes amid a spike in state-supported violence against the Rohingya, the largely Muslim ethnic group who reside in Burma’s Rakhine State. The staggering scope of the crisis has prompted the U.N. to declare the situation “a textbook example of ethnic cleansing.”

The Burmese government refuses to recognize the Rohingya, and considers them illegal immigrants from Bangladesh. They have been denied citizenship since Burma gained independence in 1948.

Facing heightened persecution in their home country, many Rohingya have fled to neighboring Bangladesh, with millions camping along the border as refugees. More than 600,000 Rohingya have fled Burma for Bangladesh in the past few months alone.

The Pope’s visit also falls as Burmese officials continue to work out a recent transition to democracy after more than 50 years of military dictatorship, which began to come unhinged as democratic reforms started taking root in 2011.

In November 2015, Aung San Suu Kyi, who belongs to the National League for Democracy, was elected by an overwhelming majority, putting an end to military rule.

However, despite the win, she is still barred from officially becoming president, and holds the title of “State Counsellor” and Foreign Minister, while a close associate is acting as president. The military also still wields considerable political authority, including the appointment of cabinet ministers, and one-quarter of the nation’s legislature, making the ongoing transition rocky.

In his speech to Aung San Suu Kyi, civil authorities and the diplomatic corps in Burma, Pope Francis praised the efforts of all those working to build “a just, reconciled and inclusive social order” in the country.

While Burma is known for its beauty and natural resources, the nation’s greatest treasure are its people, he said, noting that they have suffered and continue to suffer from civil hostilities “that have lasted all too long and created deep divisions.”

“As the nation now works to restore peace, the healing of those wounds must be a paramount political and spiritual priority,” he said.

To this end, Francis said the country’s various religious traditions and its youth will have key roles to play in working toward national reconciliation and building a better, more just future.

Religious differences in Burma, a majority Buddhist country, “need not be a source of division and distrust, but rather a force for unity, forgiveness, tolerance and wise nation-building,” he said, adding that religions can play an important role in healing the emotional, spiritual and psychological wounds of years of unrest.

“They can help to uproot the causes of conflict, build bridges of dialogue, seek justice and be a prophetic voice for all who suffer,” he said, and pointed to current joint efforts among religions to work together in peace efforts through education, assistance to the poor and in promoting human values.

By seeking to build a culture of encounter and solidarity, religions contribute to the common good and lay “the indispensable moral foundations for a future of hope and prosperity for coming generations.”

Youth also have an essential role to play, the Pope said, calling them “a gift to be cherished and encouraged, an investment that will yield a rich return if only they are given real opportunities for employment and quality education.”

This attention to youth is “an urgent requirement of inter-generational justice,” he said, noting that the future of the nation is changing at an increasing pace.

Given these rapid changes, youth will need to be trained not only in the technical field, but also in “the ethical values of honesty, integrity and human solidarity that can ensure the consolidation of democracy and the growth of unity and peace at every level of society,” he said.

Future generations must also be guaranteed that the natural environment and beauty Burma enjoys is “unspoilt by human greed and depredation,” he said, and stressed the importance of not allowing youth to be “robbed of hope and of the chance to employ their idealism and talents in shaping the future of their country and, indeed, our entire human family.”

Pope Francis closed his speech encouraging fellow Catholics in the country to persevere in faith and to continue spreading a message of “reconciliation and brotherhood” through both charitable and humanitarian works.

“It is my hope that, in respectful cooperation with the followers of other religions, and all men and women of good will, they will help to open a new era of concord and progress for the people of this beloved nation,” he said.

Thanking his audience for their attention and service to the common good, he said “long live Myanmar!” and asked God to bless its leaders with “wisdom, strength and peace.”

In a speech to Pope Francis, Aung San Suu Kyi told the Pope that “you bring us strength and hope in your understanding of our need, our longing, for peace, national reconciliation and social harmony.”

She said his words on justice resonate, and serve as a “reminder that in our quest for peace we must be guided by the wisdom and aspirations of our fathers.”

Burma currently faces various challenges, Suu Kyi said, noting how the country is made up of people from various ethnic and religious backgrounds.

“It is the aim of our Government to bring out the beauty of our diversity and to make it our strength, by protecting rights, fostering tolerance, ensuring security for all,” she said, adding that the road to peace is not always smooth, but is the only way to ensure the people of a “just and prosperous land.”

Among the greatest of the challenges the nation faces is the refugee crisis involving Rohingya Muslims from Burma’s Rakhine State, she said, adding that the Pope’s “compassion and encouragement” for the situation “will be treasured” as the country seeks to address the longstanding social, economic and political issues that have “eroded” trust, understanding and cooperation between different communities in the area.

Suu Kyi closed her speech saying the Pope’s blessing will be shared by everyone in Burma as they seek to spread “goodwill and joy” throughout the nation.

The nation’s leaders “will strive to discharge our duties with probity and humility,” she said, adding, “we wish to leave to the future a people united and at peace, secure in their capacity to grow and prosper in a changing world; a compassionate and generous people, always ready to hold out a helping hand to those in need; a people strong in skills and whole in spirit.”

“The road ahead is long,” she said, “but we will walk it with confidence, trusting in the power of peace, love and joy.”



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Pope stresses peace in unscheduled meeting with Burma’s religious leaders

November 28, 2017 CNA Daily News 1

Yangon, Burma, Nov 28, 2017 / 03:50 am (CNA/EWTN News).- In an impromptu meeting on Tuesday morning, Pope Francis urged religious leaders in Burma to work toward peace, each according to the gifts and traditions of their faith.

“Each one of you has their values, their wealth, and also their shortcomings. And each confession has its richness, its tradition, its wealth to give. And this can only be if we live in peace,” the Pope said Nov. 28.

Peace itself is built “in the chorus of differences,” he said.

On the morning of the first full day of his visit to Burma – also known as Myanmar – Nov. 27-30, Pope Francis met with religious leaders at the residence of Cardinal Charles Maung Bo of Yangon, in what was an unscheduled meeting.

The meeting included 17 interreligious leaders from the Hindu, Buddhist, Jewish, Muslim, Anglican, Baptist and Catholic faiths. After a short introduction from Catholic bishop John Hsane Hgyi, a leader from each faith gave a short speech, followed by the off-the-cuff address of Pope Francis.

The Pope’s visit comes amid an uptick in state-supported violence against the Rohingya, a largely Muslim ethnic group who reside in Burma’s Rakhine State. In recent months, the violence has reached staggering levels, causing the United Nations to declare the situation “a textbook example of ethnic cleansing.”

In May, a senior United Nations envoy warned that the country was failing to stop the spread of religious violence.

In his discourse, Francis said that when the leaders were speaking, it brought to his mind a prayer from the Book of Psalms that says “how beautiful it is to see brothers united.”

He stressed, however, that to be united does not require uniformity, but rather that we must “understand the richness of our ethnic religious and popular differences…and from these differences” create a dialogue.

Pointing to the great geographical and natural wealth of Burma, he said they can learn from each other “as brothers,” in what ways each faith is helping to build the country.

He then thanked the leaders for coming to meet him at the place he was staying, since he was the one who had come to Burma to meet them. He also recited a few verses of the well-known prayer from the Book of Numbers, which he called “an old blessing that includes everyone.”

“May the Lord bless you and protect you. May his face shine upon you and show you his grace. May you discover his face and may he grant you peace,” he prayed.

After the meeting, Pope Francis also met briefly with the Buddhist leader Sitagou Sayadaw before celebrating Mass in private and then continuing on to his meeting with the president.