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Month: November 2017

Pope urges Myanmar Bishops to continue to provide prophetic voice

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Wednesday met with the 22 Catholic Bishops of Myanmar and reflected with them on the joys and challenges of their ministry in the nation.
The meeting took place in Yangon’s Cathedral Complex. After addressing those present he was introduced personally to each Bishop and symbolically blessed the corner stones of 16 Churches, of the Major Seminary and of the Apostolic Nunciature.
The Catholic Church in Myanmar includes 3 Archdioceses and 13 Dioceses. The President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Myanmar is Archbishop Felix Lian Khen Thang.
The Pope focussed his discourse to the Bishops on the concepts of healing, accompaniment and prophecy .
He spoke of the need for healing and reconciliation in a country that is working to overcome deeply-rooted divisions and build national unity and he highlighted the precious value provided by cultural and religious diversity and the bishops’ responsibility to help foster healing and communion at every level.
Regarding his focus on ‘accompaniment’, Pope Francis reminded the bishops that a good shepherd must constantly be present to his flock. He said that the Church is called to ‘go forth’ bringing the light of the Gospel to every periphery and he urged them to make a special effort to accompany the young and to be “concerned for their formation in the sound moral principles that will guide them in confronting the challenges of a rapidly changing world.”
Finally, the Pope spoke of the prophetic voice of the Church that “witnesses daily to the Gospel through its works of education and charity, its defence of human rights, its support for democratic rule”. He encouraged the bishops – and Catholic communities – to continue to play a constructive part in the life of society and to stand by the poorest and the most vulnerable as well as helping to protect the environment.
Please find below the Pope’s prepared speech to Myanmar Bishops:
Your Eminence,
My Brother Bishops,
            For all of us, this has been a busy day, but also a day of great joy!  This morning we celebrated the Eucharist together with the faithful from throughout Myanmar, while this afternoon we met with leaders of the majority Buddhist community.  I would like our encounter this evening to be a moment of quiet gratitude for these blessings and for peaceful reflection on the joys and challenges of your ministry as shepherds of Christ’s flock in this country.  I thank Bishop Felix [Lian Khen Thang] for his words of greeting in your name and I embrace all of you with great affection in the Lord.
            I would like to group my own thoughts around three words: healing, accompaniment and prophecy.
            First, healing.  The Gospel we preach is above all a message of healing, reconciliation and peace.  Through the blood of Christ’s cross, God has reconciled the world to himself, and has sent us to be messengers of that healing grace.  Here in Myanmar, that message has a particular resonance, as this country works to overcome deeply-rooted divisions and to build national unity.  For you, whose flocks bear the scars of this conflict and have borne valiant witness to their faith and their ancient traditions, 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.  For the unity we share and celebrate is born of diversity.  It values people’s differences as a source of mutual enrichment and growth.  It invites people to come together in a culture of encounter and solidarity. 
            In your episcopal ministry, may you constantly experience the Lord’s guidance and help in your efforts to foster healing and communion at every level of the Church’s life, so that by their example of forgiveness and reconciling love, God’s holy people can be salt and light for hearts longing for that peace the world cannot give.  The Catholic community in Myanmar can be proud of its prophetic witness to love of God and neighbour, as expressed in its outreach to the poor, the disenfranchised, and above all in these days, to the many displaced persons who lie wounded, as it were, by the roadside.  I ask you to offer my thanks to all who, like the Good Samaritan, work so generously to bring the balm of healing to these, their neighbours in need, without regard for religion or ethnicity.
            Your ministry of healing finds particular expression in your commitment to ecumenical dialogue and interreligious cooperation.  I pray that your continuing efforts to build bridges of dialogue and to join with the followers of other religions in weaving peaceful relations will bear rich fruit for reconciliation in the life of the nation.  The interfaith peace conference held in Yangon last spring was a powerful testimony before the world of the determination of the religions to live in peace and to reject every act of violence and hatred perpetrated in the name of religion.
            My second word to you this evening is accompaniment.  A good shepherd is constantly present to his flock, guiding them as he walks at their side.  As I like to say, the shepherd should bear the smell of the sheep.  In our time, we are called to be “a Church which goes forth” to bring the light of Christ to every periphery (cf. Evangelii Gaudium, 20).  As bishops, your lives and ministry are called to model this spirit of missionary outreach, above all through your regular pastoral visitation of the parishes and communities that make up your local Churches.  This is a privileged means for you, as loving fathers, to accompany your priests in their daily efforts to build up the flock in holiness, fidelity and a spirit of service. 
            By God’s grace, the Church in Myanmar has inherited a solid faith and a fervent missionary spirit from the labours of those who brought the Gospel to this land.  On this firm foundation, and in a spirit of communion with your priests and religious, 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.  The contribution of catechists is essential in this regard; their formation and enrichment must remain among your chief priorities.
            Above all, I would ask you to make a special effort to accompany the young.  Be concerned for their formation in the sound moral principles that will guide them in confronting the challenges of a rapidly changing world.  The next Synod of Bishops will not only address these issues but also directly engage young people, listening to their stories and enlisting them in our common discernment on how best to proclaim the Gospel in the years to come.  One of the great blessings of the Church in Myanmar is its young people and, in particular, the number of seminarians and young religious.  In the spirit of the Synod, 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. 
            My third word to you is prophecy.  The Church in Myanmar witnesses daily to the Gospel through its works of education and charity, its defence of human rights, its support for democratic rule.  May you 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.  I am confident that the five-year pastoral strategy that the Church has developed within the larger context of nationbuilding will bear rich fruit for the future not only of your local communities but also of the country as a whole.  Here I think in a special way of the need to protect the environment and to ensure a just use of the nation’s rich natural resources for the benefit of future generations.  The protection of God’s gift of creation cannot be separated from a sound human and social ecology.  Indeed, “genuine care for our relationship with nature is inseparable from fraternity, justice and keeping faith with others” (Laudato Si’, 70).
            Dear brother bishops, I thank God for this moment of communion and I pray that our presence together will strengthen us in our commitment to be faithful shepherds and servants of the flock that Christ has entrusted to our care.  I know that your ministry is demanding and that, together with your priests, you often labour under the heat and the burden of the day (cf. Mt 20:12).  I urge you to maintain a balance between your spiritual and physical health, and to show paternal concern for the health of your priests.  Above all, I encourage you to grow daily in prayer and in the experience of God’s reconciling love, for that 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.  With great affection I invoke the Lord’s grace upon you, the clergy and religious, and all the lay faithful of your local Churches.  And I ask you, please, not to forget to pray for me.
(from Vatican Radio)…

Pope Francis on need to respect all Myanmar’s ethnic groups

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis began his first full day in Myanmar on Tuesday with an unscheduled encounter at the Archbishop’s House, meeting with a group of 17  leaders from the different religious traditions present in the country.
Following that encounter, he travelled by plane up to the capital, Nay Pyi Taw, where he met President Htin Kyaw and Burmese leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, before addressing diplomats and government leaders gathered at an international convention centre.
Philippa Hitchen is in Myanmar following this papal visit and takes a closer look at the pope’s words to the nation’s leaders…
Listen to her report:

Inside the convention centre sat a colourful mix of military men in green uniforms, cardinals and bishops, diplomats and politicians in traditional coloured sarongs and flip flops. A row of children in ethnic costumes flanked the pope and ‘The Lady’ as they took their place on stage.
Unsurprisingly, in a country still struggling to emerge from half a century of military dictatorship, the pope’s words were firmly focused on dialogue, reconciliation and respect for human rights .
Respect all ethnic identities
He spoke plainly about the suffering people have endured, “and continue to suffer, from civil conflict and hostilities”, without mentioning by name the different states where government troops are fighting against armed independence groups. He reiterated the need to respect the identity of each ethnic group, adding “none excluded”, and he insisted that conflicts must be resolved “through dialogue, not the use of force”.
Aung San Suu Kyi on Rakhine conflict
In her words to the pope, Aung San Suu Kyi talked directly of the challenges in Rakhine state, which has been the focus of such intense criticism from the international community. She said the government is seeking to address the many social, economic and political problems there, highlighting the need to rebuilt trust and cooperation. Among the Muslim leaders, whom the pope met at the earlier interreligious encounter in Yangon, was a member of the advisory commission for the Rakhine, chaired by former UN secretary general Kofi Annan.
Many internally displaced people
But it’s not just the Muslins fleeing across the northern border into Bangladesh, who have suffered from violent repression. During a visit to the predominantly Christian Kachin state, ahead of the pope’s arrival, I met Catholic families in one of the many camps for internally displaced people, whose villages were destroyed and who survive on aid from international organisations. The Church runs education and health programmes, trying to improve the desperate living conditions, but all agree there can be no real development without peace between the warring parties.
Healing of wounds a paramount priority
The healing of the wounds of war, Pope Francis insisted in his first speech here, “must be a paramount political and spiritual priority”, adding that the country’s religious communities “have a privileged role to play” in this difficult task. Of the 16 Catholic dioceses in Myanmar, 15 primarily serve the many ethnic minorities. Church leaders will be hoping the politicians take his words to heart, increasing efforts towards real democracy and equal rights for all.
(from Vatican Radio)…

Pope Francis addresses Myanmar’s leaders: Full text

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Tuesday addressed Myanmar’s government authorities, civil societies, and the diplomatic corps in the capital Nay Pyi Taw, while on his Apostolic Visit to Myanmar.
Please find below the official English translation of the Pope’s speech:
Address to Government Authorities, Civil Societies  and the Diplomatic Corps
Naw Pyi Taw, Convention Center
Tuesday, 28 November 2017
Madam State Counsellor,
Honourable Government and Civil Authorities,
Your Eminence, My Brother Bishops,
Distinguished Members of the Diplomatic Corps,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am grateful for the kind invitation to visit Myanmar and I thank you, Madam State Counsellor, for your kind words.  I am very grateful to all who have worked so hard to make this visit possible.  I have come, above all, to pray with the nation’s small but fervent Catholic community, to confirm them in their faith, and to encourage them in their efforts to contribute to the good of the nation.  I am most grateful that my visit comes soon after the establishment of formal diplomatic relations between Myanmar and the Holy See.  I would like to see this decision as a sign of the nation’s commitment to pursuing dialogue and constructive cooperation within the greater international community, even as it strives to renew the fabric of civil society.
I would also like my visit to embrace the entire population of Myanmar and to offer a word of encouragement to all those who are working to build a just, reconciled and inclusive social order.  Myanmar has been blessed with great natural beauty and resources, yet its greatest treasure is its people, who have suffered greatly, and continue to suffer, from civil conflict and 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.  I can only express appreciation for the efforts of the Government to take up this challenge, especially through the Panglong Peace Conference, which brings together representatives of the various groups in an attempt to end violence, to build trust and to ensure respect for the rights of all who call this land their home. 
Indeed, the arduous process of peacebuilding and national reconciliation can only advance through a commitment to justice and respect for human rights.  The wisdom of the ancients defined justice precisely as a steadfast will to give each person his due, while the prophets of old saw justice as the basis of all true and lasting peace.  These insights, confirmed by the tragic experience of two world wars, led to the establishment of the United Nations and the universal declaration of human rights as the basis for the international community’s efforts to promote justice, peace and human development worldwide, and to resolve conflicts through dialogue, not the use of force.  In this sense, the presence of the diplomatic corps in our midst testifies not only to Myanmar’s place in the concert of nations, but also to the country’s commitment to uphold and pursue those foundational principles.  The future of Myanmar must be peace, a peace based on respect for the dignity and rights of each member of society, respect for each ethnic group and its identity, 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.
In the great work of national reconciliation and integration, Myanmar’s religious communities have a privileged role to play.  Religious differences need not be a source of division and distrust, but rather a force for unity, forgiveness, tolerance and wise nationbuilding.  The religions can play a significant role in repairing the emotional, spiritual and psychological wounds of those who have suffered in the years of conflict.  Drawing on deeply-held values, they can help to uproot the causes of conflict, build bridges of dialogue, seek justice and be a prophetic voice for all who suffer.  It is a great sign of hope that leaders of the various religious traditions in this country are making efforts to work together, in a spirit of harmony and mutual respect, for peace, for helping the poor and for educating in authentic religious and human values.  In seeking to build a culture of encounter and solidarity, they contribute to the common good and to laying the indispensable moral foundations for a future of hope and prosperity for coming generations.
That future is even now in the hands of the nation’s young people.  The young are 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 is an urgent requirement of intergenerational justice.  The future of Myanmar in a rapidly changing and interconnected world will depend on the training of its young, not only in technical fields, but above all 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.  Intergenerational justice likewise demands that future generations inherit a natural environment unspoilt by human greed and depredation.  It is essential that our young not 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.
Madam State Counsellor, dear friends:
In these days, I wish to encourage my Catholic brothers and sisters to persevere in their faith and to continue to express its message of reconciliation and brotherhood through charitable and humanitarian works that benefit society as a whole.  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.  “Long live Myanmar!”   I thank you for your attention, and with prayerful good wishes for your service to the common good, I invoke upon all of you the divine blessings of wisdom, strength and peace.
(from Vatican Radio)…

Pope urges Myanmar’s religions to build peace and unity amidst differences ?

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis met with  17 leaders of Myanmar’s religious communities Tuesday morning, exhorting them that peace consists in unity in diversity, not in uniformity.  The Pope met leaders of Buddhist, Muslim, Hindu, Jewish, Catholic and other Christian communities at the Archbishop’s House in Yangon, at the start of his first full day of his Nov. 27-30 apostolic visit to Myanmar.
The Holy See’s spokesman, Greg Burke said that the during his 40-minute meeting with them, the Pope urged them to work together to rebuild the country and that if they argue, they should argue like brothers, who reconcile afterwards.  
Unity is not uniformity
After various leaders spoke, Pope Francis spoke off-hand in Spanish helped by an interpreter.  Alluding to the Psalms, he said, “ How beautiful it is to see brothers united!”   He explained that being united does not mean being equal.  “Unity is not uniformity, even within a religious community.  Each one has his values, his riches as also shortcomings,” the Pope said, adding, “we are all different.”  Each confession has its riches and traditions to give and share .  And this can happen only if all live in peace.  “ Peace ,” the Pope stressed, “consists in a chorus of differences .”  “Unity comes about in differences.”
Uniformity kills
“Peace is harmony,” the Pope said, noting that there is a trend in the world towards uniformity to make everybody equal.  But he denounced this as a “cultural colonization” that “kills humanity.”    He said religious leaders should understand the richness of our differences – ethnic, religious or popular – and what results from these differences is dialogue.  “As brothers, we can learn from these differences,” the Pope stressed, exhorting the religious leaders to “build the country, which is so rich and diverse even geographically.” 
Nature in Myanmar is very rich in differences, the Pope said, urging them not be afraid of differences. “Since we have one Father and we are all brothers , let us be brothers,” the Pope urged.  And if they have to debate among themselves, let it be as brothers, which will soon bring about reconciliation and peace.   “Build peace without allowing yourselves be made uniform by the colonization of cultures,” the Pope appealed.  “One builds true divine harmony through differences.  Differences are a richness for peace ,” the Pope added. 
(from Vatican Radio)…

Pope at Angelus: We will be judged on love

(Vatican Radio) In his Angelus address on Sunday, Pope Francis reflected on the last judgement , the subject of the day’s Gospel reading. He noted that this is the last Sunday of the liturgical year, the day on which the Church celebrates the Solemnity of Christ the King of the Universe . Christ’s kingship, he said, is one “of guidance and service, but it is also a kingship that at the end of time will be asserted in judgement.” The vision of the second coming of Christ, presented in the Gospel, introduces the final judgment, when all of humanity will appear before Him, and Jesus, exercising His authority, will separate one from another, “as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.” Pope Francis recalled the criteria that Jesus says will be the foundation of His judgment: “What you did for the least of my brothers, that you did on to me.” This sentence, the Pope said, “never fails to strike us, because it reveals to us” the end to which God is willing to go on account of His love for us. God goes so far as to identify Himself with us, not when we are “happy and healthy, but when we are in need.” Thus, the Pope said, “Jesus reveals the decisive criteria of His judgment, that is, the concrete love for our neighbour in difficulty.” Likewise, those who cursed, in the Gospel account, are judged for failing to aid their brothers and sisters in their need. Pope Francis repeated, “At the end of our life we will be judged on love, that is, on our concrete commitment to love and to serve Jesus in our smallest and most needy brothers.” The Holy Father reminds us that Jesus will come at the end of time to judge all nations ; but He also “ comes to us every day , in so many ways, and asks us to welcome Him.” The Pope concluded his reflection with the prayer that “the Virgin Mary might help us to encounter Him and to receive Him in His Word and in the Eucharist , and at the same time in our brothers and in our sisters who suffer hunger, illness, oppression, injustice. May our hearts be able to welcome Him in the ‘today’ of our life, so that we might be welcomed by Him into the eternity of His Kingdom of light and of peace.” Listen: 

(from Vatican Radio)…