Catholics welcome new priests in war-torn Myanmar

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

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

Posted: Nov 21, 2022 06:41 GMT

Updated: November 21, 2022 06:42 GMT

The Church in Myanmar has welcomed 10 new priests and a deacon as a blessing to the Catholic minority amid the conflict sparked by the February 2021 military coup.

Bishop Peter Hla of Pekhon Diocese presided over priestly and diaconal ordination with hundreds of priests at Christ the King Cathedral in Loikaw, capital of Kayah State, on November 20.

Hundreds of Catholics as well as relatives of newly ordained priests joined the Holy Eucharist.

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Of the 11, nine newly ordained priests are from the Diocese of Loikaw and the other priest and deacon are from the Congregation of the Missionary of the Faith.

In the homily, Bishop Hla urged the new priests to listen to the words of Christ the King and respond to the spiritual and physical needs of the people, especially the displaced people.

“At present, thousands of people have been displaced due to the conflict and they are taking refuge in the Diocese of Loikaw and other dioceses. They thirst for the Bible, for justice and peace and truth,” the Prelate said.

“You are chosen by God to become a pastor, so try to meet the spiritual and physical needs of displaced people,” he added.

“It is a special day and a blessing for the diocese as well as for the Church in Myanmar, as we have the opportunity to celebrate the solemnity of Christ the King and the ordination of priests,” Fr. Celso Ba said. Shwe, Apostolic Administrator of the Diocese of Loikaw.

The Diocese of Loikaw is in one of the areas hardest hit by the conflict. Several parishes have been completely abandoned by priests, nuns and parishioners who have fled to safe areas following intensified fighting since May 2021.

At least seven Catholic churches and a convent in the diocese were hit by artillery fire and airstrikes by the Burmese army.

At least 170,000 civilians in Kayah state – more than half of its population of 300,000 – have been forced from their homes, according to the Karenni Civil Society Network.

Myanmar’s Catholic community has over 1,000 priests, about 2,000 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 badly affected by the conflict.

The army used airstrikes and heavy weapons in the fighting with the combined forces of the ethnic armed groups and the recently emerged popular defense forces in the predominantly Christian Kayah, Shan, Chin, Karen and Kachin states. .

At least 2,500 people have lost their lives in the brutal crackdown on opponents of the regime and more than 16,000 have been detained since the February 1, 2021 military coup.

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