“The Pope will come as a messenger of peace, to encourage Christians but also to seek to give a universal message for reconciliation among the different ethnic groups”, thus Father Dario Pavisa summarized on August 28, 2017, the message of the Bishops of Myanmar, on the occasion of the announcement of Pope Francis’ visit (November 27-30, 2017), which has brought joy to the population.
Father Dario Pavisa, Secretary of the Apostolic Nunciature in Myanmar, announced the Pope’s Apostolic Journey to the South-Eastern Asian country, during a press conference in the capital, Rangoon, reported Vatican Radio in Italian (Marco Guerra) on August 28.
News Received with Joy
He described the reactions to the news of the Pope’s visit: “It’s the first time that a Pope comes to Myanmar; the Catholic community received the news with much joy! I’ve been in Myanmar for weeks already and I see that the Episcopal Conference also has a meeting today with young people for the preparation; it’s beautiful and I must say that, for them, it’s above all something new; one sees that they have good will and they are also in need of support and organization. I know that the Catholic Church in Myanmar already had the experience of a great event which took place last year: the 500 years of the arrival of the Catholic faith in the country. This visit of the Pope is an even greater confirmation for their faith. And I must say, truly, that the reactions are very positive; the Bishops and the parish priests are happy, at least from what I‘ve been able to observe at Yangon”, said Father Pavisa.
He noted that very numerous journalists were present at the press conference for the announcement of the Pope’s trip. “For a country that’s Buddhist, that means that this visit stirs intense interest, because it’s something new for Myanmar: not only for the Catholic Church, but also for the government and for all the people who are so in need of “peace and love,” which, moreover, is the official motto of this visit. During the official announcement, the Bishops also published a message addressed not only to Catholics but also to all the Burmese society and people, in which they affirmed that the Pope will come as a messenger of peace, to encourage Christians but also to seek to give a universal message for reconciliation among the different ethnic groups. In fact, we know that in Myanmar there are eight main groups and 135 other ethnic minorities that, certainly, are in need of the Holy Father’s support.”
Pacification among Ethnic Groups
He commented on the effect of Pope Francis’ appeal at the Angelus on Sunday, August 27, for the Rohingyas, a minority that is still discriminated: “The Pope’s word is always well received, especially when he speaks of reconciliation and peace. What I would also like to underline is that in Myanmar there are also different small ethnic groups that suffer as the Rohingya: it’s also important that a message speak of this suffering. Since I arrived in Myanmar, I always hear it said, precisely here, that there are different ethnic groups that still suffer very much.”
He believes that the Catholic minority can contribute to national pacification: “The Buddhists represent the majority religion – we know that – they are around 90%; however, without the minorities, made up of Catholics, Muslims and Hindus, it’s not possible to effect a reconciliation. Consequently, in this process it’s necessary that everyone be included. And the Catholic Church especially is invited, I would say in a particular way, to offer a stronger voice in what concerns reconciliation among the different ethnic groups and we must also say among the different religions.”
Father Pavisa recalled as well the stages that contributed to make this trip possible: “On May 4 diplomatic relations between Myanmar and the Holy See were established. There were long attempts, which lasted several years, and when we had contacts with the government, its representatives showed themselves truly happy by the fact that, after the resumption of diplomatic relations, the Holy Father is visiting Myanmar. In preparation of the visit, Myanmar’s first Nuncio has been appointed, His Excellency Monsignor Paul Tschang In-Nam, and this will also facilitate the work of the Catholic Church. Catholics, here in the country, represent a minority: altogether they are about 700,000 people. Consequently, they will be in need of a voice, let’s say, official that can always speak for its government and also explain who Catholics are, who the Holy Father is and the Holy See, what is the work and mission that the Catholic Church can carry out in this country.”
Translation by Virginia M. Forrester