Buddhists, Christians in Myanmar await Pope’s visit
Yangon: Buddhists and Christians in Myanmar are waiting for Pope Francis’ visit to Myanmar in November with enthusiasm.
Since October 12, a huge poster has been placed in front of the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Yangon, with the image of the Pope to announce the trip and welcome him to the country.
“We are grateful to God and to Pope Francis for his next visit to this Buddhist majority country. It is the first time we host a Pope. We hope his presence and his visit will serve to promote peace and reconciliation”, says to Fides Zarni Saya, a young Catholic of the diocese in Pathein.
“The theme chosen by the Pope as the leitmotif of the travel, peace and reconciliation, is significant for everyone in the country. Society in Myanmar suffered a lot in the past. Today, the nation is more open to freedom and hope, despite the many challenges the country faces, including the delicate issue of Rohingya Muslims of Rakhine State”, remarks Saya.
For the Sucitta Buddhist monk, “the presence of the Pope will instill good will in everyone. Society in general can find the way for a renewal”.
“The Pope’s visit to the country will be a symbol of God’s concern for this people who suffered a lot in the past decades: I am sure that he will encourage everyone to work together for prosperity and development”, adds Esther Byu, who in the past was Executive Secretary of the Commission for Women in the Ecumenical Christian Conference of Asia. (CCA).
According to the official program of the visit, announced by the Holy See, on November 27 in Nay Pyi Taw, the welcome ceremony will take place in the Presidential Palace where the Pope will meet President Htin Kyaw and Aung San Suu Kyi, Minister of Foreign Affairs.
In the afternoon he will speak to civil society and the diplomatic corps, and then return to Yangon by plane. On the morning of November 29, Pope Francis will preside Mass in Kyaikkasan Groun in Yangon. Two appointments are scheduled in the afternoon: the first is the meeting with the “Sangha” Supreme Council of the Buddhist monks, the second with the bishops of the Country, in the Cathedral of Yangon.
The latter will also be the venue for the papal Masses with young people the next day, November 30, at 10 am. Then the departure for Bangladesh where the Pope will stay until December 2.
In Myanmar there are over 51 million people, mostly Buddhist. According to government data related to the year 2016, in Myanmar there are 88.9% Buddhists, 6.3% Christians, 2.3% Muslims, 0.5% Hindu, 0.8% Animists, 0.2% others (Sikhs, Confucians, Baha’is and Zoroastrians) and other minorities not belonging to any religion. Catholics are about 700,000, divided into 16 dioceses.