Cardinal Bo to lead Asian bishops with ‘creative mission’

By Matters India Reporter

New Delhi, November 22, 2018: Cardinal Oswald Gracias, outgoing president of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences (FABC), says his successor Cardinal Charles Maung Bo of Myanmar is the right person to lead the Church in the region.

Cardinal Bo “will take forward FABC with creative mission,” Cardinal Gracias, archbishop of Bombay, told Nirmala Carvalho of the AsiaNews agency.

FABC Acting Assistant Secretary General Father William LaRousse on November 20 announced Cardinal Bo’s appointment. Myanmar’s first cardinal will take over as head of the Catholic Church in Asia on January 1, 2019, a day after Cardinal Gracias’ retires after two consecutive terms.

Father LaRousse also said the election took place on November 16 in Bangkok during a meeting of the FABC Central Committee, attended by 16 bishops from various Asian countries.

Cardinal Gracias, who is the president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India, announced a “plenary Asian Council of Bishops to discuss different matters about the possibilities of us being at the service of the country, at the service of the people and at the service of the Church in Asia.”

According to him, Cardinal Bo is “the right person to lead us as we are preparing for this big plenary council in 2020.”

Cardinal Bo has been hailed as a man of dialogue and mediation and the new post will help him extend the pastoral concerns he has for the Church of Myanmar to the rest of Asia, reports of the Salesian congregation.

The Church in Myanmar recently celebrated 500 years of its existence. It has gone through, together with all the people of the country, decades of brutal domination under a rigid military junta. Today the nation is slowly moving towards a controlled democracy.

The Salesian cardinal has repeatedly stated that his goal as a cardinal is to work for peace and reconciliation between the various religious groups present in Myanmar, particularly in a phase that sees an increase in nationalism and intolerance toward religious minorities, especially the Rohingya Muslims.

Cardinal Bo has repeatedly denounced the problems of his nation and in every circumstance has made appeals for peace and harmony.

Cardinal Bo is also the reference point for the small Catholic flock in the country: about 800,000 faithful in a country of about 51 million people. In this capacity, for many years he has presided over the celebrations held during the National Marian Festival at the National Shrine of Nyaunglebin, dedicated to Our Lady of Lourdes, and which always gather many thousands of faithful.

The Salesian cardinal said he hoped his new assignment would give greater credibility to his commitment to reconciliation in the eyes of the government, the international community and the entire population.

Robin Gomes of the Vatican News adds:

Cardinal Bo was born on October 29, 1948, in Monhla, a village in the Archdiocese of Mandalay. After studying at the Nazareth Aspirantate of the Salesians Don Bosco in Anisakan, Pyin Oo Lwin, from 1962 to 1976, he made his temporary vows on May 24, 1970, followed by perpetual vows on March 10, 1976.

After his priestly ordination as a Salesian in Lashio, Shan State on April 9, 1976, he served as pastor in Loihkam (1976-1981) and Lashio (1981-1983). From 1983 to 1985, he taught in the seminary of Anisakan.

Cardinal Bo served as Apostolic Administrator in Lashio from 1985 to 1986 and its Apostolic Prefect from 1986 to 1990. When the prefecture was elevated to the status of a diocese in 1990, he was appointed its first bishop. He was consecrated bishop on December 16 that year.

Saint John Paul transferred him to Pathein diocese in Ayeyarwaddy Region in 1996, but he continued as Apostolic Administrator of Lashio until November 1998. On May 15, 2003, he was appointed Archbishop of Yangon. He headed the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Myanmar from 2000 to 2006.

Pope Francis made him Myanmar’s first cardinal at the consistory of February 14, 2015, in the Vatican. Subsequently, he was appointed a member of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, Pontifical Council for Culture, and Secretariat of Communication in the Vatican.

FABC brings together 19 bishops’ conferences of Asia as full members and 8 associate members. The federation’s purpose is to foster solidarity and co-responsibility among its members for the welfare of Church and society in Asia.

The decisions of the federation are without juridical binding force; their acceptance is an expression of collegial responsibility.

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