ASIA/MYANMAR - More than 1,300 seminarians in the tiny community of 600,000 MyanmarCatholics, which prepares missionaries for central Asia

Friday, 16 July 2004

Hakha (Agenzia Fides) - The Church in Myanmar, formerly Burma, is rich in vocations, Bishop Nicholas Man Thang, Bishop of Hakha diocese told representatives of Aid to the Church in Need organisation. The Bishop was recently in Europe and he had a meeting with members of the aid organisation Aid to the Church in Need based in Germany. “My diocese alone has 70 seminarians and vocations are flourishing all over the country and we have a total of 1,300 young men studying in our seminaries and we have two of our own local religious congregations”. Hakha diocese situated in west Myanmar along the border with India, was created in 1992 and it has a population of 970,000 including 75,000 Catholics.
“One of our priorities is formation for seminarians and ongoing formation for priests. Some of our priests and seminarians are preparing to go on mission to other parts of Myanmar and abroad to central Asian countries ”.
“In a country where Buddhism is the main religion, interreligious dialogue is an important part of Church activity, as well as ecumenical relations and activity with other Christians. For example we have set up a mixed commission with Christians of various other denominations and next year we plan to institute an interreligious Commission of Christians, Buddhists, Muslims and Hindus”, Bishop Man Thang said.
Myanmar, has a population of 51 million including 600,000 gathered in 12 dioceses looked after by 16 bishops, assisted by 600 priests, 1,400 men and women Religious and 3,000 Catechists. The people are very united with their Bishop. Besides regular pastoral work of liturgy and catechism classes, the local Catholic community is active in charity work Although the country is ruled by a military junta people are allowed to attend church. The work of evangelisation is carried out mainly by specially trained itinerant catechists who go from village to village to tell people about the Good News of Jesus Christ.
Thanks to its men and women religious the local Church also runs schools, dispensaries and medical centres mainly in remote areas. Many brothers and Sisters work in government hospitals mainly in under-developed areas. The Church also assists poor people and refugees. Although practice of religion is guaranteed and the Church has no difficulty with regard to the ordination of bishops and priests but she is still hampered in her service to the nation.
(PA) (Agenzia Fides 16/7/2004 lines 38 words 365)