Yangon (Fides Service) - Thousands of Burmese Catholics made their way to the Marian Shrine in Nyaunglebin, diocese of Yangon for the recitation of the Rosary and a special Mass on February 11, the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes. This year the feast day coincided with the opening of the 2nd National Eucharistic Congress, a most important event for the Catholic Church in Myanmar.
In Myanmar there is widespread devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary. Every year thousands of people including many non Christians make the pilgrimage to Nyaunglebin with deep.
The celebration of the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes dates to the arrival of the first missionaries from France. In 1892, Bishop Ambrose Bigandet opened a mission at Nyaunglebin, entrusting it to the care of Father Michael Mignon, a member of the Paris Foreign Missions Society who built a small wooden church, the first in Myanmar to be dedicated to Our Lady of Lourdes. In 1902 a new church was built and consecrated. In 1918 a statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary was set in nearby cave to represent the grotto in Lourdes. In 1928 the statue was destroyed by a fanatic. Some time later another statue arrived from France and was set in the grotto.
Father Mignon died in 1937 and was buried near the church. During the Japanese occupation in World War II the church was seriously damaged. The missionary’s earthly remains were removed to Nyaunglebin town cemetery and were only returned in 1977 when the church was rebuilt.
When the war was over in 1948 the local Church began to celebrate once again the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes. By 1957 the feast had become a national event and every year thousands made the pilgrimage to Nyaunglebin. This led the Bishops’ Conference of Myanmar to give the Shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes at Nyaunglebin the title of National Pilgrimage Centre.
(PA) (Agenzia Fides 16/2/2005 righe 26 parole 268)