Papal Envoy in Myanmar for Religious Celebration
Cardinal Renato Martino is Pope Benedict’s special envoy to Myanmar to attend the 100th anniversary of Yangon cathedral, where, among the attendees will be Nobel peace laureate Suu Kyi, a Buddhist.
Representatives of all religions in Myanmar, where Catholics represent only around one per cent of the population, are being invited to Thursday's event, when Martino will read a message from Pope Benedict XVI.
The Holy Father has called on Martino to transmit "a message of goodwill" to political and religious authorities in Myanmar where the military dictatorship has given several signs of openness in recent months, including freeing Suu Kyi from house arrest. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met recently with Suu Kyi, the first such visit in 50 years by a high-ranking U.S. official.
The country’s name was changed to Myanmar in 1989. Surrounded by Bangladesh, China, India, Laos and Thailand, Myanmar has a population of about 44 million people: 89 percent are Buddhist, 4 percent are Christian, of whom one percent are Catholic. There is one archdiocese, 10 dioceses, 20 bishops, 613 priests, 400 seminarians and 1660 men and women religious. The hierarchy was established here only in 1955. Buddhism was declared the state religion in 1961 but Myanmar - then Burma - has been officially secular since 1965. Yangon’s St. Mary’s cathedral has been undergoing major renovation for the December 2011 anniversary.
Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons
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