Thursday, March 29, 2007

The Church in Myanmar (Burma)

One doesn't hear much about Catholicism in Myanmar. (Well, one doesn't hear much about Myanmar, apart from the occasional report of yet more human rights violations by the military junta.) This brief report appeared in the news feed sent out by Fides (not yet on their website). No analysis, just a report on the visit of the Apostolic Delegate to a remote part of northern Myanmar.
This was the first pastoral visit in this diocese by Mgr Pennacchio who, on the recent visit, was accompanied by other bishops of Myanmar and by Fr. Dominic Thet tin, secretary of the Bishops’ Conference.
The diocese of Pathein is situated in northern Myanmar and has a vivacious and flourishing Catholic community of 72,000 faithful, assisted by 93 priests, about 250 men and women religious, and 36 seminarians. It was created by Pope Pius XII in 1954, the year the Catholic hierarchy was established.
On his arrival in the presence of over a thousand people, priests, religious and laity, Archbishop Pennacchio presided a concelebration of the Eucharist and the ordination of three deacons,.
The programme continued with a visit to the Novitiate of the Congregation of Saint Paul Missionaries, where the Apostolic Delegate encouraged the novices and Brothers; then Archbishop Pennacchio blessed a piece of land on which a new church will be built in the area of St John’s parish.
[Update: Do read the anonymous comment below. No idea about the veracity of the statements ... it was made from an IP address in Yangon, the capital of Myanmar.]


Anonymous said...

Small point but Pathein is in the West of the country, in Ayewaddy Division located along the Delta of the Ayewaddy river, and not in the North.

But for your information this 'vivacious and flourishing community' and other communities [both Catholic and from other denominations], are being ripped off by the Priests and the Bishops, in the same way as most other institutions in the country rip off the poor. From the out-and-out theft of donations, to the siphoning off of funds allocated to church projects, the same mechanisms of corruption are there for all to see, and are extremely widespread if not endemic.

What's more these senior men of the cloth are proud to show off their ill-gotten wealth, driving around in cars and SUV's with a Myanmar re-sale value in excess of USD150,00, and wearing rings adorned with huge rubies and other precious stones, that demonstrate that they are no different to those that rule the country.

The hypocracy of these "holy" men disgusts me.

Gashwin said...

Wow those are pretty serious allegations. I have no real knowledge of the ground realities in Myanmar (ecclesial or secular), apart from what I may read and the impression is simply of a forgotten country, with a brutal military dictatorship.

Any stories, reports, analyses that talk more about corruption among the clergy in Myanmar?

Are you familiar with the situation first hand?

PixelChick said...

Gashwin, I actually have a friend at work who's from Myanmar and we've discussed this a few times. I believe the sale of cars is a highly regulated thing - you need a permit to import the car (and by his account, they don't have any indigenously/collaboratively developed cars like the Maruti or Indica). Its supposed to be a big racket in Myanmar - to apply for a permit, import a foreign car, and sell it for an exhorbitant price. Of course, I have no clue about Catholic involvement, and it's a second hand account at best, so take it for what it's worth.

Gashwin said...

Interesting, Pixelchick. Thanks for that input. Sounds like a lot of corrupt places in the world.

I don't know what the reality is, and I certainly don't want to impugn the reputation of honest clergy in Myanmar, but as an American Catholic, I know all too well that priests are far from perfect. So, I wouldn't be too surprised if some of anon's allegations are actually true.

georgette said...

Gosh, what Anon is describing sounds quite horrible. I have no knowledge whatsoever about that region (aside from having read Amy Tan's latest book, Saving Fish From Drowning, which is a fictitious story set there and is pretty good at illustrating the atrocities of the government against the tribals there while providing an entertaining story). But this reminds me of Cardinal Arinze's reprimands of some of the clergy in Nigeria who were doing the same thing--using the priesthood as a means to gain wealth and then showing it off in gross and extravagant ways. It's disgusting, but I suppose in very poor places, this sort of corruption would be expected in every sector of society. It is unfortunate that even the priesthood is not exempt from it.