Myanmar Catholics voice support for Suu Kyi

Archbishop calls her ‘the only credible person for the leadership’.

 Posted on August 13, 2014, 1:04 PM







It was partly thanks to her encounter with Pope Francis that she found the strength and inner peace to face one of the most important battles of her life. For Aung San Suu Kyi – the 67-year-old heroine of the Burmese people who is a political leader who entered Parliament two years ago and a symbol of resistance under military dictatorship – the words Francis pronounced to her in October 2013 when he received her in the Vatican played a crucial role in her tough decision to continue her political action for her country.

As a result she is once more up against the military hierarchies who have the country in the palm of their hand. Some of these figures are in uniform while others, like the current president Thein Sein, have transformed themselves into civil leaders. Despite being a small minority, the Burmese Church is looking toward the future with hope and is not missing the democracy train.

The challenge the Burmese opposition leader faces today is running for president in Burma’s next elections. This would speed up the democratic transition process that has been underway for about four years now, after the military “apparently” handed the government over to civil leaders, paving the way for new parliamentary elections. The 2012 vote made it possible for Aung San Suu Kyi – who heads the National League for Democracy – to return to active politics after 15 years house arrest and to be elected in Parliament.

But it’s a rocky road to the top. Burma’s next general election is due to take place in November 2015 but there is a clause in the Constitution – written in by the previous government – which prevents the League’s leader from becoming President, simply because she has two children and foreign citizenship (Aung San Suu Kyi is the widow of a British lawyer). The Charter guarantees members of the military 25% of Parliamentary seats, it gives them the power to veto constitutional reforms, forbids accusations against generals who are responsible for human rights violations.

The key issue today is therefore amending the articles in the Constitutional Charter, which ensure that power stays in the hands of military leaders. A petition was launched in recent months – and has now concluded – calling for a revision of the Constitution. The campaign was led by San Suu Kyi and gathered over three million signatures. The campaign even received the support of the international community: on a visit he has just concluded in Burma, the US Secretary of State, John Kerry, called for Constitutional reforms to go ahead “to guarantee free and credible elections next year.”

Burma’s Christian community, which faces serious religious freedom restrictions, has expressed its full support for the reinforcement of democracy. Out of Burma’s 53 million inhabitants, only 500,000 are Catholics, that is less than 1%. But the Church has nevertheless been working for the common good of the country, promoting values such as peace, social reconciliation between ethnic and religious groups, inclusion, democracy, dignity and human rights.

The Salesian archbishop of Yangon, Charles Maung Bo, a careful observer of social and political life, confirmed the Church’s appreciation for Aung San Suu Kyi, who “has a key role to play.” The Burmese people still see the woman as a reference point: bishops, priests and lay people alike have great esteem for her and firmly support her, believing she is “the only credible person, to date, for the leadership of the country.” The bishop called the encounter with the Pope “a source of strength and guidance for the Burmese leader.”

Aung San Suu Kyi’s encounter with Bergoglio seems to have strengthened Burmese faithful’s support for her. The director of the Holy See Press Office of the Holy See, Fr. Federico Lombardi spoke of a “cordial meeting” and “great harmony” between the Pope and the Burmese Nobel Peace Prize winner, on subjects such as democracy and peace. The Pope expressed “his appreciation” said Fr. Lombardi, for the lady’s commitment in the development of democracy in her nation, “ensuring the Church’s commitment to this cause,” because “the Church is at the service of all.”

San Suu Kyi needed the international community’s support and the Holy See’s endorsement was a great help. The female leader’s goal is to boost national reconciliation and promote a mature democracy that respects minorities following a persuasive and peaceful strategy based on popular consensus, avoiding a head on collision with the military.

Source: Vatican Insider/La Stampa


Korea’s ‘two Churches’ collide in papal visit planning

Pope Francis’ itinerary won’t take him to ‘the margins’ where the Gospel lives, say activists.

Posted on August 13, 2014, 2:07 PM

Women religious in Seoul sit on Tuesday with families of those who died in the April 16 sinking of a ferry to show support for an independent investigation of the disaster.









Seoul :

When Pope Francis arrives here Thursday, he will encounter a vibrant but divided Korean church. It is a church that has grown substantially in numbers in recent decades, but one with significant internal divisions.

“There are actually two churches here,” said Columban Father Pat Cunningham, “the church of the bishops and the church of the progressive minority.”

At the center of this division is how Korean Catholics should engage society and how Catholics should respond to the needs of the poor and the marginalized, especially those displaced by the rapid social and economic change that has occurred here in the past two decades.

Church fractures are not uncommon. However, the division between Korean bishops and Catholic activists has grown as more conservative bishops have been appointed during the past three decades and Catholic activists have become more vocal.

The division between these groups has surfaced in recent months as planning for the papal trip has gone forward.

Pope Francis’ five-day itinerary is the product of a committee of Korean bishops who collaborated with government and Vatican officials. From the viewpoint of the Korean bishops, the papal visit is intended to encourage Korean Catholics, linking past, present and future.

The two most visible papal events will be the time Francis spends with young people at Asian Youth Day and his beatification of 124 martyrs who died for their faith in the 18th and 19th centuries.

The president of the preparatory committee, the president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Korea, has said that the papal trip, by focusing on church martyrs, will “lift up to the Gospel values” they died for. “In the life of martyrdom, we can discover true peace and reconciliation,” Bishop Peter U-il Kang of Cheju said.

For their parts, Catholic activists, including lay leaders, religious and priests, also cite the Gospels, saying their distinctly radical call for justice and service to the needy are missing in the papal itinerary.

Approximately two dozen NCR interviews with Korean Catholics found widespread disappointment among lay leaders, priests and religious. They say their repeated suggestions to the Korean bishops’ planning committee were all rejected.

The activists said they had hoped Francis would have “gone to the margins” of Korean society, where he has called upon Catholics to preach the Gospels by serving the poor.

The activists cited Francis’ first papal excursion, a visit to Lampedusa, Italy’s southernmost island, after seeing newspaper headlines describing the drowning of immigrants at sea. At Lampedusa, Francis urged the world to awaken to the needs of immigrants.

The activists suggested to the planning committee that Francis visit Gangjeong village on the southern coast of Jeju island, where the Korean government is building a naval base to give port to U.S. warships.

They wanted Francis to visit the rural town of Miryang, where elderly Koreans have been doing all they can to stop the construction of high-voltage transmission towers across their land.

In each instance, the Korean bishops dismissed the suggestions of these Catholic activists, the activists said. As the activists see it, Francis’ visit to their land is, at best, a missed opportunity and, at worst, a means of affirming an unjust status quo.

At the same time, they have not given up hope entirely. Though the hour is late, they still think Francis could pull off a surprise, saying something that clearly underlines his vision of church, one that is visibly grounded is justice and peace.

“I see no connection between Francis’ ‘Joy of the Gospel’ and the itinerary,” said Moses Kwon Oh-kwang, director of Catholic National Federation for Justice. “At no time is Francis going to the margins, where he has told us the Gospel is to be lived.”

Source: National Catholic Reporter

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