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Pope in Myanmar. Holy Mass with young people: a feast of colours, dance and music

Six thousand people are expected to attend the Holy Mass of November 30th with Pope Francis. It will be a great feast, with traditional chants, coloured garments and welcoming dances. Prayers will be recited in the various local languages of Myanmar, for the Country, its leadership and national authorities, that they may receive the “gift of wisdom and unity in the service to the Nation”, and be “bridge builders” and “peacemakers.” Father Joseph Saw Er Khaw Htoo, Director of the National Catholic Youth Commission, described today’s Myanmar youths to SIR

(from Yangon) It will be a great celebration. With chants and traditional music, coloured garments and welcoming dances that are being prepared by youths from Myanmar’s dioceses to welcome Pope Francis. The scheduled date is November 30th. Before leaving from Yangon’s airport for the second destination of the Apostolic visit in Bangladesh, the Pope will celebrate Holy Mass for young people in St.Mary’s cathedral. Six thousand youths belonging to 8 different ethnicities are expected to attend – as many as 550 from Pathein and 600 from Myitkyina.

Holy Mass at Saint Mary’s Cathedral in Yangon. Father Joseph Saw Er Khaw Htoo, the young director of the National Catholic Youth Commission, said that “young people would have preferred to have an occasion for dialogue with Pope Francis, just enough time to ask him some questions and have the opportunity to share something about themselves” but the schedule is very busy given the transfer to Dacca on the same day. “We hope that Pope Francis – the priest said – will be able to establish a relationship with them, as often happens and has happened in other circumstances.”

The Cathedral can seat up to 1700 people. The youths attending the Holy Mass will be dressed in the traditional coloured garments of the ethnic groups they belong to.

All those who will follow the Holy Mass from the mega-screens set up outside, will be wearing white t-shirts with the “Love&Peace” logo of Pope Francis’ visit to Myanmar. Young people were given a choreography that they will be performing during the Pope’s arrival to the cathedral by car. All is ready for a great feast.

Young people’s prayers for a future of peace in Myanmar. Prayers will be recited in various languages, according to the various ethnicities: in Burmese, Tamil, Chinese, Hahka Chin, Karen and Kayah. The youths will pray for the Pope, for the bishops “whose guidance may contribute to build a world free of poverty.” “We pray – the youths will say in Chin language – for our civil authorities and for those in leadership positions in Myanmar, so that the Holy Spirit may bestow upon them the gifts of wisdom and unity at the service of the Nation.” The prayer in Chinese is “for the Nation and the promotion of peace and love in the world, especially for those who suffer as a result of violence. May we all become bridge-builders and peacemakers.” At the Youth Commission offices, in a room on the first floor of the Burmese Bishops’ Conference, a group of young people are working on the organization details of the Mass with the Pope. Peter La Htoi, 24, said:

“The Pope is a holy man. He will visit Myanmar that is a holy Country. We expect him to strengthen our commitment to the faith and make it grow, and that in this way all young people who drifted apart from the Church may feel the yearning to return.”

The 8 per thousand tax contribution of Italian Bishops. Myanmar is a young Country. The exploitation of natural resources, that the Country is abundant with, has caused the poverty of 80% of the Burmese population, 40% of whom live in absolute poverty. This situation is the root cause of the depletion of systematic education system for all households. “The lack of education – pointed out Father Joseph – is a major challenge in the Country. High numbers of children don’t go to school, and an equal number are dropouts. This lack of schooling has severe repercussions on the personal and professional future of the young. Youths lack personal goals and have no vision of the future, and without these prospects it’s very hard to undertake new paths and ensure a future of progress and development for the Country. Moreover, the current education system does not match the challenge, as it’s based on dated learning methods.” In fact, in some villages lessons are learnt by heart and repeated by the whole classroom. Adults with this kind of education have no other option than to live by their own wits with very low wages. The Catholic Church has always been present in this area. For example, Father Joseph is one of the hundreds of children raised and formed in a boarding house. Before the military regime there were many boarding homes, spread throughout the Country: in these structures, supported by parishes, children were given the opportunity to have an education. During the regime almost all of the boarding homes were nationalized, but Cardinal Charles Bo has recently initiated a process for the recovery of at least 30 schools linked to the parishes of Yangon. In this framework was launched a project funded by the Committee for Charitable interventions for Third World Countries of the Italian Bishops’ Conference (CEI) with the proceeds of the “8 per thousand” tax deduction system, enshrined in Italian legislation.  It consists in a 9-month program, which ended last year, envisaging English language classes and computer-training for 16 youths, one for each diocese in the Country. In the awareness – said Father Joseph – that “working for young people means creating the grounds of our progress, for a future of democracy and peace in the Country.”


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