NYAUNGLEBIN (Archdiocese of Yangon, MYM): 50,000 Catholics, other Christians and believers of other religions flocked to a midnight Mass celebrated in honour of Our Lady of Lourdes at the National Marian Shrine at Nyaunglebin, Myanmar, on 12 February. Presiding Prelate was Archbishop Charles Bo sdb, along with 80 other concelebrants.
This was the 109th National Marian Feast in Nyaunglebin, and was preceded by a Novena to Our Lady of Lourdes from from 4 to 13 February 2011. As is his wont, the Archbishop used the occasion to preach a message of peace, appealing not only to his own flock but especially to those of other faiths, and to the political powers that be. Accepting that most people seek peace and happiness in life, he focused the fulfilment of this desire on important relationships: “Among political parties, business people, family members, at school, in offices, and in any given situation”. He was not only speaking of horizontal relationships: “Relationship with God” is equally important.
Archbishop Bo drew on the deep religious desire in all faiths to encourage a good relationship with God, but he also reminded those of no religion, and those whom he called “free thinkers”, to rethink! He placed this within the overwhelming religious culture of Myanmar, particularly dominated by the Buddhist faith, but noting that”both Buddhists and Christians go to the pagoda, church, monastery. saying prayers in the early morning, or in their homes, decorating places that represent God with fresh flowers, candles, water”.
He said he was very pleased to see the mutual understanding, cooperation and loving relationship between believers of different religions. Then he encouraged the present leaders of the country of Myanmar to “meet and consult with the religious leaders for the development of the country and people”. He said “In building the country, religion plays a major role. If the political leaders work together with the religious leaders, there can be more peace, and prosperity. What we cannot solve by arms and in fact we cannot solve all problems by arms, we can solve by religion, and faith.”
The Archbishop then went on to speak of people’s relationships amongst themselves on a day-to-day and homely basis. “The second most important area of our relationship is the relationship with one another; they may be our parents, wives, husbands, children, friends, people in society.” He encouraged the pilgrims to get rid of all envy and to have a good relationship with others in order to obtain peace and happiness, the most desirable thing in life.
Our Lady of Lourdes’ Marian Shrine in Nyaunglebin was recognized as National Marian Shrine by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Myanmar some 7 years ago. Yet traditionally for many years already, people from different parts of the country came together to this place to celebrate the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes.
At the end the Prelate greeted the different groups in 12 languages.