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A rainbow nation

· A conversation with Cardinal Charles Maung Bo, Archbishop of Yangon, Myanmar ·

A Church of the poor and for the poor which defends the dignity of those facing injustices. This is the reality of the Catholic community in Myanmar, as described by Cardinal Charles Maung Bo, Archbishop of Yangon, Myanmar, who became a cardinal in the Consistory on 14 February.

You are the first bishop of Myanmar to become a cardinal. What does this mean for you?

I personally feel that this move springs from Pope Francis' life and mission. He has been writing about “the peripheries”. This radical interpretation of the life and the mission of the Church animates all his decisions. As the press has pointed out, the Holy Father chose the
cardinals keeping his preference in mind. It is certainly an honor for the people of Myanmar. For five decades we were under a suffocating dictatorship with crippling discrimination against Christians. The Church's survival and growth is a miracle to many. So this honor is actually a
call to service to our country's men and women. It is also a tribute to my
brother bishops whose patience and wisdom allowed the Church to survive. By bestowing this honor, the Holy Father has called us to greater service to the Church and the nation in its critical time of history.

Christians are a minority in the country. What do you do to promote dialogue with other religions?

We have a three-fold approach to dialogue: dialogue with the poor, dialogue with cultures and dialogue with religions. Our dialogue with the poor has been extensive. We are a poor Church, we live among them, we educate them, we empower them through various social programs. In many areas the Church is the only one present among the poor in the remote areas. Our dialogue with cultures is very important. We are a rainbow nation: we have seven major tribes with 135 sub tribes. We are a colourful Church. This element brings both blessings and challenges. The Church needs to be inculturated and also to forge a common identity. We have strong ethnic ecclesial communities. Common gatherings like the 500 year Jubilee are a source of interaction. Annual National Youth conferences, religious gatherings are arranged. Buddhists are in the majority in our country. We are constantly in contact with like minded monks, through a group called Religions for Peace. Regular meetings are held and the youth comes together. National and international
meetings are also regularly held. We continue to raise our voice against violence against attacks against the Muslims by a group of fundamentalists.

Nicola Gori

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