Demonstrations continue in Yangon, Lashio, Loikaw, Myitkyina, Dawei, Myeik, Kyaikto, and Myingyan. Police resort to tear gas, grenades, and beatings. The economy could come to a standstill. Withdrawing cash from ATMs has become difficult. Some foreign businesses are planning to leave. A total lockdown is possible as an extreme attempt to block protests, communications and social media platforms. The UN special envoy to Myanmar, Christine Schraner Burgener, warns against providing legitimacy to the junta.
Francis celebrated Mass in Baghdad’s Chaldean cathedral, “where wisdom arose in ancient times, so many witnesses have arisen in our own time, often overlooked by the news, yet precious in God’s eyes. Witnesses who, by living the Beatitudes, are helping God to fulfil his promises of peace.”
Today was dedicated to dialogue between faiths. It began with a visit to the leader of Iraqi Shias, Al-Sistani, and continued with the interfaith meeting in Ur of the Chaldeans, a blessed place that “brings us back” to “the birth of our religions”. “Hostility, extremism and violence are not born of a religious heart: they are betrayals of religion.”
Francis met with bishops, priests, religious, seminarians and catechists in the Syriac Catholic Cathedral of "Our Lady of Salvation" where a terror attack killed 48 people. “Their deaths are a powerful reminder that inciting war, hateful attitudes, violence or the shedding of blood are incompatible with authentic religious teachings,” said the Pope.
During his first hours in Iraq, Francis met with Iraq’s president, political leaders and diplomats. “May God grant that we journey together as brothers and sisters in ‘the firm conviction that authentic teachings of religions invite us to remain rooted in the values of peace… mutual understanding, human fraternity and harmonious coexistence’.” The pontiff will travel in a bullet-proof car and wear a mask.
Francis leaves for Baghdad tomorrow to meet a “martyred Church” and visit places devastated by the Islamic State. The trip includes a visit to Ur of the Chaldeans and a meeting with Grand Ayatollah Ali Al-Sistani, leader of the Shia community, which is the majority religion in Iraq and in neighbouring Iran. Before his departure, Francis released a video message.
Today's death toll included five in Monywa; two in Mandalay, one hit in the chest and one in the head; two in Myingyan, one in Magway, and one in Yangon. Strikes and acts of civil disobedience are spreading across the country. Some 34 journalists have been arrested, many for spreading “fake news”. Thousands have been arrested. ASEAN foreign ministers’ meeting yields no results.
At the general audience, Francis asks to pray for the journey that begins on Friday. In Myanmar, "aspirations for peace must not be stifled by violence". Before knowing Jesus, he said, "we really did not know how to pray: what words, what feelings and what languages were appropriate for God."
The Indonesian government adopts the new measure to support the economy hit by the collapse of the tourist sector. The poverty index rose to 10.9 per cent. Meanwhile, mass vaccination has begun in Jakarta with priority given to the elderly and clerics, but there is concern about the time it will take to reach the farthest islands.
Clashes with security forces in Yangon. Rumours of two deaths. One dead and several wounded in Kale. Following global protestations, the military leaders ask security forces not to use lethal weapons. ASEAN runs for cover. Singapore: No to violence, free Aung San Suu Kyi, dialogue for peace. Democratic leader charged with two other violations.
Eight other members of the Cambodia National Rescue Party, including his wife, also sentenced - again in absentia. Defendants deprived of civil rights will not be able to participate in elections in 2022 and 2023. Activists and experts speak of a politically motivated ruling. The dissolved party announces a battle.
A viral outbreak has been declared at the John XXIII Seminary in East Java, which hosts major seminarians from ten dioceses. At least 30 people have been infected, 13 of whom have been hospitalised. The Sisters of St Charles Borromeo in Yogyakarta, who have already faced the coronavirus, have come to help.
Demonstrations in Yangon and Lashio. The UN condemns the use of lethal bullets, tear gas and stun grenades against protesters. Aung San Suu Kyi in court. A Yangon police chief, Tin Min Tun, says he "does not want to serve under the present military regime." Tom Andrews, UN human rights expert in Myanmar: Words are insufficient. Action must be taken.
A Christian's mission, Francis said at the Angelus, is "ignite little lights in people's hearts; be little lamps of the Gospel that bring a little love and hope ". In Lent a "fast" from gossip. A prayer for children suffering from rare diseases.
Commentary on the Gospel of the 2nd Sunday of Lent B (Mark 9, 2-10).