07/26/2016, 13.30
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For bishop of Kalay, faith grows in diocese affected by depopulation

Mgr Felix Lian Khen Thang talks about the life of the Church in Chin State, where Christians are the majority. Catholics are only 6 per cent, but their numbers are growing. “Some people come back from foreign lands” after seeking work abroad. The Holy Year and preparing for WYD have seen a flourishing of works of mercy and a greater awareness of confession and “God’s forgiveness".

Kalay (AsiaNews) – The situation of the Chin people is "getting better than before, from my point of view. It is in the process of developing in certain areas [of my diocese]. Some people come back from foreign lands to resettle in the mother country, but many are still trying to go abroad to make money,” said Mgr Felix Lian Khen Thang, bishop of Kalay.

The diocese is located in northwestern Myanmar, and is home to the ethnic Chin, a predominantly Christian group. For years, the region has been affected by depopulation, with peasants fleeing poverty and hopelessness.

About 85.4 per cent of the population of Chin State is Christian, but only 6 per cent is Catholic. "We live among other Christian communities,” the bishop noted, “and sometimes it is difficult to pass on the Catholic faith, but we do our best to keep the faithful on the right path and teach catechism well."

In the diocese of Kalay, established by Pope Benedict XVI on 22 May 2010, the number of believers is growing.

“In some parishes we get people from other Christian denominations,” Mgr Felix said. “Generally speaking,” he added, “Catholics live a simple life and follow the priests. Our work gives us a lot of satisfaction."

Now the diocese includes 22 parishes and about 54,000 members, 50 priests, one deacon, 17 religious, 43 seminarians and 120 catechists.

For the prelate, the life of the Church has been enriched in recent months by the Jubilee of Mercy proclaimed by Pope Francis and the preparation for the 31st World Youth Day, set for this week in Krakow.

"It is a great privilege for youth to participate in World Youth Day in Poland,” Mgr Felix said, “but our kids cannot go. Fr Joseph Kham, the diocese’s youth director, travelled to the event and promised that he would bring back all the experiences and share them with young people.”

The Holy Year has seen a flourishing of charitable activities, as well as works of mercy, both spiritual and material.

"We have planned many activities, including visits to the sick and to those in prison. We give a hand to the poor and needy. Until now all the initiatives have been a success and we continue them.”

“I encourage my priests to devote time to the confessions, to allow the faithful to receive God’s forgiveness. Before confession we prepare people, and explain to them the great importance of what they are doing."

Finally, Mgr Felix spoke about the first months of the new government led by the National League for Democracy and Aung San Suu Kyi.

"It is still early to say what effect they will have on the country,” he said, “but one can already see a change in people's minds, moving towards what is better. There is a sense of transparency, where everything is out in the open, and nothing is hidden."

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