The diocese, suffragan of Taunggyi, is one of six created by the missionaries of the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions (PIME) in Myanmar. The diocesan pastoral centre has also been inaugurated. Catholics number just over 50,000.
Yangon (AsiaNews) – Thousands of people gathered on 14 and 15 December for the blessing ceremony of the diocesan pastoral centre and the new cathedral (pictured) in Pekhon, southern Shan State.
The presence of Mgr Paul Tschang In-Nam, apostolic nuncio to Myanmar, two archbishops and three local bishops, as well as many priests and religious, turned the historic event for the Church of Pekhon into a special occasion.
Suffragan of Taunggyi, the diocese is one of six – Taunggyi, Toungoo, Kengtung, Lashio, Loikaw and Pekhon – established by the missionaries of the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions (PIME) after they arrived in the country 150 years ago.
The last PIME missionary, Fr Paolo Noè, died in Pekhon in 2007. Given the great devotion local Catholics have for the missionaries, the participants in the ceremony cited the names of PIME Fathers one by one.
Established by Pope Benedict XVI in 2005, the Diocese of Pekhon lacked a place for meetings and training for growing number of priests and pastoral workers.
The construction of the new cathedral took many years replacing the small and dilapidated mother church, irrevocably damaged by the 2005 earthquake. The original church was built by PIME missionaries decades ago.
The Diocese of Pekhon is home to some 50,000 Catholics out of a population of over 290,000, divided into 15 parishes served by 44 diocesan priests, six men religious and 56 women religious.
The blessing of the pastoral centre and the cathedral was very popular, the fruit of a faith that is still alive, simple and deeply rooted among local ethnic Kayan.
The many vocations that still arise among local families are a sign of the faith’s deep root. Catholics, however, are aware of the challenges that are now emerging even in the mountains of Shan State, most notably "modernity".
Without a doubt, the strong and solid faith of these communities was tested in fire. PIME missionaries were able to offer it as the foundation of life.
Fr Robert Ngairi, PIME’s first Myanmar priest, and Fr Maurizio Arioldi, superior delegate for Thailand and Myanmar, were present at the ceremony representing the Institute. (LM)