Taunggyi, rejoicing for the new Catholic archbishop

Msgr. Basil Atahai, "simple but witty man", welcomed by the faithful and by members of the Episcopal Conference. The new bishop thanks the representatives of PIME, a bank in Taunggyi since 1968.

Taunggyi (AsiaNews) - On Saturday, September 4, a large crowd of faithful greeted the new archbishop of Taunggyi, Msgr. Basil Athai. Almost all members of the Bishops' Conference of Myanmar attended the ceremony, including the Apostolic delegate, Msgr. Paul Tschang In-nam, who came from Thailand for the occasion.

Priests from all over Myanmar, and in particular the diocese born from the work of PIME missionaries, were also present as was Fr. Maurizio Arioldi, delegate superior of the Institute in Thailand and Myanmar, for which Msgr. Basilio had words of sincere appreciation and gratitude. The prelate defined the PIME missionaries as "pioneers" who gave everything for the Church of northeast Myanmar.

The Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions has been present in Taunggyi, capital of Shan state (north-east of the country), since 1868. Six dioceses were born from the priests' work which now counts a large number of Christians, communities and religious.

Msgr. Balilio Athai, originally from Loikaw (Kayah State), is the second successor of Bishop Msgr. Gobbato (PIME), after Msgr. Mathias U Shwe, who resigned April 12, 2015 after leading the archdiocese for 26 years.

Local Christians describe Msgr. Athai as "a simple and very discreet man, but at the same time witty and profound in his few words".

The new archbishop inherits an extensive archdiocese at the local level, which counts 6,500 Catholics, 15 parishes and 40 priests.

Taking the floor at the end of the celebration, the Apostolic Delegate Msgr. Tschang In-nam said that "the era of the first missionaries (Vismara, Colombo etc.) is over; it is now time to hand over the reigns to let others continue the work of the mission".