Pro-democracy priests, nuns and seminarians march in Yangon. Bishops withhold support
by Francis Khoo Thwe

Demonstrations continue, despite junta prohibitions. Fire hydrants and rubber bullets used on demonstrators in Naypyidaw. In Yangon, two demonstrators hit by a police car. Bishops forbid priests and nuns to display and use Catholic symbols. "Shameful" directive. One nun: "We follow the social doctrine of the Church and the encyclical of Pope Francis Laudato si '".

Yangon (AsiaNews) - Throughout the country there are demonstrations against the military dictatorship and for the release of the leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

Today tens of thousands of people demonstrated in Naypyidaw, the capital, and in Yangon, although the military junta had banned gatherings of more than five people since yesterday.

Police fired rubber bullets and used fire hydrants in Naypyidaw this morning. The violence of the police appears to be on the rise. According to some witnesses, two demonstrators died last night in Yangon when they were hit "on purpose" by a police car.

In the processions of these days, priests, seminarians and Catholic nuns have appeared almost everywhere, marching also asking for the end of the dictatorship and the return to government resulting from the elections.

The photo of the bishop of Mandalay raising the three finger salute was released on social media as proof that the Catholic Church fully supports the demonstrations.

In recent days, an open letter from Card. Charles Maung Bo, president of the Burmese bishops' conference, was judged by priests and faithful to be "overly neutral", asking for dialogue, without blaming the military for the coup.

Today, the Burmese bishops, headed by Card. Bo, issued some directives for priests, seminarians and nuns.

It suggests:

a) that religious personnel manifest unity with the people in the search for democracy by being "at the door" [of their homes or parishes-ed] or "inside the buildings";

b) religious personnel must not go into the streets with religious flags, with Catholic symbols or with the names of Catholic organizations;

c) the lay faithful, as free citizens of Myanmar can express their support for democracy, but without using symbols of the Catholic Church, of Pope Francis, of the nunciature, of episcopal representatives. All Catholic and faithful leaders in the world are asked to "pray that the problem of democracy in Myanmar be resolved in a peaceful way".

Some Yangon faithful have called this directive "shameful". One young woman comments: “Here it is not a question of religion, or of prayer: it is a question of resistance to dictatorship and this is important for every person and for every religion. This commitment must be encouraged, albeit in a peaceful way. This message from the bishops is too late: many nuns and seminarians are involved by now”.

One religious sister adds: “We are with our people. Religious leaders, brothers, nuns, priests, and even the bishop of Mandalay show solidarity with the people. We will do this today and always, in the name of the Church's social doctrine, as well as for our mission and for what Pope Francis says in Laudato si '".

Another religious sister adds: "The bishops, being pastors of the people, should stand in front of everyone, not hide in the rear".