03/31/2014, 00.00
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Archbishop of Yangon: "Churches full for a Lent in favor of poor"

by Francis Khoo Thwe
Archbishop Charles Bo describes the period of preparation for Easter in the Burmese capital and initiatives of solidarity, especially for the poorest people of the diocese. Fasting on one meal a day a popular practice. Social and spiritual animation programs aimed at children.

Yangon ( AsiaNews) - Attending daily Mass, following the Way of the Cross on Fridays and observing the call to fasting and prayer as well as participating in parish activities with particular attention to the spiritual animation programs for children . These are just some of the many initiatives promoted by the Archdiocese of Yangon , Myanmar, for Lent as described by Mgr . Charles Bo. "The faithful are encouraged to attend daily Mass - said the prelate - and many parishes are packed in every celebration. As is the case on Fridays for the Way of the Cross". There is a particular parish, which "has the daily practice of making the Stations of the Cross at 5:30 a.m. during the Lenten season. This is due to the request and devotion of the Faithful on the Passion of Jesus. After the Stations of the Cross, the Holy Mass follows. Every morning the Church is packed with the Faithful", says Msgr. Bo.

In these weeks of fasting and prayer, Christians are invited to abstain from meat. Archbishop Bo reports that this "is taken seriously" by many faithful, some " take only one meal throughout the day" for all 40 days of Lent. There is great attention , the prelate continues , " dedicated to personal confessions and penance".

There are also moments of adoration before the Blessed Sacrament, spiritual retreats and times of prayer organized by the youth movements of the diocese, by the members of the Legion of Mary and that are aimed at young people, elderly people, priests and laity. In many families, the tradition is still alive "of conserving the ashes" collected during the first day of Lent, they are placed on a small altar in every home , "to symbolize the beauty and blessing " that stem from this period of fasting and prayer .

There are also initiatives of solidarity, says the Archbishop of Yangon, such as the distribution of envelopes containing some money to the poor. "The faithful are urged to make small sacrifices - confirms the prelate - some reduce the amount they eat at each meal, or save on clothing or something else, to put aside sums of money for charity". These donations are sent to the leaders of Karuna (Caritas Myanmar ) to support the needy and the poor throughout the year , because "people are more generous in Lent". Among the various initiatives, some relate to the little ones and - in particular - the children who are preparing to receive their First Holy Communion and young people preparing for their Confirmation. Msgr . Bo  reveals we teach them to " share experiences " exploiting special initiatives such as "special social and spiritual programs for them".

Myanmar is a deeply divided nation, especially between the Buddhist majority and the Muslim minority. Although just over 1 per cent of the country's population, Burmese Catholics' presence and work towards unity and peace are crucial in a society characterised by ethnic and sectarian strife. For many ethnic groups, like the Karen and Kachin, being Christian is an ethnic marker. This however, should be the basis of exchange, not divisions, as the archbishop of Yangon stressed on several occasions in the past.


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