A Christmas message from Myanmar’s first Roman Catholic cardinal

24 December 2015
A Christmas message from Myanmar’s first Roman Catholic cardinal
Cardinal Charles Maung Bo. Photo: Mizzima

Cardinal Charles Maung Bo, Myanmar’s newly appointed Roman Catholic cardinal, issued a Christmas message on Tuesday, naming the National League for Democracy (NLD), the United Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), the government of President Thein Sein and the Myanmar military.
“We congratulate the NLD [opposition party] who won the election,” he said in a statement. “At the same time we also wish and pray that you may build the nation in spite of enormous challenges that lie in wait. The people of Myanmar have invested their hopes and future in your fragile hands, knowing that power of empty hands has ‘sent away the mighty and raised the lowly.’ You have shown your sagacity by proposing a government of national reconciliation.
“The world stands in awe at the graceful way the president and the USDP [the ruling party] accepted the verdict and welcomed the victors. For the last five years you have done a lot for this country ensuring that the incremental democracy brings greater inclusiveness. Your good will at peaceful transfer of power is a great example to the world where enormous blood shed is the norm in transfer of power. History will gratefully remember you for your generosity and statesmanship. . . .
He said, “We sincerely believe in the change of heart of the army. From the mentality of a junta, the past and present leadership of the army is changing into a guardian of democratic transition.
“Much needs to be done, but we are heartened by the good will shown by the present general [commander in chief] and the retired generals in honoring the verdict of the people. A new Myanmar needs the Army in its primary role of protecting the nation from external threats.
“The good will shown to the leader of NLD is a great promise for this nation, and we are indebted to your confidence in the democracy,” he said.
Bo, 66, was named Myanmar’s first cardinal by Pope Francis on January 4, 2015. He has spoken out for national reconciliation and against religious extremism.
Myanmar is 89 percent Buddhist, 4 percent Muslim, 3 percent Protestant, and 1 percent Catholic.
Born in 1948 in Mohla, a village in central Myanmar, he was ordained to the priesthood in Lashio, a largely Buddhist city of 130,000 in the northeastern part of the nation, in 1976.
Bo came of age under repressive military regimes, and  during his years as an archbishop, he consistently called for peace and religious freedom.