Burmese cardinal: ‘Innocent blood may not be spilt on this land’

26979238565_0291e09381_k.jpg Cardinal Charles Maung Bo preaching at Westminster Cathedral in London, England, May 12, 2016. Credit: Mazur/catholicnews.org.uk.

Preaching on the deadliest day of protests since Burma's military coup, Cardinal Charles Maung Bo said on Sunday that "innocent blood" must not be shed in the country. 

In a Feb. 28 homily, the archbishop of Yangon lamented that the streets of Myanmar, as the country is officially known, had seen "so much of pain, suffering, and resistance" since the coup on Feb. 1.

"Slowly hatred seemed to infiltrate the peaceful marches. We pray that no violence happens. Innocent blood may not be spilt on this land," the cardinal said. 

"We are all sons and daughters of the same land, same mother Myanmar and we need to exercise patience and tolerance."

Bo was speaking on the day that clashes between priests and protesters left at least 18 people dead and more than 30 wounded, according to the UN Human Rights Office.

The UN said that the deaths reportedly resulted from live ammunition fired into crowds in Yangon, Dawei, Mandalay, Myeik, Bago, and Pokokku. 

Bo is the first cardinal in the history of Burma, a country with a population of 54 million people bordering China, Laos, Thailand, Bangladesh, and India.

Since his appointment as Archbishop of Yangon, the former capital city, in 2003, he has emerged as a leading advocate for democracy in the country.

In his homily on the Second Sunday of Lent, he called for the transformation of his homeland, focusing on the Gospel reading of the day, which told the story of Jesus' Transfiguration. 

He said: "As Christians, our first duty is to bring peace. Hatred has no place in Christ. No hatred wins anything. For the last one month, we have pleaded with everyone: Peace is the only way; peace is possible."

"Pope Francis has called for resolution of all differences through dialogue. Those who call for confrontation do not wish good for this nation." 

He continued: "Social media, especially Facebook, is a virtual hell where hatred rules supreme; good people become violent in that virtual hell, destroying others. Humanity is disfigured in Facebook." 

"On this day when we contemplate transfiguration, we need to be extremely cautious about virtual reality and our mental health. Transfiguration was a virtual reality. It deeply impacted the disciples who were participants in it. They went back to announce the Good News."

"On this day we also pray for the transfiguration of this nation. For the last 70 years [since Burma's independence from Britain in 1948], we are looking for the grace of transfiguration of this nation. Like Jesus, leaders can make supreme sacrifices, like Moses, our leaders can lead this nation to peace and prosperity." 

"Like Elijah, our nation can proclaim a new Kingdom of hope ruled by great men of peace and wisdom. This remains a dream, but like disciples we are not only to be engulfed by the magnificence of the dream, we need to return to hard life of creating hope and peace. Let it start in each one of our hearts."

Bo,  who is also president of the Federation of Asian Bishops' Conferences,  described the coup as "shocking" in an outspoken statement issued after the military detained Aung San Suu Kyi, the country's elected civilian leader, and Burma's President Win Myint.

The UN reports that more than 1,000 people have been arbitrarily arrested and detained in the last month, with some remaining unaccounted for.

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Catholic nuns have reportedly taken part in protests held across the country.



The Vatican newspaper published an article on March 1 praising the actions of a nun who was photographed kneeling before a line of advancing police officers in Myitkyina, the capital of Burma's northern Kachin State.

L'Osservatore Romano said that Sister Ann Nu Thawng, a member of the Sisters of St. Francis Xavier, ran out into the street on Feb. 28 as police fired tear gas at protesters.

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"On her knees, she raised her hands to God and begged: 'Don't shoot, don't kill innocents. If you want, hit me,'" the newspaper reported, adding that the police halted their advance.

Concluding his homily on Sunday, Bo said: "Let our present suffering be a sign that this nation is in the throes of a new birth. Let all of us enter into a mindset of reconciliation and dialogue. A new nation is possible, let it be born through Love." 

"Like the disciples, let us get down from our own mountains of virtual reality and come down and meet one another as brothers and sisters."

"Let wars and conflicts become history. Let this nation be transfigured. Let a new nation be born!"

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