In the spirit of the first missionaries who evangelized the country, bishops, as pastors, must "continue to imbue the laity with a spirit of true missionary discipleship and seek a wise inculturation of the Gospel message in the daily life and traditions of your local communities."
To this end, the role of catechists is essential, he said, adding that "their formation and enrichment must remain among your chief priorities."
With few bishops and clergy ministering to the entirety of Burma's small Catholic population, catechesis plays a key role in the formation and education of the faithful in the country.
Burma is a majority Buddhist country. Catholics are a small minority, making up just 1.3 percent of a population of nearly 52 million.
They are led by 22 bishops; 888 priests, both diocesan and religious; 128 non-ordained male religious and just two permanent deacons, making the ratio of Catholics to priests in the country around 742 to one. Women religious serving in Burma number just under 2,000. The country includes three archdioceses and 13 dioceses.
Given the unique challenges of being a minority, Pope Francis stressed the importance of pastoral accompaniment, specifically of the youth.
He urged the bishops to give special attention to their formation "in the sound moral principles that will guide them in confronting the challenges of a rapidly changing world," including the threats of "cultural and ideological colonization."
Turning to the upcoming synod of bishops on youth in 2018, to be held at the Vatican, Francis said young people are one of the greatest blessings of the Church in Burma, and pointed to the high number of seminarians studying in both minor and major seminary in the country, numbering around 1,100 total.
In the spirit of the Synod, which will listen to the stories of young people and help them discern how best to proclaim the Gospel in their lives, Francis asked the bishops to "please engage them and support them in their journey of faith, for by their idealism and enthusiasm they are called to be joyful and convincing evangelizers of their contemporaries."
Francis then emphasized the importance of the Church's prophetic witness in Burma, and recognized their daily efforts to bear witness to the Gospel through works of charity and education, but also through the defense of human rights and "support for democratic rule."
He prayed that they would enable the Catholic community "to continue to play a constructive part in the life of society by making your voices heard on issues of national interest, particularly by insisting on respect for the dignity and rights of all, especially the poorest and the most vulnerable."
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With a word on the importance of protecting the environment and preserving the rich natural resources in Burma, Pope Francis concluded his speech with a bit of pastoral advice for bishops themselves.
Recognizing the demands of their ministry, the Pope noted that the bishops, along with their priests, "often labor under the heat and the burden of the day."
He urged the bishops to be balanced in caring for their spiritual and physical health, while also keeping a paternal eye on the health of the priests in their care.
Francis encouraged the bishops to spend time daily in prayer and in "the experience of God's reconciling love," which he said "is the basis of your priestly identity, the guarantee of the soundness of your preaching, and the source of the pastoral charity by which you guide God's people on the path of holiness and truth."
Prayer is the first duty of bishops, he emphasized.
In a special greeting to the Pope, Bishop Felix Lian Khen Thang, president of the Catholic Bishops Conference of Burma, told Francis that his visit brings them "courage, joy and hope in trying to live and witness our faith, as we take part in peace and nation building process."