Burmese pilgrims overjoyed to arrive in Sydney for World Youth Day 2008

Sydney, Australia, Jul 14, 2008 / 08:42 am (CNA) .- "To see our leader, to see the Pope." This is the sole desire for Tujai Maris, a pilgrim of Myanmar that arrived with other 32 pilgrims at Sydney in the afternoon on Monday to participate in World Youth Day celebrations.

After overcoming numerous obstacles with their visas, with the aid of the Australian Catholic church, the 33 pilgrims arrived filled with enthusiasm and ready to take part in the events scheduled in the upcoming week.

"We welcome our brothers and sisters originating from different dioceses of Myanmar, we are conscious of their sufferings" said the Auxiliary Bishop of Sydney, Julian Porteous.

Dominic Ych Thiha Saw, one of the Burmese pilgrims carried a box marked with the name "Pope Benedict XVI" containing a painting of a famous lake in Myanmar, which they are hoping to give as a gift to Pope Benedict XVI.

The pilgrims spoke of the difficulties that the Catholic Church in their country suffers from, such as not being permitted to build churches and needing special authorization frmo the government to celebrate their faith.

"The Catholic Church in Burma wants to be able to live their own life and to have the opportunity to express their faith. In Burma the Church has helped the people in need, feeding them, dressing them, educating them. The Church does not desire to be a political force, but to help the people of this country,” remarked the Bishop Porteous.

Burma has a population of 50 million people, the majority of which are Buddhists. The Catholic Church has 650,000 faithful, 658 priests, 1,330 religious and 2,084 catechists.