Catholic bishops need to address people’s ‘integral development,’ says Cardinal Bo

Catholic Church leaders, especially bishops, need not only focus on the spiritual needs of people but also their “integral development.”

This was the pronouncement made by Cardinal Charles Maung Bo of Yangon, president of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences, during an episcopal ordination in a poor diocese in Myanmar on Nov. 29.

The prelate took the opportunity to urge Asian church leaders to have a “missionary mentality” and address “poverty and isolation” that are among the many challenges facing the Church in Asia.

“Our people are very poor, they suffer a lot, they are isolated from the outside world,” said the cardinal.

“Bishops need to focus not only on the spiritual needs of people but the integral development of the people,” he said.

Cardinal Bo delivered his homily during the episcopal ordination of Monsignor John Saw Gawdy in Myanmar’s Taungngu Diocese in Leitho township.

The ordination, which was broadcast online, was attended by only about 30 people due to health restrictions brought about by the prevailing coronavirus pandemic.

Bishop John Saw Gawdy during his episcopal ordination. (Photo courtesy of Catholic Bishop Conference Myanmar)

Cardinal Bo said that in his country dioceses “urgently needs to be open to the world” and the “next generation” of people “needs to be developed.”

He urged priests to end the “geographical and intellectual isolation” and get involved in upgrading the skills of people in the community.

The prelate reminded church leaders of the call of Pope Francis for a “missionary mentality” that “looks for new ideas, new activity, new dreams.”

“Socially and spiritually we need to develop the diocese,” Cardinal Bo said, referring to the diocese of the new bishop.

In his homily, Cardinal Bo stressed that a bishop of the Catholic Church should be a “sign of unity,” a “prophet,” a “pastor” and a “shepherd,” and a “planner.”

The prelate then expressed his gratitude to missionaries who worked in Myanmar, especially members of the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions whose “blood and sacrifice water the gardens of Taungngu Diocese.”

“Hundreds of them came here and died here,” said the cardinal. “They lived a great sacrificial life, lived during the war, they were in prison, some even died as martyrs,” he said.

He cited the martyrdom of Italian missionary priest Alfredo Cremonesi, a missionary in Myanmar for 28 years, who was killed on Feb. 7, 1953.

Early this year, the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, issued a decree recognizing the priest’s martyrdom.

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