Maha Saddhama Jotikadhaja, Sithu Dr. Khin Maung Nyunt
As soon as I heard the good tidings in our media about the visit of His Holiness Pope Francis to Myanmar 27-30 November 2017, my heart and soul were filled with elations. Though the Vatican City State and Myanmar have long history of diplomatic relations since the early days of Myanmar Kings, no Pope had ever visited Myanmar.
As a historian, I can trace the origin of this relation as far back as possible. In the time of King Bodawpaya [1782-1819 A.D), there was already established at his capital city Amarapura Roman Catholic mission of Barnabite Order headed by most reverend father Sangermano, who was the most trusted friend of Myanmar King. He built a church and a missionary school on the glebe lands donated by the King. He wrote a very valuable account of his happy years at Amarapura and his wide travels in the kingdom and published in a book form “A Description of the Burmese Empire”. In it he described in detail the economy politics, religion and socio-culture of Myanmar people and ethnic nationalities. He admired Myanmar Kings policy and administration particularly religious freedom. King Bodawpaya’s Empire was, he says very strong, organized and the vast and greatest empire in Southeast Asia.
In the time of King Mindon the second last Myanmar king [1853-73 A.D] diplomatic relatives were established between Vatican City State and Yandanapon Naypyidaw. But there was no resident Papul Nuncio at the capital King Mindon sent some young Myanmar scholars to Italy to learn science and technology and navigation, under the guardianship of Catholic missionary monks.
In 1958, as a student in London I hitchhiked from Geneva to Italy. I had the chance to visit St. Peters’ Cathedral in Rome. Later, in my capacity as Direct General of Fine Arts Department, as well as that of Archaeology Department, I made two official visits to the Vatican City, with the support of UNESCO. On these 2 occasions I not only received the blessings of the then Pope who was making public appearance and giving blessings to the audience but also got the chance to visit the museum. Where I saw to my surprise and delight rick royal gifts of King Mindon to the Pope. Among them were a gold cross studded with rubies, a gold swan okh [rice container] for the pope and jewel studded gold book stand for the holy Bible. I also saw gold gilt Myanmar pei [palm leaf] and parabike [folding paper] on which, I think, Bible and Testaments were written. There may be similar objects of historical value in the museums of Catholic Churchs in other cities in Italy.
In the 19th century onwards Catholic mission of Delasa Order flourished in Myanmar. Here I am proud to say that I was the product of Catholic missionary school, St. Peter’s English High School, Mandalay from where I passed the Matric Examination in 1948. I am now a late octogenarian still going strong in brain and brawn —the credit goes to my parents and to my Buddhist monk teachers and Catholic missionary teachers of St. Paters’. Highly disciplined life of my high school years was rigid, but happy. Three times a day for Catholic prayers, the Bible teachings Catechism and instructions on morals and manners by Catholic priests and brothers had laid a good strong foundation for becoming a good citizen of the country. On the farewell day when the matriculation Examination results showed all StPeters’ students passed with distinctions, we Myanmar Buddhist students knelt down and paid worships to our teachers. The then principal of school Rev. Brother Director Clemetion uttered words of appreciation in Pali Sadu Sadu Sadu (well done) we all shed tears of delight as well as sorrows to leave our alma mater school. We also noticed that Rev Brother Clemention was also tearful, for missing his smart obedient pupils.
Now Myanmar is lucky to be blessed by the visit of His Holiness Pope Francis. In the press release of the Catholic Bishops Conference of Myanmar in Yangon it is said that “Pope Francis to meet all people of Myanmar”. He would stop in Yangon and Nay Pyi Taw. The crest published togather with the news has the map of Myanmar with letters “Love and Peace” on the top and cspfjcif;arwÅm and jidrf;csrf;jcif; below.
Loving kindness [metta.] and Peace are the very same words Lord Buddha emphasized not only in his peaching and teaching but also in his missionary works. They proved always successful! “Catholic” meaning all embracing- both Christians and non-Christians inclusiveness in modern par lances.
Before coming to Myanmar His Holiness had made a very successful visit to Columbia, a Latin American Country where the situation of the past five decades was not dissimilar to that of Myanmar. The miraculous effect of that visit by means of his “message of unity, planting a tree of peace and saying a Mass to preach a re-conciliation in a nation bitterly divided by five decades of war. Within the short duration of 3 days 8.9.2017 to 10.9.2017 His Holiness, the leader of the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics has accomplished his peace mission with resounding triumph.
At this time when Myanmar leaders and people are working together for national reconciliation, peace, progress and prosperity on the democratization process, His Holiness’s auspicious visit to our country Myanmar will undoubtedly promote to reach our much desired goal.
May our Almighty Lord bring and restore everlasting peace and unity to our country Myanmar as well.
Now His Holiness will be with us for a short duration 27.11.2017 – 30.11.2017.
My humble respects to Your Holiness Pope Francis.