Cardinal Charles Maung Bo, head of the bishops’ conference of Myanmar, expressed his gratitude to the Apostolic Nuncio to the country, Archbishop Paul Tschang In-Nam, for being “a great shepherd” who worked hard in leading the Church “to greener pastures.”
Archbishop Tschang, 73, ended five years of service as representative of the Vatican in Myanmar following his appointment as the Apostolic Nuncio to The Netherlands in July.
“Your term of office coincided with some of the great moments of Myanmar Church history,” said Cardinal Bo in an address to the archbishop during a farewell ceremony on September 2.
“The cup of Grace overflowed, as the psalmist joyfully sings. Our heart also sings of the multiple graces that blessed this long-challenged church,” said the cardinal.
He described the years of Archbishop Tschang in the country as an “era of care, compassion and Christian accompaniment” amid some of the most challenging moments for the Church.
“A journey of blessings and challenges, but your unwavering commitment to our welfare made this journey empowering, cementing the bond among the dioceses,” said Cardinal Bo.
He said that during the term Archbishop Tschang, Myanmar “was brought into the map of the Catholic Church” with the appointment of the country’s first cardinal.
The archbishop was also instrumental in the establishment of diplomatic relations between the Vatican and Myanmar in 2017.
Cardinal Bo described it as “a stellar achievement which enhances the profile of the Church.”
“Apart from moments of grace, your poignant companionship and accompaniment during our sorrowful movement strengthened us,” the cardinal said, citing the difficulties amid the pandemic.
“Your fellowship and deep concern during those moments were a balm of consolation to our church,” he added.
In his message, Archbishop Tschang said the Church is called to be “servants of God …. to serve our brothers and sisters, especially those who are in dire need.”
The prelate lauded the Church in Myanmar for its “humanitarian assistance” to the poor and those who are displaced because of the ongoing conflict in the country.
“In this time of the trial of our brothers and sisters in Myanmar, Our Holy Father Pope Francis has been following the situation closely,” he said.
“He encouraged dialogue to find out the way for peace and reconciliation among all different parties in violence,” added the archbishop.
Pope Francis has earlier lamented the continuing violence in Myanmar, which has forced thousands to flee their homes, following a statement by the country’s Catholic bishops calling on the military not to attack places of worship, hospitals, and schools.
In early 2021, Myanmar’s military seized power in the country and launched a crackdown that provoked a violent backlash from the opposition.
The UN High Commissioner for Refugees has said the conflict has displaced more than 800,000 people from their homes. Of these, 250,000 are children.
Local and international media have reported that military forces continue to target churches and Christian institutions.
Myanmar’s ruling junta has rejected criticism of its human rights record by the United Nations, accusing the organization’s rights chief of “interference” in the country’s internal affairs.