Pride in Ordination of Kachin Priests

29th April 2013 - by Ellen Teague

Indigenous Kachins are celebrating in Myanmar and China as a Kachin is ordained to the priesthood in China. Columban missionaries have a long history of working with the Kachin, particularly in Myitkyina Diocese.

What was condemned as an illegal ordination in China in March by some China Church watchers in the international media, has been hailed by Fr Paul Lum Dau, from the diocese of Myitkyina in Myanmar (Burma), as a day of fulfilment and joy. An indigenous Kachin priest was ordained for China’s Kunming Diocese amidst great celebrations by Kachin indigenous people, who straddle the China/Myanmar border. Fr Joseph Bu Shuncai was ordained alongside Yi-ethnic Fr Paul Yue Bangshuang, having both been ordained deacons by Bishop Ma last December.

The ordinations took place in the Chinese town of Ruili, near the border. The sticking point was that the ordaining bishop, Bishop Joseph Ma Yinglin of Kunming, is not in good standing with the Vatican, as he himself was ordained a bishop without permission from the Holy See in 2006. However, Fr Lum says this criticism fails to embrace the local reality of what the ordination of Fr Shuncai represents in the lives of the Kachin.

Fr Lum points out that in pre-World War II days, the pastoral needs of the people were mostly served by French missionaries, and later Columban priests from the Myanmar side of the China border. Today, 90 per cent of the Kachin in Myanmar are Christian, but the changed circumstances brought about by the Chinese Communist revolution in the 1950s and, later, the Cultural Revolution, left the religious aspirations of the Kachin people in China in jeopardy. However, with the open door policies of the 1980s, they emerged again as outstanding examples of faithful Christians.

Fr Lum reports that the ordination of one of their own was a momentous occasion for the Kachin in China, and had their Kachin cousins from the Myanmar side of the border been able to travel freely, there would have been many more than the 2,000 people present to celebrate. Nevertheless, eight priests from three Kachin dioceses in Myanmar were present to concelebrate at the ordination Mass on 19 March and lay hands on the newly ordained. “How could we not be present on such an occasion of joy?” Father Lum asks.

“Having now two indigenous priests in China’s Kunming diocese is of utter importance for the continued evangelisation among the Kachin people and the integral human develop of a people who are little known to the world other than through the current conflict between the Kachin Independence Army and the Burmese Army”, said Fr Lum. “When all the debates are over, it will be clear that God’s kingdom is advanced only by love, dialogue and service of the poor” he added; “as Kachin, we are proud of the ordination of a son of ours, the second Kachin priest of the great nation of China”.

At his public speeches during a couple of days in Ruili, Bishop Ma asked the people to pray for the new Pope. He expressed his keen desire that the registered Church in China will one day be fully united with the Vatican and the rest of the Catholic communities worldwide. Even in the presence of the government officials – from the ministry of religious affairs – he spoke out boldly, saying that Catholics throughout China are one with the Universal Church in faith, in liturgy, in practice, and in spirit. In addition, he expressed his concern for the development of ethnic minorities.

Information forwarded by Fr Eamonn O’Brien of Cultural Exchange with China, who is a regular visitor to Myitkyina Diocese in Myanmar (Burma).

Hong Kong Examiner article on the ordination

  Ruili_ordination_HK_examiner_text.pdf (1.0 MiB, 786 hits)