Late for Nowhere

From life in Southeast Asia to backyard adventures in Kodiak, Alaska

Posts Tagged ‘Catholic Church Myanmar Burma

Catholics celebrate 500 years in Myanmar

leave a comment »


The view of the Catholic Church’s 500th Jubilee from my office window.

Saint Mary’s Cathedral in downtown Yangon held a festival from November 21 to 23 to mark the 500th anniversary of the arrival of Catholicism in Myanmar. The cathedral’s location directly across the street from my office ensured that I did not miss a single word of the sermons, or a single note of the liturgical music, that were broadcast throughout each day at a volume of about 8,000 decibels from the church’s robust PA system.


St. Mary’s Cathedral.

According to the website of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Myanmar, evidence of Christianity in the region can be found in frescoes in ancient city of Bagan dating back to 1287AD.

But the “official” arrival of Catholicism is pegged at the year 1510: “After the discovery of the route to India by Vasco da Gama in 1497, Portuguese missionaries set out for the Far East as chaplains to Portuguese soldiers, sailors and settlers,” the website says. “The rich land of Burma attracted these Portuguese traders and by 1510, after having founded Goa as the seaport to the East, they came to Mergui, Tavoy, Syriam and Akyab befriending the King of Pegu.”


Women in traditional Kachin dress.

This means that the 500th jubilee should have occurred in 2010, but the Catholic Church was not able to hold celebrations at that time due to restrictions on religious freedom imposed by the previous military government. The slight political liberalization that has occurred since then has been accompanied by a loosening of constraints on religious worship, so the celebration was finally able to occur four years late.

Christians make up about 4 percent, and Catholics 1 percent, of Myanmar’s population of 51 million. A huge proportion of the people at the festival appeared to be ethnic Kachin, many of them travelling from the far corners of the country to attend the event. Yes, people of all faiths take their religion very seriously in Myanmar.


Vendors at the festival.



Written by latefornowhere

November 24, 2014 at 9:11 am