VATICAN CITY – Church leaders and Catholic media have hailed the sweeping victory of Ms Aung San Suu Kyi’s party in Myanmar’s by-election, but cautioned against expecting too much too quickly.
News of the pro-democracy icon’s win made it to the front page of the semi-official Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano on April 3.
A news story headlined The Seat of Hope reported on the success of the National League for Democracy (NLD) leader in the first internationally recognised vote to be held in Myanmar in more than 20 years.
“The result of the vote should bring significant economic benefits to the whole country,” wrote the Vatican newspaper, commenting on the possible lifting of United States and European Union sanctions against Myanmar.
“According to analysts, the effects of the return of Aung San Suu Kyi to Parliament and of the victory of her party will be numerous and far reaching,” L’Osservatore Romano noted, adding as a caveat that this will happen only if “former army members will allow it”.
Vatican Radio hailed the vote as a “historic day” and a “momentous event” for Myanmar.
Fr Massimo Cenci, undersecretary of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples, praised the country’s “awakening” and ascribed its merit to the NLD leader.
“Suu Kyi has stirred the people’s longing not only for democracy, but for involvement in what happens in their country from the social and political point of view,” the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions priest told ucanews.com.
Nevertheless, he cautioned those who speak of a full-fledged “transition” towards democracy: “We still need to wait and see. But what happened this weekend is exceptional for Myanmar’s history.”
He said the Vatican and the Catholic Church are following the situation closely.
“We are very interested in the developments. There are still significant restrictions to Church activity there. But if the opening up of the country picks up steam, the Church will profit from it in terms of freedom.”
Archbishop Paul Zingtung Grawng of Mandalay said he was happy about the election results.
“Everybody knew what the outcome would be if elections were free and fair as promised,” the Catholic news agency AsiaNews quoted him as saying.
He added that the Church can help lay “the foundations of a strong nation”, especially in areas like “health care and education”, since “Aung San Suu Kyi has called on everybody, religious and ethnic minorities included, to contribute actively in building the country”.
Bishop Francis Daw Tang of Myitkyina, in the northern state of Kachin, was quoted as saying, “I hope the new politicians who will join parliament can work for the good of the country and that of Kachin people”.
“This vote can be opportunity for peace and improvements” he said.
A Myanmar priest CatholicNews contacted said Ms Suu Kyi’s win could mean “more freedom for the Catholic Church in Myanmar”.
“Up to now, [the Church is] still struggling to be free,” he said, adding that the bishops of Myanmar met up with Ms Suu Kyi last December after the Yangon cathedral’s centenary celebrations.
However, the priest also noted that the NLD had won only a few seats in parliament. As to the eventual impact that will have on Myanmar society, “we have to wait and see”. UCANEWS.COM