Pope Francis renewed calls for prayers for peace in Myanmar on Sunday, May 2, as eight people were killed when security forces opened fire on some of the biggest protests against the military.
The pontiff urged the faithful to pray that Myanmar’s leaders “may find the courage to walk the path of encounter, reconciliation, and peace.”
Pope Francis reminded Catholics that during the month of May this year, a “prayer marathon” involving important Marian shrines around the world will be held “to implore the end of the pandemic.”
“In this context, there is an initiative that is very close to my heart: that of the Burmese Church, which invites us to pray for peace with a Hail Mary for Myanmar in our daily Rosary,” said the pope.
“Each of us turns to our Mother when we are in need or in difficulty; this month, we ask our Mother of Heaven to speak to the hearts of all leaders in Myanmar,” he said.
The pope’s call came as streams of demonstrators, some led by Buddhist monks, made their way through cities and towns across the country on Sunday.
The protests are only one of the problems the generals have brought on with their February 1 ouster of the elected government led by Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi.
Wars with ethnic minority insurgents in remote frontier regions in the north and east have intensified significantly since the coup, displacing tens of thousands of civilians.
In some places civilians with crude weapons have battled security forces, while in central areas military and government facilities that have been secure for generations have been hit by rocket attacks and a wave of small, unexplained blasts.
The Assistance Association for Political Prisoners advocacy group says security forces have killed at least 759 protesters since the coup.
The military, which ruled for almost 50 years until launching a tentative reform process a decade ago, acknowledged in mid-April the death of 248 protesters, saying they were killed after they initiated violence.
The protests and a civil disobedience campaign of strikes have crippled the economy and raised the prospect of 25 million people sliding into poverty, warned the UN Development Program.
The military said it had to seize power because its complaints of fraud in a November election won by Suu Kyi’s party were not addressed by an election commission that deemed the vote fair. – with a report from Reuters