Government soldiers entered the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart and its compound in downtown Mandalay on Friday, April 8, reportedly to search for weapons.
They later left on Saturday after discovering only two ceremonial swords given to Archbishop Marco Tin Win, sources told the Catholic News Agency.
“No one was hurt but they were shaken up,” said the report, quoting an unidentified local cleric.
Several dozen soldiers entered the cathedral Friday afternoon prior to a Lenten service and for several hours detained parishioners, the archbishop, archdiocesan officials, and a CNA correspondent.
A local informant allegedly alerted authorities that Archbishop Win Tin was hiding and supplying weapons to rebels throughout the country, CNA was told.
But the only weapons soldiers found were two unsharpened, ceremonial swords given to the archbishop to commemorate his pastoral visit to the Diocese of Banmaw last year, sources said.
“I think these so-called informants won’t be trusted again and thus we won’t have a repeat of this terror,” pointed out a local parishioner.
Banmaw is the traditional home of the Kachin, a large and fervent Catholic population. The confiscated swords were less than two feet long and made of untempered steel, rendering them worthless as actual weapons.
When no actual weapons turned up, the soldiers left and raided several local mosques also in the Tamil neighborhood, repeating the same threatening behavior. However, troops remained outside the cathedral compound in a show of force to quell any possible response from the local citizenry.
Another priest of the archdiocese, relieved that the soldiers had departed with minimal impact to the Faithful and the local community, spoke to CNA under condition of anonymity.
“They were there to look for gold and money just like they do in the Buddhist temples. The Catholic population here is extremely poor — they’re not going to give vast presents of gold to the Church no matter how pious they are.”
“We collect money from parishioners so that we might distribute food, clothing and medicines to the poor in Yangon (Rangoon),” declared one priest. “That’s all. No weapons. That’s all.”
“I think the captain confiscated the Archbishop’s sword decorations not because they were taking them out of dangerous hands but rather because he wanted trophies to brag about to his fellow soldiers. That, and they didn’t want to leave empty-handed looking like fools. That’s by far more likely an explanation.”