“The parish of Tananukwe includes five villages and a population of 560 families. The majority of the people in this area are Christian, with a strong Catholic presence”. Father Pius Kyan speaks to Agenzia Fides in Italian while showing the small church of Santa Teresa where he has been carrying out apostolic service for four years. He manages a thriving and numerous Catholic reality in the region a few kilometers from Loikaw, capital of the Burmese State of Kayah, where two-thirds of the population is Christian and where Catholics are an important presence: just by looking at the landscape, full of churches and chapels, more common than pagodas and mosques. “Our relations with all the other religious communities are good and based on dialogue”, says the parish priest.
Covid-19, although the State of Kayah has not registered a single case of Coronavirus (less than 350 across the country, with six deaths), is still an emergency and the guard is held high: “We celebrate mass with only five faithful at a time, to respect the rules imposed by the authorities, to avoid gatherings. A few days ago I went to a funeral, but only to give a blessing to the body and give spiritual comfort to the family. I visit the villages every month but then I only move in emergencies such as to give the last rites”.
Ordained a priest in 2012, Father Pius, 38, studied in Monza, near Milan: “A year to learn Italian and then four years of theology … a struggle. I wouldn’t mind going back to Italy to have a pastoral experience outside Myanmar. But I don’t want to go to a big city. I like places like this, where it is possible to have a direct relationship and a truly personal relationship with the faithful”. Behind the church, there is a school, with its small campus, a volleyball field, and 17 students who receive the support of the parish, otherwise, they could not afford their studies. “We are also building a new church now”, he says.