Catholic Church orders clergy not to demonstrate

While thousands of Buddhist monks have marched on the streets to protest against Burma's military regime, the Catholic Church has ordered its clergy not to take part in demonstrations or political activities.

Worshippers at Yangon's Catholic churches read posted bulletins from its hierarchy stating that priests, brothers and nuns were not to become involved in the month long protests, but that lay Catholics could act as they saw fit.

The bulletins also urged all Catholics to continue praying, fasting and offering Mass for Burma's welfare.

But at one Yangon church, the Associated Press reported, a Western priest told worshippers the international community must speak out against the regime and criticised those who remained silent.

In an interview with Vatican Radio, Yangon Archbishop Charles Maung Bo said that priests and religious were not to be involved in any party politics and demonstrations as in accordance to canon law and the social teachings of the Catholic Church.

"Catholics as citizens of the country are free to act as they deem fit. The clergy and the religious (brothers and nuns) can give them proper guidance," Archbishop Charles Maung Bo said.

Myanmar's 450,000 Catholics make up about 1 percent of the predominantly Buddhist country.

Pope Benedict XVI expressed serious concern about the situation in Burma and said he strongly hoped that a peaceful solution would be found.

The pontiff told a gathering of pilgrims in Italy he was following "with great trepidation the very serious events" in the Asian nation.

The Associated Press

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