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Cardinal Announcement Sparks Different Reactions in Myanmar, Vietnam


Newly appointed Cardinal Charles Maung Bo prays during a religious service at St. Paul’s Missionary school in suburbs of Yangon, Myanmar, Jan. 5, 2015.

Newly appointed Cardinal Charles Maung Bo prays during a religious service at St. Paul’s Missionary school in suburbs of Yangon, Myanmar, Jan. 5, 2015.

News of the first Roman Catholic cardinal from Myanmar, also known as Burma, is being welcomed by people of diverse faiths in the country.

On Sunday, Pope Francis named Archbishop Charles Maung Bo as one of 20 new cardinals, an office second only to the pontiff in the church hierarchy.

Other religious leaders from Myanmar, including Orthodox, Buddhist and Muslim, have praised the choice of Bo, the current archbis hop of Yangon. Pyinya Thiha, a Buddhist monk, says he hopes the new cardinal will be a positive force for the entire country.

"We do hope he will be able to work more widely including the remote border areas," he said. "In this time of great need to work for better social and civic issues for the development of our country, I'm so happy that he has been named a cardinal."

Myanmar, a predominately Buddhist nation, has about 700,000 Catholics out of a population of more than 50 million.

Meanwhile, nearby Vietnam is getting just its third Roman Catholic cardinal since the end of the Vietnam War nearly 40 years ago.

FILE - Catholic Archbishop of Hanoi Peter Nguyen Van Nhon waves to believers in front of St. Joseph Cathedral after Sunday mass in Hanoi, May 23, 2010.

FILE - Catholic Archbishop of Hanoi Peter Nguyen Van Nhon waves to believers in front of St. Joseph Cathedral after Sunday mass in Hanoi, May 23, 2010.

Archbishop Pierre Nguyen Van Nhon was also named by the pope on Sunday. His choice, though, is drawing only tepid praise in Vietnam.

Father Vincent Pham Trung Thanh in Ho Chi Minh City says he sees the decision as nothing more than a thank you note to the archbishop.

"I’m glad to hear the news but I don’t expect much from him since I’ve met him so many times and he repeatedly told me that he’s getting old and that he wants to retire for the younger generation to step up," he said.

Catholic activist Le Thanh Tung says he wants a cardinal who is willing to fight for truth, justice and freedom of religion in Vietnam.

“I’m not optimistic about this move. I don’t see anything promising with Archbishop Nhon being appointed cardinal," he said. "This is a diplomatic and nominal move rather than religiously merit-based."

All 20 new cardinals will formally installed next month during a ceremony at the Vatican.

Tra Mi reported from Washington. This report was produced in collaboration with the VOA Burmese and Vietnamese services.

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