Myanmar: Catholic Cathedral Complex Bombed, Bishop Flees With Refugees In Worsening Civil War


By Peter Pinedo

The pastoral center of Christ the King Cathedral in Loikaw, Myanmar, was bombed on Nov. 26 and occupied by the Burmese military the next day, according to reporting by Agenzia Fides, the news arm of Pontifical Mission Societies.

Though no one was killed in the bombing, the pastoral center’s ceiling collapsed and Bishop Celso Ba Shwe and the 80 refugees taking shelter in the church were forced to flee, per the Hong Kong Catholic news service UCA News.

Shwe said in a statement published by Agenzia Fides that “the Burmese army tried to take the Christ the King Cathedral complex three times” before finally occupying it on Nov. 27.

“As a local bishop,” Shwe said, “I, together with the priests, tried to convince the military generals of the importance of the religious sites and asked them to leave the place to spare, where displaced people are also welcomed.”

The cathedral complex had been sheltering about 82 refugees from throughout Myanmar’s Kayah state, a region that has become a major battleground between the Burmese military junta and several rebel militias.

According to LiCAS news, an Asian Catholic news source, the bishop also reported that “50 soldiers came and occupied [the cathedral] to make use of it as a shield.” 

Agenzia Fides reported Shwe saying that many elderly, disabled, sick, women, and children were among those taking refuge in the cathedral complex. Ten priests and 16 religious were also among those taking shelter in the cathedral. Now, the refugees and bishop have fled the cathedral to seek refuge in other churches or the nearby wilderness.

Myanmar, which is bordered by India to the west and China to the east, is a majority Buddhist country that has large Catholic and Protestant minorities in some states. The country has been caught in a bloody civil war since 2021 after local militias united to oppose the military junta that had seized control of the government earlier that year.

This is not the first time that Catholic churches and holy sites have been caught in the crossfire in the ongoing war. Catholic sites in Kayah state and in the Loikaw Diocese have been especially hard hit by military strikes.

On Aug. 12 Mary Mother of Mercy Church in the village of Htee Thaw Ku in the Loikaw Diocese was hit by air strikes that destroyed the church’s ceiling and windows, according to UCA News.

In March 2022, CNA reported that Myanmar military airstrikes hit Our Lady of Fatima Church in Saun Du La village and the Sisters of Reparation convent, a home for retired nuns in Kayah state.

In total, according to Agenzia Fides, 21 of the diocese’s 41 parishes have been affected. The Diocese of Loikaw has about 93,000 faithful.

Agenzia Fides reported Shwe saying that “due to the intensification of armed conflict in November, more than 80% of the urban and rural population in Kayah State have been displaced and the number of internally displaced people continues to rise.”

Shwe said that the cathedral had become a popular refuge site but that “unfortunately, we were not safe there either.”

report published in March by the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights said the conflict has resulted in a “humanitarian and human rights crisis” in which over 1.3 million people have been displaced and more than 3,000 civilians killed.

According to the U.N. report, as the conflict has escalated the Myanmar military junta has in recent months “stepped up aerial attacks, bombing villages, schools, medical facilities, and encampments for internally displaced persons.”

Pope Francis renewed his previous calls for peace in Myanmar in a Nov. 19 Angelus statement in St. Peter’s Square. The pope’s statement was published by Vatican News.

“War always, always, always is a defeat,” Francis said.

“I renew my closeness to the dear people of Myanmar who unfortunately continue to suffer from violence and suppression,” the pope went on. “I pray that they will not be discouraged and always trust in the Lord’s help.”


The Catholic News Agency (CNA) has been, since 2004, one of the fastest growing Catholic news providers to the English speaking world. The Catholic News Agency takes much of its mission from its sister agency, ACI Prensa, which was founded in Lima, Peru, in 1980 by Fr. Adalbert Marie Mohm (†1986).

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