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Sacred Heart Cathedral in Mandalay, BurmaVincent Jary/Getty Images

MANDALAY, Burma (LifeSiteNews) – Armed soldiers stormed a Catholic cathedral in Burma (Myanmar) on April 8 claiming they were looking for guns as the country’s ongoing bloody conflict continues.

Catholic News Agency (CNA) reported that some 40 soldiers stormed the Sacred Heart Cathedral in Mandalay, taking the cathedral by force as well as the archbishop’s house, parish priest’s residence and clergy center. UCA News later reported the figure as being “nearly 100 soldiers.”

The raid took place at 2:30 p.m. local time, shortly before a prayer service. CNA reported that the soldiers ordered parishioners inside the church to remain where they were in the building.

Monsignor Dominic Jyo Du, the archdiocesan vicar general, confronted the soldiers, who detained him in the cathedral, along with Archbishop Marco Tin Win and employees of the Archdiocese of Mandalay, who were then brought to the cathedral.

CNA noted that one of its correspondents was detained inside the cathedral for three hours before being allowed to leave, and other Catholics were subsequently released some hours later. 

“The soldiers kept demanding to know where the gold and money and weapons were hidden,” one parishioner told CNA.

Around 30 soldiers reportedly stayed overnight in the cathedral, and the clergy and archdiocesan staff were kept under house arrest. On April 9, the soldiers released the clergy late in the evening, departed and raided a number of nearby Mosques.

Some soldiers remained outside the cathedral during the raids in what CNA described as a “a show of force to quell any possible response from the local citizenry.”

“They say they’re looking for guns and then disrupt everyone, but they would be satisfied with a bribe. We know their ways. No one is fooled,” said a priest of the archdiocese.

Meanwhile, another priest encouraged Catholics, telling CNA “We have prayer. Their guns won’t be enough to allow them to win. This is sacrilege.”

CNA noted that an informant had reportedly told the military the Archbishop was hiding and then distributing weapons to rebels, as the relentless civil war continues between the current government – which staged a military coup d’état in 2021 – and various militias, notably the People’s Defense Force and the Communist-backed People’s Liberation Army.

One priest told CNA anonymously that the raid was due to the military “losing very badly.”

“They are very unliked and attrition is very high indeed within their ranks. Even their officers are leaving,” he said. “They have more than enough soldiers to continue fighting their wars against the country, but deserters are common. No one supports them. They’ve been fed anti-Christian propaganda from the beginning. It’s the reason Catholics aren’t allowed above the rank of lieutenant.”

No guns or weapons of any kind were found by the soldiers, other than two ceremonial swords owned by the archbishop and which were “worthless” as weapons due to their poor construction.

The city of Mandalay is predominantly Buddhist, and has reportedly avoided much of the civil war. However, UCA News noted that such a (normally) comparatively peaceful situation is not found in all of the Archdiocese of Mandalay, as three Catholic villages have been attacked. Four people were killed and thousands of others displaced from their homes.

Indeed, a growing number of Catholic churches and cathedrals have come under attack in the last 12 months due to the civil war, with churches being shelled and priests being arrested.