Administration. – Burma forms one of the provinces, the largest, of the Anglo-Indian Empire and therefore depends on the secretary of state for India residing in London. The provincial government is entrusted to the governor with a very large participation of the indigenous element. The governor is in fact assisted by indigenous ministers elected by a legislative council of 92 members. Of these, at least 60% must be elected by popular vote. For the administration, the province is divided into 8 divisions and the divisions into districts (35). The commissioners in charge of the districts have complete control, collect taxes, act as magistrates and represent the executive power in all its manifestations. Indigenous states (Shan and others) are administered by their Sawbwa or chiefs, with the assistance of a British resident.
Government teaching includes complementary, secondary and high schools, divided into two groups: the English schools, mainly attended by Anglo-Indians, in which teaching is given in English; and the Anglo-indigenous (vernacular), in which the indigenous language is used in the lower classes and English in the upper classes. A university with two colleges, one Christian and the other secular, has sprung up in Rangoon.
And army. – Burma, being part of the Indian Empire, has no army of its own. The territory is militarily organized in an “independent district” of Burma, based in Maymyo. The troops deployed there normally include an infantry brigade based in Rangoon, made up, like the other Indian infantry brigades, of four battalions: one English and three Indians.
The Catholic organization. – Burma is beginning to be mentioned in the history of Catholic missions regarding the kingdoms of Ava and Pegu, which occupied the southern region of this country.
The first to spread Christianity in these districts were some of the many Portuguese religious who in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries believed themselves invested with the special mission of justifying that kind of monopoly that the Portuguese crown arrogated for the conversion of the idolaters of India, of the ‘Indochina and China. However, the work of such missionaries, although inspired by very noble intentions, supported by ardent zeal and carried out through unheard of efforts and dangers, was not always effective. The same conversions en masse, to which it sometimes arrived, bore only ephemeral fruits and were accompanied in a short time by defections and apostasy. Most of the time those evangelical workers lacked suitable preparation, serious organization, perseverance and tireless continuity.
The mission of Burma therefore, can be said to have begun seriously and methodically, only when in 1722, on the advice of Msgr. Mezzabarba, it was assigned to the Barnabite fathers, and especially when Father Galicia took over the direction as apostolic vicar.
The apostolic work, however, if at first it gave the best hopes to be conceived, was later paralyzed, as well as by an incessant succession of wars that did not end except with the definitive occupation of the country by England, by that religious crisis that it afflicted the Catholic Church at the outbreak of the French Revolution. As a consequence of this, since the Barnabite fathers could no longer continue the missions, they were replaced first by the Piarists and then by the Oblates of Pinerolo, who also had to leave the camp. For some time the mission of Burma was entrusted to the apostolic vicar of Siam, and only in 1866 was it set out for a better future. Divided into three districts, it was divided between the society of the foreign missions of Paris and that of the foreign missions of Milan.
The order of 1866 continued up to this time, but not without slight modifications to the boundaries of the three districts. It is in recent times the splitting of the vicariate of eastern Burma, through the detachment of the apostolic prefecture of Kengtung, to which the territory located between the Mekong and Saluen was assigned. It was established especially to facilitate the conversion of the peoples of the Shan states.
The innovation then made it convenient to replace the name of apostolic vicariate of eastern Burma in apostolic vicariate of Tungoo, which is precisely the city in which the overcoming of the mission has its residence.
In the four vicariates which include 49 districts and 67 residences, there are about 100,000 Catholics in total; there are 589 churches and chapels, with 30 regular priests, 39 indigenous priests, 253 nuns.