Pope Francis arrives at a military air terminal in Bangkok, Thailand, on Wednesday. Photo: REUTERS/Remo Casilli
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Pope Francis arrives in Thailand at start of Asia trip

13 Comments

Pope Francis arrived in Thailand on Wednesday to meet with its small but devoted Catholic minority on a seven-day Asian trip that will include a family reunion in Bangkok and take his anti-nuclear message to Japan.

Waiting for a glimpse of the pontiff, excited Catholics thronged around the Vatican's Bangkok embassy and St Louis Hospital to take selfies.

"Once in a lifetime, I want to see him and be able receive prayer from him," said 60-year-old Orawan Thongjamroon outside the Vatican embassy, where she had been waiting since early morning for the papal motorcade.

Catholics are a tiny minority in mostly Buddhist Thailand, accounting for less than 2% of the population.

The pope's plane touched down outside Bangkok around midday and he descended to a red-carpet airport welcome from church leaders for a visit that coincides with the 350th anniversary of the first papal mission in Siam, the former name of Thailand.

Among those welcoming him was his cousin and childhood friend from Argentina, 77-year-old nun Sister Ana Rosa Sivori, who has worked in Thai schools for more than 50 years and will be the pope's personal interpreter in Thailand.

The pair, whose grandfathers were brothers, beamed as they made their way over the tarmac through crowds of clergy, children and government officials to a waiting motorcade.

"Dear friends in Thailand and Japan, before we meet, let us pray together that these days may be rich in grace and joy," read a message on the pontiff's official Twitter account before he left the Vatican.

At Bangkok's St Louis Church, a Thai Catholic woman proudly showed photographs of her and Pope Francis from a visit she made to the Vatican with her husband.

"I never thought that I would have another chance to see him again," said Nuchnaree Praresri, 49.

But when she was invited to be a cleaner at St. Louis Church for the papal visit, she seized the opportunity.

"This might not be an important role for others, but I'm very proud," she said.

Catholicism first arrived in Thailand in the mid-1500s with Portuguese missionaries and traders, and Catholics have over the years built respected schools and hospitals.

Pope Francis begins his official program on Thursday when he is scheduled to meet King Maha Vajiralongkorn as well as the supreme Buddhist patriarch before offering mass at the National Stadium.

He will hold another mass at Bangkok's Assumption Cathedral before leaving on Saturday for Japan, where he will visit the nuclear ground zeros of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

© (c) Copyright Thomson Reuters 2019.

©2019 GPlusMedia Inc.

13 Comments
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I think that the Pope should take his anti nuclear message to North Korea instead... What's the worst that could happen? lol

2 ( +2 / -0 )

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The pope should stick to the office he was elected to hold - that is, leader of the Catholic Church.

Leave politics to the politicians.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

@semperfi

Do you not think that taking a stand on the ethics of weapons of mass killing and destruction fall beneath the reasonable teachings of a head of a religion? He has plenty of in-house matters to clean up, I'll agree with you there. But I don't see this as venturing too far from his appointed mission.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

It was TOYOTOMI Hideyoshi, not TOKUGAWA Iyeyasu, who banned Christianity first. Their fearsome master, ODA Nobunaga, was very generous toward Christianity and Western culture, using Jesuit missionaries to his advantage. Hideyoshi inherited that tradition in the early days of his shogunate. 

Then he must have heard about developments in Southeast Asia -- the Western advance of colonialism and Christianity to the region. It was really unfortunate that Christianity was used by colonial powers as forerunners for colonization of "pagan" countries in the world.

An incident in western Japan made the last straw for Hideyosi to crash Christianity. The converts in the regions started vandalism on Buddhist temples, destroying statues of Buddha and other religious relics, saying they were no worth to worship and so must be destroyed.

Iyeyasu's ban on Christianity was inherited from Hideyoshi but his was more systematic and complete, even closing Japan's doors to the West except the newly rising non-Catholic country that was Holland.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I hope Francis might have a word to say about the rampant sex tourism that blights parts of Thailand.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

Agreed, given the blight of pedophelia on his organization.

Careful, now. You might upset excited adherents.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Careful, now. You might upset excited adherents.

So many ways to proceed. To avoid inflaming sensitivies, I will avoid referring to those individuals as religious extremists.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

To avoid inflaming sensitivies, I will avoid referring to those individuals as religious extremists.

A few of them like holidaying in Thailand, so the gossip goes.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

A few of them like holidaying in Thailand, so the gossip goes.

By gossip, I hope you mean verified facts.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

By gossip, I hope you mean verified facts.

Hey, that's what powers this site ;-)

All joshing aside, I wish the Pontiff well in his mission, I guess he means well. Especially compared to his predecessors - it feels he's actually concerned with addressing certain wrongdoings and crimes against humanity. As Popes go, he's an improvement.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

All joshing aside, I wish the Pontiff well in his mission, I guess he means well. Especially compared to his predecessors - it feels he's actually concerned with addressing certain wrongdoings and crimes against humanity. As Popes go, he's an improvement.

Fair enough. Change begins slowly, by tends to accelerate.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Fair enough. Change begins slowly, by tends to accelerate.

It's kind of heartening to see the faithful (or some of them) embrace his visit. It means that change can be accepted and religion can be seen (occasionally) as a force for good. And I say this as a non-religious person.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

It's kind of heartening to see the faithful (or some of them) embrace his visit.

Double-edged sword for me, but one edge isn't as sharp.

It means that change can be accepted and religion can be seen (occasionally) as a force for good. And I say this as a non-religious person

I'd prefer large strides, but even baby steps keeps us moving in the correct direction.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

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