Pope arrives in Thailand to encourage Catholic minority
Pope Francis arrived in Bangkok on Wednesday to begin a tour of Thailand and Japan, beginning a mission to boost the morale of those countries’ tiny minority Catholic communities and speak about issues of concern including human trafficking and peacemaking.
He is expected to highlight his admiration in Thailand for the community’s missionary ancestors who brought the faith to this Buddhist nation centuries ago and endured bouts of persecution as recently as the 1940s.
Francis was greeted by Surayud Chulanont, former prime minister and head of King Maha Vajiralongkorn’s Privy Council.
His warmest welcome, however, came from his second cousin, Sister Ana Rosa Sivori, who has been a missionary in Thailand since the 1960s and will serve as his translator during his time here. On stepping down from the plane, the first thing Francis did — even before his official welcome from Surayud — was to hug his cousin.
He also met about a dozen children in traditional hilltribe attire. One wearing an elaborate headdress came forward with a huge smile on her face and hugged him. He also received an artillery salute.
Francis’ three-day visit to Thailand, followed by three days in Japan, will be a welcome break for the 82-year-old pope. He is enduring fresh opposition from Catholic conservatives in the U.S. over his just-concluded meeting on the Amazon as well as a new financial scandal at home.
Leaving those concerns behind, Francis will meet with Thailand’s supreme Buddhist leader, Thai authorities as well as all the Catholic bishops of Asia — a rare chance for him to address some of the major challenges facing the Catholic Church in the region and the men responsible for dealing with them.
On the eve of the trip, the Vatican secretary of state, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, said interfaith relations and emphasizing the dignity of every person are likely to be raised…….read more
Source: AP News