Pope hails Thailand as inspiration for global peace
Pope Francis called Thailand an inspiration for global peace and harmony, in a message ahead of his visit to the country this week.
"In this world that too frequently experiences discord, division and exclusion", Thailand has shown commitment to work hard "to promote harmony and a peaceful coexistence", Pope Francis said in the video message released by the Vatican on Friday ahead of his Nov 20 to 23 visit.
That commitment, he said, "can serve as an inspiration" for all the people around the world who are working to "promote a great, true development of our human family in solidarity, in justice and in living in peace", according to a report published by Vatican News on Friday.
His words came in a video message to the people of Thailand as the country prepares to welcome Pope Francis on his 32nd Apostolic Journey, which then moves on to Japan.
This is the first papal visit to Thailand in nearly four decades, following the journey made by Pope Saint John Paul II in 1984.
The trip will mark the 350th anniversary of the establishment of the Apostolic Vicariate of Siam, created in 1669, which marked the introduction of the Church to the country.
The pope will meet His Majesty the King and the Supreme Patriarch.
He will hold two masses in Bangkok, and also reunite with his second cousin, Sister Ana Rosa Sivori, 77, who runs a Catholic girls' school in Udon Thani province.
Pope Francis said he intends to meet and encourage the Catholic community of Thailand "in their faith and in the contribution they make to the whole of society".
Today the country's 388,000-strong Catholic community makes up less than 1% of the population, the majority residing in the North.
The pope said he is hoping to "strengthen the bonds of friendship that we share with many Buddhist brothers and sisters". Most Thais are Buddhist.
"I trust that my visit will help to highlight the importance of inter-religious dialogue, mutual understanding and fraternal cooperation," said the pope. Finally, Pope Francis thanked the people of Thailand for all of the preparation that is going into his visit, and assured that "in these days" he was praying for everyone in Thailand.
He will leave Thai shores on Nov 23 for Japan, where he will visit Tokyo, Nagasaki, and Hiroshima before departing on Nov 26. Since being elected six years ago,
Pope Francis has made two trips to Asia, visiting the Philippines and Sri Lanka in 2014 followed by Myanmar and Bangladesh in 2017.