Different faiths unite to welcome pope
Tight security and strict traffic regulations have been put in place for Pope Francis' arrival on Wednesday, while leaders of different faiths get ready to meet him on Friday.
"The Pope will witness the harmonious and peaceful coexistence of people from different religions in Thailand," Culture Minister Itthiphol Kunplome said, referring to the gathering that will be organised by the Department of Religious Affairs at Chulalongkorn University.
Father Joseph Anucha Chaiyadej, director of the Catholic Social Communications of Thailand, said the pope is expected to exchange views on the subject of world peace with the religious leaders. Pope Francis believes that inter-religious unity is key to solving conflicts in society.
He added that tens of thousands of people are expected to converge on the National Stadium on Rama I Road where the pope will celebrate Holy Mass on Thursday.
Separately, deputy national police chief Suwat Chaengyodsuk announced the opening of a 24-hour security and traffic coordination centre on Tuesday, and said people entering venues to welcome the pope will have to undergo strict screening.
As many as 6,500 police officers will also be deployed in Bangkok and Nakhon Pathom for the four-day papal visit.
Metropolitan Police Bureau deputy commissioner Jirasan Kaewsaeng-ek confirmed that some roads will be closed to traffic from 12.30-1pm on Wednesday, and from 8.30-9am on Saturday, when the pope flies to Japan. The closure will apply to the Don Muang Tollway, Din Daeng and Rama IV expressways and Rama IV and Sathon roads.
Security will also be tight on Thursday and on Friday, when Pope Francis visits eight venues -- one in Nakhon Pathom and seven in Bangkok, namely Government House, St Louis Hospital, Ambara Villa at Dusit Palace, Wat Rachabophit, the National Stadium, Chulalongkorn University and the Cathedral of the Assumption in Bang Rak district.
Pol Maj Gen Jirasan advised motorists to stay clear of Rama I, Phaya Thai and Banthat Thong roads, although the closures will only apply for 10 minutes when the pope's motorcade is passing. People are urged to use Silom, Ratchadamri, Sukhumvit, Ratchaprarop, Phloenchit, Phetchaburi, Rama VI, Sri Ayutthaya, Lan Luang, Yaowarat, Chaturathit and Chakkrawat roads instead.
The papal visit marks the 350th anniversary of the establishment of the Apostolic Vicariate of Siam, which brought Catholicism to Thailand in 1669.