Thousands to throng to Pope's mass

Thousands to throng to Pope's mass

Catholics thrilled by first papal visit since 1984

Pope Francis waves as he boards an airplane to Thailand, at the Rome Leonardo da Vinci airport on Tuesday. (AP photo)
Pope Francis waves as he boards an airplane to Thailand, at the Rome Leonardo da Vinci airport on Tuesday. (AP photo)

His Holiness Pope Francis' official visit to Thailand between Nov 20 and 23 is a great opportunity for the Thai-Christian community to learn about his life of simplicity, his love of mankind and his amazing God-given energy that has boosted the peoples' faith in God at a time when more and more people are turning away from religious life.

In Thailand, there are around 300,000 people of the Christian faith. This is a very auspicious opportunity to welcome the Catholics' holy spiritual leader Pope Francis to Thailand. The last papal visit was made by Saint Pope John Paul II in 1984, or 35 years ago.

His admirable goal of helping people living in poverty and with difficulty since being appointed to the top post of the Christian regime in 2013 has moved the world community to get closer to him and learn about his work for all mankind, and his key message of love and faith in God.

Born on Dec 17, 1936 in Buenos Aires, Argentina, as the eldest of five children, Pope Francis began his life in poverty. He worked as a chemical technician after his high school graduation. Later in 1958, he started as a novice with the Society of Jesus, with a study of theology at the Colegia Maximo de San Jose. He graduated with a Doctorate of Theology from the University of Freiburg in Germany.

He started his priesthood on Dec 13, 1969, began serving as a Jesuit missionary in Argentina in 1973, and was later promoted to higher positions. From 2005 to 2011, he was appointed as the president of the Bishops' Conference of Argentina. In 2013, after Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI resigned, he was elected with a majority vote to be the new leader of the Catholic Church.

As Pope, he has made the world admire his life of simplicity. He rejected staying at the luxurious papal residence in the Vatican and instead moved to a smaller one, reasoning that the smaller residence would help him work closely with others. He also commuted via public transport and loves to cook for himself. His lifestyle has broken traditions that have been upheld by his predecessors for more than a century.

"He looks like a very kind grandfather. He is the kind of down-to-earth person that makes it easy for anyone to talk to him. He even obliged when a pedestrian asked him to take a selfie. His childhood experience, especially of living in poverty, has made him a better person," said Father Anucha Chaiyadej, who had the chance to work with the pontiff in several meetings.

Father Anucha said he has never had a direct conversation with Pope Francis, but has felt that the pontiff has a lot of energy to work. "It's amazing that an 83-year-old man could work with strong ambitions to make the people firm in their faith in God," he said.

He said Thai-Christian followers should take this opportunity to learn about his daily practices and his patience in making people understand the value of religion. He added that the number of Christian believers increased after Pope Francis stepped into his position.

"We have seen a stronger faith in Jesus, which is a result of the Pope's outstanding performance. He is the great spiritual leader and guides us in how to make the spirit healthy," he said.

Father Anucha said Pope Francis has focused on helping the poor, especially immigrants to Europe and America, as he has ordered all churches to welcome those people by giving them shelter or food so as to reduce their suffering.

Pope Francis also attempted to introduce reforms to the church financial system. In 2013, he set up a commission to examine potential reforms in a bid to increase transparency and compliance with external standards, including extra auditors and an annual financial report.

He also appointed cardinals not only from European countries, but also from other parts of the world like Africa and Asia, giving non-European priests a chance to reach higher positions in the Catholic Church.

Additionally, he has made environmentalism one of the key messages of his papacy, and has voiced his support for mainstream solutions to climate change such as the increased use of renewable energy.

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