Give the Gospel a Thai face, says Pope
NAKHON PATHOM: Pope Francis on Friday called on priests, nuns and the faithful to find new ways to "spread the word" of the Gospel.
"We need to seek new ways of spreading the word, ways that are capable of mobilising and awakening a desire to know the Lord," he told priests, nuns and religious leaders during a visit to St Peter's Church in Sam Phran district.
He said he was saddened to learn that for many Thais, Christianity was "a foreign faith, a religion for foreigners", and urged that the word of the Gospel be inculcated so it has a "Thai face and flesh".
Thailand's 388,000-strong Catholic community makes up a little over 0.5% of the population, with most of them living in the North and the Central region.
Sam Phran district has the country's second-largest Catholic community after Ban Tha Rae in Sakon Nakhon's Muang district.
"This should spur us to find ways to confess faith 'in dialect', like a mother who sings lullabies to her child," His Holiness said. "With that same intimacy, let us give faith a Thai face and flesh."
He said it was about more than just translation, "it is about stripping the Gospel of its fine, but foreign garb; letting it 'sing' with the native music of this land and inspiring the hearts of our brothers and sisters with the same beauty that set our own hearts on fire".
The Pontiff added: "It is vital that the Church today is able to proclaim the Gospel to all, in all places, on all occasions, without hesitation and without fear."
An estimated 18,000 Catholics from Nakhon Pathom and other nearby provinces lined the streets from the early hours, waiting patiently to greet the Pope.
Most of the devout, dressed in white with yellow caps, and waving the Vatican's flag, shouted "Viva il Papa!" (Italian for "Long Live the Pope") as the popemobile made its way through the parish.
Deacon Paul Loonubon, 29, a seminarian for the Diocese of Udon Thani, said Thailand was fortunate to have become part of the Pope's itinerary. "The Pope brings world peace and brings peace to my heart."
Kornkamol Khetchan, a 17-year-old student at St Peter's School, said she was lucky to have been blessed by His Holiness and to have been given the chance to see him with her own eyes.
The Pope's visit coincides with both the 350th anniversary of the establishment of the Catholic Mission in Thailand and the 50th anniversary of the establishment of formal diplomatic ties between Thailand and the Holy See.
Pope Francis will on Saturday morning leave for Japan for the second and final leg of his trip.