What the Thailanders appreciate in Pope Francis is “his closeness to the people, his simplicity, his coherence . . . Because what he says, what he teaches he lives daily,” said Sister Ana Rosa Sivori, Salesian of the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians, a missionary in Thailand and a cousin and translator of the Pope during his trip. What can be seen is that “he has a very simple way of life, very austere, and people here appreciate that very much. They say he seems to be one of them; he mixes with people; he doesn’t hold himself apart as if the whole world is inferior to him. It’s the Buddhists who say this” about him, explained the Pope’s cousin.
Sister Ana Rosa, 77, who has lived for over 50 years in Thailand, answered questions of the correspondent of “Vatican News” on November 19, 2019. She works at Saint Mary’s girls’ school, one of five schools run by the Congregation of the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians in the country. During the Pope’s visit, she is being his interpreter in certain meetings. She was the first person he greeted and embraced on his arrival in Bangkok this past Wednesday.
“Many Buddhists say they like” to listen when the Pope speaks. They say he expresses himself clearly and simply, and everyone can understand him. One hears this said very much,” said Sister Ana Rosa. Today everyone has “Pope fever,” and the people don’t pretend! They all want to see him, people want so much to come to Bangkok!” “But we say to them: prepare yourselves, because he will say to you, what you will see must encourage each one in his personal life,” she continued.
Sister Ana Rosa added that Pope Francis’ arrival “here is considered as a great blessing for Thailand.” “We hope that the Pope’s visit will give another dimension to each one’s life, not a trivial dimension but spiritual,” she stressed.
In the course of his visit, Pope Francis will meet with the sick, the handicapped, and the medical staff of Saint Louis Catholic Hospital.
“There are two Catholic Hospitals (in Bangkok): that of the Camillians and Saint Louis Hospital, which depends on the diocese. Inside these two hospitals, the atmosphere is more Catholic than Buddhist and people are very willing to go there,” she explained.
“The Pope will go to Saint Louis Hospital because it is attached to the Nunciature. The patients he will be able to see, that he will be able to greet are almost all Buddhists, but they look forward very much to this meeting because they have heard it said that Pope Francis is an extraordinary person. They see him on television and so they registered to meet him,” she continued.
Speaking of her personal contacts with the Pope, she said the last time she saw him was in March 2018. On the telephone, she added, “he asks me how my life is going in Thailand.” “We talk about normal things, as two persons that haven’t seen each other for a long time, but nothing in particular,” she concluded.