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The Pope Upon His Arrival At The Apostolic Nunciature In Bangkok © Vatican Media

Apostolic Journey to Thailand: Pope Francis Arrives in Bangkok

Reception at the Airport

Today, November 20, 2019, Pope Francis arrived in Bangkok, Thailand, the first stop of his 32nd international Apostolic Journey, during which he will also visit Japan.

ZENIT’s Senior Vatican Correspondent, Deborah Castellano Lubov, is covering the trip from the Papal Flight.

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The Holy Father arrived at the airport of Bangkok, the country’s capital, around 12:05 local time (6:05 am in Rome). Alitalia’s Flight A330 left from Rome-Fiumicino international airport at 7:16 pm (Rome time).

During the trip to Bangkok — flying over Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Montenegro, Bulgaria, Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Indian and Myanmar, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and its Member States –, the Pontiff sent telegrams to the respective Heads of State.

Welcome

On his arrival, Pope Francis was welcomed by a member of the Crown Council, which offered him a garland, and by Sister Ana Rosa Sivori, a nun of the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians and cousin of the Pope, who will be his interpreter in some meetings in Thailand.

Then the Pontiff greeted the Authorities, the Thai Bishops and 11 children dressed in traditional costumes and passed through the Guard of Honour. The members of the Crown Council accompanied the Holy Father to the car that took him to the Apostolic Nunciature. A group of faithful gathered at the airport, whom the Pope greeted before leaving.

The Bishop of Rome was received at the Nunciature by seminarians, novices and men religious and a few young people — from the parish adjacent to the Apostolic Nunciature –, who danced dressed in their traditional costumes.

Today the Holy Father will lunch at the Apostolic Nunciature, where he will celebrate Mass, and also dine. All these events are of a private nature.

Thailand

 According to data made available by the Spanish government, Thailand is a country situated in South East Asia. On the east, it borders with Cambodia and Laos, on the West with Myanmar and the Andaman Sea, and on the south with the Gulf of Thailand and Malaysia.

The total population numbers 68.10 million; Bangkok, the capital, is one of the world’s most populated cities. It has 8.2 million inhabitants, according to 2017 estimates, 15 million including the Metropolitan area.

Chiang Mai is the country’s second city, with 1.5 million inhabitants. Other important cities are Chiang Rai, Pattaya, Nakorn, Ratchasima, Chantaburi, Rayong, Songkla and Phuket, although on this occasion the Pontiff will only visit Bangkok.

State, Language, and Religion

 Thailand is a Constitutional Monarchy. Since December 1, 2017, the Head of State and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces is King Maha Vajiralongkorn Bodindradebayavarangkun, tenth King of the Chakri dynasty.

The official language is Thai. English is used in cities and tourist centers for commerce, business, and services, but knowledge of it is limited among the population. The use of other European languages, among them, Spanish, is scarce.

In regard to religion, the most widespread is Theravada Buddhism, which 94 percent of the population professes. There is a Muslim minority in the South (5 percent), and a Christian community of one million, of whom 300,000 are Catholics. Relations between Christians and Buddhists are the result of a dialogue that has been enjoyed for hundreds of years. To date, there are 11 dioceses and Archdioceses in the country.

The Archdiocese of Bangkok

The Archdiocese of Bangkok has 121,039 Catholic faithful; its Archbishop is Cardinal Francis Xavier Kriengsak Kovithavanij.

In it, there are 55 parishes, two churches, 148 regular diocesan priests and 10 seminarians. Men’s Religious Institutes have 251 members, and women’s have 424. In addition, there are 134 education institutes, 40 are charitable. Last year the number of baptized persons was 1,284.

The Holy Father is in Thailand to celebrate with Catholics the 350th anniversary of the establishment of the Apostolic Vicariate of Siam, erected in 1669.

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About LARISSA I. LOPEZ

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