Burmese refugees are a special part of the Catholic Church’s life and mission, says the apostolic nuncio to Thailand. “My purpose in coming here is to show my friendship and solidarity with you” and “to share with you the Church’s care for you,” said Archbishop Giovanni d’Aniello during his March 21 visit to the Tham Hin refugee camp in Ratchaburi province. Tham Hin is the site of one of nine camps for Burmese refugees in Thailand. It was established in 1997 and is today home to more than 9,500 refugees, mostly Karen people. Archbishop d’Aniello’s visit to the camp was to show how much these people matter to him, he said in his address on being welcomed there by the Thai camp commander and representatives of the local camp community. The archbishop was appointed apostolic nuncio to Thailand in September 2010. He also represents the Pope in Myanmar, Cambodia and Laos. Although Archbishop d’Aniello said he came as a “concerned” individual he also came as the representative of both the Church and the Pope, letting camp residents know that “you are not forgotten and we care for you.” The Catholic Church’s efforts there are through Caritas Thailand and its Catholic Office for Emergency Relief and Refugees which works closely with UNHCR and the many other NGOs active in the nine camps with over 150,000 refugees from inside Myanmar. In visiting Tham Hin, Archbishop d’Aniello said he was symbolically reaching out to all these refugees. In speaking to those present, he was speaking to all Burmese refugees in Thailand. “You are part of the Church’s life and mission,” he said reiterating Pope Benedict’s stance that the “Church’s work for refugees is an essential work of the Church.” He said: “Today, I want to meet as many of you as I can. I want to listen to your stories and try to understand better not only your suffering and challenges in life, but also your hopes for life and a better future.” During his homily at Mass the nuncio added, “Here I experience the love of God for us. You give witness of God’s love to me as you go through your suffering. I thank you for this. … I came with empty hands but leave with a full heart.” The nuncio’s program for the day featured a visit to the camp hospital and to the camp’s agriculture project. “God is with you as is the Church,” he said before leaving. TH13717.1646
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