Pope Francis arrives at St. Peter's Parish in Bangkok on Nov. 22. (Photo: Vincenzo Pinto/AFP)
Pope Francis has asked Thai priests to give Christianity “a Thai face and flesh” on the third day of his visit to the kingdom.
He was speaking during a meeting with priests, religious, seminarians and catechists at St. Peter’s Parish of Wat Roman village in Tha Kham, Bangkok, on Nov. 22.
“As I prepared for this meeting, I read, with some pain, that for many people Christianity is a foreign faith, a religion for foreigners. This should spur us to find ways to talk about the faith ‘in dialect,’ like a mother who sings lullabies to her child,” the pope said.
“With that same intimacy, let us give faith a Thai face and flesh, which involves much more than making translations. It is about letting the Gospel be stripped of fine but foreign garb; to let it ‘sing’ with the native music of this land and inspire the hearts of our brothers and sisters with the same beauty that set our own hearts on fire.”
The pope recalled Pope Benedict XVI saying that the Church does not grow by proselytizing but by attraction.
“Proclaiming Christ means showing that to believe in and to follow him is not only something right and true but also something beautiful, capable of filling life with new splendor and profound joy, even in the midst of difficulties,” Pope Francis said.
“This means we are not afraid to look for new symbols and images, for that particular music which can help awaken in the Thai people the amazement that the Lord wants to give us. Let us not be afraid to continue inculturating the Gospel.
“We need to seek new ways of transmitting the word, ways that are capable of mobilizing and awakening a desire to know the Lord. Who is that man? Who are these people who follow a man who was crucified?”
Thousands of people lined the roads of the predominantly Catholic village of Wat Roman and filled the grounds of a church complex to greet Pope Francis.
Homemade signs included one that said, "You really know how to pope." Another said, "Credo in Papam Franciscum" (I believe in Pope Francis).
Little girls dressed in red, white or powder blue silk gowns and wearing gold chada — tall, pointed hats — scattered flower petals on the ground as the pope entered the complex housing St. Peter's Parish, St. Peter's School and the Shrine of Blessed Nicholas Bunkerd Kitbamrung, a Thai priest martyred in 1944.
Spending the whole morning in Tha Kham, Pope Francis held separate meetings with seminarians, priests and religious, with representatives of the Federation of Asian Bishops' Conferences and with Jesuits working in Thailand.