A young patient gives flowers to Pope Francis at the end of his meeting with members of the Bambino Gesu (Baby Jesus) hospital during an audience on Nov. 16 at the Paul VI Hall in the Vatican. (Photo: Vincenzo Pinto/AFP)
Pope Francis has praised Thailand for promoting harmony and peace in a video message ahead of his visit to the kingdom that begins on Nov. 20.
“In this world that too frequently experiences discord, division and exclusion,” Thailand has shown commitment to work hard “to promote harmony and a peaceful coexistence,” he says.
This commitment, he says, “can serve as an inspiration” for all the people around the world who are working to “promote a great, true development of our human family in solidarity, in justice and in living in peace,” Vatican News reported.
Pope Francis is visiting Thailand on his 32nd Apostolic Journey from Nov. 20-23 before heading to Japan.
In his message, he says he will have the opportunity to meet and “encourage” the Catholic community of Thailand “in their faith and in the contribution they make to the whole of society.”
He is hoping to “strengthen the bonds of friendship that we share with many Buddhist brothers and sisters.”
“I trust that my visit will help to highlight the importance of interreligious dialogue, mutual understanding and fraternal cooperation,” says the pope.
He thanks the people of Thailand “from the bottom of” his heart for all the preparation that is being made for his visit.
This is the first papal visit to Thailand in nearly four decades following the journey made by Pope John Paul II in 1984.
The trip will mark the 350th anniversary of the establishment of the Apostolic Vicariate of Siam, created in 1669, which started the Vatican mission in country.
The pope will meet King Maha Vajiralongkorn and the Supreme Patriarch of Buddhism. He will hold two Masses in Bangkok and reunite with his second cousin, Sister Ana Rosa Sivori, 77, who runs a Catholic girls’ school in Udon Thani province in the northeast.
About 93 percent of the Thai population are Buddhists. The kingdom’s 388,000-strong Catholic community makes up less than one percent of the population, with most Catholics living in the north.
Since becoming pope six years ago, Pope Francis has made three trips to Asia, visiting Korea in 2014, the Philippines and Sri Lanka in 2015, followed by Myanmar and Bangladesh in 2017.