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Thai monks visit Vatican to embolden fraternity

The delegation met with Vatican officials and prayed for the well-being of Pope Francis
The Venerable Somdet Phra Mahathirachan is seen with Cardinal Miguel Ángel Ayuso during a meeting in the Vatican on June 15

The Venerable Somdet Phra Mahathirachan is seen with Cardinal Miguel Ángel Ayuso during a meeting in the Vatican on June 15. (Photo: Vatican News)

Published: June 19, 2023 11:13 AM GMT
Updated: June 19, 2023 11:16 AM GMT

A Thai delegation led by senior Buddhist monks visited the Vatican, which a Vatican official described as "a pilgrimage of friends.”

The delegation met with top Vatican officials and prayed for the speedy recovery of Pope Francis during the two-day visit last week, Vatican News reported.  

The eighty-member delegation met with the representatives of the Vatican’s Dicastery for Interreligious Dialogue at the Augustinianum Institute on June 15.

The members of the Dicastery for Interreligious Dialogue, including Cardinal Miguel Angel Ayuso, Prefect of the Dicastery, and Monsignor Indunil Kodithuwakku, the secretary, were present during the meeting.

The visit is “a pilgrimage of friends” Ayuso said. Pope Francis witnessed the bond between Catholics and Buddhists when he visited Thailand in November 2019, he added.

The monks were scheduled to meet Pope Francis during the trip, but it did not happen as the pope was still in a hospital for ongoing recovery from abdominal surgery.

The group left a letter for Pope Francis, which assured prayers for his well-being.

The Thai delegation included members of the Supreme Sangha Council of Thailand, the Sangha Assembly of Wat Phra Chetuphon, the Regulatory Office for Overseas Dhammaduta Bhikkhus and the Staff of the King Prajadhipok’s Institute.

Other dignitaries included Archbishop Francesco Saverio Vira Arpondratana of Chiang Mai, and officials of the Embassies of Thailand to Italy and to the Holy See.

The monks said they continue to hold Pope Francis in their prayers as he continues to recover from abdominal surgery.

Besides the meeting, the Thai delegation visited the tomb of the late Pope Benedict XVI and joined a prayer for peace in the world.

Cardinal Ayuso thanked the delegation for the visit and their prayer for the well-being of the pope.

Buddhists and Catholics are friends who share "the same joys, sorrows, concerns and visions," Ayuso said in his remark.

The pope’s visit to Thailand in 2019 marked the 350th anniversary of the first papal mission to Siam, the former name of Thailand.

Catholicism first arrived in Buddhist-majority Thailand in the mid-16th century with Portuguese missionaries and traders.

The Church gained momentum on July 4, 1669, when Pope Clement IX announced the establishment of Mission de Siam and entrusted it to the Paris Foreign Mission Society (MEP).

MEP Bishop Louis Laneau was appointed the first Vicar Apostolic of Siam and Nankin in 1673. He became the first bishop of Siam in 1974.

Catholic Church is hailed for its contributions to social development, particularly for establishing reputed schools and hospitals in the country over the years.

Catholics make up less than two percent of the estimated 71 million people in the Buddhist-majority nation.

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