Thai princess visits Cebu to promote inter-faith ties

Princess Maha Chakri Siridhorn tours Basilica of Child Jesus in Cebu, Philippines to strengthen Buddhist-Christian relations
Thai princess visits Cebu to promote inter-faith ties

Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Siridhorn, sister of Thailand's newly crowned King Maha Vajiralongkorn, visits the Basilica of the Child Jesus on the Philippine island of Cebu on June 3 as part of an educational tour. (Photo courtesy of the Basilica of the Child Jesus) reporter, Cebu City
June 5, 2019
A member of the Thai royal family has taken a group of military students on a visit to a Catholic basilica in the central Philippines to promote understanding of other religions.

Princess Maha Chakri Siridhorn, sister of King Maha Vajiralongkorn, visited the Basilica of the Child Jesus on the island of Cebu on June 3 as part of an "educational tour."

The princess arrived with 57 cadets from Thailand's Royal Military Academy, where she heads the history department.

"The princess not only teaches at the Royal Academy with textbooks, but always tries to take students [on] study tours," Chainarong Monthienvichienchai, chancellor of St. John's University in Bangkok, was quoted as saying in a statement from the basilica.

"This is an educational tour so [the students] will understand more about Christianity," said Monthienvichienchai, adding the students were all Buddhists.

Father Ric Anthony Reyes, director of the basilica's museum, said the Thai royal's visit was part of her history appreciation class.

"Her visit reminds us to appreciate our cultural history and our faith," said Father Reyes.

The Augustinian friars of the Basilica Minore del Sto. Nino de Cebu said the visit added another “memorable” chapter to the church's 454-year history.

The Philippines will mark the 500th anniversary of the arrival of Christianity in 2021.

"[The princess] is proving that no religion can repel the true essence of faith and humanity during her visit," read a statement on the basilica's website

The friars said that despite the delegation subscribing to a different religion, the Thai princess "sets the enthusiasm of faith burning" among the members of her delegation "even [if only] for a short period of time."

"[The princess] embodies how there are always ways of establishing good relations amid dissimilarities in religion," it added.

The princess' itinerary included a visit to the basilica museum, the chapel where the original icon of the Child Jesus is kept, and a room where a "Ecce Homo" artwork is housed.

The "Ecce Homo" (Behold the Man) image was found in Cebu — which recently banned politics from its annual religious festival — on Aug. 20, 1572, on the same day that Miguel Lopez de Legaspi died in Manila.

The famous navigator, who established the first Spanish settlement in the West Indies, arrived in Cebu seven years prior to his death.

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The image of Santo Nino in Cebu was a gift given by Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan to the queen of the island during her baptism as a Catholic, thus bringing Christianity to Philippine shores for the first time in 1521.

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