SAM PHRAN: Pope Francis tended to the needs of Thailand’s tiny Catholic hierarchy Friday, urging priests and nuns to find ways to communicate the faith with “a Thai face and flesh” in an overwhelmingly Buddhist country.
Thousands of Thais welcomed Francis as he travelled to St. Peter’s Parish, a Catholic community outside Bangkok, to pray at the sanctuary of Thailand’s first martyred priest.
There, he told a few hundred priests and nuns that he read “with some pain” that for many Thais, Christianity is “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,” he said. “With that same intimacy, let us give faith a Thai face and flesh, which involves much more than making translations.”
Children dressed as monks and nuns, as well as real-life religious and ordinary Catholics, cheered him as he passed through the crowd outside the church in his popemobile and later on foot. “Viva il papa,” or “Long live the pope,” they shouted in Italian.
It was the first time in a generation that Thais have seen a pope up close after St John Paul II became the first pope to visit Thailand in 1984.
“It’s been 35 years so everyone is so very happy,” said Tuangsin Pureepaswong, a 60-year-old research engineer from Rayong province. “May the Holy Father pray to God for us all.”
Pornnutcha Kruprasert, a 14-year-old training to be a nun from southern Prachuap Khiri Khan province, said she was “excited and delighted” to see the pope.