Thai of all faiths prepare to welcome Pope Francis
Tens of thousands of people are expected to converge on the National Stadium on Rama I Road tomorrow evening to attend Holy Mass to be celebrated by Pope Francis who is scheduled to arrive in Bangkok at 12.30 pm today for a three-day visit.
It will be one of the highlights of his visit to Thailand. It has been reported that as many as 50,000 people have signed up to attend the event.
Vatican News reported that before departing from the Casa Santa Marta in Vatican City for his flight, Pope Francis met briefly with a group of 10 elderly people assisted by the Little Sisters of the Poor at the Church of St Peter in Chains.
Pope Francis will be in Thailand until Saturday, and follows in the footsteps of Pope St John Paul II, who visited in May 1984.
Catholics number around 325,000 in Thailand, or 0.59% of the population. Some 80% of Catholics are Thai, with immigrants accounting for a rising portion of the faithful.
Vatican News quoted Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin as saying that Pope Francis will likely encourage Christians to be missionary disciples, as the Church celebrates 350 years since the first Jesuit missionaries proclaimed the Gospel here.
According to Vatican News, as is customary, one Vatican employee was chosen to accompany the Pope on his Apostolic Journey. The honor for this trip was given to Antonino Enea, a calligrapher at the Secretariat of State.
Thai police have planned tight security and strict traffic regulations during the pontiff’s visit. Several roads will be closed to facilitate the pope’s visits to various places.
Pope Francis will have a busy schedule while in Bangkok, meeting with Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, government officials, diplomats and representatives of civic organizations at the Government House on Thursday morning during which he will deliver a speech.
He will later visit the Buddhist Supreme Patriarch at Wat Rachabophit before meeting with medical personnel and visit patients and people with disabilities at St. Louis Hospital on Sathorn Road
In the evening he is scheduled to have an audience with HM the King at the Royal Palace before attending mass at the National Stadium.
On Friday morning, he will meet with priests, religious, seminarians and catechists at St. Peter’s parish before meeting with the bishops of Thailand and members of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences at the Shrine of Blessed Nicholas Bunkerd Kitbamrung.
He will later have a private meeting with members of the Society of Jesus before going to Chulalongkorn University to meet Christian leaders and the leaders of other religions. In the evening he will attend mass with young people in Assumption Cathedral.