Church leaders in Thailand appealed to the faithful to unite in prayer for the success of Pope Francis’ trip to Thailand and Japan this week.
Bishop Francis Xavier Vira Arpondratana, secretary general of the Catholic bishops’ conference of Thailand, said the pope’s visit aims “to strengthen universal brotherhood and unity.”
“This is a joyous occasion for all of us, Catholics,” said the prelate during a media briefing following the arrival of Pope Francis to the country on Nov. 20.
He said the visit to Thailand becomes more memorable as the country marks the 350th anniversary of the arrival of Christianity.
Bishop Arpondratana urged Catholics to participate in the activities during the pope’s visit.
Representatives from the Royal Family and the Thai government welcomed Pope Francis who arrived in Bangkok before noon.
Monsignor Andrew Visanu Thanya-anan, general coordinator of the papal visit, said the pontiff is set to meet with government leaders on Nov. 21.
On the same day, Pope Francis will pay a visit to the sick at St. Louis Hospital after a meeting with the country’s Buddhist patriarch.
The pontiff will also be meeting with King Maha Vajiralongkorn of Thailand.
On Nov. 22, Pope Francis will hold a meeting with priests, religious, seminarians, and catechists at St. Peter’s Parish before paying a visit to a Catholic shrine in Nakorn Pathom province.
He is also set to meet with the bishops of Thailand and members of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences and members of the Jesuit congregation.
The Catholic presence in Thailand dates back to 1567 when the Dominicans arrived.
The Franciscans came next, followed by the Jesuits who opened schools and built churches starting in 1606.
In 1662, priests from the Paris Foreign Mission arrived in Thailand and established the Apostolic Vicariate of Siam in 1669.
See this short raw UCA News video featuring of people welcoming the pope as he left the airport just after his arrival in Bangkok.