This month’s introduction of Sunday Masses celebrated in Korean at a parish in the Thai city of Pattaya has united both emigrants and tourists from South Korea.
“This regular Korean language Mass unites, strengthens, and revitalizes faith life in the parish,” Fr. Giovanni Lee Sung-hyun, chaplain at St. Nikolaus parish in Pattaya, about 80 miles southeast of Bangkok, told CNA Feb. 24.
He added that the other sacraments are also offered in Korean, in response to a growing influx of Korean emigrant workers, as well as tourists, to the port city.
“Understanding and interiorizing the Word of God is very important,” Fr. Lee commented, adding that the Thai language is a major impediment for Koreans’ participation in the liturgy, which hinders their spiritual growth.
Celebration of Mass in Korean makes for “a participatory church, and also connects to the nostalgia of Korean liturgy,” added Fr. Lee.
St. Nikolaus has also established a volunteer center and a women’s league; Fr. Lee said, “we affirm our responsibility and role in the mission of the Church, and march forward for a new evangelization and interreligious dialogue.”
The community of Catholics from Korea is also active in Bangkok, where there are some 200 members.
The need of the Church in Thailand to provide for immigrant communities is likely to increase in the future, as the nation prepares to implement the ASEAN Economic Community by 2015. The economic community will produce a free-trade region in east and Southeast Asia, allowing more flexible migration of laborers.
The Church in Thailand has to prepare for “new pastoral challenges and interreligious dialogue,” Msgr. Andrew Vissanu Thanya Anan, deputy secretary-general for the Thai bishops’ conference, told CNA.
Thailand is also home to a community of Catholics from Vietnam, and hosts a large number of Rohingya, a Muslim ethnic group from neighboring Burma.