.- Catholics in Thailand are joining in prayer to celebrate the 81st birthday of Queen Sirikit, respected throughout the country for her various charitable efforts.
Special prayers, programs and Masses are planned for Aug. 12, the queen’s birthday, which is celebrated as both a national holiday and Mother’s Day in the country.
The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Thailand issued a special announcement asking every parish in Thailand to mark the celebration and offer prayers in the queen’s honor.
Thai Catholics gathered at the Sanam Luang public square in Bangkok for an inter-religious prayer session for the queen.
Representing the Catholic community was Monsignor Andrew Vissanu Thanya Anan, deputy secretary general for the Thai bishops’ conference and former Vatican undersecretary for the Pontifical Council for Inter-Religious Dialogue.
He read a message from the Bishops’ Conference of Thailand encouraging all Catholics to pray for blessings upon the queen and to support her in various projects throughout the country.
More than 250 Catholic schools and institutions also gathered with thousands of students and parents to pray and show respect for the queen.
Catholics compose less than one percent of the population in Thailand, which contains 10 dioceses.
However, Father Joseph Vuthilert, vicar general for the Archdiocese of Bangkok, told CNA that Queen Sirikit is universally loved by the citizens.
“She is the people’s most beloved queen and is called Maha Racinee (Great Queen),” he said.
Thai people revere her with “immense admiration,” the priest explained. They are indebted to her for her goodness and tremendous “charitable works,” such as various “self-sustenance” programs for women and the safeguarding of cultural and environmental works in Thailand.
“The queen was educated at St. Francis Xavier Convent School in Bangkok, and some of the royal families have studied in our Catholic institutions,” he added.
The queen herself is a Buddhist. In 1950, she married King Bhumibol Adulyadej, the world’s longest-reigning head of the State.