Thai bishops stress Catholic identity, top academics in schools

Catholic educators symposium Thailand 2013 Credit Catholic Education Council of Thailand CNA 8 26 13 Catholic educators symposium Thailand 2013. | Catholic Education Council of Thailand.

The Catholic Bishops Conference of Thailand is calling for renewed effort to boost Catholic education in the country, striving to reach international standards while fostering faith education.

A three-day seminar organized by the Commission of the Catholic Education Council of Thailand was held recently in Pattaya to discuss standards for Catholic schools in evangelizing and educating.

"This annual meeting of all Catholic educators is of prime importance," said Fr. Francis Xavier Deja Arpornrat, executive secretary general of the Thai bishops' conference.

He told CNA that Catholics schools aim at the "holistic development" of the human person, and it is for this reason that "parents place their trust" in the education that their children receive at the schools.

It is important for the nation's Catholic schools to "maintain" their identity while they "upgrade" teaching methods to ensure high educational standards in the modern world, the priest explained.

"We need to renew our methods and reform our system to the changing times," while preserving a strong Catholic identity, he stressed.

Archbishop Louis Chamnien Shantisukniran of Thare and Nonseng, president of the Thai bishops' conference, delivered an address at the symposium stressing the duty of the Catholic Church to help its institutions to express their Catholic identity.

He underscored the goal of the Thai bishops' Pastoral Plan for 2010-2015 to make educational institutions the focal point "for proclamation of the Good News," leading to the development of virtues and ethical formation in schools. 

The archbishop urged the educators to be "living witness" of Jesus among the students.

Archbishop Francis Xavier Kriengsak Kovinthavanij of Bangkok, vice president of the bishops' conference, framed his reflections in the light of the New Evangelization. 

"The Catholic Church in Thailand is in the midst of our brothers and sisters of other faiths," he noted.

"The Church is essentially the sign and instrument of announcing the Kingdom of God," he said, "and all the disciples of Christ are called to announce and share the Good News to both those who have not yet heard and those who are not yet in the same sheepfold."

The appropriate way to bring about mutual understanding in society is through inter-religious dialogue, which plays an important role in the New Evangelization, he said.

The Pastoral Plan outline by the bishops emphasizes educators' roles in fostering Gospel values, morality and virtues, helping students to integrate faith, culture and life.

It highlights the need for education in media and technology, ecology and the environment, peace and justice, and sexuality and human rights.

Over 400 Catholic educators from across Thailand's 10 dioceses participated in the symposium. There are some 300 Catholic schools in the country, educating more than half a million students.

Bishop John Bosco Panya Kritcharoen of Ratchaburi and Bishop Silvio Siriphong Charatsri of Chantaburi also shared their insights under the backdrop of New Evangelization and the current need for educators to play a multi-dimensional role.

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