Bangkok, Thailand, Nov 20, 2019 / 12:09 pm
Pope Francis’ trip to Thailand is a meaningful moment for the small Catholic community, and marks an important anniversary in the life of the Catholic Church in the southeast Asian country, the secretary general of the Thailand bishops’ conference said.
“It is really meaningful even though we have a short time,” Bishop Vira Arpondratana told CNA Nov. 20, the day Pope Francis landed in Bangkok for a three-day visit to Thailand.
The Catholic Church in Thailand is celebrating 350 years of Holy See recognition of the Church in Thailand. Nearly 200 years after two Portuguese Dominican missionaries first brought the Catholic faith to Thailand, Pope Alexander VII established the Mission of Siam in 1669.
This anniversary is significant, Bishop Arpondratana said, because it gives Thai Catholics an opportunity “to think about the past and thank God for the present and [to think about] what we should do, not only as the Thai Church” but as the Church in all of Asia.
“We have to help others, not only receive [the faith] from Europe, but as a Catholic Thai Church, [to do] the small good that we can. We can do something,” he said.
The Mission of Siam was elevated to an apostolic vicariate four years later, in 1673, and given jurisdiction over Malaysia, southern Burma, and Sumatra. By the end of the 19th century, Catholicism had spread throughout the country of Thailand and parts of the surrounding regions.
With this anniversary, “we try to help the Catholics, who are the minority -- half a percent -- to think about the past: Who were the missionaries? Why did they come here?” the bishop said.
“After thinking of the past, at present, we have to thank God, because of how God blesses us.”