Pope Francis asks priests, religious in Thailand to inculturate the Gospel

Pope Francis asks priests, religious in Thailand to inculturate the Gospel

Thai religious await Pope Francis in St. Peter parish in Bangkok, Nov. 22, 2019. Credit: Papal Flight Press Pool.
Thai religious await Pope Francis in St. Peter parish in Bangkok, Nov. 22, 2019. Credit: Papal Flight Press Pool.

.- In a meeting with priests and religious in Thailand Friday, Pope Francis urged an inculturation of the Gospel which allows it to have a “Thai face and flesh,” and not be seen as a religion only for foreigners.

“Let us not be afraid to continue inculturating the Gospel,” he said Nov. 22 in St. Peter Parish in the district of Sam Phran to the west of Bangkok.

“We need to seek new ways of transmitting the word, ways that are capable of mobilizing and awakening a desire to know the Lord,” he said, adding that he was saddened to learn that for many people in Thailand, Christianity is “a foreign faith, a religion for foreigners.”

“This should spur us to find ways to confess the faith ‘in dialect,’ like a mother who sings lullabies to her child,” he urged. “With that same intimacy, let us give faith a Thai face and flesh.”

It is about more than making translations, he said, “it is about letting the Gospel be stripped of fine but foreign garb; to let it ‘sing’ with the native music of this land and inspire the hearts of our brothers and sisters with the same beauty that set our own hearts on fire.”

He added that it is “vital that the Church today be able to proclaim the Gospel to all, in all places, on all occasions, without hesitation and without fear.”

Francis met with priests, seminarians, catechists, and consecrated and religious, including cloistered nuns, on his second full day in Thailand, part of a six-day trip to Asia. He will fly to Japan Nov. 23.

After the meeting, the pope will walk to meet Thailand’s bishops in the nearby shrine to Blessed Nicolas Bunkerd Kitbamrung, a Thai priest who died in 1944 due to three years of imprisonment by Thai authorities. He was beatified in 2000. The parish and the shrine are both located in the Catholic village of Wat Roman a Tha Kham.

In his address, Francis reflected on the encounter priests and religious must have with both the face of the Lord and the faces of their brothers and sisters they meet on the streets.

“We see them no longer as orphans, derelicts, outcasts or the despised,” he stated.

“So many of you manage to see beauty where others see only contempt, abandonment or an object of sexual gratification,” he added. “In this way, you are a concrete sign of the Lord’s mercy, alive and at work: a sign of the anointing of the Holy One in these lands.”

He urged them to be faithful to deep prayer, like that of the elderly who constantly pray the rosary.

“How many of us have received the faith from our grandparents, from seeing them doing their household chores, rosary in hand, sanctifying their entire day,” he noted. “This is contemplation in action, making God part of the little things of each day.”

The pope called them to have “apostolic fruitfulness” and to “struggle valiantly for the things that the Lord loves and for which he gave his life.”

“I would even ask you to be wounded by that same love; to have that same passion for Jesus and for his kingdom,” he said.

Pope Francis asked Catholics to remember all the catechists and consecrated men and women, now elderly, who helped to draw them “into the love and friendship of Jesus Christ” and to find their vocation.

Gratitude is important, he said. “I believe that the history of each of our vocations is marked by those people who helped us discover and discern the fire of the Spirit.”

“So let us think of them with gratitude, and, standing on their shoulders, may we too feel called to be men and women who help bring about the new life the Lord bestows on us.”

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