The Pope’s Visit to Thailand Confirmed

Pope Francis will make a three-day visit to Thailand in November, ahead of an already announced trip to Japan, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Thailand (CBCT) announced yesterday (14th September).

“At the invitation of the Royal Thai Government and the Bishops of Thailand, His Holiness Pope Francis will make the Apostolic Visit to the Kingdom of Thailand from 20 to 23 November 2019. The program of the visit will be announced later,” CBCT president Cardinal Francis-Xavier Kriengsak Kovithavanij said at a video press conference held simultaneously in Bangkok, Vatican City and Tokyo.

According to the CBCT, the pope will celebrate two public Holy Masses, one for Thai Catholics and one for Catholic youth and will also visit Catholic communities in Thailand. The 83-year-old pontiff will then head to Japan for visits to Tokyo, Nagasaki and Hiroshima from Nov 23 to 26.

“Pope Francis is pleased to visit Thailand as a pilgrim of peace and to promote inter-religious dialogue,” Apostolic Nuncio to Thailand Archbishop Paul Tschang In-Nam said.

Monseigneur Wissanu Thanya-anan, the CBCT deputy secretary-general, said the Masses might be held at stadiums as a large number of Catholics are expected to attend. Pope Francis might also meet the Supreme Patriarch of Thailand, he added.

The visit to Thailand will coincide with the 350th anniversary of the founding of the “Mission de Siam” by Pope Clement IX to oversee Catholic missionary work in the country.

Pope Francis will be the first pontiff to visit Thailand in nearly four decades. The last trip was made by Pope John Paul II in 1984 and included an audience with HM King Rama IX and the Queen Mother.

Meanwhile, Sister Ana Rosa Sivori, the Pope’s second cousin who runs a Catholic girls’ school in Thailand, told AFP she would be with Pope Francis during his Bangkok visit.

The Catholic minority accounts for 0.58% of Thailand’s population, with 388,468 devotees and 524 churches, according to the Catholic Social Communications of Thailand.

“It’s true there is a small number of Catholics in Thailand, but there have been papal visits to countries with an even smaller population,” said Monseigneur Wissanu Thanya-anan, CBCT deputy secretary-general. He said that in February the pope visited the United Arab Emirates, where there are only about 4,000 to 5,000 Catholics.

Pope Francis is the 266th Supreme Pontiff of the Roman Catholic Church. Born as Jorge Mario Bergoglio on Dec 17, 1936 in Buenos Aires, Argentina, the pontiff completed a Master’s in Chemistry and studied theology before his consecration into the priesthood.