Pope Francis called on Catholics to be “beggars,” like the early missionaries who came to Thailand 350 years ago, and not to be “mercenaries.”
Speaking before an estimated crowd of 60,000 who attended Mass at Bangkok’s National Stadium on Nov. 21, the pontiff said people are called to be “humble mendicants.”
He cited the example of the early Christian missionaries who he said recognized that “some brothers and sisters are missing from the community.”
The pontiff said that only through humility can Catholics be able “to encounter, discover and recognize” those who also long to hear “the good news of salvation.”
“A missionary disciple knows that evangelization is not about gaining more members or about appearing powerful,” he said.
“It is about opening doors in order to experience and share the merciful and healing embrace of God the Father, which makes of us one family,” said the pope.
Pope Francis spoke in Spanish as he delivered his homily during Mass to celebrate the feast of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
The Catholic Church leader’s visit to Thailand was part of the observance of the 350th anniversary of the establishment of the Apostolic Vicariate of Thailand, formerly known as Siam.
The pope said the early missionaries knew they were “part of a family much larger than any based on blood lines, cultures, regions or ethnic groups.”
He said they set out “in search of family members they did not yet know” because of the inspiration and the empowerment of the Holy Spirit,
Pope Francis said the early missionaries did not see the Thai people as pagans but as brothers and sisters who also needed “to grow in their own faith.”
“A missionary disciple is not a mercenary of the faith or a producer of proselytes, but rather a humble mendicant who feels the absence of brothers, sisters and mothers with whom to share the irrevocable gift of reconciliation that Jesus grants to all,” said the pope.
The pontiff said he came to Thailand to help spark “a fire of hope” to help Catholics reach out to others with the same “determination, strength and confidence” of the early missionaries.
He wished the Thai people “a festive and grateful commemoration” that will help everyone “to share the new life born of the Gospel with all the members of our family whom we do not yet know.”
The pope said those “family members” include the “children and women who are victims of prostitution and human trafficking” and who are “humiliated in their essential human dignity.”
“I think of young people enslaved by drug addiction and a lack of meaning that makes them depressed and destroys their dreams,” he said.
“I think of migrants, deprived of their homes and families, and so many others, who like them can feel orphaned, abandoned,” added the pontiff.
“I think also of exploited fishermen and bypassed beggars,” he said, adding that they deserve “God’s love and promise of salvation.”
Pope Francis reminded Catholics that they are “missionary disciples” starting when they started to choose “to be a living part of the Lord’s family.”
He challenged everyone to share with others as Jesus did when he “ate with sinners” and “touched those considered to be unclean.”
“By letting himself be touched by them, he helped them to realize the closeness of God and to understand that they were blessed,” the pope said.
Pope Francis arrived in Thailand on Nov. 20 for the first leg of his Asian tour that will later bring him to Japan. This is the pope’s third trip to Asia — and his 32nd abroad — taking him to two Buddhist-majority countries with minority Catholic populations.