Garment workers in a Bangkok convent are frantically trying to finish elaborate gold and red silk robes for Pope Francis and top Vatican officials to wear during their upcoming visit to Thailand this month.
The pope is expected to meet the Thai king, top government figures, celebrate masses and visit local Catholics during his Nov. 20-23 visit to the Buddhist-majority country.
He is also expected to catch up with a cousin who runs a Catholic girls’ school in Thailand.
Skilled seamstresses at Phraharuthai Convent in central Bangkok have been working for two months to ensure Pope Francis and his accompanying bishops and other clergymen will be able to wear garments made from the finest silk and other materials the country is famous for.
“I’m very proud we were chosen to undertake this very noble job,” said Sister Sukanya, the head seamstress.
The nun said she and her team have put in many long hours to ensure more than 200 robes and handmade hats are finished in time for the papal visit.
The two most important garments — for Pope Francis— are ready, Sister Sukanya told AFP.
One gold and yellow tailor-made robe will be worn by the pope at his first Mass on Nov. 21. It is embroidered with a kanok pattern — a popular Thai motif seen on clothing and artwork.
He will wear an almost identical robe but fashioned in red and gold the next day.
The convent was selected for the job because it has a rich history in custom-making religious garments.
For the nuns, the task is a once in a lifetime chance to showcase their traditional tailoring skills.
“Our Thai style is a beautiful creation,” Sister Saengpradab told AFP.
This papal trip will be the first since Pope St. John Paul II visited the country 35 years ago. The visit also occurs during the 350th anniversary of the first official Catholic mission to the then Siam.
Thailand’s 388,000 Catholics make up less than one percent of the 69 million population.
At the end of his Thai trip on Nov. 23, the pope will head to Japan for a three-day visit where he will go to Tokyo and the two cities devastated by atomic bombs at the end of World War II — Nagasaki, and Hiroshima.