Catholics in Thailand commemorated the first anniversary of Pope Francis’ apostolic visit to the South East Asian nation while launching the Year of the Catholic Thai Youth on Nov. 22.
Cardinal Francis Xavier Kriengsak Kovithavanij, president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Thailand (CBCT), celebrated Mass with hundreds of Catholics at the Cathedral of the Assumption in central Bangkok where he recalled how the pope was at that same location celebrating Mass with Thai youth a year earlier.
“It is appropriate and significant that the CBCT organizes to bring us all together today to inaugurate the Year of the Catholic Thai Youth and to convey the papal message again to all the youth that ‘we love and wish you all well with benevolence’,” Cardinal Kriengsak said. “Be assured that you are the present and the future of the Church and Thai society,” he said.
Pope Francis visited Thailand Nov. 20 to 23 last year. It was the second visit of a pontiff to Thailand in over 35 years. Pope St. John Paul II visited in 1984.
Cardinal Kriengsak, who is also the archbishop of Bangkok, said: “I wish all youth to live your life in Christian spirit according to the message given by the Holy Father to all of you in his homily and to follow his example and his deeds.”
The motto of the pope’s visit was “Christ’s Disciples, Missionary Disciples”.
The apostolic visit marked the 350th anniversary of the 1669 establishment of the Apostolic Vicariate of Siam which formally marked the beginning of the Church in Thailand.
During a commemoration reception on Nov. 22, Cardinal Kriengsak shared with guests some of his personal experiences accompanying the pope.
“I witnessed his being, and his behavior, which showed how he is the living Good News of Christ. He is the Good News that has brought happiness to everyone who had met him,” Cardinal Kriengsak said.
“He leads children and teens to walk together in unity with him, to have faith in Christ who is alive among us and he has given them a ‘young heart,’” he said.
The pope’s visit to Thailand, and then Japan, was his fourth trip to Asia. In the past he visited South Korea, Sri Lanka, the Philippines, Myanmar and Bangladesh.
The nearly 400,000 Catholics in Thailand make up a little more than 0.5 percent of the country’s 65 million plus population.
Watch video below featuring the beginning of Mass at the Cathedral of the Assumption on Nov. 22.