BANGKOK — Pope Francis’s visit to Thailand will happen from Nov. 20 to 23, announced the Apolistic Nuncio of the Holy See Friday afternoon.
In two month’s time, Pope Francis will visit Thailand, Catholic officials announced Friday afternoon at the 11th floor conference room at the St. Louis Hospital in central Bangkok, part of a worldwide simultaneous announcement in both the Vatican City and Tokyo.
Archbishop and Apolistic Nuncio Paul Tschang In-Nam announced the visit in English at 2pm sharp, while Cardinal Francis Xavier Kriengsak Kovitvanit of Bangkok did so in Thai.
“It is my great honor and pleasure to make the following announcement. At the invitation of the Royal Thai Government and the Bishops of Thailand, His Holiness Pope Francis will make the Apolistic Visit to Thailand on November 20 to 23, 2019,” Paul Tschang In-Nam and Kriengsak said.
The official announcement came after months of anticipation.
“This announcement of the papal visit needed to wait for the official, formal announcement,” Chainarong Tontianwichianchai, a spokesman for the Holy See said. “Before, I had to just smile when people asked me.”
A press release says that the Pope will preside over two public masses during his visit, one for Thai Catholics and another for Thai Catholic youth. His specific schedule will be announced at a later time.
“We want to reach the Gen X, Gen Y, and other young people,” Wissanu said. “That’s why we will have a dedicated mass for youth.”
Also gathered were various nuns and priests from around Thailand, as well as the Catholic faithful.
“We are very few Catholics in Thailand, only about 300,000 but he still sees us as important. I’m so excited, and I’ll be waiting for him,” Sister Bangon Mathurotsuwan, 51, from the Congregation of the Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in Bangkok.
Sister Bangon said that this visit was also significant since it is the 350th anniversary of the founding of “Mission de Siam,” the assembly that oversees Roman Catholic missions in the Kingdom, which was established during the Ayutthaya period.
The last pontiff visit to Thailand was in 1984 by Pope John Paul II. After his Thailand visit, Pope Francis is set to go to Tokyo on Nov. 23 to 27.
Thailand is home to a minority population of Catholics numbering 0.58 percent of the population, or 388,468 people and with 524 churches, the Catholic Social Communications of Thailand announced in a video at the press conference on Friday.
“It’s true that there is a small number of Catholics in Thailand, but there have been papal visits to countries with an even smaller population, such as Bosnia and Herzogovina or to Muslim countries,” Monseigneur Wissanu Thanya-anan, deputy secretary general of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Thailand said.
Wissanu said that in February, Pope Francis visited the United Arab Emirates, where there are only about 4,000 to 5,000 Catholics.
“The numbers aren’t important, when a father is visiting his children,” Chainarong said.
This is a developing story and may be updated without notice.
Additional reporting Tappanai Boonbandit