A life size statue of Pope Francis is displayed at the ground of Saint Louis Hospital in Bangkok on November 13, 2019, in preparation for Pope’s visit. (Photo by CHALINEE THIRASUPA / AFP)
Asia’s Catholic bishops regard the visit of Pope Francis to Thailand and Japan, next week, as “a moment of grace for Christians”, according to Vatican News.
“Pope Francis is a prophet of modern times. He is a world leader who proclaims not only a religious message but a message for humanity,” Cardinal Charles Bo, the President of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences (FABC), said in a message on the occasion of the upcoming apostolic journey of the Pope to Asia.
Pope Francis is visiting Thailand and Japan on November 20-26. The 32nd foreign apostolic journey will be his 4th to Asia, after that of South Korea in 2014, Sri Lanka and the Philippines the following year and Myanmar and Bangladesh in 2017, said Vatican News, a news and information system of the Holy See.
Cardinal Bo, who is also Archbishop of Yangon, Myanmar, is scheduled to meet the Pope in Bangkok on November 22 at the shrine of Blessed Nicholas Boonkerd Kitbamrung in the Thai capital, during a meeting with Thai bishops and the FABC.
The FABC president notes that the Pope is reaching out to “all kinds of people” as shown by his desire to visit countries where the Catholic community is a minority, expressing concern for the marginalized and those on the peripheries.
In this regard, the Salesian cardinal regards the papal visit to Myanmar and Bangladesh as a grace and a miracle. The trip was tough but it did not prevent the Pope from visiting these two countries.
The cardinal notes, “He came as a pilgrim of peace and his presence brought immense joy and happiness to every heart of our people.” “The whole of Myanmar was full of hope in those days when the Holy Father was with us.” He encouraged the Catholic Church and the youth to be an “instrument of peace”.
Cardinal Bo also regards the Pope’s visit to Thailand and Japan as a great blessing in terms of an encounter. Both nations, the Archbishop of Yangon observes, have always been “steeped in profound spiritual traditions”, to the point of “attracting thousands of people to their shores”.
Cardinal Bo also speaks about “climate change” and “poverty”, issues that are very dear to the heart of the Holy Father. And since “Thailand and Japan have faced great challenges in climate change”, Cardinal Bo says he is convinced that the pope’s voice “will be heard on these issues”.
In the upcoming visit, the FABC president says Asia will welcome the “prophet of justice: economic and environmental justice.” Stressing that “Asia is the cradle of great religions and civilizations,” he concludes his message wishing that the “spiritual meeting be a source of blessing for everyone in these countries and a new dawn of peace and prosperity” in the great continent.
Pope Francis will be in Thailand from November 20-23, after before proceeding to Japan. During his visit in Bangkok, he will have an audience with HM the King and meet with Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha.
This will be the second visit of a Pontiff to Thailand in over 35 years, after that of Pope Saint John Paul II in 1984. The motto of the Journey, “Christ’s Disciples, Missionary Disciples”, is to mark the 350th anniversary of the establishment of the Apostolic Vicariate of Siam, created in 1669, that formally marked the beginning of the Church in the country.