11/06/2007, 00.00
THAILAND
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Mgr Ratchasima, man of dialogue with Buddhists, dies

He used to stress the importance of cultural exchange with local communities and the use of local languages in the Catholic liturgy. “Sometimes we join their ceremony and the Buddhists and Hindus come to attend the mass on some church anniversary,” he said.

Nakhon Ratchasima (AsiaNews) – “My main achievement has been to try to build a dialogue . . . to eliminate misunderstandings,” said Mgr Joachim Phayao Manisap in describing himself. He was the retired bishop of Nakhon Ratchasima and passed away last Saturday.

Born on July 19, 1929, Monsignor Manisap entered the Sacred Heart Seminary in Si Racha, Chonburi province, pursuing his studies in Rome at the Urban College. He was ordained priest on November 28, 1959, and bishop on September 3, 1977. He retired for health reasons on September 3 of this year.

“I succeeded Bishop Allan Vangarvier who was the first bishop of Nakhon Ratchasima. When I came here there were 3,742 Catholics in 12 parish churches. After 30 years of my administration, they increased by only 1,979, with 35 additional churches. In some of the remotest churches there are only 10-20 Catholics.”

“In all three provinces of the diocese Buddhist leaders are well-known and their faithful are very zealous. Hence my main achievement has been to try to build a dialogue with them to eliminate misunderstandings and favour friendship on the basis of mutual respect,” he explained.

He stressed the importance of cultural exchange with local communities through the use of local languages in the Catholic liturgy. “Sometimes,” he said, “we join their ceremony and the Buddhists and Hindus come to attend the mass on some church anniversary.”

According to 2006 figures, the diocese of Nakhon Ratchasima includes three provinces covering 41,148 km2 with a population of 5,195,430 people, 5,721 of whom are Catholics, including 16 priests, 3 religious men and 32 religious women.

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