Bangkok (AsiaNews) The Archdiocese of Bangkok is getting ready to welcome 25 new Christians on Easter night in predominantly Buddhist Thailand where Catholics are but a very small community: 0.5 per cent in a population of 65 million.
Fr Vira Arphonrat, secretary of the Catholic Commission for Catechetical Education, spoke to AsiaNews about the Christian rite of initiation in Thailand.
"The course began in June 2004 with 70 attendants, young and adults," he noted. "They were formally welcomed on the first Sunday of Advent on 28 November, 2004, and met regularly on Sundays. But of those who started only 25 are ready to become Catholic on Easter Day."
Catechism involved lessons on Catholic beliefs, liturgy, the seven sacraments, Catholic ethics with special focus on the 10 Commandments and the way of praying.
Each catechumen was given a godfather or a godmother. For those who do not have Catholic relatives, members of the Cathedral's Pastoral Council or lay volunteers are to perform the same duty.
On Holy Saturday this year, the catechumens from all the parishes of Bangkok archdiocese and their godparents will meet Card Michael Kitbunchu at the Bishop's Residence.
The Cardinal will welcome them into the Church of Thailand. He will anoint them on the forehead and tell the godparents what is expected of them in relation to the catechumens.
They will be urged to attend mass with the new Christians until the latter have settled into the community.
Officially though, the catechumens will be accepted during the Vigil mass before Easter Sunday. Thereafter, the new Catholics will still have to attend the catechetical course for another seven weeks, sharing their experiences as Christians with the others.
"I have been in charge of the catechetical course for five years," Father Vira said. "The catechumens come from three churches near the Assumption Cathedral.I would suggest that one year from now they should come to share their experiences again. It is good to follow up so that the 'new Catholics' may feel at home. On-going formation is recommended to strengthen their faith."