Vatican City (AsiaNews) - "With my appointment as Cardinal, Pope Francis has given an important signal in the direction of decentralization. He confirmed his intention to go to the peripheries of the world. Moreover, he considers Asia a continent where people are still religious, in which there is a deep faith". Speaking to AsiaNews, is the new Cardinal François-Xavier Kriengsak Kovithavanij, archbishop of Bangkok, one of the 20 new cardinals created by Pope Francis. On 14 February he received the cardinal's hat, together with two other Asians: Charles Bo, Archbishop of Yangon and Pierre Nguyen Van Nhon, Archbishop of Hanoi.
Born in 1949
into a Catholic family in Bangkok, Cardinal Kovithavanij studied theology and
philosophy at the Urbanianum University in Rome, before ordination to the
priesthood in 1976 by the then Archbishop (and future Cardinal) Msgr. Michael
Michai Kitbunchu. In 1982 he returned to Rome to further his studies at the
Gregorian; in 2007, he was appointed archbishop of Nakhon Sawan, then transferred
in 2009 to the Thai capital.
In Asia there is still a "deep faith, in religion", says the Thai cardinal, and "the comparison with Europe or other continents, where faith is crumbling" is inevitable. "So we feel a great responsibility , in front of God and the Church".
One of the Archbishop
of Bangkok's primary objectives is to "strengthen the process of mission
and evangelization" in a country where the Church "has a centenary
history" but "Catholics are only 0.5%". The pillars that will
guide this process are "the Thai Synod of 2012 and Evangelii Gaudium of Pope Francis, which is a milestone in our task
Finally, the cardinal confirmed the role of Catholics in the promotion of peace and harmony, in a nation characterized by tensions and conflicts of political and social nature: "The Church - he concludes - is present whenever a conflict emerges. In this context we have repeatedly pointed out the importance of prayer, each according to their religion and their beliefs. This alone, prayer, can really help. "
Pride and enthusiasm were also expressed by Chalermpol Thanchitt, Thai ambassador to the Holy See, who told AsiaNews that the archbishop of Bangkok's appointment as cardinal "is a great thing for all Thai people." This is not only a celebration for "Catholics," he adds, but it is a "source of joy for the whole nation and its citizens."
In a predominantly Buddhist (95 per cent) country of some 70 million people, Catholics are a tiny minority - about 300,000 or 0.5 per cent. Yet, they make a valuable contribution in many areas of life, from education and health care to social work and interfaith dialogue.