At Easter, churches were full and many baptisms took place, said PIME missionary Father Corti. In the capital, lay people play a major role in evangelisation and pastoral outreach. The newly baptised have a great desire to know and deepen the faith.
Bangkok (AsiaNews) - Bangkok's Catholic community celebrated Easter with great enthusiasm and participation, noted Fr Claudio Corti (pictured), a priest with the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions (PIME), speaking to AsiaNews.
Originally from Lecco (Italy), Fr Corti has served for 15 years in some of PIME's missions in northern Thailand (Fang, Ban Thoet Thai, Mae Suay and Ngao). After five years in Rome, the missionary returned to Thailand two months ago to work at Mary Mother of Mercy in Nonthaburi, a parish entrusted to PIME about 40 years ago and currently headed by Fr Daniele Mazza.
In Bangkok, the situation of the city's small Catholic communities is quite different from that in the territories along the border with Myanmar. In the latter, local Catholics belong to different tribal ethnic minorities (Akha, Lanna, Lahu, Isan, Thai Yai, and Kachin) who live in poverty and marginalisation. Conversely, in the capital, Catholics are fully immersed in the Thai culture.
"In Bangkok, I find a great commitment by lay people to the Church," said the clergyman. "The laity are strongly involved in evangelisation and pastoral outreach. This, for example, is something lacking in the north, where community life is still centred around the figure of the missionary priest. In Bangkok, celebrations, charity work, social outreach in the slums, in prisons, are coordinated and carried out by the laity, albeit with the help of priests." For this reason, "the response of the faithful to the Easter celebrations was full of enthusiasm and participation," he said.
"Throughout Holy Week, our parish was packed for each service. Indeed, on Easter Sunday I met some people who had to attend afternoon Mass because there was no room in the morning. This also happened in two other churches. One of them is St Mark Church in Pathum Thani, where Fr Adriano Pelosin is my confrere."
Every year, Bangkok Catholics wait for Easter to welcome new Christians into the community. "In recent days, we celebrated many baptisms. In the morning of Holy Saturday, at the Cathedral of the Assumption in Bangkok, I participated in the Ephphatha ritual with the Archbishop, Card Francis Xavier Kriengsak Kovithavanij," Fr Corti explained.
"Like Jesus, during this ceremony, the celebrant touches the ears and lips of the catechumen so that he or she can hear and proclaim the Word of God. Some 205 adults were present in the cathedral for the baptism during Easter vigil. On this occasion, I could see a community that was very much present, active and involved despite Easter coinciding with Thai New Year celebrations. Everything across the country is subordinated to this holiday at this time of the year."
"The six adults we baptised in our parish are all Buddhist, except for one who was a Protestant. Speaking with them, I noticed a great desire to know and deepen the faith. They are ready to continue their religious journey, which began about a year and a half ago. Now, however, educational programmes and activities are waiting for them to boost their knowledge of Christianity.
"The reasons that brought these newly baptised to Jesus vary. Some heard about Christianity and were intrigued; others have Catholic friends or relatives. I was pleased to meet again in Bangkok people who grew up in the PIME centres in the north who, having moved to the capital or other large cities, have kept their faith, despite a hard life and suffering.”