05/11/2009, 00.00
THAILAND
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Church remembers John Paul II’s historic visit

by Weena Kowitwanij
Yesterday and today celebrations take place to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the Polish pope’s trip to Thailand. In Bangkok cathedral, Benedict XVI’s special envoy Cardinal Zen celebrates solemn Mass. Prelate is joined by 23 priests ordained in 1984 by John Paul II.
Bangkok (AsiaNews) – Thailand’s Catholic Church is celebrating the 25th anniversary of John Paul II’s visit to the country (Pope pictured meeting King Bhumibol Adulyadej). The main event in the two-day celebration (held yesterday and today) was today’s Mass in Bangkok’s Assumption Cathedral, presided by Card Joseph Zen Ze-kiun, archbishop emeritus of Hong Kong, Benedict XVI’s special envoy to the ceremony.

Card Michael Michai Kitbunchu, archbishop of Bangkok, Mgr Salvatore Pennacchio, apostolic nuncio to Thailand, and 23 of the 25 priests ordained in 1984 during the Pope’s visit, co-celebrated the Mass.

Priests and men religious from across the country also took part in the Mass. Some 1,200 people were expected for the ceremony.

Catholics represent about 0.5 per cent of Thailand’s 63 million people, who are mostly Buddhist.

Mgr Joseph Chusak Sirisuk, now bishop of Nakhon Ratchasima, was one of the 25 priests ordained in 1984 by John Paul II. That day, 11 May 1984, he said “was the most important day for us. It is incredible to think that one day the Pope, whom I always saw on TV, would come to Thailand, a country with less than 250,000 Catholics (at the time), and be among us.”

For the bishop the historical value of the Pope’s visit and its meaning today lie in the words of the Gospel John Paul II addressed to his audience: “I am the good shepherd. A good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep,” especially those who suffer, the disabled and the poor. And on this special occasion, his words are reminder to work harder.

In memory of the anniversary, two statues, one of Saint Peter and the other of John Paul II, both located in front of Bangkok cathedral, were blessed.

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