Bangkok (AsiaNews) – On behalf of the Italian President Giorgio Napolitano, Italy’s ambassador to Thailand conferred the honour of “Cavalieri dell’Ordine della Stella della Solidarietà Italiana” (Knights of the Order of the Star of Italian Solidarity) to five Italian missionaries in Thailand. They are two Salesian nuns and three priests: Sisters Esterina Prando and Nadia Ferro, and Fathers Ferdinando Ronconi, a Stigmatine missionary, Giovanni Contarin, a Camillian, and Giovanni Zimbaldi, a PIME missionary.
Conferred last Tuesday the honour formally recognises the work accomplished by the missionaries. They have lived in the country for decades and have been involved with the neediest people in the fields of education, social assistance and development.
The ceremony took place in a family-like atmosphere at the residence of the Italian Ambassador in the Thai capital in the presence of the Archbishop of Bangkok, Card Michael Michai, and of the Apostolic Nuncio Mgr Salvatore Pennacchio.
The ambassador explained what the honour meant stressing that the deed was meant to acknowledge and express Italy’s appreciation for all the Italian missionaries who work in Thailand, living symbols of human solidarity and brotherhood.
PIME missionary Fr Giovanni Zimbaldi has been in Asia since 1958. After nine years in Burma he was forced to leave that country when the government stopped renewing visas for foreign missionaries.
He then began his mission in Thailand where he is involved in evangelisation and development among the tribal groups living in the northern reaches of the country.
He has been involved in farming, irrigation systems as well as training for adolescents. He has built two hostels to serve young students from local villages who cannot attend other schools.
“Here in Thailand there are other missionaries who probably deserve this honour; for this reason, I accept it as recognition for the work accomplished by all the missionaries present in Thailand,” Father Zimbaldi said during the ceremony as he expressed his gratitude for the award.