04/07/2008, 00.00
THAILAND
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In Bangkok Christians and Buddhists remember Chiara Lubich

by Weena Kowitwanij
The memory of Chiara Lubich, who passed away on 14 March, lives on among people. Even in Thailand Christians and Buddhists remember her with joy, inspired by her faith and works.

Bangkok (AsiaNews) – Christians and Buddhists have remembered Chiara Lubich, founder of the ‘Focolare’ movement, who passed away on 14 March in Rome. Last Saturday Bangkok cathedral was crowded with thousands of people who came to celebrate her memory. Five bishops and 20 priests co-celebrated the service, including the Apostolic Nuncio, Archbishop Salvatore Pennacchio, and the Cardinal of Bangkok, Mgr Michael Michai Kitbunchu.

During the Mass Cardinal Kitbunchu said that “Chiara’s faith stressed the importance of man’s dignity. In the violent world in which we live we must keep hope alive and use understanding and goodness to create real peace. Love will bring peace to society. We are called to use courage to change our hearts and the world, as Chiara did.”

Monks from the Phratat-Srichomthong Buddhist Temple in Chiang Mai, northern Thailand, paid their respect to Chiara Lubich.

In the past Chiara had met Buddhist monks and nuns several times. In 1997 during her second trip to Thailand, Prof Thong Sirimungkalo, the temple abbot, had invited her to meet the Chiang Mai community.

The Focolarina’s meeting with the Buddhist was an “enlightening” experience and according to the monks, “Chiara shed light on the right path. For us she is an enlightened philosopher.”

“Chiara is an outstanding figure, a genius,” the abbot added. “That is why I invited her so that others would know her morality and put it in practice.”

In the same year she visited the temple in Chiang Mai, Chiara met Somdej Phrayanasangworn, the Buddhist supreme patriarch, who encouraged her to pursue the path of inter-faith dialogue to build understanding among people of different religions.

The Focolare movement was established in Thailand in 1958 by a Salesian missionary, the late Fr Pongchione, who for 22 years tried to replicate the model of love and harmony Chiara was able to build in Italy in a community of about a thousand people.

Chiara’s dream for Thailand included the creation of a Marian town, a Mariapolis, in Nakhon Ratchasima province, in the country’s north-east, to bear witness to Buddhist-Christian harmony. This Mariapolis is currently under construction and her dream is on the verge of being realised.

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