04/05/2005, 00.00
THAILAND - VATICAN

The Pope, an inspiration to perfection, says Buddhist monk

Weena Kowitwanij

Bangkok (AsiaNews) – A man who "dedicated his life to the world", "who inspires perfection", this is how Chao Khun Rajchavijitra describes and honours Pope John Paul II. For Rajchavijitra, a monk and deputy dean in the Suthattheapwararam Buddhist temple in Bangkok, Buddhism teaches that "having reached full development in his previous existence [the Pope] has become an inspiration to lead towards perfection". But he regrets the loss of a 'good man'.

"I closely followed the news reports about the Pope's condition. And I just told Buddhists on the radio about the great example given by Christians who are still praying for the Pope in St Peter's Square in Rome. I, too, am praying for him because I believe in the power of prayers".

The day after the Pope's death, Card Michael Michai Kitbunchu, Archbishop of Bangkok, celebrated a mass for the soul of the Pontiff. "We felt very sad for the lost of such a great man who brought love, friendship, solidarity and peace to the world", he said during the homily. "For his greatness, it would be right to call him John Paul the Great."

Speaking to reporters after the liturgy, Cardinal Kitbunchu said that during John Paul II's pontificate "the Church grew and become more stable and secure. And the world has stronger moral bases because he pleaded for true peace between peoples".

The Pope's focus on "a culture of life", according to the prelate, is the best example of how the Pontiff defended human rights. "Through his magisterium, the Holy Father taught, and through his example he was witness to the uniqueness of the human person", the Cardinal explained.

Thailand's Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra ordered flags flown at half mast till Friday as sign of mourning (except for Thursday, anniversary of the Thai King's coronation). Mr Thaksin went in person to the Nunciature to present a message of condolences from the King.

Thai Catholics lived through the Pope's last days and death with deep emotions. One woman, Ms Chantana, told AsiaNew that she "found great consolation in seeing how the Pope lived his suffering. I am taking care of my 82-yar-old mother who is suffering from Alzheimer and has not been able to walk for 13 years. The Pope's witness is very important to me to face this difficulty".

In the diocese of Chang Mai (40,000 Catholics out of a population of 5.8 million people, largely tribal) masses for the soul of the Pontiff will be celebrate every day till the funeral.

Thai media are also given wide coverage to the Pope's death. Yongyuth Maiyalarp, a well-known journalist, said that "Pope John Paul II has accomplished his three dreams: the fall of Communism, leading Catholics into the new millennium, and bridging the gap between Christians and Jews".

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