Bangkok (AsiaNews) - "The door of faith for us is always open, ready to lead to a life united with God," said card Michael Mechai Kitbunchu, Bangkok's former archbishop, who opened the celebration of the Year of Faith in Thailand. The current archbishop, Mgr Francis Xavier Kriengsak Kovidhavanit, is in Rome for the Synod of Bishops from 7 to 28 October. The cardinal emeritus carried out the inaugural event on 11 October.
Priests, Catholic leaders and ordinary Catholics from six different administrative districts met at the Shrine of the Blessed Fr Nicholas Boonkerd Kitbamrung in Samphran, Nakhon Pathom province, about 30 kilometres from Bangkok. For those who could not be present in person, there was always the Internet. The ceremony was broadcast live via webcast at www.catholic.or.th.
In a symbolic gesture that represented the opening of the 'door of faith,' Card Kitbunchu opened the main entrance to the shrine to let in the Christian community. This was followed by the Eucharistic adoration from 10 am to 3 pm.
The prelate handed the 'flag of faith' to representatives of each district, and then co-celebrated Mass with Mgr Joseph Sangval Surasarang, bishop emeritus of Chiang Mai, northern Thailand, and Fr Ignatius Sepphalia, secretary to the Apostolic Nunciature, as well as a large group of priests.
During the homily, the archbishop emeritus of Bangkok reminded the faithful that, through the baptism, we can call God our 'Father', and, as the Virgin Mary did, welcome the Lord by saying 'yes' to his call, becoming witnesses to his love.
At the end of the function, the prelate blessed the statue of the Blessed Fr Nicholas Boonkerd Kitbamrung, erected for the Year of Faith to remember the life of the priest, "an example and witness of the faith" in Thailand.
Beatified by Pope John Paul II in 2000, Fr Nicholas died in prison "to uphold" the reasons of a life entirely dedicated to Christ and the proclamation of the Good News.
He was jailed during the Indo-Chinese war for "tolling the bells" of Mass. According to local officials, this was part of a conspiracy against the local government.
Fr Joseph Vuthilert Haelom, vicar general of the Archdiocese of Bangkok and director of the Committee for the celebrations of the Year of Faith, called on those present to recite the 'Creed,' which must not only be a prayer but also a way to live the faith.
Noting that October is the month dedicated to the Rosary, he called on the faithful to recite the Marian prayer according to the five intentions proposed by the Thai Church, namely support for the unborn in the mother's womb, true peace for the country, a stronger faith in the family, more vocations for the priesthood and a deeper faith through the recitation of the Rosary.