Catholic delegation in Bangkok to mark the 230th anniversary of the temple Chetupon

Back in May, a delegation of 50 monks handed Pope Francis the translations of a Buddhist sacred text. For Fr Daniele Mazza, PIME missionary, “Dialogue is thus made concrete by the encounter”.

Bangkok (AsiaNews) – A delegation from the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue (PCID) will visit Bangkok, Thailand to take part in a ceremony on 9 November to mark the 230th anniversary of the Royal Temple of Chetupon (Wat Pho).

PCID secretary Mgr Miguel Ángel Ayuso Guixot and Mgr Indunil Janakaratne Kodithuwakku, PCID undersecretary with responsibility for Buddhism, accepted the invitation of the Venerable Phra Thepweeraporn, abbot of Wat Phra Chetupon.

The Holy See delegation will be joined by Mgr Paul Tschang In-Nam, apostolic nuncio to Thailand and Myanmar, Fr Dario Pavisa, secretary of the nunciature in Bangkok, as well as several members of the local Church.

One of the latter will be Fr Daniele Mazza, a member of the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions (PIME) who has dedicated his mission in Thailand to interreligious dialogue.

Parish priest at Mary Mother of Mercy Catholic Church in Nonthaburi, 25km north of Bangkok, he is the first missionary to have obtained a Master's Degree in Buddhism from the prestigious Mahachulalongkornrajavidyalaya (MCU) University, a point of reference for the training of Buddhist clerics in the Theravada and Mahayana tradition.

On 16 May, Fr Mazza guided a delegation of 50 Buddhist monks in the Vatican, including the Venerable Phra Rajaratanasunthon, representative of the patriarch, and some scholars of the temple of Chetupon. During a private audience with Pope Francis, they gave the Holy father the translations in Thai and Pali of the Phra Malai, an ancient sacred Buddhist text that King Rama VII gave to Pius XI in 1934.

"The tome has been kept in the Vatican Museums for years until the administration asked the Thai Church to find someone able to translate it,” Fr Mazza said. The Venerable Prof Phra Rajapariyattimuni, deputy abbot of the temple of Chetupon and dean of the Faculty of Buddhism of MCU, as well as my professor, took on the job. Whilst some Thai universities asked for a fee, he decided to work for free. He set up an ad hoc commission and completed the assignment.

“The official return of the text to Pope Francis, which took place last May, was highly significant because it was a reminder of the visit of the Venerable Somdej Phra Wanaratana to Paul VI in 1972, the first time a Buddhist delegation visited the Vatican. At the time of that meeting, the monk was still abbot of Chetupon, but he later became patriarch."

According to Fr Mazza, the invitation of the temple authorities "renews the deep relations between Thai Buddhism and the Vatican". At the media level, the announcement of the next meeting between the Vatican delegation and the religious authorities of Chetupon has had received great coverage.

In Thailand, “national newspapers and media talked about it. People are very happy and proud of the precious help Buddhist monks provided for the translation of the sacred text,” the missionary noted.

"Informed by Mgr Guixot, Pope Francis expressed great joy for this initiative, which is an important opportunity for dialogue. I am convinced that every time one experiences such moments of openness, it is possible to go beyond bias or hearsay. Dialogue is thus made concrete by the encounter between people and is no longer limited to abstract ideas."