Catholics "busy and happy" preparing for the Pope's arrival
TV stars lent their voices to the official song of the apostolic visit. Tickets for Masses have been snapped up. The Sisters of the Sacred Heart are preparing the sacred vestments at a Catholic-owned garment factory with 12 seamstresses working ten hours a day to finish the job. A PIME missionary talks about the preparations.
Bangkok (AsiaNews) – As Pope Francis' apostolic visit to Thailand (20-23 November) approaches, Thai Catholics "are getting more and more so that this moment of celebration be important for the whole Church,” said Fr Claudio Corti, a priest with the Pontifical Foreign Missions Institutes (PIME), speaking to AsiaNews.
The missionary carries out his work at Mary Mother of Mercy parish in Nonthaburi, a church entrusted to PIME about 40 years ago and now led by Fr Daniele Mazza. "The local clergy and the members of all the parishes are working hard,” said Fr Corti. “They want everything to be ready to make sure the visit takes place without any hitch.”
“For the Church, it is a very beautiful moment. Many people are involved in the preparations.” To highlight the event, “The Church has released a beautiful video with the official song of the apostolic visit (video 1). The singers are all Catholic television stars.”
What is more, “trip organisers are distributing advertising material and gadgets about the pope (pictured): t-shirts, hats, bags, statues, pins, etc. It is currently possible to see people already wearing them.” There is also real rush to get tickets to the official events included in the papal visit. Church authorities are issuing personal accreditations.”
For Fr Conti, “In addition to great joy, there is also some regret. The sites Pope Francis will visit are small, which is why it was necessary to impose a limit on the number of participants. The few remaining places are those along the road the pontiff will take during his travel by car.”
The schedule is tight, culminating in a solemn Mass on 21 November in Bangkok’s Supachalasai National Stadium, in the presence of over 50,000 people. The following day, the pontiff will meet young Catholics at a celebration in the Cathedral of the Assumption of Bangkok.
Meanwhile, the Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus are finishing over 200 vestments for the two services (video 2). In a garment factory owned by a Catholic, 12 seamstresses are working ten hours a day putting the last touches on the sacred garments.
Boosting pastoral outreach among young Catholics is one of the missionary tasks undertaken by the Church in Thailand. “Among the young, this is especially clear in education, in various schools, some of them prestigious,” explained Fr Conti.
"Here boys and girls study and learn the catechism, but sometimes their religious life does not go beyond school boundaries. In Mary Mother of Mercy parish, which is a well-organised and structured community, there is youth group but it has only a few members.”
"In order to promote greater youth involvement in the activities of the Church, some say it would have been more appropriate to have held the meeting with the pontiff in a place with more room than the cathedral, which has a maximum capacity of about 700 people."
Non-Christian Thais are looking at the event with some curiosity and caution. Thailand’s “Catholic Church is small, only 0.46 of the population, so national media have not paid too much attention to it so far,” the clergyman said. However, "I am sure that the closer we get to the date of the Pope’s visit the more will be said about it.”