Pope in Thailand: the missionary opens doors to share God's embrace
In his first Mass in Bangkok, Pope Francis talked about the "missionary disciple" who "goes out" to offer everyone the gift of the Word of Jesus and about the "children, girls and women exposed to prostitution and trafficking”. The missionary disciple “is not a mercenary of the faith or a producer of proselytes, but rather a humble mendicant who feels the absence of brothers, sisters and mothers with whom to share the irrevocable gift of reconciliation that Jesus grants to all.”
Bangkok AsiaNews) – During the first Mass he celebrated in his 32nd apostolic visit, Pope Francis spoke about the "missionary disciple" who "goes out" to offer everyone the gift of the Word of Jesus and about the "children, girls and women exposed to prostitution and trafficking”.
The service, which was held at Supachalasai National Stadium in Bangkok, attracted more than 50,000 people, a large crowd considering that Thailand’s Catholics number less than 300,000.
Francis began his afternoon with a visit to King Maha Vajiralongkorn (styled Rama X), at Amphorn Royal Palace at 5pm local time (10am GMT), where he had a private meeting with the Thai King and Queen. From there he travelled to the stadium, welcomed by an enthusiastic and motivated crowd.
In the Pope’s words, the missionary disciple “is not a mercenary of the faith or a producer of proselytes, but rather a humble mendicant who feels the absence of brothers, sisters and mothers with whom to share the irrevocable gift of reconciliation that Jesus grants to all. “Behold I have made ready my dinner; go therefore to the streets and invite to the marriage feast as many as you find” (cf. Mt 22:4.9). For us, this invitation is a source of joy, gratitude and immense happiness, for it enables us to “let God bring us beyond ourselves in order to attain the fullest truth of our being. Here we find the source and inspiration of all our efforts at evangelization” (Evangelii Gaudium, 8).
“This year marks the 350th anniversary of the creation of the Apostolic Vicariate of Siam (1669-2019), a sign of the fraternal embrace brought forth in these lands. Two missionaries alone were able to sow the seed that, from that distant time, has grown and flourished in a variety of apostolic initiatives that have contributed to the life of the nation. This anniversary is not a celebration of nostalgia for the past, but a fire of hope to enable us, here and now, to respond with similar determination, strength and confidence. A festive and grateful commemoration that helps us to go forth joyfully to share the new life born of the Gospel with all the members of our family whom we do not yet know.
“All of us become missionary disciples when we choose to be a living part of the Lord’s family. We do this by sharing with others as he did. He ate with sinners, assuring them that they too had a place at the Father’s table and the table of this world; he touched those considered to be unclean and, by letting himself be touched by them, he helped them to realize the closeness of God and to understand that they were blessed (cf. Ecclesia in Asia, 11).
“Here I think of children and women who are victims of prostitution and human trafficking, humiliated in their essential human dignity. I think of young people enslaved by drug addiction and a lack of meaning that makes them depressed and destroys their dreams. I think of migrants, deprived of their homes and families, and so many others, who like them can feel orphaned, abandoned, “without the strength, light and consolation born of friendship with Jesus Christ, without a community of faith to support them, without meaning and a goal in life” (Evangelii Gaudium, 49). I think also of exploited fishermen and bypassed beggars.
“All of them are part of our family. They are our mothers, our brothers and sisters. Let us not deprive our communities of seeing their faces, their wounds, their smiles and their lives. Let us not prevent them from experiencing the merciful balm of God’s love that heals their wounds and pains.”
“A missionary disciple knows that evangelization is not about gaining more members or about appearing powerful. Rather, it is about opening doors in order to experience and share the merciful and healing embrace of God the Father, which makes of us one family.
“Dear communities of Thailand, let us continue to go forward in the footsteps of the first missionaries, in order to encounter, discover and recognize with joy the faces of all those mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters, whom the Lord wants to give us and who are absent from our Sunday table.”
The Mass ended with a long dance involving hundreds of girls wearing traditional garments. Traditional Thai music and movements, including the dragon that accompanied them, are dear to Thais. (FP)