Pope Francis will travel to Thailand in November. The Vatican said Friday that the Pope in a visit to Asia would sweep in the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki which were both decimated by atomic bombs in 1945.
It has been nearly four decades since a pontiff visited Thailand and Japan, both Buddhist-majority countries.
The late Pope John Paul II went to Japan — where Shinto and Buddhism are the main religions. He travelled to Thailand in 1984 where he met with the late King Rama IX and the Queen Mother.
Thailand and Japan for the Pope
The current pontiff will travel to Thailand from November 20-23, and then Japan to November 26, the Vatican said.
In Bangkok, Francis will “preside at religious ceremonies and pastoral visits to Catholic communities,” said a press statement from the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Thailand.
He would hold “two masses”, added Monsignor Vissanu Thanya-anan of the Catholic Bishops Conference of Thailand.
Mission de Siam 350th Anniversary
The four-day papal visit will mark the 350th anniversary of the founding of the “Mission de Siam”, which was first established by Pope Clement IX in 1669.
Today, the 388,000-strong Christian community makes up an estimated 1 per cent of the population in Thailand, with the majority residing in the north and many within ethnic minority groups like the Jarai and the Akha.
Embattled ethnic groups, like the Montagnards who fled religious persecution in neighbouring communist Vietnam, also reside in Thailand seeking asylum.Sister Ana Rosa Sivori is the Pope’s second cousin. The cousin runs a Catholic girls’ school in northeast Thailand. The Pope’s visit to a Buddhist-majority Thailand is an outreach to other religions.
“This visit shows his desire… to bring a message of peace,” the Pope’s cousin shared, adding that she would be with her cousin during the Bangkok visit and hopes for some “private” time.
Two Trips to Asia, First to Thailand
Since Pope Francis’ election six years ago, he has made two trips to Asia, visiting the Philippines and Sri Lanka in 2014, followed by Myanmar and Bangladesh in 2017.
In Dhaka, he met with Rohingya refugees who fled from Myanmar following a brutal military crackdown, which UN investigators have said amounts to “genocide”.
Referring to this minority group as “Rohingya”, the Pope asked forgiveness for their persecution. His words were sparking great controversy in neighbouring Myanmar.