Official Visit of His Holiness Pope Francis

to the Kingdom of Thailand

         His Excellency Archbishop Paul Tschang In-Nam, Apostolic Nuncio of the Holy See to the Kingdom of Thailand and His Eminence Cardinal Francis-Xavier Kriengsak Kovithavanij President of the Bishops’ Conference of Thailand, have officially announced the intention of His Holiness Pope Francis, the Supreme Pontiff of the Roman Catholic Church and the Sovereign of the Vatican City State, to make an official visit to the Kingdom of Thailand on 20-23 November 2019,  In this connection, the Catholic Social Communications of Thailand held a press conference on Friday 13 September 2019 at 14.00 at the Conference Room on the 11th floor of the Ruamchit Piantham Building of Saint Louis Hospital, Sathorn, Bangkok. The detailed program will be announced later on.

         His Holiness Pope Francis is pleased to visit the Kingdom of Thailand as a pilgrim of peace and to promote inter-religious dialogue. The Holy Father will preside over two public Holy Masses: one for general Thai Catholics and the other one for Thai Catholic youth.

         “At the invitation of the Royal Thai Government and the Bishops of Thailand, His Hloiness Pope Francis will make the Apostolic Visit to the Kingdom of Thailand from 20 – 23 November 2019. The program of the Visit will be announce later”

         His Holiness Pope Francis is the 266th Supreme Pontiff of the Roman Catholic Church. Born as Jorge Mario Bergoglio on 17 December 1936 in Buenos Aires, Argentina, the pontiff completed a Master’s in Chemistry at the University of Buenos Aires, a diploma in Philosophy from the Colegio Máximo San José, later becoming a professor of literature and psychology at the Colegio de la Inmaculada and the Colegio del Salvador. He studied theology before his consecration into the priesthood in the Society of Jesus (Jesuits). From there, he became a professor in theology at the Faculty of Philosophy and Theology, University of San Miguel.       

         As for his religious titles before being elected as the pope, Saint Pope John Paul II appointed Father Jorge Bergoglio as Archbishop of Buenos Aires and then in 2001 he was elevated to cardinal. During his time as Archbishop of Buenos Aires, he was known for his simple life. For instance, he would always use public bus or underground train for his pastoral care and for visiting the poor; staying in a simple apartment; cooking for himself. He was generally known in Buenos Aires simply as “Father Jorge”.  In 2013, when Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI relinquished the office, “Father Jorge” was chosen from the Conclave to be the successor of Saint Peter on March 13, 2013. He has chosen the name “Franciscus” in Latin or “Francis” in English which is the name of Saint Francis of Assisi, the founder of the Order of Friars Minor (Franciscans) who was known for his poverty and dedication to the poor, the disadvantaged, peace and the environment.

         The position of Supreme Pontiff has a long established history for about 2,000 years, beginning from the time of Jesus Christ, who appointed Saint Peter the Apostle to be the leader of his disciples. It has thus been the tradition to recognize Saint Peter as the first pope, whilst succeeding pontiffs up to the present day were seen as the successors to Saint Peter.  According to Roman Catholic beliefs, the Supreme Pontiff is also the Bishop of Rome and seen as the Vicar or representative of Christ on earth, while also being the Sovereign or head of state of Vatican City, which forms the physical center of the universal Roman Catholic Church.

         In the Thai context, there is historical evidence that Roman Catholicism was first introduced to Siam (the former name of Thailand) by Dominican missionaries in 1567 during the time when Ayutthaya was still the capital. A mission was officially established during Pope Clement IX’s papacy on 4 June 1669. From that time onwards, missionaries together with lay Catholics brought western technology and knowhow that supported national development, while also being involved in numerous acts of charity for Catholics and non-Catholics alike. Throughout all this time, the Catholics received the constant support of the monarchs of Thailand.   

         With regard to diplomatic relations between the Kingdom of Thailand and the Holy See, although there is ample historical evidence of cordial contacts between the kings of Siam and the Pope dating from the Ayutthaya period, it was only in 1969 that diplomatic relations were formally established during Pope Paul VI’s papacy. From that point on, relations have grown closer and more cordial between the two states.

         This increasing closeness is reflected in the official visits of the heads of the two states. The first visit was made by King Chulalongkorn the Great (Rama V), who met Pope Leo XIII during his European visit on 4 June 1897. His successor, King Prajadhipok (Rama VII) and Queen Rambai Barni met Pope Pius XI on 21 March 1934. Finally, Their Majesties King Bhumibol Adulyadej and Queen Sirikit visited Vatican City and met Saint Pope John XXIII on 3 October 1960.

         Diplomatic relationship between the Kingdom of Thailand and the Holy See began with the official contacts between the Siamese kings and the popes since Ayutthaya period up until 1969 when the official diplomatic relation was officially established between the Kingdom of Thailand and the Holy See at the ambassador level. From then on, the diplomatic relationship between the Kingdom of Thailand and the Holy See has further strengthened until now.

         On the side of the Holy See, the first and only official visit thus far, was made by Saint Pope John Paul II between 10-11 May 1984.

         During this official visit, Pope Francis will preside at religious ceremonies and pastoral visits to Catholic communities  during the 4 days between 20-23 November 2019, before travelling onwards to Japan between 23-26 November 2019. During the latter visit, the Holy Father will visit Tokyo, Nagasaki, and Hiroshima. With regard to the official schedule of the visit to the Kingdom of Thailand, details will be provided at a later time.

         At present, Thailand has 388,468 Catholics spread out all over the country in 11 dioceses, amongst a total population of some 69 million people.