Catholics unite at the Holy Mass with His Holiness Pope Francis inside Supachalasai National Stadium.
On the occasion of Pope Francis, the Supreme Pontiff of the Roman Catholic Church, the representative of Jesus Christ on this earth, making an official visit to Thailand, Catholics from congregations across Thailand and neighboring countries have flocked Supachalasai National Stadium to join him in Holy Mass — one of the most important missions of Pope Francis during his visit. There were approximately 60,000 Catholics both local and international, 11 cardinals, 13 archbishops and 47 bishops at the Mass.
From the morning of November 21, 2019 at Supachalasai National Stadium, Thai Catholics from all dioceses began to cue up as well as Catholics from neighboring countries such as Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia. Some 13,000 overseas Catholics travelled to the national stadium to receive Pope Francis, the Supreme Pontiff of the Roman Catholic Church and to attend the Holy Mass. Pope St. John Paul II presided over the Holy Mass at the same location on May 10, 1984.
Ahead of his arrival at the national stadium, there have been various activities to spiritually prepare the participants such as card stunts depicted Pope Francis’ missions by Assumption School, spirituality preparation through music by the Salesian’s marching band – with pieces such as “Sid Phra Christ”, Glory be to God, Jesus Christ You are my Life, Shine Jesus Shrine, Give Thanks, and Tell the World of his Love. Then, there was a marching band performance “The Bell” that depicts the relationship between Christians and religion – the piece used the sound of a church bell to tell the story.
Then there was the “Let Love by the Bridge” concert with “The Sound of Siam” and “Thailand Philharmonic Orchestra” which was separated into three acts. The first is “Siam, Land of Blessings: 350 years of Mission to Siam”, the second Act is “From Generation to Generation is a Gift”, and the third act is “Life of Catholics, Life of the Pope, and the Path of Peace”, including the song “Let Love be the Bridge.”
In addition, there was a special performance by a visually impaired poet, Rinsattha Karnchanawadee. All performances were also executed by various Catholic artists together with younger Catholics, the Assumption Cathedral Choir, and emcee by Bernadette Sumonthip See, Joseph Pitipatr Kutrakul, Satit Krikul, Bernadette Sapanna Malaniyom, and Maria Suthita Panyawong.
As the anticipated time of Pope Francis arrival drew near, everyone prepared for the Holy Mass by joining together saying a rosary prayer to reflect on the sacrifice of Jesus Christ and the Blessed Virgin Mary. The rosary was said in Thai, English, Latin, French, and Vietnam.
At 18.00, Thai Catholics stood for Thai national anthem before entering into liturgy service which is the most important act of worship which reflects on the crucifixion of Jesus Christ to redeem our sins; the offertory of bread and wine that Jesus Christ used as symbols of his body and blood during the last supper before being crucified.
At the approximatly of 18.30, Pope Francis travelled by car from Phratinang Aumpornsatarn, Dusit Grand Palace to Supachalasai National Stadium. Once arrived, Pope Francis boarded his popemobile to allow opportunity for Catholics to see him more closely. The popemobile first went to Tephasadin Stadium where participants received him but watched the liturgy service through a large screen. Then, the popemobile headed toward Supachalasai National Stadium and did a loop so he could be near those attending the occasion before heading to the changing room to get into his sacred vestment.
When the time came, the Thai Catholic Choir began with an opening hymn. The procession included seminarians, deacons, priests, bishops, cardinals, and the pope. Then, Pope Francis paid respect at the altar and brought incense to the image of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary, the patron of Thailand per Pope Clement IX indulged to the Mission to Siam on the Feast of the Assumption, August 15 of every year.
The service was in English up until the Liturgy of the Word while for his Homily, Pope Francis spoke in Spanish and translated into Thai, followed by prayer of the people which was read in Thai and Pakayo language. For the liturgy of the eucharist, Pope Francis stood in front of the altar and the offertory was given to him by representatives of Thai Catholics. Then, the pope, bishops, and priests continued the service in Latin before giving communion to Catholic representatives. For Catholics in the stand and at Tephasadin Stadium, there were more than 300 priests offering communion.
The sacred items that Pope Francis used today were the 173-year-old chalice that the 13th vicar apostolic to Mission to Siam Bishop Jean-Baptiste Pallegoix brought. He was a close friend to King Chomklaochaoyuhua and this chalice was made with silver and gold by a French goldsmith. This chalice has a historical value to Mission to Siam and was brought out for the occasion to be used as a symbol of the determination of the missionaries who were the pioneers of the Catholic Church in Thailand. The chalice is also a symbol of the promise that Thai Catholics will continue their mission of evangelization.
After prayer, Cardinal Francis-Xavier Kriengsak Kovithavanij, President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Thailand as the representative of the Thai Roman Catholic Church, addressed Pope Francis. The cardinal told the pope of the joy and happiness brought by the visit. The cardinal also gave the pope a souvenir set containing sacred items for liturgy service using “Benjarong” method to show Thai identity.
Pope Francis, then, gave his blessing to the Catholics before leaving the stage for the deacon to close the liturgy. Pope Francis went up to the stand to watch performance from the four regions of Thailand by institutions under the care of Sisters of St. Paul de Chatres; the performance included traditional dance from the north, northeast and south. The performance ended with the central region with more than 800 performers.
Once the performance was over, Pope Francis took leave and returned to the Apostolic Nunciature Embassy of the Holy See to Thailand. And this was the last mission for today.