Hesitant bows with partly clear words

Hesitant bows with partly clear words

The spontaneous Pope from Argentina meets reservedly formal Thais. Partial strangeness alternates elsewhere with shouts of enthusiasm and does not prevent sensitive ies. At the end also the king announces itself.

The supposedly quiet Thais can also be vocal. For two hours, Bangkok's National Stadium alternates between pop and opera singers and chants from groups that have arrived. The shouts of "Viva il Papa" are rehearsed, and at the beginning of the service, 40 people are chanting "Viva il Papa".000 throats the Thai version of "Daughter of Zion". But when the pope says the opening sign of the cross, you hear – nothing. Only when Francis knocks on the microphone in bewilderment does the sound technician in charge find the right control.

Sermon with soft and clear tones

In his sermon, the pope, although he speaks softly, chooses clear tones. The question is who are the true brothers and sisters of Jesus?. Among them, the church leader said, are victims of sex tourism, for example: "boys, girls and women subjected to prostitution and human trafficking". They are all "our mothers, our brothers and sisters" who need to be taken care of. In the morning before the country's elite, Francis had been even less explicit about this sensitive ie for Thailand.

In his first speech to politicians, diplomats and the military, the guest from Rome had already been quite clear by Asian standards. Merely calling Thailand "a multicultural nation characterized by diversity" runs counter to the government's line of national-ethnic uniformity. The leadership in Bangkok wants to assimilate the 14 percent Chinese in the country, the ethnic groups in the north and east, and the often Muslim Malays in the south more strongly.

Francis' thanks to the country for welcoming refugees and taking action against the exploitation of women and children is also a call to do more. But that the pope calls the March election a "return to the normal democratic process" is flattering. Thailand's democracy still has a lot of room to grow.

In his welcome address, Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha praised the papal commitment to social justice, environmental protection and humanity and listed what his government was doing in this regard. "So that we leave no one behind," the general quotes a popular turn of phrase from the pope.

When Prayut receives the guest in the morning in front of Government House, Francis still has to get used to the country's customary greeting by bowing in return. Only then does the respective counterpart take Francis' outstretched hand. Always at the pontiff's side is Sister Ana Rosa, his interpreting cousin, who has lived in Thailand for 53 years. The official delegations on the red carpet form a particularly contrasting picture this time: about a dozen high military officers followed by cardinals and bishops in white cassocks.

Meeting with Buddhist monks

At Wat Ratchabophit temple, the second stop of the day, the white of the Catholic guests contrasts with the saffron-orange of Buddhist monks. The temple, built in 1898 in a mix of Thai and neo-Gothic styles, is filled with the scent of fresh rose bouquets as the patriarch and pope read their prepared messages.

Facing Patriarch Ariyavongsagatanana IX., the head of the Buddhists of Thailand, the head of the church emphasizes that he wants "not only respect, but also friendship" to grow between the communities. Religions could be "beacons of hope," Francis says – "insofar as they are promoters and guarantors of fraternity".

Nevertheless, experts call the religious dialogue in Thailand "difficult". Although the patriarch enjoys respect, he has little influence among the sometimes divided groups that also struggle for political influence. Some groups, such as "Buddha Essara," are even considered fascist.

Visit to the king

A home game is offered to the pope in front of the Catholic St. Louis Hospital, in which Francis once again promoted holistic, loving commitment to sick and disabled people. Almost a thousand people receive the head of the church, among them 400 from Vietnam. In total, about 4.500 Vietnamese to attend the pope's visit.

From the visit with King Vajiralongkorn Rama X, which lasted just over 20 minutes. Nothing to be learned in the afternoon for the time being. There is only scanty information about the monarch who has ruled for three years. Then in the evening, the "Royal News Channel" is the only medium to deliver ten minutes of video images of the pope, king and queen – and of Sister Ana Rosa interpreting to her cousin again. While the royal news anchor is telling something about the history of the Catholic Church in Thailand.

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Christina Cherry
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