Papal Visit: Pope Says He Seeks Friendship With Thai Buddhists

VATICAN CITY — The Pope on Friday night said he wished to forge friendships with Thailand’s Buddhists when he arrives in the kingdom for an official visit next week.

In the video lasting nearly 3 minutes, Pope Francis said he was looking forward to visiting the multi-ethnic and diverse nation that has “worked hard to promote harmony and peaceful coexistence not only among its own people but also throughout the region of Southeast Asia.” His trip in Thailand is set to take place from Nov. 20 to 23.

“I also hope to strengthen the bonds of friendship that we share with many Buddhist brothers and sisters who bear eloquent witness to the values of tolerance and harmony that are so characteristic of your people,” he said.

Thailand is home to a minority population of Catholics numbering 0.58 percent of the population, or about 388,000 people with 524 churches, in contrast to 93.5 percent of Buddhists.

“During my journey I will have the opportunity to meet with the Catholic community of Thailand, to encourage them in their faith and in the contribution they make to the whole of society,” he said in the video.

Lifting his eyes from his script and breaking from a monotone reading voice, the Pope said, “They are Thais and must work for their country.”

He said he hoped his visit would underline the importance of inter-religious dialogue, service of the poor, and peace.

Lastly, he thanked the people preparing for his visit.

“In these days I bring you all, dear friends, to my prayers,” he said, signing off. “I pray for you, for your family, for your country; and I ask you, please, not to stop praying for me too.”

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