BANGKOK — An elaborate chalice wrought by a famed Parisian silversmith over a century ago will serve as Pope Francis’ instrument in blessing the Eucharist in Bangkok next week.
The baroque goblet was commissioned by a bishop and brought with him to Thailand, then known as Siam, in 1841 during the reign of Napoleon III. The treasure had not been used since; but it will serve its purpose for the first time when the Pope holds a massive open-air mass at the National Stadium on Nov. 21.
The religious item is unveiled today at Assumption Cathedral alongside two “Popemobiles” that Pope Francis would ride as he greets the faithful, who are expected to show up in tens of thousands.
Puttipong Puttansri, an expert on Catholic Church history in Thailand, said the silver, gold-gilded grail was made by the same silversmith who supplied treasures to Emperor Napoleon III.
It was ordered made by Bishop Jean Baptiste Pallegoix, who was later sent to Bangkok as the leader of Siam Orientale, or the Catholic Church’s apostolic mission in Siam. During his tenure as the abbot of Conception Church, Pallegoix also befriended a monk residing in a nearby monastery who would later become King Rama IV.
The chalice’s motifs include a pelican which symbolizes God’s sacrifice of his blood through his own son, Jesus – it is believed that pelicans feeds their chicks with its own blood if it can’t find any food.
Catholic officials also show off a converted Nissan pickup truck and what looked like a modified Yamaha golf cart which would serve as the Pope’s vehicles during his visit.
Puttipong, who was an authorized media tour guide at the cathedral today, said the truck was donated by an anonymous Thai Catholic. In accordance with Pope Francis’ preference, neither vehicle had any bulletproof glass. The truck did have two-small air-conditioner outlets.
Pope Francis had previously told the media he wanted to be close to the people.
His Holiness will be preaching in Spanish with translation in Thai when he holds the masses at the National Stadium on Nov. 21, while a smaller mass at Assumption Cathedral on the following day will be held in English, Puttipong said.
No more than 50,000 people will be allowed inside the National Stadium, he added.