Andrea Tornielli - Bangkok
The first day of the Pope’s visit to Thailand ends in the National Stadium with the embrace of the small Christian flock that Pope Francis came to confirm in faith. These first hours of visits and meetings in Bangkok represent a "summa" of the themes of his pontificate: in his speech to political authorities of a country that has welcomed many refugees from neighbouring countries, is the request to the international community that the migratory crisis not be ignored and migration be "safe, orderly and regulated". But also an appeal against violence, exploitation and abuse of children and women, made in a land that is unfortunately included among the destinations of sex tourism.
The atmosphere of the next appointment with the Buddhist Supreme Patriarch, at the Wat Ratchabophit Sathit Maha Simaran Temple is friendly and familiar. Pope Francis entered without shoes, welcomed by the 92-year-old Patriarch and other monks. In his speech, the Pope invited them to grow in a style of "good neighbours", thanking them for the fact that Catholics, despite being a minority group, "enjoyed freedom in religious practice", living for many years in harmony with their Buddhist brothers and sisters. The exchange between the two religious leaders was also interesting and touching: The Supreme Patriarch thanked Pope Francis because the Catholic Church in Thailand came "to help and not to conquer". It is an example of how the Gospel is proclaimed through witness and life, without any hegemonic aim, working to help the poor and to save "our much mistreated common home". During the exchange of gifts, the Bishop of Rome gave the Buddhist Patriarch the Declaration on Human Brotherhood signed in Abu Dhabi last February. A text that is slowly making its way beyond relations between Christians and Muslims.
With the spirit of service and welcome to all that characterizes the lifestyle of Catholics in this country, the Pope had before his eyes a concrete example during his visit to St. Louis Hospital, when he was able to visit the sick and disabled in private, after speaking to medical staff. In his speech, Pope Francis invited them to foster a "special piety" towards the suffering that presents itself in the Emergency Room and to engage with patients calling them by name. The Pope testified once again that the Christian is not immune from anguish in the face of disease and that there are no pre-packaged answers to face it: "We all know that disease always brings with it great questions. Our first reaction may be to rebel and even to have moments of bewilderment and desolation. It is the cry of pain, and it is good that it be like this: Jesus himself suffered it and made it his own. With prayer we also want to join in his cry".