Pope Francis begins visit to Thailand as faithful jostle for selfies

Pope Francis begins visit to Thailand as faithful jostle for selfies”

Thirty-five years after St. John Paul II became the first pope to visit Thailand, Francis is marking the 350th anniversary of the creation of a stable apostolic vicariate in Thailand, then known as Siam, after Dominican missionaries first brought the faith in 1567, followed by members of Francis' own Jesuit order.

Arriving in Thailand after an 11-hour flight, Pope Francis was greeted by 11 children - one for each of the country's dioceses.

As part of his official program in this country, Pope Francis will visit to St. Peter's parish in Samphran, Nakhon Pathom, about 34 kilometers from this city.

He added that tens of thousands of people are expected to converge on the National Stadium on Rama I Road where the pope will celebrate Holy Mass on Thursday.

Among those welcoming him was his cousin and childhood friend from Argentina, 77-year-old nun Sister Ana Rosa Sivori, who has worked in Thai schools for more than 50 years and will be the pope's personal translator in Thailand.

In Thailand, which has a population of 69 million people, the Catholic community is small with some 389,000 believers (0.3 per cent of the population).

Francis' a few-day pay a go to to to Thailand, adopted by three occasions in Japan, can be a welcome crack for the 82-year-outdated pope.

A mass for young people will also be held at Assumption Cathedral.

From ground zero, the pope will make a call for disarmament, especially in countries with nuclear arsenals like the US, Russia, France, UK, China, Israel, India, Pakistan and North Korea.

The reduction, following the trend of recent years, is due to the implementation of the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) of 2011 signed by the United States and Russian Federation, which combined account for more than 90 per cent of the world's nuclear arsenal.

Monsignor Andrew Vissanu Thanya-anan, the general coordinator of the papal visit and deputy secretary-general of the Thai bishops' conference, stressed that the region's Buddhists also have a great deal of respect for the Pope and consider him "a great religious leader". Pope Francis arrives in Thailand on Wednesday for the firs. Francis will give a speech on nuclear weapons at the place where the bombs were dropped and later pay tribute to 16th-century Catholic martyrs that were crucified on February 5, 1597, in Nagasaki.

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