Thai faithful echo Pope’s call for peace in Syria

Bangkok, Thailand, Sep 12, 2013 / 01:58 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Catholics throughout Thailand – joined by Buddhists and Muslims in the country – have welcomed Pope Francis’ appeals for peace in Syria and throughout the world.

The Catholic Bishops of Thailand worked through social media and archdiocesan websites to share the Pope’s call for prayer and fasting for peace in Syria on Sept. 7.

“Thai bishops took this seriously to heart in spite of the unexpected short notice,” said Monsignor Andrew Vissanu Thanya Anan, executive secretary of the Thai Bishops Conference and former Vatican undersecretary for the Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue.

He told CNA on Sept. 11 that the bishops made it “a priority” to offer “supportive liturgical action.”

Local dioceses and parishes connected to a live stream of the prayer vigil held at St. Peter’s Square on Sept. 7, he said. Eucharist adoration was organized in Churches, and hundreds of people participated in the liturgical prayer services and fasting.

Some Churches dedicated Masses on both Sept. 7 and 8 for the intention of peace in Syria.

St. Louis Church in the Archdiocese of Bangkok has continued with a “weeklong” adoration service, Msgr. Vissanu added.

The prayer initiatives come shortly before Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra visits the Vatican this coming week.

The support for Pope Francis’ peace efforts has also had an interfaith dimension. Thousands of students in Catholic schools throughout the country joined with Buddhist students to pray for peace.

Msgr. Vissanu also met with top Muslim leaders in Thailand, sharing the Pope’s concerns with them and informing them of the prayer and fasting initiatives.

Local Muslim leaders joined in the effort, he said, “offering their solidarity and support and asking their local imams to make this announcement public to their communities through their public address systems.” 

“Collective prayer has a tremendous force, and this concerned move by the Pope can bridge a constructive, peaceful dialogue,” said Fr. Watchasin Kritjaroen Rector, chair of Christian studies at Saengtham College in Samphran.

Observing that the Pope is also called “pontiff,” which means “bridge builder,” he told CNA that Pope Francis is “connecting lives to be instruments of peace.”

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