Pope Francis arrives at Bangkok Airport after an eleven-hour flight from Rome. Thailand is the first stop on a seven day Apostolic Journey to Asia taking him to Thailand and Japan.
On the flight to Thailand, the first stage of his 32nd apostolic journey and the fourth to East Asia, the Pope greeted journalists on board saying, “Good evening, thank you for accompanying me on this journey, thank you for your work, it is so good for people to be informed, to know these cultures that are far from the West.”
At Fiumicino airport and before boarding the Alitalia plane, the Pope greeted civil and religious authorities. Then, as usual, with his briefcase in his left hand, he climbed the steps to reach the aircraft entrance door. From here, shortly before taking his seat, he briefly stopped to greet the 58 year-old Captain Alberto Colautti, who has 15,000 hours of flight time to his credit. He also greeted the three co-pilots and the six flight attendants who were waiting for him.
The plane carrying the Pope, his entourage and around 70 journalists and media professionals, arrived in Bangkok just after noon, local time, on Wednesday 20 November.
This is Pope Francis’ 32nd Apostolic Journey, taking him to Thailand until 23 November and then Japan until 26 November. Confirming these nation’s small Catholic communities in the faith, promoting interreligious dialogue, defending life and the environment: these are just some of the themes underlining the visit.
A representative of the Royal Council of Thailand, and another six authorities representing the Thai Government, met the Pope on his arrival, together with members of the Thai Bishops’ Conference. Also there to greet him were 11 children representing the dioceses of Thailand where Catholics number around 300,000.
The Pope’s motorcade then left immediately for the Nunciature where Pope Francis is expected to rest before the first full day of the visit begins on Thursday.
The Pope’s first appointment on Thursday is at Government House where the official Welcome Ceremony will take place. Pope Francis will meet privately with Thai Prime Minister, General Prayuth Chan-ocha, before addressing authorities, members of civil society and the diplomatic corps. Immediately afterwards, he will visit the Supreme Buddhist Patriarch, Somdej Phra Maha Muneewong, at the Wat Ratchabophit Sathit Maha Simaram Temple.
Before lunch, Pope Francis will meet medical staff and a group of patients at the St. Louis Hospital in Bangkok. This important healthcare facility was founded by Catholics in 1898. In the afternoon, the Pope will pay a private visit to the King of Thailand, Maha Vajiralongkorn Rama X, at the Amphorn Royal Palace.
The Pope’s first full day of events will conclude with the celebration of a Mass with young people in the National Stadium of Bangkok.
Vatican News and Alessandro Di Bussolo – Pope on board to journalists: Make known these cultures far from the West