Pope to Thai bishops: Stand with the poor, the exploited

Bangkok, Thailand, Nov 22, 2019 / 02:30 am (CNA).- Pope Francis told bishops from Thailand and other countries in Asia Friday to stand with and intercede for their people, especially those who are affected by economic inequality or who are victims of exploitation or trafficking.

“You have taken upon yourselves the concerns of your people: the scourge of drugs and human trafficking, the care of great numbers of migrants and refugees, poor working conditions and the exploitation experienced by many labourers, as well as economic and social inequality between rich and poor,” the pope said in Bangkok Nov. 22.

“In the midst of these tensions stands the pastor who struggles and intercedes with his people and for his people.”

Pope Francis met the bishops’ conference of Thailand and members of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences during a six-day visit to Thailand and Japan, where he will fly Nov. 23.

He noted, in his speech, that the bishops of Asia “are living in the midst of a multicultural and multi-religious continent, endowed with great beauty and prosperity, but troubled at the same time by poverty and exploitation at various levels.”

Rapid technological advancement, though it can include increased possibility, can also create greater focus on consumerism and materialism, he stated.

The pope’s meeting with bishops took place in the sanctuary church of the Shrine of Blessed Nicolas Bunkerd Kitbamrung in the Sam Phran district on the western edge of Bangkok.

Blessed Kitbamrung was a Thai priest, catechist, and evangelist who helped teach Salesian missionary priests the Thai language. He was ordained a priest in Bangkok’s Assumption Cathedral, where Pope Francis will celebrate Mass with young Thais in the afternoon Nov. 22.

The Thai authorities, who were Buddhist, were suspicious of Kitbamrung and, in 1941, accused him of spying for the French during the French Indochina war, sentencing him to 10 years in prison.

He died in prison in 1944 from Tuberculosis for which he received no treatment. Kitbamrung was declared a martyr and beatified by St. Pope John Paul II in 2000.

May Blessed Kitbamrung, Pope Francis said, “inspire us with a great zeal for evangelization in all the local Churches of Asia, so that we may increasingly become missionary disciples of the Lord, enabling his Good News to spread like a fragrant balm throughout this great and beautiful continent.”

Francis also reminded the bishops that they are part of their people and “were chosen to be servants, not masters or managers.”

“This means we are to accompany those whom we serve with patience and kindness, listening to them, respecting their dignity, always promoting and valuing their apostolic initiatives,” he said.

According to Pope Francis, a missionary Church makes “service its hallmark,” and knows that it is the Holy Spirit who is in charge of the mission, not one’s own plans and strategies.

He encouraged the bishops to “cast aside” whatever is making it harder for them to renew evangelization in their countries, recognizing that some ecclesial structures and mentalities can hamper evangelization efforts.

“Even good structures are only helpful when there is a life constantly driving, sustaining and assessing them,” he said.

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