The archbishop of Bangkok and president of the Bishops' Conference met Umporn Umparow. The cardinal said that the common goal is "peaceful coexistence" and making Thailand a "model" for other nations. Catholics admire the new Patriarch for his "irreproachable behaviour".
Bangkok (AsiaNews) – Card Francis Xavier Kriengsak Kovidhavanij, archbishop of Bangkok and president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Thailand (CBCT), sent a message to the new Supreme Patriarch of Theravada Buddhism on the occasion of his investiture.
In his letter, the prelate says that Thai Catholics are "ready to cooperate" with Buddhists and the believers of the country’s other religions in order to "build peace and stability in the nation" through "dialogue, as brothers and sisters”. He also notes that the ultimate goal is "peaceful coexistence" so that Thailand can be "a model for other nations."
"May God grant” Taan Chao Khun Somdej "abundant wisdom and good health,” writes Card Kovidhavanij so as to "lead Buddhism to continued growth in Thailand."
Yesterday afternoon, on behalf of Thailand’s Catholic bishops and community, the cardinal, leading a delegation of bishops, gave his letter to new Supreme Patriarch Umporn Umparow during a meeting at the Ratchabophit Sathit Maha Simaram royal temple.
This is the same place where John Paul II met with the 18th Buddhist Patriarch Somdej Phra Ariyawongsagatanana on 10 May 1984 during his apostolic trip to Asia.
On 7 February, Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha made official the appointment of the new Supreme Patriarch of Thai Buddhism by King Rama X.
Led by King Maha Vajiralongkorn Bodindradebayavarangku, the investiture ceremony was held last Sunday (12 February) at the Phra Sri Rattana Sas-sadaram temple, the country’s “sacred place", home to the Emerald Buddha.
Card Kovidhavanij conveyed "the joy of all Catholics" for the choice of the new patriarch, who is "admired" for his "irreproachable" behaviour, and for his "humble" and "respectful" attitude, which is appreciated "even by the believers of other religions".
Thanks to the wise and loving leadership of various Thai King, "Christians have enjoyed for five centuries a happy life with their Buddhist brothers and sisters."
Buddhism is Thailand’s main religion, about 93.6 per cent of the population, primarily centred on the Theravada school. About 4.6 per cent is Muslim, mostly in the country’s southern provinces on the border with Malaysia. Christians are just over 1 per cent.
Somdej Phra Maha Muneewong, 89, abbot at a royal temple, a great expert in education and a scholar, will become the 20th Supreme Patriarch of Thailand’s Theravada Buddhism. His investiture by the monarch is set for 12 February.
Considered Buddhism’s main observance, it draws believers across the country to rituals that follow local ancestral traditions. King Maha Vajiralongkorn led a ritual ceremony. A conference on the Buddha’s teachings was held in Bangkok. “[L]et us celebrate the wisdom of Lord Buddha by taking action for others with a strong spirit of solidarity,” said UN secretary Antonio Guterres.