The Catholic Church of Thailand has offered to cooperate with Buddhists and believers of other religions to "build peace and stability in the nation" through "dialogue, as brothers and sisters”. In a message to the new Supreme Patriarch of Theravada Buddhism on the occasion of his investiture on 12 Feb., Card Francis Xavier Kriengsak Kovidhavanij, Archbishop of Bangkok and president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Thailand (CBCT) noted 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,” so as to "lead Buddhism to continued growth in Thailand," Card Kovidhavanij wrote. Leading a group of bishops representing the CBCT, the cardinal paid a visit on Tuesday to Supreme Patriarch Umporn Umparow at the Ratchabophit Sathit Maha Simaram royal temple, felicitating him and handing him the message. It was the same site where St. John Paul II met the then Buddhist patriarch 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 on Sundayat 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 Kings, "Christians have enjoyed for five centuries a happy life with their Buddhist brothers and sisters," the prelate noted.
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. (Source: AsiaNews)