1. Pope arrives in Thailand to encourage Catholic minority.

By Nicole Winfield, The Associated Press, November 20, 2019

Pope Francis arrived in Bangkok on Wednesday to begin a tour of Thailand and Japan, beginning a mission to boost the morale of those countries’ tiny minority Catholic communities and speak about issues of concern including human trafficking and peacemaking.

He is expected to highlight his admiration in Thailand for the community’s missionary ancestors who brought the faith to this Buddhist nation centuries ago and endured bouts of persecution as recently as the 1940s.

Francis was greeted by Surayud Chulanont, former prime minister and head of King Maha Vajiralongkorn’s Privy Council.

His warmest welcome, however, came from his second cousin, Sister Ana Rosa Sivori, who has been a missionary in Thailand since the 1960s and will serve as his translator during his time here. On stepping down from the plane, the first thing Francis did — even before his official welcome from Surayud — was to hug his cousin.

He also met about a dozen children in traditional hilltribe attire. One wearing an elaborate headdress came forward with a huge smile on her face and hugged him. He also received an artillery salute.


2. Pope Francis begins visit to Thailand as faithful jostle for selfies.

By Jiraporn Kuhakan, Reuters, November 20, 2019, 12:52 AM

Pope Francis arrived in Thailand on Wednesday to meet with its small but devoted Catholic minority on a seven-day Asian trip that will include a family reunion in Bangkok and take his anti-nuclear message to Japan.

Catholics are a tiny minority in mostly Buddhist Thailand, accounting for less than 2% of the population.

The pope’s plane touched down outside Bangkok around midday and he descended to a red-carpet airport welcome from church leaders for a visit that coincides with the 350th anniversary of the first papal mission in Siam, the former name of Thailand.

Among those welcoming him was his cousin and childhood friend from Argentina, 77-year-old nun Sister Ana Rosa Sivori, who has worked in Thai schools for more than 50 years and will be the pope’s personal translator in Thailand.


3. Pope’s visit to Thailand a ‘morale booster’ for tiny Catholic flock.

By Inés San Martín, Crux, November 20, 2019

Pope Francis arrived in Thailand Wednesday to open a Nov. 20-26 Asia tour that will also take him to Japan. It marks the first time a pope has visited the former kingdom of Siam since St. John Paul II in 1984.

Francis’s visit to Thailand, a nation that has a Catholic population of fewer than 400,000, has been described as a “morale booster” for this small community that represents 0.58 of the total population of 69 million.

In a video he sent ahead of the trip, the pope said that Thais are called to “work for their homeland,” and that he hoped his trip would “encourage them in their faith and in the contribution they make to the whole of society.”

Upon arriving at Bangkok’s military airport, he was welcomed by a member of the Council of the Crown who offered him a Phuang malai, meaning a traditional garland made of flowers that are traditionally given in this country as an offering.

Also ready to welcome him were 11 children dressed in traditional costume, several Thai authorities and the local bishops.


4. On pope’s Asia swing, doctrinal tension is the dog that’s not barking.

By John L. Allen Jr., Crux, November 20, 2019

As Pope Francis opens his third trip to Asia today, visiting Thailand and Japan, there’s a pretty big doctrinal dog that hasn’t uttered a peep – debates over the theology of religious pluralism, which not so long ago seemed the defining issue in Asian Catholicism, marking a deep cultural and intellectual gap between East and West.

Here are two words which, under other circumstances, would have been heard a great deal over the course of the pope’s Nov. 19-26 outing, but which now seem more likely to be conspicuous by their absence: Dominus Iesus.

Literally “The Lord Jesus”. That’s the title of a September 2000 document issued by the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith under then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the future Pope Benedict XVI. Its topic was the uniqueness of Jesus Christ, and, by extension, limits to the validity and saving power of non-Christian religions.

Still, the fact that tensions have died down doesn’t mean they’ve gone away. It remains an open question in Catholic theology exactly what salvific status should be assigned to non-Christian religions, and how to reconcile a practice of dialogue and respect with a doctrine of soteriological exclusivity.

Nobody may be fighting over such questions today, but who knows what the future will bring?

Perhaps what the non-barking dog on this Asian swing creates, therefore, is a caesura, an intermezzo, in the doctrinal controversies. When the curtain comes back up, maybe the next act can be a bit more reflective and calmer – reflecting, ultimately, what Benedict XVI once referred to as Catholicism’s role as “the religion of the great et et,” or “both/and.”


5. Why Did the Wall Fall, 30 Years Ago?

By George Weigel, First Things, November 20, 2019

November 9 marked the 30th anniversary of the peaceful breach of the Berlin Wall—the symbolic high point of the Revolution of 1989, which would be completed seven weeks later by the fall of the Czechoslovak communist regime and Václav Havel’s election as that country’s president. A few days before the actual anniversary, German foreign minister Heiko Maas penned a brief essay on the reasons why the Wall came down, which was striking for what Mr. Maas didn’t mention.

He did not mention NATO’s steadfastness against a vast Soviet campaign of agitation and propaganda over western military modernization in the 1980s.

He did not mention President Ronald Reagan or Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher—he didn’t even mention West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl.

From my point of view, however, the most glaring omission in Mr. Maas’s essay was his complete lack of attention to the pivotal figure in the Revolution of 1989, Pope St. John Paul II. Just as oddly, the foreign minister neglected to mention the moral revolution—the revolution of conscience—that John Paul II helped ignite and that gave the Revolution of 1989 its unique human texture. This is bad history. And bad history always raises warning flags about the future.

A few days before the 30th anniversary of the Wall coming down, former Irish president Mary McAleese gave a lecture at Trinity College in Dublin. Did she celebrate her Church’s role in liberating a continent? No. Instead, she made the bizarre claim that infant baptism and the consequent obligation of parents to raise their baptized children in the faith may violate the U.N.’s Covenant on the Rights of the Child. 

Hard to believe, but true—and an urgent reminder that bad history makes for bad public policy.


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