Tens of thousands of Catholics are expected to attend the Holy Mass given by Pope Francis at the National Stadium on Nov 21.
Up to 70,000 Catholics from across Thailand and neighbouring countries have so far registered to attend the Mass, said to Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Thailand (CBCT) on Monday.
“A large number of people, both Thais and foreigners, have registered their intentions to join [the Pope’s two Masses]. However, Supachalasai Stadium and Thep Hatsadin Stadium each have a total capacity of only 50,000 people, so there will be quotas for each church [that applies],” CBCT spokesman Chainarong Monthienvichienchai said at a press conference.
Mr Chainarong said the pontiff would be conducted around National Stadium by the so-called Popemobile. Those unable to gain entry to the stadium can watch a live broadcast of the Mass on a big screen outside.
The CBCT released the final schedule for Pope Francis’s visit to Thailand from Nov 20-23.
Upon his arrival on Nov 20, the pontiff will be welcomed by an official delegation at Bangkok’s Military Air Terminal 2 at 12.30pm, before heading to his temporary residence at the Apostolic Nunciature.
The second day of his visit will begin at 9am with another official welcome ceremony at Government House. There, he will meet with Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha and representatives of civil society and the diplomatic corps before giving his first speech in Spanish.
At 10am, the Pope will pay a visit to the Supreme Patriarch at Wat Ratchabophit. This will be followed by a trip to St Louis Hospital to meet its medical staff and patients.
At 4.55pm, he will visit His Majesty the King at the Ambara Villa in Dusit Palace. At 6pm, the pontiff will celebrate Holy Mass in the National Stadium.
The third day of the visit will begin at 10am, when the Pope will travel to Nakhon Pathom province to meet clergy, worshippers, seminarians and catechists in the parish of St Peters’ church, Sam Phran district. Then comes a meeting with the bishops of Thailand and the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences.
Next, the Pope will have a private meeting with members of the Society of Jesus, before returning to Bangkok for lunch at the Apostolic Nunciature.
In the afternoon, he will visit Chulalongkorn University to meet leaders of Christian denominations and other religions, before travelling to the Cathedral of the Assumption to celebrate the second Holy Mass with 1,500 Christian youths from across Thailand.
On Nov 23, the Pope will receive an official farewell ceremony at Bangkok’s Military Air Terminal 2 before taking a flight to Tokyo at 9.30am. He will arrive at Tokyo-Haneda Airport at 5.40 pm.
The Pope’s visit will coincide with the 350th anniversary of the founding of the “Mission de Siam” by Pope Clement IX to oversee Catholic missionary work in the country, noted CBCT deputy secretary-general Monseigneur Wissanu Thanya-anan.
Pope Francis will be the first pontiff to visit Thailand in nearly four decades. The last trip was made by Pope John Paul II in 1984 and included an audience with HM King Rama IX and the Queen Mother.
Catholics make up 0.58% of Thailand’s population, with 388,468 worshippers and 524 churches, according to the Catholic Social Communications of Thailand.
Born as Jorge Mario Bergoglio on Dec 17, 1936 in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Pope Francis completed a master’s in chemistry and studied theology before his entry into the priesthood.