Thai smiles for pontiff

World | AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE 21 Nov 2019

Pope Francis arrived in Thailand yesterday greeted by cheering faithful, on the first leg of an Asian tour that will sweep in Japan and carry a message of inter-religious dialogue and nuclear disarmament.

The pontiff landed at Bangkok's Don Mueang International Airport, where he was met by his missionary cousin Sister Ana Rosa, who has lived in Thailand for decades. The welcome party included Thailand's deputy prime minister Somkid Jatusripitak and children in traditional dress, one of whom Francis stopped to hug.

This will be the pope's third trip to Asia - and his 32nd abroad - taking him to two Buddhist countries with minority Catholic populations.

Before his departure, Francis praised Thailand as a multi-ethnic nation. His visit has stirred excitement among the country's Catholic community, who waited for his motorcade near the Vatican City embassy in Bangkok.

They included a costumed mascot made to resemble Francis and children yelling "Sawadee Pa!" [Hello Father]. While in Thailand, Francis will also have meetings with Thailand's prime minister, Prayut Chan-O-Cha, and King Maha Vajiralongkorn, and celebrate a youth-oriented mass at a cathedral.

On Saturday, the pontiff will fly to Japan where he will visit Hiroshima and Nagasaki, two cities hit by US atomic bombs at the end of World War II in 1945.

The pope, who years ago had hoped to be a missionary in Japan, has made strong calls for the ban on the "immoral use" of nuclear weapons.

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