CHANTHABURI, Thailand — Scores of Catholic faithful are taking part in the Thailand tour of the sacred relics of St. John XXIII and St. John Paul II.
“The visit of the relic is a blessing of God for us in our dioceses as the saints are visiting us and they light the fire of faith and hope,” Bishop Silvio Siripong Charatsri of the Chanthaburi told CNA May 18.
The reliquaries of Sts. John XXIII and John Paul II have been brought to various dioceses’ parishes for over a year, with stops scheduled in 10 Thai dioceses.
The silver- and gold-plated reliquary of Saint John XXIII contains a small piece of his skin. The relic of St. John Paul II is a vial of his blood, set in a similar reliquary. Pope Francis canonized the two Popes on April 27, 2014.
Thai Catholics also have a special regard for Sts. John XXIII and John Paul II because of their meetings with the reigning monarch, Bhumibol Adulyadej, and the rest of the royal family. The royals’ photographs adorn the walls of most houses and institutions as a sign of the people’s great respect and admiration.
St. John XXIII received Thailand’s king and queen at the Vatican on October 1, 1960. St. John Paul II met the king on May 10, 1984 during his apostolic visit to Thailand.
In May 2014, Archbishop emeritus of Bangkok, Cardinal Michael Michai Kitboonchu and bishops of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Thailand attended a special audience granted by the king. The bishops brought the two relics of the saints to the monarchs, in order to pray for the good health of the royal couple.
The reliquaries’ latest stop is the Sacred Heart Church Chapel in the Chanthaburi Diocese. The reliquary tour makes the relics available for exposition and veneration.
Bishop Silvio said Thailand’s Catholics are “very happy to welcome the saints, for we are part of the universal Church, and the popes, who lived with us, are now in heaven to intercede for us and empower our people with their exemplary teachings of faith and life.”
Father Francis Xavier Manokprechawut, the parish priest, presided over a thanksgiving Mass with a congregation of over 600 faithful, including over 20 priests, religious, and seminarians. The Mass concelebrants included Bishop Silvio and Bishop emeritus Lawrence Thienchai Samanchit of Chanthaburi.
The May 18 Mass also marked the birthday of St. John Paul II.
Bishop Silvio discussed Catholics’ close connection to the two canonized popes.
He said St. John XXIII “gave a new dimension to church renewal” by calling the Second Vatican Council, and that St. John Paul II, during his long pontificate, “led the vision of the Church” and held “extensive apostolic visits.”
Bishop Siripong noted the eagerness of the Thai people, who participated with devotion in the liturgy to venerate and ask the intercession of the popular saints.
“Only a few people have the opportunity to visit Rome and see the Vatican and the Popes, so the relics of the Popes visiting their parishes is like the Pope himself who is coming to visit them,” he said.
“They can touch them … it’s the Bishop of Rome, the Vicar of Christ, the leader of the Church who is coming to meet and bless his people.”