Sampran (Agenzia Fides) - "This event is a moment of grace. This celebration bears witness to the positive results of the three hundred and fifty years of work of evangelisation in this Nation. This solemn and joyful celebration is therefore a moment of commitment to be ‘missionary disciples’". This is how the Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, Cardinal Fernando Filoni, expressed himself in the homily of the solemn Eucharistic concelebration which he presided over the 18th May in Sampran (Bangkok), for the 350th anniversary of the Apostolic Vicariate of Siam (see Fides, 15/5/2019), which marked the beginning of the local Church in Thailand.
The Apostolic Vicariate of Siam, established in 1669, had passed through various stages in its life. Today there are 11 Dioceses in Thailand, a sign of the Church's growth.
"We recall with gratitude the work of evangelization started by the members belonging to the Foreign Mission Society of Paris (MEP).
They were followed by other missionaries and religious, both men and women, belonging to various institutes. With apostolic zeal they dedicated themselves for the implantation of the Church in this great Nation".
The Prefect of the Missionary Dicastery invited to live the jubilee event in thanksgiving to God and in the renewed commitment for the future: "The work of evangelisation started by their great missionary zeal has to go on. The work of bringing the Gospel and salvation to all peoples started by Jesus and entrusted to the Church, is still very far from completion. An overall view shows that this mission is still in the beginning and therefore all of us should commit whole-heartedly to the mission of evangelising".
Commenting on the biblical readings, Cardinal Filoni stressed that, in the Gospel, the risen Lord today invites: "to remain in me, so as to bear much fruit": "remain in me - he explained – means "to ‘be linked to Jesus’. It means a close friendship with Christ. We are called to be friends of Jesus. It also means means ‘belongingness’. As baptized Christians, we belong to Jesus. That is to say, such a belongingness means a share or a participation in the mission of Jesus. We are called to announce the Gospel and to bear witness to it".
The Cardinal Prefect continued: "Today’s celebration, therefore, is a call for all of us to remain in Jesus just as the Apostles did. To carry out the task of the proclamation of the Gospel one must be close to Jesus. One has to grow in familiarity with Jesus. One must become a friend of Jesus. Finally, one must become a disciple of Christ. There is a great need for the work of evangelisation in this Nation. In the midst of great religions and spiritual traditions your Christian witnessing would contribute immensely for the understanding of the Christian faith. Every baptized person has a responsibility in this regard, just as Father Nicholas Bunkerd Nitbamrung, beatified in the year 2000". Father Nicolas (1895-1944), a Thai priest, died in prison accused of espionage, at the end of a life dedicated entirely to Christ and the announcement of the Gospel.
The Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples then recalled that the First Plenary Council of the Church in Thailand, in 2015, meditated on the theme “Christ’s disciples living the new evangelization”, and reiterated: "You are called to bear witness of a communion of disciples centered on Christ, so that all Christians can be the salt of the earth, filled with the true light of Christ, the light from God who is love given to the world". Finally, Cardinal Filoni encouraged everyone to be "missionary disciples": "The pastoral context of Thailand requests your personal involvement. Still there is scope for evangelization in your beloved nation". (SL) (Agenzia Fides, 20/5/2019)