By Emily Drooby
Pope Francis received a loud welcome as he greeted the people of Thailand on the first full day of his mission to Asia.
The Holy Father kicked off his busy Thursday schedule by meeting with the country’s prime minister behind closed doors.
“I am glad to visit this noble and beautiful land, and I wish it all the best,” Pope Francis said.
Then in front of a crowd, Pope Francis thanked Thailand for protecting vulnerable women and kids from sex traffickers.
“I think of all those women and children of our time, especially those who are wounded, violated and exposed to every form of exploitation, enslavement, violence and abuse,” he said.
The Holy Father is also determined to build up unity among the world’s religions.
To that end, he had a face-to-face encounter with Thailand’s buddhist patriarch.
The positive meeting ended with a symbol of unity: the two leaders holding hands.
Pope Francis also visited the St. Louis hospital of Bangkok, an institution open to rich and poor alike that was founded 120 years ago by the city’s Catholic archbishop.
“You must be ready to embrace whatever each new day sets before us. It is about welcoming and embracing human life as it arrives at the hospital’s emergency room,” explained the pontiff
He was then greeted by cheers and song before lunch at the Vatican’s embassy. The Holy Father wrapping the day with a big outdoor Mass at Thailand’s national stadium.
60,000 people celebrated the liturgy with the pontiff. That amounts to about ten percent of the 400,000 Catholics living in Thailand.
His homily highlighted those people who are some of the most important to him, the migrants and those on the peripheries.
“I think of young people enslaved by drug addiction and a lack of meaning that makes them depressed and destroys their dreams. I think of migrants, deprived of their homes and families, and so many others, who like them can feel forgotten, orphaned or abandoned,” said Pope Francis.
The Papal Mass ended with 800 Thai women who performed several traditional dances.