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Pope Francis met with His Majesty King Maha Vajiralongkorn, Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-o-cha and Supreme Buddhist Patriarch Somdej Phra Maha Muneewong in separate meetings on his first full day in Bangkok.
The Pope met with King Vajiralongkorn and his Royal consort, Queen Suthida in private visit. A conversation took place, gifts were exchanged, but the press was excluded. The meeting took place at Amphorn Royal Palace which is situated inside Bangkok’s Dusit Palace, and serves as the current primary residence of King Maha Vajiralongkorn, Vatican News reported.
An official welcome ceremony also took place on Thursday morning at Government House, where the Pope met with the Thai Prime Minister, civil and religious leaders, and members of the diplomatic corps.
In a highly symbolic meeting on Thursday, he sat down with Thailand’s Supreme Buddhist Patriarch Somdej Phra Maha Muneewong at Bangkok’s Ratchabophit Temple in the city’s historic old quarters.
“Catholics have enjoyed freedom in religious practice, despite their being in a minority, and for many years have lived in harmony with their Buddhist brothers and sisters,” the Pope said in a speech at the meeting.
The pair sat before a brilliant gold Buddha statue inside the ornate temple, built 150 years ago by the former Thai King – the supreme patriarch barefoot and draped in orange robes as they spoke.
The Pope reciprocated the gesture by removing his shoes for part of the conversation.
During his historic visit to Thailand, His Holiness Pope Francis has used the opportunity to pass on a message to the world to help take care of abused children and women as well as refugees around the world while highlighting inter-religious cooperation to create peace.
Sources: Vatican News, Bangkok Post, Strait Times