MORE than 70,000 Catholics, both Thais and foreigners, have registered to attend masses to be offered by Pope Francis at the National Stadium in Thailand on Nov 21.
According to The Bangkok Post, those unable to gain entry to the Stadium will be able to watch a live broadcast of the mass on a big screen.
The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Thailand (CBCT) said that the Supachalasai Stadium and the Thep Hatsadin Stadium each have a capacity of only 50,000 people, so there will be quotas for each venue.
Speaking at a press conference recently, CBCT spokesman Chainarong Monthienvichienchai said the pontiff will be conveyed around the stadium by the so-called Popemobile.
An official delegation will welcome the pontiff upon his arrival on Nov 20 at Bangkok's Military Air Terminal 2, at 12.30pm, before heading to his temporary residence at the Apostolic Nunciature.
On the second day of his visit, the pontiff will attend another official welcome ceremony at 9am at Government House. There, he will meet with Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha and representatives of civil society and the diplomatic corps, before giving his first speech in Spanish.
At 10am, the Pope will pay a visit to the Supreme Patriarch at Wat Ratchabophit. This will be followed by a trip to St Louis Hospital to meet medical staff and patients.
At 4.55pm, he will visit His Majesty the King at the Ambara Villa in Dusit Palace and at 6pm, the pontiff will celebrate Holy Mass in the National Stadium.
The following day, the Pope will travel to Nakhon Pathom province to meet clergy, worshippers, seminarians and catechists in the parish of St Peters' church, Sam Phran district, at 10am.
Following that, he will meet the bishops of Thailand and the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences.
The Pope will then have a private meeting with members of the Society of Jesus, before returning to Bangkok for lunch at the Apostolic Nunciature.
He will meet leaders of Christian denominations and other religions in the afternoon at Chulalongkorn University, before travelling to the Cathedral of the Assumption to celebrate the second Holy Mass with more than 1,500 Christian youths from across Thailand.
On Nov 23, the Pope will receive an official farewell ceremony at Bangkok's Military Air Terminal 2, before taking a flight to Tokyo at 9.30am. He will arrive at Tokyo-Haneda Airport at 5.40pm.
According to the Catholic Social Communications of Thailand, Catholics make up 0.58 per cent of Thailand's population, with 388,468 worshippers and 524 churches.
“The Pope's visit will coincide with the 350th anniversary of the founding of the ‘Mission de Siam’ by Pope Clement IX to oversee Catholic missionary work in the country,” said CBCT deputy secretary-general Monseigneur Wissanu Thanya-anan.
Pope Francis will be the first pontiff to visit Thailand in nearly four decades. The last trip was made by Pope John Paul II in 1984 and included an audience with HM King Rama IX and the Queen Mother.