His Holiness Pope Francis’ speech
Building bridges for Peace and Understanding
Brothers in the episcopate,
Distinguished Representatives of the different religious denominations,
Representatives of the University Community,
Thank you for your warm welcome. I thank Bishop Sirisut and Dr. Bundit Eua-ar-porn for their kind words. I am also grateful for the invitation to visit this famous University, the students, teachers and staff who give life to this house of studies, as well as the opportunity you give me to meet representatives of the different Christian Communities, and the leaders of other religions who honor us with their presence. I express my gratitude for your presence here, and my special esteem and recognition for the valuable cultural heritage and spiritual traditions of which you are children and witnesses.
One hundred and twenty-two years ago, in 1897, King Chulalongkorn, from whom this first university takes its name, visited Rome and had an audience with Pope Leo XIII: it was the first time that a non-Christian Head of State was received at the Vatican. The memory of that important meeting, as well as the reign carried out by him, characterized among so many virtues by the abolition of slavery, questions us and encourages us to assume a tenacious protagonism in the path of dialogue and mutual understanding. And this should be done in a spirit of fraternal commitment that helps to put an end to so much slavery that still persists in our days, I am thinking especially of the scourge of human trafficking and smuggling.
The need for mutual recognition and appreciation, as well as cooperation among religions, is even more pressing for humanity today; the world today faces complex problems, such as economic and financial globalization and its serious consequences for the development of local societies; the rapid advances that seem to promote a better world coexist with the tragic persistence of civil conflicts: migration, refugees, famine and wars; and also with the degradation and destruction of our common home. All these situations alert us and remind us that no region or sector of our human family can be thought of or built outside or immune to the others. These are all situations that, in turn, require us to venture into new ways of constructing present history without the need to denigrate or belittle anyone. The times when the logic of insularity could prevail in the conception of time and space and impose itself as a valid mechanism for the resolution of conflicts are over.
Today it is time to dare to imagine the logic of encounter and of mutual dialogue as a path, common collaboration as conduct and reciprocal knowledge as a method and standard. And, in this way, to offer a new paradigm for the resolution of conflicts, to contribute to the understanding between people and to safeguard creation. I believe that, in this field, religions, as well as universities, without having to give up their own essential notes and special gifts, have much to contribute and offer; everything we do in this regard is a significant step towards guaranteeing younger generations their right to the future, and will also be a service to justice and a service to peace. Only in this way will we provide them with the necessary tools so that they will be the main protagonists in the way of generating sustainable and inclusive lifestyles.
These times demand that we build solid foundations, anchored in the respect and recognition of people’s dignity, in the promotion of an integral humanism capable of recognizing and reclaiming the defense of our common home; in a responsible administration that preserves the beauty and the exuberance of nature as a fundamental right for existence. The great religious traditions of our world bear witness to a spiritual heritage, transcendent and widely shared, which can offer solid contributions in this sense, if we are able to venture not to be afraid to meet.
All of us are called, not only to pay attention to the voice of the poor in our environment: the marginalized, the oppressed, indigenous peoples and religious minorities, but also not to be afraid to generate instances, as they are already timidly developing, where we can unite and work together. In turn, we are asked to embrace the imperative of defending human dignity and respecting the rights of conscience and religious freedom, and to create spaces where we can offer a little fresh air in the certainty that “not everything is lost, because human beings, capable of degrading themselves to the extreme, can also superimpose themselves, opt again for the good and regenerate themselves, beyond all the mental and social conditioning imposed on them” (Enc. Laudato si’, 205).
Here in Thailand, a country of great natural beauty, I would like to underline a distinctive note that I consider crucial, and to some extent part of the wealth to be “exported” and shared with other regions of our human family. You value and care for your elders, that is a big richness. You value and care for your elders. You respect them and you give them a reverential place, which guarantees you the necessary roots, so that your people do not wilt behind certain slogans that end up emptying and mortgaging the soul of the new generations. Along with the growing tendency to discredit local values and cultures by imposing a single model, we also “see a trend to “homogenize” young people, to dissolve the differences proper to their place of origin, to turn them into manipulable beings made in series. Thus a cultural destruction is produced, which is as serious as the disappearance of species” (Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Christus vivit, 186). Continue to make young people discover the cultural baggage of the society in which they live. Helping young people discover the living richness of the past, to find their roots in memory, to meet with the elderly; that is a true act of love for them, in view of their growth and the decisions they will have to make (cf. ibid., 187).
All this perspective necessarily implies the role of educational institutions such as this University. Research and knowledge help to open up new ways to reduce inequality between people, strengthen social justice, defend human dignity, seek ways of peacefully resolving conflicts and preserve the resources that give life to our land. My thanks go in particular to the educators and academics of this country, who work to provide present and future generations with the skills and, above all, the wisdom of ancestral roots, which will enable them to participate in the promotion of the common good of society.
Dear brothers and sisters, we are all members of the human family and each one, from the place that we occupy, are invited to be an actor and direct manager in the construction of a culture based on shared values, which lead to unity, mutual respect and harmonious coexistence.
Once again, I thank you for your invitation and your attention. I offer my prayers and best wishes for your efforts, which are aimed at serving Thailand’s development in prosperity and peace. On you here present, on your families and on those whom you serve, I invoke the divine blessing. And I ask you to do it for me as well.
Thank you very much.
by Professor Dr. Bundhit Eua-arporn
President of Chulalongkorn University
22 November 2019
Your Holiness Pope Francis –
Chulalongkorn University, Thailand’s first university, established in 1917 and named after His Majesty King Chulalongkorn, is deeply grateful that Your Holiness has graciously added to an already full schedule this gathering of our academic community, and a host of other sectors across Thai society.
King Chulalongkorn’s vision was to provide higher education for students from all walks of life regardless of their gender, social status, ethnic or economic background, or religious faith, and it is our university’s immense honor that on the occasion of Your Holiness’ official visit to Thailand, nearly four decades after the visit of His Holiness Pope John Paul in 1984, we are gathered here to learn and benefit from Your Holiness’ wisdom, compassion for the poor and disadvantaged peoples all over the world, your deep concern for the care and protection of our natural environment, and your enduring work for meaningful interfaith dialogue and peace-building amongst religions, countries, and cultures.
Your Holiness, welcome to our university.
by Bishop Chusak Sirisut
at Chulalongkorn University
22 November 2019
Most Holy Father,
I, Bishop Joseph Chusak Sirisut, ordinary of the Nakhonratchasima diocese and president of the Catholic Episcopal Commission for the Interreligious Dialogue and Ecumenism, together with leaders of traditional religions adhered by the citizens of Thailand, namely: Buddhism, Islam, Brahms-Hinduism and Sikhism, our brothers Christian different denominations in this country including prominent academics in Thailand particularly educational personnel of Chulalongkorn University who host this meeting and inviting professors and university students from all over the country to join this meeting, feel most pleased today to welcome Your Holiness and listen to your address. We are gathering here around 1500 persons.
It is now most auspicious that we will listen to the address of Your Holiness which is evident that your wise advice will be most useful not only for the Catholics but also for all humanity. Give us your wisdom on this occasion, Please, Your Holiness.
With most respect and love in Christ