Chanthaburi, Thailand, Jun 29, 2016 / 06:54 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Hundreds of sick and physically challenged people marked the Catholic Church’s Year of Mercy in Thailand with a special procession through the Holy Door of the cathedral in the Diocese of Chanthaburi.
“As human persons our lives have limitations of sin. Some of our other physical limitations are illnesses, disabilities due to accidents and old age, for we are weak,” said Bishop Silvio Siripong Charatsri of Chanthaburi. “God helps us to look beyond our limitations, and the mercy of God will fill us with joy and grace in what we are lacking.”
Presiding at the Mass, Bishop Silvio in his homily encouraged the faithful with the theme from St. Paul: “When I am weak I am strong.”
Hundreds of sick people, those with physical disabilities, orphaned children and aged persons came from the many parishes of the diocese to the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception for the June 12 event. The diocese is in the southeastern province of Chanthaburi, about 135 miles from Bangkok.
The jubilee opened with a symposium featuring testimonies and experiences from various persons with physical disabilities, who face challenges in life and gave witness to others.
The group sharing panels included a number of pastoral workers, families, interpreters and the physically challenged members, including several members from the Thailand Catholic Deaf Association.
Some used wheelchairs, crutches or prosthetic aids in the solemn procession that closed the convention through the Holy Door, specially designated for the Year of Mercy. Some were assisted by assisted by pastoral workers, paramedics or their families.
After the procession, there were opportunities Eucharistic Adoration, confession and anointing of the sick.
Bishop Silvio heads the Thai Catholic bishops’ Office for Family and Youth. He was grateful for those who participated.
He told CNA that he was touched by the testimonies shared by the various participants who were sick or physically challenged.
“It is so heartwarming and touching to see their love and affection for Pope Francis, to listen to his teachings, and they really feel the friendship, warmth and inclusion in fraternity,” he said.
The bishop urged the sick and the faithful to never lose hope and faith in God. He said the event was a time for healing, but also for strengthening the apostolate for the sick by encouraging closer collaboration among pastors and caregivers.
Bishop Silvio said the Year of Mercy is an invitation to encounter God through acts of mercy, through the rediscovery of our faith and the deepening of spiritual life.
He noted Pope Francis’ statement that the corporal and spiritual works of mercy must never be separated.
The jubilee’s organizer, Fr. Peter Theerapong Kanpigul, is the national chaplain of the Thailand Catholic Deaf Association. He told CNA that through the jubilee, the people on the peripheries of the Church due to illness or disability “found that they are welcomed actively in the Church.”
He said their participation in the procession, the liturgy and prayers in the face of obstacles is “an inspiration for our life of faith and impels us to broaden our eyes of love and mercy.”
“We thank Pope Francis for giving us this Year of Mercy, and the sick people feel his tenderness of love and blessings despite being far physically in distance,” the priest said.