Thailand recognizes Catholic churches after 93 years of waiting

Recognition of places of worship aims to promote religious harmony and moral education, says culture minister

St. Michael the Archangel Cathedral of the Archdiocese of Tharae Nongsaeng of Thailand. The Buddhist-majority nation has officially recognized a total of 60 Catholic churches so far. (File photo)

Posted: Aug 27, 2022 04:47 GMT

Updated: August 27, 2022 at 04:50 GMT

The Thai government has officially recognized three Catholic churches after a 93-year wait in a bid to foster religious harmony in the Buddhist-majority nation, a report says.

The Ministry of Culture officially approved nine places of religious worship on August 23, including 3 Catholic churches and 6 Buddhist temples, thailand post reported.

Itthiphol Khunpluem, Minister of Culture, highlighted the recognition of churches as a way to address the need for religious harmony.

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“This certification from the Catholic Church is seen as a way to promote and encourage religions in Thailand, to appropriate them in accordance with the current situation,” Khunpluem said.

The minister also added that the decision was aimed at encouraging people to have places for their religious activities and to “receive education and inculcate correct morals according to religious principles”.

The Ministry of Culture has approved Saint Thomas the Apostle Church in Bangkok, Saint Monica Church in Nan Province and Saint Joseph the Worker Church in Phrae Province.

The kingdom only recognized 57 Catholic churches until 1929. With the latest approvals, the number has now risen to sixty.

In 2021, the Thai Cabinet approved a formal law to allow the approval of places of religious worship.

The decree states that a new parish can only be established if it has a permanent resident priest and a minimum of 200 parishioners who can support the parish.

In exceptional circumstances, a diocese may request that the criteria – resident priest and minimum number of faithful – be removed.

The provisions of the law stipulate that the list of parishes thus established must be published annually by the Department of Religions and given up to 2 years to seek its approval.

The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Thailand’s Social Communication Commission welcomed the new decree in 2021, saying the recognition meets the need of “the current situation and provides greater certainty and guarantees for the future” for the Catholic Church in the country.

In 2019, Thailand had some 388,000 Catholics, representing about half a percent of the roughly 69 million people in the Buddhist-majority nation.

The Catholic Church in Thailand has two archdioceses, nine dioceses and 502 parishes.

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