Two special events:
Football team rescue and new diocese in Chiang Rai
Chiang Rai, Thailand, 15 July 2018 -- During past three weeks the North of Thailand, precisely the rescue operation near Chiang Rai (Mae Sai district) of the twelve football team (Wild Boars) boys with their coach from the flooded cave caught the attention of the media worldwide. Everybody was touched by the Thai resilience, by the local and international solidarity with the families and the crowd of a variety of volunteers from the NAVY SEAL up to the cooking troops. From June 23 until the succesful rescue on July 10 all around the world many people prayed, many helped and our hearts were warmed up.
In fact the Tham Luang, the fourth biggest Thai cave system is located almost on the Thailand - Mayanmar boarder, about 60 km from the closest larger city of Chiang Rai (60.000 population).
After a 3 years long process of creating the new diocese, on July 7 with the episcopal ordination of the first bishop Mons. Joseph Vuthilert Haerlorm (Bangkok archdiocese clergy) in Chiang Rai was officialy opened. The large diocese of Chiang Mai was divided on April 25 in two, and in the Chiang Rai diocese with 2.7 million of inhabitants are now about 18.000 Catholics (0.7%) ministered by 47 priests (6 diocesan and 41 religious), 51 religious sisters in 16 parishes, 130 mission stations and 6 schools in the vast mountain area of 38.000 km2.
The new diocese has been created to meet better the pastoral needs of ethnic groups: Archa, Lanna, Lahu, Isan, Thaiyai and Kachin people in this remote part of the country. Chiang Rai is the 11th diocese of Thailand, with a Catholic population of about 300.000 faithful (0.3%) among the 65 million of total population. Among the ethnic groups are still large number of catechumens asking for faith education and pastoral care.
The episcopal ordination and start of a new diocese was also connected to the third event celebrated in Chiang Rai - the Thai Catholics 'on the same blessed day launched the preparation for the Celebration of 350th Anniversary of the Siam Mission' (1719-2019).