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Celebrating 350 Years of the Apostolic Vicariate of Siam

THAILAND (UCAN/Agenzia Fides): Almost 350 years have passed since the first Catholic mission in Siam began: to commemorate the forthcoming anniversary of the Apostolic Vicariate of Siam (Mission of Siam: 1669-2019), the Bishops’ Conference of Thailand organised a celebration at Chiang Rai Rajabhat University, in Chiang Rai province, northern Thailand, on July 7.  
More than 8,000 faithful together with two cardinals, one archbishop, 11 bishops — all from Thailand, an archbishop emeritus from Malaysia, a cardinal and a bishop from Laos and the apostolic nuncio to Thailand participated in the celebrations. 
Representatives of other Christian denominations and leaders of Buddhism, Sikhism, Hinduism and Islam also attended.
It was a triple celebration for the diocese: the creation of the new diocese of Chiang Rai, officially erected by the Holy See on 25 April 2018, and the episcopal ordination of the Bishop-elect Joseph Vuthilert Haelom as well as the launch of preparations for the commemoration of the 350th anniversary of the Apostolic Vicariate of Siam.
The first seeds of the Good News of the Lord were sown in Siam (now Thailand) in 1544 more than 450 years ago. In 2015, the local church celebrated the 50th anniversary of the elevation of two hierarchical Christian communities of Bangkok and Thare-Nongseng as archdioceses. 
Over the past 50 years, eight new dioceses were created: Chanthaburi, Ratchaburi, Chiang Mai, Ubon Ratchathani, Udon Thani, Nakhon Ratchasima, Surat Thani and Nakhon Sawan.
With the establishment of the new Chiang Rai Diocese, Thailand is now composed of two ecclesiastical provinces and nine suffragan dioceses. 
The objective of creating the new diocese is to make possible a closer and more effective monitoring of pastoral work, ministerial services and spreading the Good News.
The two bishops who take care of the distinct northern dioceses of Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai will be able to carry out their duties more effectively and efficiently. As each diocese comprises a smaller area, pastoral visits can be performed on a more regular basis, especially in mountainous areas.
Cardinal Michael Michai Kitbunchu presides the episcopal ordination of Father Joseph Wutthilert Haelom, who is the first bishop of the new Chiang Rai Diocese.

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