Catholics in Bangkok gathered together with their fellow countrymen last Friday to pray for peace in the wake of the bombing at a Hindu shrine in the city which had killed 20 people and injured scores earlier in the week. The Aug. 21 interreligious service held just outside the Erawan shrine included a Liturgy of the Word, and prayers for the bombing victims. More than 800 attended the service, where Pope Francis' message of solidarity was read, and distributed to the crowd, including a government delegation. “The Thai Catholic bishops and the faithful are deeply pained and express their deep solidarity in prayer with the victims in the targeted explosions at the Erawan shrine,” Msgr. Andrew Vissanu Thanya Anan, deputy secretary general for the Thai bishops’ conference, told CNA Aug. 23. Msgr. Vissanu said that “people were deeply touched by Pope Francis' message of solidarity, his concern, and his closeness, and in return have expressed their heartfelt gratitude.” The Holy Father in his message expressed his heartfelt solidarity and offered his closeness with his prayers and invoking “divine blessings of peace and healing upon the Kingdom.” “We know it’s hard and we need divine grace for healing,” Msgr. Vissanu reflected. “No malice and revenge can find lasting answers; but only love and prayer can heal and triumph over hate, and bring forgiveness for everlasting peace and development.” “It is very touching and inspiring to see people of all religious feel the power of prayer and congregate together yearning for peace and to pray, when the such horrifying events normally trigger ripples of panic, hate, and vengeance.” The local bishops welcomed Bangkok officials' call for an interreligious prayer service, acknowledging prayer's importance in binding communities and in promoting peace and harmony throughout Thailand. Other Christian denominations also led prayer services, as did other religious groups. Msgr. Vissanu recounted with sadness that a Chinese Catholic youth, Tee Wu Shenqi, was among the 20 people killed in the Aug. 17 bombing. His funeral Mass was said at the Ruamrudee Holy Redeemer Church Church in Bangkok, and was attended by his family, who travelled from China, as well as local Catholics. Jithapha Aae, a young adult member of the parish, told CNA that “the bombing at Erawan, targeting innocent people offering prayers, is despicable and a heinous act, and we hope that prayers will bring hope and smiles in our land of smiles … we hope that people will be motivated and inspired to work to make a better world.”
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