Pope Francis arrives in Thailand at start of Asia trip

Pope Francis flanked by a Salesian nun Ana Rosa Sivori, who is his cousin, arrives at a military air terminal in Bangkok, Thailand November 20, 2019. (Photo by Reuters)

Pope Francis arrived in Thailand on Wednesday to meet with the country's small but devoted Catholic minority on a seven-day Asian trip that will include a family reunion in Bangkok and take his anti-nuclear message to Japan.

The pope's plane touched down outside Bangkok around midday for a visit that coincides with the 350th anniversary of the first papal mission in Siam, the former name of Thailand.

"Dear friends in Thailand and Japan, before we meet, let us pray together that these days may be rich in grace and joy," read a message on the pontiff's official Twitter account before he left the Vatican.

Catholics are a tiny minority in mostly Buddhist Thailand, accounting for less than 2% of the population.

Pope Francis will meet King Maha Vajiralongkorn, as well as the supreme Buddhist patriarch and Catholic leaders and students before he moves on to Japan on Saturday.

His translator in Thailand will be his cousin and childhood friend, Sister Ana Rosa Sivori, 77, who has worked in Thai schools for more than 50 years.

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