By Noel Caballero / Bangkok / Pope Francis will begin his official visit to Thailand on Nov. 20 and will have the company of a very familiar translator: his second cousin Ana Rosa Sivori, who came to the Southeast Asian country as a missionary 50 years ago.
Sister Sivori, 77, told EFE that the Pope had suggested her name as his translator for his Thailand visit.
“It was a pleasant surprise for me and it is an honor,” she said from the chapel of Salesian Sisters Convent in Bangkok.
Sister Sivori, who learned the language “to reach the most disadvantaged population”, translate the Pope’s sermons he would deliver in the country.
The two grew up together in Argentina and their grandfathers were brothers.
“As a child, Jorge (the Pope’s given name) was very studious and loved soccer. Our family was very close, and in Argentina, we would always meet during family gatherings,” said Sister Sivori.
She said Catholicism was in “good health” in Thailand despite a small community of followers of less than 400,000 or 0.58 percent of the 60 million population.
“The key factor is respect and the right to freedom of religion,” Sivori said.
Pope Francis will be on a three-day pilgrimage for peace and to promote inter-religious dialog.
The visit also coincides with the 350th anniversary of the Vatican’s mission to Siam, Thailand’s former name. The “Mission de Siam” was announced by Pope Clement IX in 1669.
Sivori said the Pope was not carrying out a revolution but “he is continuing the work carried out by other pontiffs, such as Paul VI or John XXIII, in the reform of the Church”.
The pontiff will meet Thailand’s King Maha Vajiralongkorn, the prime minister and the head of Buddhist monk Sangha, before he heads to Japan on Nov. 23 to continue his Asian tour.
The pontiff’s meeting with the Buddhist leader will be the most complicated for Sister Sivori as according to Buddhism, a woman cannot touch or sit next to a monk. She will, therefore, have to sit behind Pope Francis during the meeting.
“The Vatican does not understand it, but these things are ingrained in them and we have to adapt,” she added.
Buddhist leaders have also imposed a series of restrictions on the use of a few religious terms in Thai which are related to Buddhism, a religion practiced by 95 percent of the country’s population.
For the arduous and complicated work of translating the Pope’s speeches, other Spanish speaking missionaries and professors from the University of Chulalongkorn are also helping Sister Sivori.
Sister Sivori came to Thailand in 1966 as a missionary, a year after entering the religious life, and is currently one of the trustees of five Catholic schools for girls across Thailand.
The cousins last met in Rome in 2015.
She said they are very traditional and write letters to each other although for an urgent issue they also use email but with the help of the Pope’s secretary. (November 16, 2019, EFE/Practica Español)
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una forma personal del pretérito imperfecto del subjuntivo del verbo ser.
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