Culture Minister Vira Rojpojchanarat presented the Buddhist sacred book to Pope Francis at the Vatican on May 16. The manuscript will be displayed at a world manuscripts exhibition at the Vatican Museum.
Vira led a group of monks from Wat Phra Chetuphon Vimolmangklararm or Wat Pho, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Thailand and Wat Pho’s lay minister Thapana Sirivadhanabhakdi, Thai Beverage Ltd Co’s CEO to the Vatican to strengthen the relationship between Buddhists and Catholic Christians.
“I offer you a warm welcome and I thank you for the precious gift of your Sacred Book translated into today’s language by the monks of Wat Pho Temple,” Pope Francis told the group. “It is a tangible sign of your generosity and of the friendship that we have shared for so many years, a journey made of many small steps.”
He added: “I think in particular of the meeting in the Vatican between Blessed Pope Paul VI and the Venerable Somdej Phra Wanaratana, whose portrait can be seen in the entrance of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, which you have visited in these days.”
During a 1934 trip to Europe, King Rama VII presented a copy of the ancient Buddhist manuscript to Pope Pius XI. The manuscript is written in the ancient Khmer language.
“As the Vatican is planning to exhibit world manuscripts at the Vatican Museum, Pope Francis wanted to translate the manuscript into today’s Bali-Thai language,” said Vira.
The Pope last August asked Thailand’s Catholic Bishops to contact Wat Pho to request borrowing the manuscript so that it could be translated, said Vira.
Funded by ThaiBev, the project took almost a year to complete. The 186-page folding manuscript has six chapters accompanying colourful drawings.