Monday, May 18, 2009

New bishops

When I announced the appointment of a new bishop of Chiang Mai in February, I mentioned that more retirements are to be expected as another three Thai bishops are beyond the normal retirement age of 75. One already happened during my trip, and the second just last Friday.

Most notable is the retirement of Cardinal Michael Kitbunchu (ไมเกิ้ล มีชัย กิจบุญชู), Archbishop of Bangkok. Aged 80 he was not only the oldest of all bishops in Thailand, but also the oldest of all archbishops in the Catholic church. As his successor the Pope named Francis Xavier Kriengsak Kovitvanit (ฟรังซิสเซเวียร์ เกรียงศักดิ์ โกวิทวาณิช), the bishop of Nakhon Sawan. Just two years ago he was given that diocese, so he ascended to the highest post in the Thai Catholic church very fast. It also seems like Nakhon Sawan has become the way to higher posts - the predecessor of Bishop Francis Kovitvanit in Nakhon Sawan was Louis Chamniern Santisukniram, who was made archbishop of the other archdiocese in Thailand, Thare and Nonseng centered near Sakon Nakhon.

During my travel the Pope did accept another retirement and appointed the successor of Bishop Lawrence Thienchai Samanchit (ลอเรนซ์ เทียนชัย สมานจิต) of the diocese of Chanthaburi by Silvio Siripong Charatsri (ซิลวีโอ สิริพงษ์ จรัสศรี).

From the official news announcement of the Vatican
The Holy Father Benedict XVI, on April 2, 2009, accepted the renunciation of the pastoral government of the Diocese of Chanthaburi (Thailand) presented by Bishop Lawrence Thienchai Samanchit, in conformity with the Code of Canon Law, canon 401 § 1. The Holy Father appointed as Bishop of Chanthaburi (Thailand), Fr. Silvio Siripong Charatsri, Vicar General of Ratchaburi.
On the website of the diocese one can also find the announcement from the Pope as well as a biography of the new bishop in Thai.

As one can see at a special list by Catholic Hierarchy the last bishops beyond the age limit is the one of Udon Thani. Thus there will be two more such announcements in the near future - one for the new bishop of Nakhon Sawan filling the vacancy just created, and one for the forthcoming retirement in Udon Thani.

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