BANGKOK, Thailand – Pope Francis arrived in Thailand Wednesday to open a Nov. 20-26 Asia tour that will also take him to Japan. It marks the first time a pope has visited the former kingdom of Siam since St. John Paul II in 1984.

Francis’s visit to Thailand, a nation that has a Catholic population of fewer than 400,000, has been described as a “morale booster” for this small community that represents 0.58 of the total population of 69 million.

In a video he sent ahead of the trip, the pope said that Thais are called to “work for their homeland,” and that he hoped his trip would “encourage them in their faith and in the contribution they make to the whole of society.”

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