The Holy Father made his appeal for young people to hold on to the cultures handed down by their ancestors and cherish their roots at a meeting of leaders of other religions as he wrapped up the last full day of his visit to Thailand.
He decried a “growing tendency to discredit local values and cultures by imposing a unitary model” for values on young people, referring apparently to Western influence from films, advertising and social media.
“This produces a cultural devastation that is just as serious as the disappearance of species of animals and plants,” he said.
In a talk to priests and nuns gathered in a village church in Wat Roman on the outskirts of Bangkok, Pope Francis paid tribute to those killed for their faith in the past.
Among them were seven Catholics, including three teenage girls, who were killed by Thai police in 1940 in the Northeastern province of Nakhon Phanom.
The World War II period and other spells of persecution are considered aberrations and today relations between Buddhists and Catholics are generally very good.
During the reign of Thailand’s King Narai 350 years ago, the Vatican formally established its “Mission de Siam”.
Although missionaries failed to achieve mass conversions, they were largely tolerated by the Buddhist majority and particularly the royal court.