Retired Thai Bishop Sangval dies at 87

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Bishop Joseph Sangval Surasarang, former bishop of Chiang Mai diocese in northern Thailand, died on February 10 at the age of 87.

He suffered from seniority-related illnesses, according to church sources.

Catholics in Chiang Mai, where he served as bishop for 22 years from 1987, remember him for his sense of humor and friendliness.

Around 70% of Chiang Mai’s more than 50,000 Catholics come from various tribal ethnic groups such as the Karen.

Bishop Sangval was fluent in various tribal languages ​​and often offered Masses in the tribal languages.

He also made frequent pastoral visits to meet Catholics living mostly in the mountains.

Born on August 25, 1935, Joseph Sangval Surasarang became a priest on December 22, 1962.

He served in various parishes and served as Vicar General of the Archdiocese of Bangkok and Pastor of the Cathedral of the Assumption in the Thai capital when Pope John Paul II visited Thailand on May 10-11, 1984.

He accompanied the Pope throughout the trip, including his meeting with the late Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej and Queen Sirikit on May 10 at the Royal Palace in Bangkok.

Pope John Paul II appointed him the third bishop of Chiang Mai on October 17, 1986, and he was ordained bishop on January 6, 1987.

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Despite his retirement on February 10, 2009, he has been active in pastoral ministries in Chiang Mai.

Church members said he welcomed clergy, religious and laity who often visited him to bless and counsel him, even when he was hospitalized.

When Pope Francis visited Thailand from November 20-23, 2019, Bishop Sangval traveled to the Thai capital Bangkok and met with the Pope for a brief and cordial personal visit.

In a Facebook post on Feb. 11, the Chiang Mai Diocese said, “He loved the people so much. We thank God for his life among us.”

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