By Bonnie Mendes, Regional Coordinator for Caritas Asia
Bishop Michael Buluen Mansap, the Chairman of Office for Human Development of the Federation of the Bishops’ Conferences and the Vice President of Caritas Internationalis from 1978 to 1984, died at St Louis Hospital Bangkok where he was (for about fifteen days) in the Cardiac Intensive Care Ward. He was 81. His body was first taken to Ratchaburi his home town and then brought to the diocese of Ubon Ratchathani, where he was Bishop for 28 years. He had retired six years ago.
In Ratchburi people lined past the coffin from the time it arrived till almost when it left the place. A Requiem Mass was led by H.E. Cardinal Micael Michai Kitbunchu on December 4, 2010.
The funeral was on the feast of the Cathedral of Ubon Ratchthani, Bishop Mansap’s successor Bishop Philip Banchong Chaiyara preached at the funeral on the feast of Mary Immaculate. He said that Bishop Mansap’s motto was ‘Living with the people’, that is how he interpreted ‘Omnibus Omnia’. When working with the people he felt for the poor of the north. He therefore started Credit Unions for all the poor, of the area including Buddhists. Then as he grew in awareness and felt the structural injustices, he started working on Justice and Peace issues..
Bishop Chaiyara said that Bishop Mansap felt lonely in the struggles hence he convinced the Bishops’ Conference of Thailand to form a Justice and Peace Commission for the whole country.
Archbishop Francis Xavier Kriensak Kovitvanit and the President of the Bishops’ Conference, Archbishop Louis Chamniern Santisukniram also spoke at the end of the Mass.
The funeral was a fitting tribute to a great Bishop. All the Bishops were there. The purple and white streamers in the city clearly displayed an atmosphere of solemn mourning. The people all dressed in black or black and white were mourning solemnly. The Buddhist monks sat in the front row. The clergy were behind them and then the Religious. The sides of the Church were full of the laity, besides many sat in the large number outside the Cathedral.
Bishop Mansap loved music, especially Gregorian chant hence the music on the public announcement system was solemn Gregorain chant. However, the climax came when at the end of the Mass, the choir sang the Ecce
Sacerdos Magnus. It was evident that the institutions were told that it would be sung and they had practiced it and come. The whole congregation was singing it in Latin with devotion and admiration for this great man: Bishop Michael Bunluen Mansap.
The school students standing with hands joined lined the procession to the cemetery. All present saluted a man who lived what he said, living with the people right to the very end when he worked with poor Buddhists and Christians on Credit Unions. He asked people not to spend on himself but to donate generously to the Credit Union Fund.