By Juarawee Kittisilpa
BANGKOK (Reuters) - A choir formed of Catholic devotees training to join the church in Thailand were rehearsing on Saturday ahead of the visit of Pope Francis next week.
The choir will perform for the pope at St. Peter's parish in Nakhon Pathom province, about 56 km (35 miles) west of Bangkok, during his trip to the kingdom from Nov. 20 to Nov. 23.
It is the first papal visit to Thailand since the late Pope John Paul toured the region in 1984.
"I'm really excited because I've never seen the real pope before," said 18-year-old choir member Yowanna Nueajeen. "I only see him on TV. I feel really overwhelmed and I might shed some tears while singing."
The 61-strong choir will perform songs with lyrics about following Christ and devoting lives to him, said conductor Sister Pornthip Trakunkasemsiri.
"We are singing these songs [to the pope] to let him know that we will be following his footsteps," she said.
"I feel quite nervous because a lot of the singers are in the choir for the first time and have never sung at big events such as this one. But I’m certain they will pull through."
Chatri Buddeeduang, 50, another choir singer, said he is delighted about the pope's visit to Thailand and that he was chosen to join the choir.
"I'm not sure when a pope will be visiting Thailand again," he said. "It makes me really proud to be born in this country as a Catholic."
Pope Francis will meet King Maha Vajiralongkorn, the supreme Buddhist patriarch, as well as Catholic leaders and students, before moving on to Japan.
(Wrtiting by Orathai Sriring; editing by Mike Harrison)