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Pope Francis and his cousin Sister Ana Rosa Sivori is welcomed by Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha as he arrives at Government House in Bangkok, Thailand. - Reuters

POPE Francis today expressed his pleasure over Thailand's efforts in creating a social ethics commission and inviting traditional religions of the country to participate and keep alive the spiritual memory of the Thais.

“Dear friends, today, more than ever, our societies need ‘artisans of hospitality’, men and women committed to the integral development of all peoples within a human family committed to dwelling in justice, solidarity and fraternal harmony,” he said in an address when meeting with the Thai authorities, civil society and members of the diplomatic corps at Bangkok’s Government House.

Present were Thai Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha and Malaysian Ambassador to Thailand Datuk Jojie Samuel.

The Holy Father, in his speech, said as a multi-ethnic and diverse nation, Thailand has long known the importance of building harmony and peaceful co-existence between its numerous ethnic groups, while showing respect and appreciation for different cultures, religious groups, thoughts and ideas.

“Our age is marked by a globalisation that is all too often viewed in narrowly economic terms, tending to erase the distinguishing features that shape the beauty and soul of our peoples.

“Yet the experience of a unity that respects and makes room for diversity serves as an inspiration and incentive for all those concerned about the kind of world we wish to leave to our children," said Pope Francis.

Pope Francis is welcomed by Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha as he arrives at Government House in Bangkok, Thailand. -Reuters

“We know that the challenges facing our world today are indeed global, embracing the entire human family and calling for a firm commitment to international justice and solidarity between peoples.

“I consider it significant to note that in these days, Thailand will conclude its chairmanship of Asean, an expression of its historic engagement with the broader issues and challenges facing the peoples of the entire South East Asia region and its continuing interest in fostering political, economic and cultural cooperation in the region.”

Pope Francis arrived in Bangkok yesterday and was greeted by devout Catholics who have been waiting for the first apostolic visit in almost four decades.

His three-day visit to Thailand will be followed by a visit to Japan.

Pope Francis is scheduled to celebrate a special mass this evening at Bangkok’s Supachalasai National Stadium.

For Malaysia’s envoy to Thailand, this is his second encounter with a Catholic Pope.

“The first was when Pope Benedict visited Cuba in 2012,” Samuel told the New Straits Times.

“I think Pope Francis’ visit this time around to Thailand has created enthusiasm and excitement not only among the Catholics in Thailand but also the non-Catholics.

“Pope Francis’ character of humility and love resonates among the people here.

“Everyone is looking forward to seeing him at Holy Mass this evening and this includes the thousands of Malaysian Catholics who I believe have travelled to Bangkok to experience and see for themselves,” Samuel added.

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