Vatican letter to Buddhists urges sincerity, mutual respect, dialogue

Earlier today, the Vatican publicized a Message sent by the Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue to Buddhists who will celebrate the feast of Vesakh.

Written in English, the message was signed by Archbishop Michael Fitzgerald, president of the pontifical council.

The feast of Vesakh is mobile on the Buddhist calendar and marks important events in the life of Gautama Buddha.

Archbishop Fitzgerald noted that this year is the 40th anniversary of "Nostra Aetate," Vatican II’s document on the relationship of the Church to other religions, which states that, “the Catholic Church rejects nothing of what is true and holy in these religions.”

He said that, “Accordingly, Buddhists and Catholics are able to meet together, in a spirit of openness, sincerity and mutual respect, engaging in many different forms of dialogue."

The Archbishop continued, saying, where members of these two faiths live and work side-by-side, "the resulting 'dialogue of life' allows them, while witnessing to their own beliefs, to deepen their understanding of one another, to foster goodwill and to promote a spirit of neighborliness.”

“In fact,” he said, “a particular bond has developed between many Buddhist and Catholic monks and nuns."

The message highlighted the fact that, "nowhere has the need for collaboration been felt more keenly than in the countries of South and Southeast Asia which were affected by the earthquake and the ensuing tsunami of December 26, 2004.”

The Archbishop wrote that, “The long-term requirements of reconstruction call, however, for a continuation of these inter-religious expressions of solidarity" as do "many other situations which require cooperation among people of good will."

"This year's feast of Vesakh," the message concludes, "will find many families missing some of their members. I wish to assure them that their loved ones will not be forgotten but will be remembered in our prayers."

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