Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue
Christians and Buddhists:
Message for Vesakh 1999
Dear Buddhist Friends,
1. As President of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, the office of the Holy See for relations with people of other religious traditions, I wish you a happy feast of Vesakh. As in previous years I would like to take this opportunity to share with you a few thoughts, especially at this time when we Christians prepare to celebrate the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000. On this occasion, the 2000th anniversary of the birth of Jesus Christ, Son of God made man and our Lord and Saviour, we invite you to share in our joy. The Catholic Church also takes this opportunity to renew her friendship and commitment to dialogue with the various religious traditions of the world so that, working together for the good of humankind we may all experience greater purification and conversion of heart. For us Christians, this conversion of heart means openness to the action of God in us. In spite of the differences which exist between Buddha dharma and the Christian faith, there are many possibilities and potentialities for dialogue, and the results so far recorded are not inconsiderable.
2. Our world can legitimately boast of many achievements: scientific, technological and especially medical progress in the service of human life, a greater awareness of our responsibility for the environment, efforts to restore peace and justice wherever they have been violated, a desire for reconciliation and solidarity among different peoples, particularly in the complex relationship between the North and the South of the world (cf. Pope John Paul II, Tertio Millennio Adveniente, 46).
3. But our world is also marked by numerous painful and alarming conditions which are often the results of selfishness and greed on the part of us humans. Denial of objective moral norms of right and wrong, moral decadence, erosion of family values, various forms of injustice and exclusion, intolerance and violence, hatred, discrimination based on sex, race, religion, etc. are just a few expressions, visible in our society, which are contrary to the teachings of our respective traditions. They tarnish the very image of religion. Building on the friendly relations which already exist between our two religious traditions both at the global and the local level, cannot Buddhists and Christians collaborate more closely and work in solidarity to alleviate these problems? It is my firm conviction that this is possible.
4. I address this message to you while acknowledging that we, Christians and Buddhists, have not always loved and respected one another according to the injunctions of our respective traditions. While I consider it important to make known and draw encouragement from the numerous situations where Christians and Buddhists live peacefully and fruitfully together, it is necessary to become more and more aware of our shared responsibilities in this world, so that together we may embark upon the new Millennium in such a way as to provide greater hope for the coming generations.
6. Wishing you, my dear Buddhist Friends, an abundance of divine blessings, I renew my expressions of friendship and esteem.
Cardinal Francis Arinze