MESSAGE OF THE PONTIFICAL COUNCIL
Dear Hindu Friends,
1. Once again it is time for you to light tiny lamps, hang colourful lanterns on your homes, offer prayers to God, visit friends and neighbours and celebrate around the family table the joy which the festival of Diwali brings. I wish to extend my heartfelt greetings to all Hindus on this happy occasion. May the external joy which will be manifest throughout the Hindu world be an expression of a genuine religious sense, the fruit of genuine religious beliefs and convictions.
2. It has become customary for me to invite friends of different religious traditions, on the occasion of their respective feasts, to joint reflection on various aspects of our life, in society and in the world at large. This year, on the occasion of Diwali I should like to ask whether religious festivals, in the first place, are not also expressions of the desire of human beings to conquer over darkness by light, evil by good, untruth by truth and death by life? The mystery of life, from the moment of conception onwards through the stages after the birth of a child, is attended by prayers and ritual actions in the Hindu tradition. We Christians attribute particular value to human life because the Bible teaches us that the human person is created in the image and likeness of God. This gift of God is sealed by Christ’s blood which he shed out of his love for every human being. Thus every individual is precious in the eyes of God.
3. Technology has made great progress in our days. Life has perhaps become safer, easier and longer. But what answers can we give to the following questions: Has technology helped better the quality of human life? Does technology help us to value human life? With the progress of technology life paradoxically seems to be more threatened than ever. Pope John Paul II observes that "In addition to the ancient scourges of poverty, hunger, endemic diseases, violence and war, new threats are emerging on an alarmingly vast scale" (Evangelium Vitae, On the Value and Inviolability of Human Life, 3). The Pope continues: "with new prospects opened up by scientific and technological progress there arise new forms of attacks on the dignity of the human being" (Evangelium Vitae, On the Value and Inviolability of Human Life, 4). Modern genetic science has become a tool in the hands of man. He can use it or abuse it. Tempted at times to become a manipulator of life, or even an agent of death, man needs to rediscover his fundamental place in creation, namely, that he is created by God and that God is the sole Creator of all that exists.
4. Representatives of different religions gathered in Assisi last January to pray for world peace. The Hindu participant, in her testimony, described the meeting as a sign of the unity of the human family under the Fatherhood of God (Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam). Although the participants belonged to different religious traditions, they made a common commitment in favour of promoting each single life and the whole of life. We would do well to focus our attention on the second commitment, which declared: "We commit ourselves to educating peoples to mutual respect and esteem, in order to help bring about a peaceful and fraternal coexistence between individuals and among peoples…". Through our respective communities and institutions we could devise our own approach to educating people to promote respect for life. Here I would like to make special mention of young people, whose hearts are scandalized by and suffer from the tragic events they see with their own eyes. Education particularly of youth in respect for life should be one of our urgent priorities, so that strong ethical convictions and a culture of life may prevail among them. Only to the degree that ethical and religious considerations will prevail in the whole of society can we hope that the principle of respect for life will be enshrined in society’s attitudes and laws.
5. Dear Hindu friends, I would like to conclude by sharing with you the strong impression which the image of lighted lamps made on me during the Day of Prayer for Peace in Assisi last January. The representatives of different religions held lighted lamps in their hands and after their common commitment they placed the lamps on a common stand, symbolizing the convergence of hopes and efforts for peace. The Pope blessed them, saying: "Go forward into the future holding high the lamp of peace. The world has need of light!" Happy Diwali.
Cardinal Francis Arinze,