MESSAGE OF THE PONTIFICAL COUNCIL
Dear Hindu Friends,
1. This year again, I am pleased to greet you and share with you a short message on the occasion of Diwali, the feast which you celebrate according to your venerable religious tradition. I know that among many Hindu festivals which are celebrated by you throughout the year this one, in particular, has a special place and deep relevance for you and your families. Diwali is a time for families to get together, and celebrate in a meaningful way the rites prescribed by the ancient dharma. To all these families and to every one of you I offer my very best wishes.
2. Religious feasts invite us not only to renew and strengthen our belief in God, the Supreme Good of every human being, and to revitalize our relationships with one another, but they also invite us to rediscover, respectfully reaffirm and bravely defend our own dignity and that of every person as human beings created by God. I have always been impressed by the fact that on the occasion of Diwali there are some Hindus who make every effort to bring about reconciliation within families and between neighbours, friends and acquaintances. Could not Catholics and Hindus extend these efforts to bring about wider reconciliation and a more lasting peace in our towns and villages and indeed throughout our countries and the world at large?
3. ‘Love for God and love for neighbour’ lies at the heart of the Christian faith. As a religious leader I would lose credibility were I to allow this fundamental truth to be obscured. Do not your various Hindu traditions (sampradaya) eloquently speak not only of God’s love for us and our love for God but also of the love that human beings must have for one another? The dignity of every person derives from God, the Creator of all, and to promote, protect and defend this dignity forms an integral part of every believer’s life. The occasion of the festival of Diwali provides us with ample food for thought when the Hindu tradition informs us of how light overcomes darkness, how the victory of good is achieved over evil and how hatred gives way to love through forgiveness.
4. What can we, Christians and Hindus, do together to promote and protect the dignity of every human person? Does not an offense against even one person, when done in the name of religion, mean that an entire religious tradition is abused? Neither the Hindu dharma nor the Christian faith teaches hate, contempt or disrespect for others. Hatred or disrespect on the part of religious believers only brings discredit on religion and its role in society. But the more we commit ourselves to promote the dignity of every human person the more our religious traditions will become credible in the eyes of others.
5. Your suggestions on how to accomplish this would be most welcome. They could be given directly to this Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, the office of His Holiness the Pope for relations with people of different religious traditions, or to the leaders and members of the Catholic Church in your area. Let us come together and share our common concerns, making an effort to listen to one another attentively. Let us speak honestly, aware of our own responsibility with regard to the choices that have to be made to resolve current problems in the world today.
6. Dear Hindu friends, may you, your families, friends and even the strangers in your midst experience joy, peace, serenity, and light on the feast of Diwali, as symbolised by the innumerable flames, the Deepavali.
Archbishop Michael L. Fitzgerald