The Holy See
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“Christians and Hindus :
Determined to Walk the Path of Dialogue”

Dear Hindu Friends,

1. As Diwali approaches, your religious feast, I am sure all of you in your respective families, neighbourhoods and communities will be taking time to share your joy with one another. On behalf of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue I am happy to have this opportunity, for the first time since taking office, to send you my greetings. Sensitive to your religious feelings and respectful of your ancient religious tradition, I sincerely hope that your search for the Divine, symbolized through the celebration of Diwali, will help you to overcome darkness with light, untruth with truth and evil with goodness.

2. The world around us is yearning for peace. Religions promise peace because they trace their origin to God who, according to Christian belief, is our peace. Can we, as believers of different religious traditions, not work together to receive God’s gift of peace and to spread it around us so that the world becomes for all people a better place to live? Our respective communities must pay urgent attention to the education of believers, who can so easily be misled by deceitful and false propaganda.

3. Belief and freedom always go together. There can be no coercion in religion: no one can be forced to believe, neither can anyone who wishes to believe be prevented from doing so. Allow me to reiterate the teaching of the Second Vatican Council, which is quite clear on this point: “It is one of the major tenets of Catholic doctrine that man’s response to God in faith must be free. Therefore no one is to be forced to embrace the faith against his own will” (Declaration on Religious Freedom, Dignitatis Humanae, 10). The Catholic Church has been faithful to this teaching as Pope Benedict XVI reminded recently to the Ambassadors of India and other countries to the Holy See: “… Peace is rooted in respect for religious freedom, which is a fundamental and primordial aspect of the freedom of conscience of individuals and of the freedom of peoples” (18 May 2006). Forming believers first of all to discover the full dimensions and depth of their own religion, and then encouraging them to know other believers as well constitutes an important challenge for religious communities committed to building world peace. Let us not forget that ignorance is the first and, perhaps, the principal enemy in the life of believers, while the combined contribution of every enlightened believer provides a rich resource for lasting peace.

4. Like all human relationships, those between people of different religions need to be nourished by regular meetings, patient listening, collaborative action, and above all, by an attitude of mutual respect. Accordingly, we must work to build bonds of friendship, as indeed must the adherents of all religions. “Friendship is nourished by contacts, by a sharing in the joy and sadness of different situations, by solidarity and mutual assistance” (John Paul II, Message to the participants of the International Convention Matteo Ricci: for a dialogue between China and the West, 24 October 2001, 6). In situations of misunderstanding, people need to come together and communicate with one another, in order to clarify, in a fraternal and friendly spirit, their respective beliefs, aspirations and convictions. Only through dialogue, avoiding all forms of prejudice and stereo-typed ideas about others and by faithful witness to our religious precepts and teaching, can we truly overcome conflicts. Dialogue between followers of different religions is the necessary path today, indeed it is the only appropriate path for us as believers. Together, in collaboration, we can do much to build a society of harmony and a world of peace.

5. Dear Hindu Friends, the hand I warmly extend to greet you on the occasion of your feast is also a gesture of willingness on the part of the Catholic Church to meet and collaborate with you, your families, your community leaders and all followers of the Sanatana dharma, in order to promote harmony in society and peace in the world. Once again, I wish each one of you a happy Diwali.

Jean-Louis Cardinal Tauran

Pier Luigi Celata