Christians and Buddhists:
Forgiveness and Compassion
- It gives me great pleasure, as President of the Pontifical Council for
Interreligious Dialogue, to present to you once again my heartfelt greetings on
the occasion of Vesakh, the feast which commemorates great events in the
life of Gautama Siddartha Buddha.
- This feast offers an opportunity for Christians to visit their Buddhist
neighbours and friends to exchange greetings, and this helps to strengthen bonds
of friendship that already exist and to create new ones. This annual message
thus becomes like a bridge between Buddhists and Christians which is constantly
being built and consolidated. I thank God for this and pray, on my part, that
the relations between Christians and Buddhists may continue to grow stronger.
- In three years time people all over the world will be celebrating the
coming of a new millenium. For Christians the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000
will commemorate the Birth of Jesus Christ. For us, as Pope John Paul II has
said, "this time of expectation is a time of reflection, inviting us to
make an assessment, as it were, of mankind's journey in the sight of God, the
Lord of history". Echoing this call of His Holiness, I would like to invite
Buddhists and Christians to set out together on a true pilgrimage of peace.
Starting from the concrete situation in which we find ourselves, let us seek
peace along the paths of forgiveness by drawing upon the genuine patrimony
of our religious traditions.
- Time and again the Dhammapada reminds us of Buddha's words which
are inspired by the logic of non-violence, compassion and love. He says, "Among
those who hate, blessed are we who live without hatred; in the midst of people
who hate, we remain free from hatred" (Dh. 197); and again, "the
winner engenders hatred and the loser dwells in distress; peaceful man rests
tranquil abandoning simultaneously both winning and losing (Dh. 201).
- Amidst the situations in our world marked by revenge, violent hatred and
destructive wars we need to encourage people to ask and grant forgiveness
because it is by its nature liberating. "Forgiveness, in its truest and
highest form, is a free act of love. But precisely because it is an act of love,
it has its own intrinsic demands: the first of which is respect for the
truth... Where lies and falsehood are sown, there suspicion and division
flourish... Another essential requisite for forgiveness and reconciliation is
justice...There is no contradiction between forgiveness and justice.
Forgiveness neither eliminates nor lessens the need for the reparation
which justice requires, but seeks to integrate individuals and groups into
society, and States into the community of Nations" (Pope John Paul II, Message
for the World Day of Peace, 1 January 1997). Could we who belong to
the Buddhist and Christian communities not meet more often in order to remind
our respective members of the important contribution all are called to make to
world peace by becoming people of compassion and forgiveness?
- While extending to you, on behalf of the Catholics in the world, cordial
wishes of peace and joy, I renew the expression of my friendship.
Francis Cardinal Arinze