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Message for Vesakh 2000


Dear Buddhist Friends,

1. On behalf of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue and on my own behalf, I wish all our Buddhist brothers and sisters a happy feast of Vesakh / Hanamatsuri.

2. During this Year 2000, Christians are commemorating the 2000th anniversary of the Birth of Jesus Christ. Celebrations will be taking place throughout the world, but especially in Rome and in the land in which Jesus was born, where he lived, suffered, died and rose again. But this year is a significant one not only for Christians. As the beginning of a new Millennium, this is a fitting time for each individual religious tradition as well as for all religious traditions together to take stock of the past and face the future with renewed vigour. In the context of the many Jubilee celebrations promoted by the Catholic Church, our Pontifical Council was entrusted with the organization of an Interreligious Assembly in Rome last October particularly for this purpose. Participants from different religious traditions from around the world were invited. The response was heartening. Presiding over the Concluding Ceremony of that Assembly, Pope John Paul II invited all people of

J good will to counter a crisis of civilization, which is unfortunately present in our world by a new civilization of love, founded on the universal values of peace, solidarity, justice and liberty.

3. Since the birth of Jesus Christ is at the origin of the calendar that announces the New Millennium, it would seem appropriate in this message to focus our reflection on Jesus Christ. Jesus is one who gives his life for others, one who sacrifices himself for the salvation of others. But for Christians he is more than a bodhisattva. Jesus, the Word of God made flesh, born of the Virgin Mary, is the fullness of God's revelation. He is God made manifest to humanity. He is the one Saviour of all. "When the Catholic Church proclaims Jesus Christ and enters into dialogue with believers of other religions, she does so in order to bear witness to his love for all people of all times - a love that was manifested on the cross for the reconciliation and salvation of the world. It is in this spirit that the Church seeks to ; promote deeper fellowship with all peoples and religions" (John Paul II, To the Religious Leaders of the Various Religions of Korea, 6 May 1984).

4. While Buddhists do not share the same belief in Jesus Christ, is it not possible for us to appreciate together the example that Jesus gives? He taught love of neighbour and showed compassion, particularly for the poor. He called for a spirit of forgiveness and forgave those who were putting him to death. He showed himself to be the Redeemer, liberating those who are in the bonds of ignorance and sin. Is not Jesus thus a model and a permanent message for humanity?

5. At the moment of entering into a new Millennium, we Christians and Buddhists, together with the followers of other religions, and all men and women of good will, have something to receive from the message of Jesus: a message of compassion and forgiveness, of charity and fraternity, of justice and peace.

6. It is in this spirit that I renew my greetings and send best wishes for a life of peace and serenity.

Cardinal Francis Arinze