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Catholics, Buddhists must work for peace: Vatican officials

Prefect of the Dicastery for Interreligious Dialogue releases a message to Buddhists as they commemorate Vesak
Buddhists in Sri Lanka gather at the Kelaniya Buddhist temple to offer prayers on a religious festival.

Buddhists in Sri Lanka gather at the Kelaniya Buddhist temple to offer prayers on a religious festival. (Photo: AFP)

Published: May 07, 2024 05:03 AM GMT
Updated: May 07, 2024 05:04 AM GMT

Catholics and Buddhists abhor war, but the increasing number of armed conflicts in the world show a need for believers to take practical steps to overcome hatred and to promote reconciliation, said officials of the Vatican Dicastery for Interreligious Dialogue.

Writing to Buddhists around the world preparing to celebrate Vesak, which commemorates the birth, enlightenment and death of the Buddha, dicastery officials said, "The continuing escalation of conflicts worldwide calls for renewed attention to the critical issue of peace and deeper reflection on our own role in overcoming the obstacles standing in the way of its growth."

The Vesak message, signed by Cardinal Miguel Ángel Ayuso Guixot, dicastery prefect, and Msgr. Indunil Janakaratne Kankanamalage, secretary, was released by the Vatican on May 6. Most Buddhists will celebrate Vesak on May 23 this year.

"In addition to our constant prayers and hopes, the current situation demands of us vigorous efforts," they said. "To do our part in bringing an end to the hatred and the desire for vengeance that lead to war, and in healing the wounds that warfare has inflicted on humanity and the earth, our common home, we need to strengthen our commitment to work for reconciliation and resilience."

The dicastery officials said that "the deeper causes of conflicts and violence" must be addressed, and they quoted the late South African Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who said, "Forgiving and being reconciled are not about pretending that things are other than they are. It is not patting one another on the back and turning a blind eye to the wrong. True reconciliation exposes the awfulness, the abuse, the pain, the degradation, the truth."

The teaching of Christianity and Buddhism and the example of revered practitioners of the two faiths show that "when forgiveness is sought, and broken relationships healed, those who were estranged are reconciled and harmony is restored," the message said. With reconciliation and resilience past wounds can be healed and strong bonds forged that make it possible "to meet life's challenges with fortitude and optimism."

Cardinal Ayuso and Msgr. Kankanamalage cited Venerable Maha Ghosananda, a Buddhist "witness to the horrors of the Cambodian genocide," who taught of the need "to remove the landmines of hatred from our hearts," and they quoted Pope Francis on learning to "cultivate a penitential memory" that does not ignore past hurts but acknowledges them while seeking a new start.

"All of us are called to rediscover and treasure these values found within our respective traditions, to make better known the spiritual figures who embodied them, and to walk together for the sake of peace," the message said.

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