Bijay Kumar Minj, New Delhi
Updated: November 23, 2021 06:42 AM GMT
Heads of religious faiths attend a seminar in New Delhi, India, on Nov. 22. (Photo: Bijay Kumar Minj/UCA News)
Religious heads of different faiths in India’s national capital hailed the meeting between Pope Francis and Prime Minister Narendra Modi last month as historic and a step further to promote brotherhood.
Modi, who was in Rome for the G20 summit, met the pope on Oct. 30 at the Vatican City and invited him to visit India. The last papal visit to India was made by Pope John Paul II in 1999.
The preparations for the official India visit of the Holy Father were kicked off at the Press Club of India in New Delhi on Nov. 22 with a seminar on the theme “Encounter,” as promoted by Pope Francis. Among those present were faith leaders, priests, nuns, laity and journalists.
In his keynote address, Archbishop Anil Joseph Couto of Delhi said: “In the background of our prime minister meeting with Pope Francis, this gathering of leaders of different faiths has great significance to interfaith harmony for peace and progress of our nation.”
He said India is bestowed with diversity and plurality of religions and cultures, customs and traditions, ethnicities and heritages, and it should continue to safeguard and celebrate its rich and unique identity.
Umer Ahmed Ilyasi, chief imam of the All India Imam Organization, while thanking Pope Francis for receiving India’s prime minister with full dignity and respect and accepting his invitation to visit India, said the people of India should take this extraordinary and timely effort forward “by continuing to promote brotherhood in our nation.”
True religion is caring for the poor, the widows and the orphans. It is in doing acts of kindness and goodness that we must become world leaders
Goswami Sushil Ji Maharaj, national president of the Indian Parliament of Religions, described Modi’s invitation to the pope as “a great step” and hoped he will visit India “as soon as possible.”
He said the gesture by the Indian prime minister “would send out a strong message down the line, especially to people at the grassroots level, to respect each other’s faiths.”
Swami Krishnanand Paramhans, a Hindu spiritual leader, concurred: “Our prime minister has walked in faith to express his respect for all faiths by visiting the pope.”
Acharya Vivek Muni, president of the International Mahavir Jain Mission, said Indian culture despite being so diverse had maintained unity among different faiths, while Giani Ranjit Singh, head priest of Gurdwara Bangla Sahib, called upon all to replace hatred with love, violence with peace and learn to embrace our brothers as the two great leaders did.
Swami Shantatmananda, head of the Ramakrishna Mission in Delhi, called for peace among all religions. “There is great need to cultivate this culture of encounter. True religion is caring for the poor, the widows and the orphans. It is in doing acts of kindness and goodness that we must become world leaders,” he said.
The seminar concluded with the faith leaders praying that the Spirit of the Prince of Peace would sweep our nation this Christmas.
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