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Updated: April 19, 1995 05:00 PM GMT
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"I was deeply touched by the transparency and simplicity of the pope," says Kumarpal Desai, one of 21 Jains who met Pope John Paul II on their recent visit to the Vatican.

Desai, whose team visited the Vatican for an interreligious dialogue meeting, told UCA News that the pope spent nearly 35 minutes with the Jain group and encouraged them to continue to dialogue.

The March 2 meeting with the pope received much publicity in Gujarat state, western India, where many Jains live.

"He stressed the need to stand by the poor and the needy. He said religion transcends to unite and uplift man," said Desai, a scholar and journalist in Gujarat´s capital Ahmedabad, some 800 kilometers west of New Delhi.

The pope greeted "each of us and asked about our families," Desai said. The whole delegation found the pope "so warm and spontaneous."

Desai said the Catholic leader spoke about Mahatma Gandhi´s "unshakable faith in God," his concern for the downtrodden and his simplicity of life.

"Pope John Paul heard us with a lot of interest. We were surprisingly glad to find that the pope knew a lot about Jainism," he added.

Jains broke away from mainstream Hinduism in about 600 B.C.

The pope assured the team that the dialogue between the Church and Jainism will continue, Desai said. "The pope was overjoyed to accept gifts from us. In turn, he gave us expensive books on the Church and dogmas."

The meeting Desai attended was held under the auspices of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue.


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