By Fr. Benedict Mayaki, SJ
The Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue (PCID) has written a message for the Buddhist feast of Vesakh for the past twenty-four years.
The feast of Vesakh/Hanamatsuri is an important feast for Buddhists. It commemorates the main events in the life of Buddha. It is celebrated on different days in different countries that practice Buddhism.
This year’s message is entitled: “Buddhists and Christians: Constructing a Culture of Compassion and Fraternity.” It is signed by PCID President, Cardinal Miguel Ángel Ayuso Guixot, and the Council Secretary, Msgr. Kodithuwakku K. Indunil J.
Compassion and fraternity
The message opens with a greeting to all Buddhist communities, and reaffirms the Church’s bond of friendship and collaboration with them. It also recognizes the high value given to compassion and fraternity in both religions, and calls for service “to a wounded humanity.”
The message recalls Pope Francis’ meeting with the Supreme Buddhist Patriarch in Thailand last November. On that occasion, the Pope said: “We can grow and live together as good ‘neighbours’ and thus be able to promote among the followers of our religions the development of new charitable projects, capable of generating and multiplying practical initiatives on the path of fraternity.”
The PCID message for Visakh relates the stories of Prince Siddhartha and Saint Francis of Assisi who both shaved their hair and renounced fine clothes to live lives of detachment. Their examples serve as a source of inspiration to “more freely devote ourselves to fostering a culture of compassion and fraternity for the alleviation of human and ecological suffering.”
Buddhist communities are also invited to accompany and support Christians to foster kindness and fraternity. The message prays that interconnectedness may become a source of blessings for all as “everything is related.”
“We believe that to guarantee the continuity of our universal solidarity, our shared journey requires educational process,” reads the message.
To this end, the PCID invites Buddhist communities to a global event on 15 October 2020. The theme is “Reinventing the Global Compact on Education.” It aims to rekindle our dedication for and with young people, renewing our passion for a more open and inclusive education.”
The message ends with a prayer for “all those who are affected by the coronavirus pandemic and for those who are caregivers. Let us encourage our faithful to live this difficult moment with hope, compassion, and charity.”