By Robin Gomes
The Vatican urges that the dramatic situation of the Covid-19 pandemic strengthen the bonds of friendship between Buddhists and Christians towards a culture of care and solidarity for the entire human family.
The Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue (PCID) makes the invitation in a message released on Wednesday on the occasion of the Buddhist festival of Vesakh. Many Buddhists across the world are marking the feast of Vesakh on May 26. Sometimes informally called “Buddha’s Birthday”, Vesakh actually commemorates the birth, enlightenment and passing away of Gautama Buddha, and is celebrated on different days in different countries.
Entitled “Buddhists and Christians: Promoting a Culture of Care and Solidarity”, the message by PCID President, Cardinal Miguel Ángel Ayuso Guixot, MCCJ, and Secretary Monsignor Kodithuwakku K. Indunil J., wish joy, serenity and hope to Buddhists throughout the world.
Universal solidarity amid the pandemic
The message notes that the “current world situation, tragically marked by the Covid-19 pandemic, challenges the followers of all religions to collaborate in new ways at the service of the human community”. The PCID recalls Pope Francis where he in his encyclical Fratelli tutti, reiterates the urgency of a universal solidarity that allows humanity to overcome together the difficult crises that threaten it, because “no one is saved alone”.
In last year’s Vesakh greetings, the PCID underscored the common values and wisdom of the two faiths that call for collaboration in addressing the hard times caused by the pandemic. “The suffering caused by the Covid-19 pandemic has made us aware of our shared vulnerability and interdependence,” the PCID notes. “We are called to discover and practice the solidarity enshrined in our respective religious traditions.”
It recalls Pope Francis’ 2021 World Day of Peace message, where he underscores that “everything is interconnected, and that genuine care for our own lives and our relationship with nature is inseparable from fraternity, justice and faithfulness to others”.
Boundless love for all
Speaking about “solidarity and active care”, Card. Ayuso and Msgr. Indunil recall the Buddhist teaching of “mettā” (loving kindness), which exhorts Buddhists to extend “boundless love to all”. According to Mettā Sutta, “as a mother even with her life protects her only child, so let one cultivate immeasurable loving-kindness towards all living beings.”
Buddha urged his followers to “make haste in doing good deeds”. “One should restrain one’s mind from evil; for the mind of one who is slow in doing good tends to take delight in doing evil,” Buddha warned.
Serving the human family together
The PCID urges that the pandemic crisis strengthen the bonds of friendship between Buddhists and Christians in service to the human family. They can do this by adopting “a culture of dialogue as the path, mutual cooperation as the code of conduct; reciprocal understanding as the method and standard,” as urged by Pope Francis in Fratelli tutti.
The PCID issues messages for major festivals of various religious traditions such as on the occasion of Ramadan (Islam), Vesakh (Buddhism), Diwali (Hinduism), Guru Nanak Prakash Divas (Sikhism) and Mahavir Janma Kalyanak Diwas (Jainism). The Catholic Church’s relationship with Judaism is taken care of by the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity.