Holy See Invites Buddhists to Work Together for Peace

In a Message for Feast of Vesakh

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VATICAN CITY, MAY 9, 2003 (Zenit.org).- The Holy See invited Buddhists to work together for world peace and to pray for this gift.

The proposal was made by Archbishop Michael Fitzgerald, president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, in a message sent to Buddhists worldwide for the annual feast of Vesakh.

In countries of the Theravada Buddhist tradition (Sri Lanka, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar), Vesakh, which commemorates important events in the life of Gautama Buddha, is celebrated on May 14.

Countries of Mahayana Buddhist tradition (China, Japan and Korea) observe these events on other dates.

The Vatican message, with the motto “Buddhists and Christians: Praying for Peace in the World,” is an invitation to “dear Buddhist friends,” to “join in prayer for the cause of peace in the world.”

“Observing the current international situation, we cannot but be aware of the acuteness of the question of peace in our world,” the message states. “Since the beginning of this new millennium, marked by the dramatic events of 11 September 2001, we witness every day fresh scenes of bloodshed, violence, confrontation and crisis in almost all parts of the world.”

“In the midst of this grave situation, we cannot lead our lives without committing ourselves to advancing the cause of peace in the world,” Archbishop Fitzgerald writes.

“We Christians and Buddhists are convinced that the origin of all conflict is ultimately located in human hearts characterized by selfish desire, specifically by desire for power, domination and wealth often at the expense of others,” he continues. “It is also our common conviction that peace must inhabit people’s hearts before it can become a social reality.

“For us, therefore, the most fundamental and efficient way to advance peace is to do our best to see that the deep-rooted selfishness of human hearts is overcome, so that people may be transformed into true artisans of peace.”

Archbishop Fitzgerald told Buddhists that this is a special year for Catholics, as John Paul II has proclaimed it the Year of the Rosary of the Virgin Mary, and has requested that this prayer be recited for peace.

“Is it not a wonderful coincidence that you also have a lengthy tradition of using the Mala for prayer?” the archbishop asks. “The rosary for Catholics and the Mala for Buddhists are simple yet profound and meaningful prayer, despite essential differences in their form and content, based on our distinct doctrines and practices. For Catholics, the rosary represents a most effective means of fostering contemplation of Jesus Christ. For Buddhists, the Mala is used to overcome the 108 sinful desires in order to reach the state of nirvana.

“By virtue of their meditative character, these two prayers have in common a calming effect on those who pray them; they lead them to experience and to work for peace, and they produce fruits of love. For Catholics, the repetition and meditation of the holy names of the Persons of the Blessed Trinity and the Virgin Mary in the recitation of the Rosary makes us more willing to assimilate their love and compassion for others, especially for the poor and afflicted. In your Buddhist tradition, praying the Mala helps one to become a peacemaker.”

Archbishop Fitzgerald concludes: “I am convinced that by persevering in prayer we will contribute to advancing peace in the world both now and in the future. May this peace be with you and your families on the feast of Vesakh and at all times.”

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