Church Proposes to Hindus Joint Defense of Dignity of Person

Archbishop Fitzgerald’s Message to Hindus

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VATICAN CITY, OCT. 14, 2003 ( On the occasion of the feast of Diwali, a Vatican official invited Hindus to promote with Catholics the defense of the human being and peace throughout the world.

The feast of Diwali, celebrated by all Hindus, is also known as Deepavali or “line of oil lamps.” Based symbolically on an ancient tradition, the feast represents the victory of truth over falsehood, of light over darkness, of life over death, of good over evil. This year it starts Oct. 25.

The three-day celebration marks the start of the new year. It also marks family reconciliation, especially between brothers and sisters, and the worship of God.

In his message to all Hindus published today by the Vatican press office, Archbishop Michael Fitzgerald, the president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, said: “Religious feasts invite us not only to renew and strengthen our belief in God, the Supreme Good of every human being, and to revitalize our relationships with one another, but they also invite us to rediscover, respectfully reaffirm, and bravely defend our own dignity and that of every person as human beings created by God.”

Impressed that Diwali moves many Hindus to make an effort to be reconciled with their relatives and friends, Archbishop Fitzgerald said: “Could not Catholics and Hindus extend these efforts to bring about wider reconciliation and a more lasting peace in our towns and villages and indeed throughout our countries and the world at large?”

For the president of the pontifical council, to protect and defend the dignity of every person is “an integral part of every believer’s life,” as this dignity “comes from God, Creator of all.”

Moreover, love of God and of one’s neighbor “is at the heart of the Christian faith” and is also found in “the different Hindu traditions (sampradaya),” the archbishop wrote.

The “more we commit ourselves to promote the dignity of every human person, the more our religious traditions will become credible in the eyes of others,” he continued.

“Does not an offense against even one person, when done in the name of religion, mean that the entire religious tradition is abused?” he asked. “Neither the Hindu ‘dharma’ nor the Christian faith teaches hate, contempt or disrespect for others.”

“What can we, Christians and Hindus, do together to promote and protect the dignity of every human person?” the archbishop asked. He invited Hindus to send their suggestions directly to the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue or to the Church in their respective countries.

“Let us come together and share our common concerns, making an effort to listen to one another attentively,” he concluded. “Let us speak honestly, aware of our own responsibility with regard to the choices that have to be made to resolve current problems in the world today.”

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