Vatican Affirms Buddhist Shared Value of Poverty

Expresses Hope for Stronger Bonds of Dialogue

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VATICAN CITY, APRIL 3, 2009 ( The interreligious dialogue council sent a message to Buddhists to affirm a mutual value of poverty, and a desire to strengthen bonds of friendship so as to share spiritual treasures.

The Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue published this message to Buddhists today, on the occasion of the feast of Vesak, in which they commemorate the major events of the life of Gautama Buddha.

This year the festival will be celebrated on April 8 in Japan and Taiwan, May 2 in Korea and May 8 in all other countries of the Buddhist tradition.

The message, signed by the council’s president, Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, and secretary, Archbishop Pier Luigi Celata, expressed the hope that this feast will “once again bring joy and serenity to the hearts of all Buddhists throughout the world.”

They noted the opportunity to “strengthen the existing bonds of friendship and to create new ones” between Catholics and Buddhists, in order “to share with each other our joys, hopes and spiritual treasures.”

The message affirmed that “together we are able not only to contribute, in fidelity to our respective spiritual traditions, to the well-being of our own communities, but also to the human community of the world.”

It noted the challenge “before us all represented, on the one hand, by the ever more extensive phenomenon of poverty in its various forms and, on the other hand, by the unbridled pursuit of material possessions and the pervasive shadow of consumerism.”

Two types

Quoting an address of Benedict XVI, the council stated that poverty can be of two types: a poverty “to be chosen” and a poverty “to be fought.”

It explained: “For a Christian, the poverty to be chosen is that which allows one to tread in the footsteps of Jesus Christ. By doing so a Christian becomes disposed to receive the graces of Christ, who for our sake became poor although he was rich, so that by his poverty we might become rich.

“We understand this poverty to mean above all an emptying of self, but we also see it as an acceptance of ourselves as we are, with our talents and our limitations. Such poverty creates in us a willingness to listen to God and to our brothers and sisters, being open to them, and respecting them as individuals.

“We value all creation, including the accomplishments of human work, but we are directed to do so in freedom and with gratitude, care and respect, enjoining a spirit of detachment which allows us to use the goods of this world as though we had nothing and yet possessed all things.”

Cardinal Tauran wrote that the other type of poverty is a deprivation, “which God does not desire and which should be fought; a poverty that prevents people and families from living as befits their dignity; a poverty that offends justice and equality and that, as such, threatens peaceful co-existence.”

Continuing to quote the Pope, he noted the other kinds of poverty seen in advanced wealthy societies, the “affective, moral, and spiritual” types, seen in “people whose interior lives are disoriented and who experience various forms of malaise despite their economic prosperity.”

The council addressed the Buddhists, saying: “We wish to thank you for your inspiring witness of non-attachment and contentment. Monks, nuns, and many lay devotees among you embrace a poverty ‘to be chosen’ that spiritually nourishes the human heart, substantially enriching life with a deeper insight into the meaning of existence, and sustaining commitment to promoting the goodwill of the whole human community.”

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