VATICAN CITY, APR. 30, 2001 (Zenit.org).- The feast of Vesakh, the most important for Buddhists, is celebrated May 7 in countries that follow the Therevada tradition. The feast marks the principal events of the life of Buddha. Here is the text of the message from Cardinal Francis Arinze, president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, on the occasion of the feast.
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Dear Buddhist Friends,
1. On behalf of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue I am happy to offer again this year hearty congratulations to all Buddhists on the occasion of Vesakh/Hanamatsuri. It is my prayer that this annual feast may bring joy and serenity to the hearts of all Buddhists throughout the world.
2. This year 2001 has been proclaimed by the United Nations as “The International Year of Dialogue between Civilizations”. This gives an opportunity to reflect on the foundations of dialogue, on its consequences and on the fruit which humanity may harvest from it. The dialogue of civilizations, the dialogue of cultures and the dialogue between religions are nothing less than human encounters whose purpose is to build up a civilization of love and peace. We are all called to promote such dialogue according to its distinctive forms in order to foster greater appreciation of other cultures and religions.
3. During their long histories both Christianity and Buddhism have developed particular ways of expressing themselves in distinct cultural forms. These differences may sometimes have been obstacles to dialogue in the past but they should be so no longer. Without ignoring our differences, and with utmost respect for the demands of truth, let us recognize the treasures of each other’s tradition. By means of dialogue and cooperation we can become more keenly aware of each tradition and together make a significant contribution to humanity.
4. Following upon the message of His Holiness Pope John Paul II for the World Day of Peace 2001, I wish to invite all people of good will to cooperate in building the civilization of love. To do this, His Holiness says, we need “to overcome all ethnocentric selfishness.” This will make it possible “to combine regard for one’s own identity with understanding of others and respect for diversity. Fundamental in this respect is the responsibility of education … (which) has a particular role to play in building a more united and peaceful world. It can help to affirm that integral humanism, open to life’s ethical and religious dimension, which appreciates the importance of understanding and showing esteem for other cultures and the spiritual values present in them” (n. 20).
5. I would like to recall the Interreligious Assembly, organized in 1999 by our Council, which took as its theme “On the Eve of the Third Millennium: Collaboration among the Different Religions”. It brought together 200 persons belonging to some 20 religious traditions. 28 Buddhists from different countries were present and took an active part in the deliberations and in the writing of the Final Message which stressed the importance of education for promoting understanding, cooperation and mutual respect. This message lists some of the ways and means by which each religious community can educate its respective members: formation of conscience, cultivation of a spiritual life (e.g. through prayer, meditation and mindfulness according to the practice of each religious tradition) and the provision of objective information about different religions especially in textbooks and through the mass media.
6. As Christians we join our hearts to yours and pray that the New Millennium which we have just begun may bring lasting peace for all. Happy Vesakh/Hanamatsuri.
Cardinal Francis Arinze,
[Original text: English; supplied by Vatican]