Message to Buddhists Turns to Language of Love

On Occasion of Feast of Vesakh

VATICAN CITY, MAY 4, 2006 ( The Holy See invited the world’s Buddhists as well as Christians to rediscover the meaning of the word “love” so as to advance in collaboration among believers.

The appeal came in a message written by the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue on the occasion of the feast of Vesakh, the most important for Buddhists. The feast is celebrated on various days, depending on the Theravada and Mahayana traditions.

“In this world where the word love is so often used and misused, would it not be useful for Buddhists and Christians to rediscover its original meaning according to their respective traditions and to share their understanding with one another?” asks the Vatican text.

“This would be an encouragement for the followers of both traditions to work together to build up relations based on love and truth, to promote mutual respect, to foster dialogue and to further collaboration in the service of those who are in need,” it states.

The message explains to Buddhists the term “agape,” unconditional love, which is one of the key concepts in Benedict XVI’s encyclical, “Deus Caritas Est.” It states that for Christians the example par excellence of this love is incarnated in Christ, when he dies on the cross to save all people.

The message adds that Buddhists also allude to the word “metta,” to “a love without any desire to possess but only to help others, … a love which is willing to sacrifice self-interest for the benefit of humanity.”

The message concludes with the hope that “the feast of Vesakh may be a time when the friendship between Buddhists and Christians is consolidated and collaboration in the spirit of agape and metta is strengthened.”

Buddhists number about 360 million in the world, the vast majority in Asia.

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