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Letter from the Vatican on Buddhists and Christians in Solidarity

The Buddhist Channel, May 19, 2005

Vatican City -- The Vatican in its annual Vesak message has called on both Buddhists and Christians to use the moment to consolidate the good relations which already exist between them. In the letter signed by Archbishop Michael L. Fitzgerald, President of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue,  the message lauds the cooperation between Christians and Buddhists in the relief efforts after the December 2004 tsunami that ravaged southern Asia. Published here on the Buddhist Channel is the letter in full by Archbishop Fitzgerald.

Dear Buddhist Friends,

1. Once again the time of Vesakh comes, and on this occasion I wish to convey to you my heartfelt greetings. May this feast bring joy to you as individuals, as families and as communities. I am certain that in many places where Buddhists and Catholics live together they will use the moment to consolidate the good relations which already exist between them.

2. This year the Catholic Church celebrates the 40th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council's declaration on the relationship of the Church to other religions, "Nostra Aetate." This document can in some ways be considered as the "Magna Carta" which guides Catholics in their relations with people of other traditions. Mentioning Buddhism and many other religions, it states that "the Catholic Church rejects nothing of what is true and holy in these religions" (NA, 2). Accordingly, Buddhists and Catholics are able to meet together, in a spirit of openness, sincerity and mutual respect, engaging in many different forms of dialogue.

3. In countries where Buddhists and Christians live and work side by side, the resulting "dialogue of life" allows them, while witnessing to their own beliefs, to deepen their understanding of one another, to foster goodwill and to promote a spirit of neighborliness. In fact, a particular bond has developed between many Buddhist and Catholic monks and nuns. They have welcomed one another into their respective monasteries and convents joining together in silence, meditation and reflection. Some communities have been able to cooperate in the social field and, in a world marked by violence, are working together in the cause of peace.

4. Nowhere has the need for collaboration been felt more keenly than in the countries of South and Southeast Asia which were affected by the earthquake and the ensuing tsunami of Dec. 26, 2004. This disaster elicited an outpouring of prayers, expressions of compassion and acts of generosity on a scale the world has rarely witnessed. Buddhists and Christians have worked together hand in hand to help the victims; religious organizations have cooperated by bringing immediate relief and assessing future needs. The long-term requirements of reconstruction call, however, for a continuation of these interreligious expressions of solidarity. There are also many other situations which require cooperation among people of good will so that solutions can be found which conform to human dignity and which respect human rights.

5. This year's feast of Vesakh will find many families missing some of their members. I wish to assure them that their loved ones will not be forgotten but will be remembered in our prayers. The dialogue which "Nostra Aetate" has helped to promote encourages us to share with one another in times of joy and sorrow. It is in this spirit that I again wish all of you a blessed feast.

Archbishop Michael L. Fitzgerald
President of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue

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