ROME – In a time when the world is mired in conflicts, religious leaders have a duty to show that it is possible to set aside differences and work together for the common good, Pope Francis said.
“Dialogue and cooperation are essential at a time like our own when complex and unprecedented factors have led to increased tensions and conflicts, accompanied by violence on both a small and a large scale,” the pope said May 16.
Before attending his weekly general audience, Francis met with a delegation from the Dharmic religions – Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism – who were in Rome attending an interreligious conference.
The Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue and several organisations representing the four Dharmic religions sponsored the event, titled “Dharma and Logos: Dialogue and cooperation in a complex age.”
Although it is a concept with various meanings ranging from cosmic law and order to proper religious practices, dharma is a key philosophy within the four religions that originated in India.
Participants of the conference released a joint declaration in the afternoon reaffirming their commitment to “mutual human solidarity” and respect for religious traditions “to effectively confront the challenges of our time and to build a culture of encounter and dialogue.”
“We appeal to religious leaders, professors and followers of our religions to build bridges and unite our hands with all people of good will to contribute in building peace in the world today and tomorrow,” the statement said.
The pope thanked the delegation for their efforts in creating “a culture of encounter” through dialogue that is “in the service of life, human dignity and the care of creation.”
“I thank you for what you have done by coming together, in accordance with your respective religious traditions, to promote goodness in our world,” he said, “and upon you and your communities, I invoke an abundance of divine blessings.”
Francis also met with a group of Buddhists from Thailand who gave him a translation of an ancient text that was given as a gift to Pope Pius XI in 1934 by the late Thai King Rama VII, the last absolute monarch of the country.
According to the Asian church news portal ucanews.com, the Vatican commissioned the monks of Bangkok’s Wat Pho Temple to translate the 200-year-old Buddhist scripture written in the ancient Khmer language.
A group of monks from the temple divided the text into seven chapters which included teachings on chants, poetic stories and several teachings and orders made by Gautama Buddha, the ascetic founder of Buddhism.
Thanking the delegation for the translated text, the pope said it was a “tangible sign of your generosity and of the friendship we have shared for so many years, a journey made of many small steps.”
“It is my heartfelt wish that Buddhists and Catholics will grow increasingly closer, advance in knowledge of one another and in esteem for their respective spiritual traditions and offer the world a witness to the values of justice, peace and the defense of human dignity,” Francis said.
The 185-page text took 11 months to translate into Italian and will be displayed at the Vatican Museums. It will also be translated into seven other languages, including Chinese, French and Spanish, ucanews.com reported.
It was the first conference of this kind to be held in Italy, and was prepared by a series of meetings held over a long period of time with the participation of members of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, of the Italian Hindu Union, the Italian Buddhist Union, the Sikhi Sewa Society, the Institute of Jainist Studies in London and the National Office for Ecumenism and Interreligious Dialogue of the Italian Episcopal Conference.
The conference was held in a cordial atmosphere and was divided into several phases: the inauguration, four academic sessions and a final act. It was an experience of enrichment and learning.
Encouraged by the positive results of the Conference, the participants affirmed the following by common agreement:
1. They recognised that the very fact of their meeting in a spirit of friendship and respect, was a sign of their common desire to show that dialogue and collaboration are possible in this complex era.
2. They were aware that the search for the peaceful well-being of all is a testimony of their respective religious beliefs and, at the same time, their shared conviction.
3. They agreed that complex issues and serious challenges afflicted the current world.
4. They believed that the spiritual treasures of religious traditions and common human solidarity should help in overcoming the trials of the time.
5. They affirmed that the interreligious conference contributed significantly to deepening mutual respect, understanding and cooperation.
6. They emphasised the importance and need to increase commitment to common dialogue and mutual collaboration, in the spirit of love and truth, while remaining deeply rooted in respective religious traditions to be able to effectively meet the challenges of the time and build a culture of encounter and dialogue.
7. They appealed to religious leaders, academics and followers of religions to build bridges, to join hands with all people of goodwill to help build peace in the world of today and tomorrow.
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