By Linda Bordoni
“At a time in which our human family and planet are facing manifold threats,” the need for interreligious dialogue and collaboration are increasingly necessary, said Pope Francis, inviting Buddhists to continue to work together with the Catholic Church “to cultivate compassion and hospitality for all human beings, especially the poor and marginalized.”
The Pope was addressing a delegation from Thailand composed of thirty-three prominent Buddhist monks of both the Theravada and Mahayana schools, together with 60 lay Buddhists and several representatives of the Thai Catholic Church. They are in Rome to participate in a conference entitled Friendship between Buddhists and Christians for a Culture of Encounter, at the Pontifical Urban University.
Thanking them for visiting the Vatican on the 50th anniversary of the historic meeting between Pope Saint Paul VI and the Most Venerable Somdej Phra Wannarat, the 17th Supreme Buddhist Patriarch of Thailand, on 5 June 1972, the Pope expressed his wish to renew the bonds of friendship and mutual collaboration.
He also renewed the sentiments expressed by Pope Paul VI when he met the Thai delegation 50 years ago, saying: “We have a profound regard for the spiritual, moral, and socio-cultural treasures that have been bestowed on you through your precious traditions.”
A consolidated path of dialogue and collaboration
Pope Francis noted that the past 50 years have seen a gradual and steady growth of “friendly dialogue and close collaboration” between the two religious traditions.
He recalled past visits and his Apostolic Journey to Thailand in 2019 “and the wonderful welcome and hospitality I received.”
The Holy Father also expressed appreciation for the friendly and fraternal dialogue with the members of the Dicastery for Interreligious Dialogue, as well as with the Catholic community in Thailand.
The Buddha and Jesus understood the need for fraternity
Dialogue and collaboration are even more urgent and precious at a time when the human family and the planet face manifold threats, the Pope noted.
“The Buddha and Jesus understood the need to overcome the egoism that gives rise to conflict and violence,” he said.
“The Dhammapada sums up the Buddha’s teachings thus: ‘To avoid evil, to cultivate good, and to cleanse one’s mind – this is the teaching of the Buddha’ (Dph 183). Jesus told his disciples: ‘I give you a new Commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another’” (Jn 13:34).
Pope Francis told his guests that their common task today is “to guide our respective followers to a more vivid sense of the truth that we are all brothers and sisters.”
In this spirit, the Pope concluded, “I encourage your efforts to deepen and broaden your dialogue and cooperation with the Catholic Church.”