Pope Francis receives a delegation of Buddhists from Thailand and reiterates Pope Saint Paul VI’s feelings of deep respect for the spiritual, moral and socio-cultural treasures of the Buddhist tradition.
By Linda Bordoni
“At a time when our human family and our planet face multiple threats,” the need for interreligious dialogue and collaboration is increasingly necessary, Pope Francis said, inviting Buddhists to continue working with the Catholic Church “to cultivate compassion and hospitality for all human beings, especially the poor and marginalized.
The Pope was addressing a Thai delegation made up of thirty-three prominent Buddhist monks from the Theravada and Mahayana schools, as well as 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 encounterat the Pontifical Urban University.
In thanking them for their visit to the Vatican on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the historic meeting between Pope Saint Paul VI and the Most Venerable Somdej Phra Wannarat, on 17e Supreme Buddhist Patriarch of Thailand, on June 5, 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 deep respect for the spiritual, moral and socio-cultural treasures 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 his past visits and apostolic journey to Thailand in 2019 “and the wonderful welcome and hospitality I received.”
The Holy Father also expressed his 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 brotherhood
Dialogue and collaboration are even more urgent and valuable at a time when the human family and the planet face multiple threats, the Pope noted.
“Both the Buddha and Jesus understood the need to overcome selfishness that breeds conflict and violence,” he said.
“The Dhammapada sums up the Buddha’s teachings thus: ‘Avoiding evil, cultivating goodness and purifying one’s mind – this is the teaching of the Buddha’ (dph 183). Jesus said to his disciples: “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you too must love one another'” (jn 13:34).
Pope Francis told his guests that their common task today is to “guide our respective disciples to a keener 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.”