Pope Francis welcomes a visiting Buddhist delegation from Mongolia to the Vatican and calls for interreligious dialogue to help humanity embrace nonviolence in all aspects of life.
By Devin Watkins
As the Holy See and Mongolia celebrate the 30e anniversary of official diplomatic relations, a delegation of Buddhist leaders from the East Asian nation met Pope Francis on Saturday.
The group was accompanied by Bishop Giorgio Marengo, Apostolic Prefect of Ulaanbaatar.
Pope Francis offered the delegation a “warm and respectful welcome,” and hailed their desire to build a peaceful society through mutual understanding with the Catholic Church.
At the same time, the pope lamented that some people still seek to use religion to justify violence and hatred.
Jesus and Buddha: Men of Peace
Pope Francis reflected on the teachings of Jesus and the Buddha, saying the two men were “peacemakers and promoters of non-violence”.
Jesus, he said, taught his disciples to love their enemies and lived nonviolence until death on the cross, “by which he became our peace and put an end to hostility “.
Gautama Buddha, a spiritual teacher from ancient India who lived during the second half of the first millennium BC, based his teaching on the fundamental principle of non-violence and peace.
The pope noted that the Buddha encouraged others to move beyond the categories of victory and defeat, and to reject both in the desire for self-mastery, instead of seeking to conquer others.
Path of Religious Freedom and Friendship
As the Church celebrates 30 years of its official presence in Mongolia, the pope admitted that few Catholics live in Mongolia – around 1,200 indigenous Mongolian Catholics, with 6 churches, 33 priests and 44 nuns – but said that they are “fully committed to fostering a culture of encounter.
Pope Francis thus called on Mongolian Buddhists and Catholics to “strengthen our friendship for the good of all”.
He expressed his hope that Mongolia’s long tradition of peaceful inter-religious coexistence can lead to “the effective implementation of religious freedom and the promotion of joint initiatives for the common good.”
“Your presence here today is in itself a sign of hope,” he told the Buddhist delegates. “With these sentiments, I encourage you to persevere in your fraternal dialogue and your good relations with the Catholic Church in your country, in the interests of peace and harmony.”