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Message to Buddhists on Feast of Vesakh

VATICAN (SE): “Pope Francis, at the very beginning of his ministry, has reaffirmed the necessity of dialogue of friendship among followers of different religions,” the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue says in its annual message to the Buddhist people of the world on the feast of Vesakh, entitled, Christians and Buddhists: Loving, Defending and Promoting Human Life.

Vesakh is a major Buddhist holy day commemorating the birth, enlightenment and death of Gautama Buddha.

Tradition says that the historical Buddha was born, achieved enlightenment and passed away during the full moon of the month of May. Consequently, Vesakh is a moveable feast. This year it falls on May 24 or 25, depending on where it is celebrated.

Buddhist people mark the day by visiting local temples to offer the monks food and to hear the teachings of the Buddha, taking special care to meditate and to observe the eight precepts of Buddhism.

The Vatican message for this year, signed by Jean-Louis Cardinal Tauran and Father Miguel Angel Ayuso Guixot, the president and secretary of the council, says, “Dear Buddhist friends, your first precept teaches you to abstain from destroying the life of any sentient being and it thus prohibits killing oneself and others. The cornerstone of your ethics lies in loving kindness to all beings.”

It then compares this with the Christian teaching saying, “We Christians believe that the core of Jesus’ moral teaching is twofold; love of God and love of neighbour. Jesus says, ‘As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you; abide in my love’.”

It adds that the commandment, “You shall not kill,” harmonises well with the first precept of Buddhism.

It also notes that the Catholic Church rejects nothing of what is true and holy in any religion.

“I think, therefore, that it is urgent for both Buddhists and Christians on the basis of the genuine patrimony of our religious traditions to create a climate of peace to love, defend and promote human life,” the message says.

The message speaks of how the world can dehumanise the person and communities in ways that militate against these religious principles.

“This tragic situation calls upon us, Buddhists and Christians, to join hands to unmask the threats to human life and to awaken the ethical consciousness of our respective followers,” it adds.

The message quotes Pope Francis as saying, “The Church is… conscious of the responsibility which all of us have for our world, for the whole of creation, which we must love and protect. There is much that we can do to benefit the poor, the needy, and those who suffer, and to favour justice, promote reconciliation and build peace.”

It then quotes the Message for Peace, Blessed are the Peacemakers, penned by Pope Benedict XVI for January 1 this year.

“The path to the attainment of the common good and to peace is above all that of respect for human life in all its many aspects, beginning with its conception, through its development and up to its natural end. True peacemakers, then, are those who love, defend and promote human life in all its dimensions—personal, communitarian, and transcendent. Life in its fullness is the height of peace. Anyone who loves peace cannot tolerate attacks and crimes against life.”


The message ends by saying, “It is in this spirit that I wish you once again a peaceful and joyful feast of Vesakh.”

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