Vatican sends greetings to world's Buddhists

 Archbishop Michael Fitzgerald, president of the Pontifical Council for Inter-Religious Dialogue, sent a message on Friday to the world's Buddhists on the occasion of their annual feast of Vesakh which takes place this Wednesday. Followers of the Theravada Buddhist tradition in Sri Lanka, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar will celebrate Vesakh, a moveable feast which marks important events in the life of Gautama Buddha, on May 14 this year. In other countries where the Mahayana Buddhist tradition is followed (China, Japan and Korea), the events in his life are celebrated on different days. This year's Message for Vesakh, released in English, Italian and French, is entitled "Buddhists and Christians: Praying for Peace in the World." Archbishop Fitzgerald noted that "this gesture of friendship, initiated in 1995 by my predecessor Cardinal Francis Arinze, has almost become a tradition." Following are excerpts from the 2003 Message: "In this message, I would like to invite you, my dear Buddhist friends, to join in prayer for the cause of peace in the world. Observing the current international situation, we cannot but be aware of the acuteness of the question of peace in our world. Since the beginning of this new Millennium, marked by the dramatic events of 11 September 2001, we witness every day fresh scenes of bloodshed, violence, confrontation and crisis in almost all parts of the world. In the midst of this grave situation, we cannot lead our lives without committing ourselves to advancing the cause of peace in the world. "We Christians and Buddhists are convinced that the origin of all conflict is ultimately located in human hearts characterized by selfish desire, specifically by desire for power, domination and wealth often at the expense of others. ... For us, therefore, the most fundamental and efficient way to advance peace is to do our best to see that the deep-rooted selfishness of human hearts is overcome, so that people may be transformed into true artisans of peace. "Pope John Paul II has proclaimed the year from October 2002 to October 2003 the Year of the Rosary of the Virgin Mary. He has earnestly encouraged the frequent recitation of the Rosary in order to pray for peace in the world." "My Buddhists friends, is it not a wonderful coincidence that you also have a lengthy tradition of using the Mala for prayer? The Rosary for Catholics and the Mala for Buddhists are simple yet profound and meaningful prayer, despite essential differences in their form and content, based on our distinct doctrines and practices. ... For Buddhists, the Mala is used to overcome the 108 sinful desires in order to reach the state of Nirvana. By virtue of their meditative character, these two prayers have in common a calming effect on those who pray them; they lead them to experience and to work for peace, and they produce fruits of love." "I am convinced that by persevering in prayer we will contribute to advancing peace in the world both now and in the future." Source: VIS

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