PONTIFICAL COUNCIL for INTERRELIGIOUS DIALOGUE
‘Enhancing Hindu-Christian relations and collaboration
6 November 2011
Your Excellency Thomas Dabre, Bishop of Pune, Swami Shrikantanandaji, distinguished leaders of various religions, honourable participants and guests of this colloquium, the staff and students of Jnana Deepa Vidyapeeth, Reverend Fathers, Sisters, ladies and gentlemen,
To all of you, first and foremost, my humble ‘namaste’!
It gives me immense joy to be in your midst for this meeting along with H. Grace. Most Reverend Pier Luigi Celata, and Reverend Father Santiago of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue. You have accorded us a warm welcome and I must say we are truly overwhelmed by this great gesture of yours and I thank all of you at the very outset of this colloquium. H. Ex. Thomas Dabre, Bishop of Poona and Member of our Dicastery on our request took upon himself the onerous task of organizing this event. I express our sincere thanks to His Excellency and to all his generous collaborators.
It was in June 2009 that H. Em. Oswald Card. Gracias had organized a two-day meeting in Mumbai between Hindu and Catholic religious leaders wherein I had the privilege to be present. Drawing inspiration from that meeting, our Pontifical Council deemed it opportune to facilitate a coming together of religious leaders and scholars of both the religious traditions for a mutual sharing of ideas and reflections so as to strengthen the relationships and broaden the collaboration between the two communities in promoting justice, peace and harmony in society. This colloquium, I am hopeful, will give us a focused direction and a plan of action in this regard.
In the decades that followed the Second Vatican Council, the Catholic Church with a focussed new thrust gave a relatively higher attention and visibility to fulfilling the duty of dialogue. The Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, formerly known as Secretariat for Non-Christians, entrusted with this responsibility since then, has been engaged in this task with the active collaboration of the local Churches, the people of all religions and all people of good will, all of whom we consider as valued and important agents of interreligious relations.
Religions, as most of us are firmly convinced of, are called to be channels of peace and unity and not of conflict and division. But unfortunately, there has been a vicious tendency, more perhaps over the recent years, among some with vested interests, to create distrust, discord, dissensions and disharmony between communities in the name of religions prompting thereby the cynics to blame religions as the root cause of division and peaceless-ness in the world. The alarming rise of religious fundamentalism, the increasing instances of politicisation of religions and the spread of secularism only seem to support the accusations of the cynics directed against religions. Despite the fact that some individuals and groups use religions for spreading hate, violence and division in society, as believers grounded in our own respective faiths and committed to a peaceful co-existence of people of all religions, it is incumbent upon all of us to uphold by word and deed the true nature of religions as source of unity and peace and to work together for the promotion of the same in the world. This will nurture a culture of religious solidarity that will defeat the divisive forces and shape the society on the ideals of love, justice, peace and co-existence, the values that all religions, fundamentally aim to propagate and perpetuate. Pope Benedict XVI proclaimed it in the most unambiguous terms: “our efforts to come together and foster dialogue are a valuable contribution to building peace on solid foundations”( Address to the delegates of other Churches and Ecclesial Communities and other Religious traditions at the inauguration of His Pontificate, 25 April, 2005)
Having thus placed the context of our colloquium in perspective, I see it well in place to call your attention also to our common challenge and responsibility in society. As believers and men and women of good will we have a huge moral responsibility of working together for the cause of humanity, and of avoiding and averting all things, both individually and collectively, that are detrimental to the realization of the common human aspiration for co-existence, harmony and peace based on respect for the human dignity of each person. It is also a challenge both in the intra-religious and inter-religious situations. Our religious beliefs which teach us the transcendent dignity of human person should never be subjected to relativism but rather allowed to ignite our minds and hearts to spread a strong sense of the value of human life, freed from all kinds of discrimination on the basis of race, colour, life condition and, most especially, religion. This is the natural way to a just social order and peace.
In this process, inter-religious cooperation becomes a means, equal to none other. Unless and until people are able to meet the basic necessities of their daily lives, and their fundamental human rights including that of religious freedom are protected, it will be difficult to guarantee lasting peace in the society. While underlining the need of interreligious cooperation to address these issues, Blessed John Paul II of happy memory, during his historic visit to this country in 1986 called upon all religious leaders and intellectuals to join hands “to eliminate hunger, poverty, ignorance, persecution, discrimination and every form of enslavement of the human spirit”(Address to the representatives of different religious and cultural traditions, Indira Gandhi Stadium, New Delhi, 3 April, 1986).
In concluding, I desire to affirm that in spite of their differences, both Hinduism and Christianity do have a treasury of shared values and a profoundly pro-human vision for the good of the society. I believe that the real test of a genuine relationship, in fact, lies in the respectful acceptance also of the differences no matter what they are and how many there are. All what matters as believers with profound wealth of our own respective spiritual traditions is our positive and continuing commitment to the welfare of our immediate society and the larger human family everywhere. I am sincerely hopeful that the coming three days will prove to be days of meeting of minds and of hearts to overcome misgivings, suspicions, prejudices, indifferences, and ignorance of the other, and, above all else, to grow in mutual understanding, appreciation and respect taking thus the task of working for justice, peace and harmony in society forward ‘together,’ in other words ‘with the different other.’
This colloquium is a sign of hope for all of us which we begin with openness and humility to recognize and appreciate what is ‘true, good and holy’ in each other’s religion in view of shaping a culture of trust and collaboration.