Read: Pope Francis' Greeting to the Delegation of Buddhists, Hindus, Jains and Sikhs

 Dharma and Logos, Dialogue and Collaboration in a complex era

Buddhists, Christians, Hindus, Jains and Sikhs

15 May, 2018

Keynote Address

His Eminence Jean-Louis Cardinal Tauran

President, Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue

 Respected Paramahamsa Yogananda Ghiri, Founder and Spiritual Head of the Unione Induista Italiana, Mr. Giorgio Raspa, President of the Unione Buddhista Italiana, Mrs. Shruti Malde, Delegate of Jainism, Granthi Harvinder Singh, Delegate of Sikhism, distinguished religious leaders, scholars, learned Speakers and honourable participants of this Conference! Buongiorno! Good morning! Namaste!

 It gives me immense joy to be in your midst this morning and to have the honour of addressing you at this Conference - which seeks to engage in dialogue - the followers of Dharmic religions and Catholics here in Italy. At the very outset, as President of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue Dicastery, I express our sincere appreciation and gratitude to the office-bearers and co-workers of the National Office for Ecumenism and Interreligious Dialogue (UNED) of the Episcopal Conference of Italy (CEI), the Unione Induista Italiana (UII), the Unione Buddhista Italiana (UBI), Sikhi Sewa Society (SSS) and the Institute of Jainology (IJ), London, for their generous support towards this new initiative, and for their exemplary collaboration in organizing this event, displaying a true spirit of interreligious appreciation and cooperation.

 I strongly believe that in this complex era of our times, faced with so many challenges, we need to foster this kind of engagement with an attitude of openness in truth and love, so as to overcome prejudices and closed attitudes, which are  part of a ‘culture of clashes’, and to give life and vibrancy to a ‘culture of encounter’ which educates us in understanding the rich heritage of each other and motivates us to work for unity of the larger human family in its entirely, in the line of what Pope Francis affirmed a few days ago: “In the change of the era in which we are living- not an era of change but rather change of an era-we are to commit ourselves not only to the encounter between persons, cultures and peoples and an alliance between civilizations but also to win over together the epochal challenge of building a shared culture of encounter and a global civilization of alliance” ( Visit to the Community of Focolare Movement, Address, Loppiano, Florence, 10 May 2018).

 The call to build a culture of encounter to uphold the dignity of all is a call of everyone and not just that of a few. “Each of us is called to be an artisan of peace uniting and not dividing, extinguishing hatred and not harboring it, opening the ways of dialogue and not raising new walls! We must dialogue, meet with one another to establish in the world the culture of dialogue, the culture of encounter” (Pope Francis, Address at the International Meeting for Peace promoted by the Community of Sant’Egidio, Rome, 20 September, 2013)

 There are many in the audience, who are teachers, and in particular, teachers of religion, I am told. While thanking you for your participation, I wish to underscore the importance of your specific role in nurturing this ‘culture of encounter’ among students. The times, situations, compared to that of your student days, as you see for yourselves, have changed; you can’t be anymore nostalgic about the way you grew up in a school or college environment where being different from the other was never a problem. But today, it can be. It is a challenge, a big challenge indeed! The teachers whether you are in State or Private Schools have the tremendous task of cultivating in your pupils, with your gentleness and tenderness and with no bias to anyone’s beliefs, practices and backgrounds, an openness to and respect for the other, especially towards those who are different from, or extraneous to, or in any way seen as obstacle to one’s own beliefs and practices.

 I see many here in their traditional religious or monastic attires. Thank you for your presence. In a world rid with many conflicts and winds of war, people largely look up to the religious leaders to be strong bridges of dialogue and creative mediators and interlocutors of peace and harmony, cultivating and promoting the ‘culture of encounter’, embracing everyone and treating everyone with the heart of humanity, most especially the poor and the vulnerable of the society. Exercises such as this one will bring about a greater awareness and understanding among the people to build a more humane, just and inclusive society.

 True, there has been an on-going research among theologians and research-students particularly those from Asia in the area of finding homological parallels between the Indo-Asian concept of ‘Dharma’ and the Christian concept of ‘Logos’. The scholarly presentations and interventions during the course of the Conference will definitely throw more light on the subject and will help us understand how much they are related to each other. I am given to understand that the word ‘Dharma’ is derived from the root ‘dhr’ which means ‘to uphold’, ‘to support’, ‘to keep’ etc. It can be said therefore that ‘Dharma’ is that which “holds people together” (Brahad-Aranyaka Upanishad, 1; 4, 14-16; C. Shelke, “Dharma and Globalization” in Studia Missionalia, LIX, 31). For us Christians, ‘Logos’ is Christ Himself in whom “All things hold together” (Col.1:17). Discourses on the theme I am sure will be a source of enrichment and growth for all of us. May all we do this day help shape a culture of encounter, dialogue and cooperation in the service of our human family!

 I wish you all a fruitful participation in the Conference. Thank you.