Do We Stand For False Ecumenism?
Vatican Message to Buddhists for Feast of Vesakh 2003
"By Persevering in Prayer We Will Contribute to Advancing Peace"
VATICAN CITY, MAY 9, 2003 (Zenit.org).- Here is the message sent by the president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, Archbishop Michael Fitzgerald, to Buddhists on the feast of Vesakh.
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Dear Buddhist Friends,
1. As the new President of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, the office of His Holiness the Pope for relations with people of different religious traditions, I wish to greet you and send this congratulatory message on the occasion of the feast of Vesakh. This gesture of friendship, initiated in 1995 by my predecessor Cardinal Francis Arinze, has almost become a tradition. I wish to continue this good tradition and express my hearty congratulations to each and every one of you.
2. 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.
3. 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. It is also our common conviction that peace must inhabit people's hearts before it can become a social reality. 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.
4. 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. His wish to revive the practice of the Rosary is closely connected with the present historical circumstances, which need more than ever constant supplication for the great gift of peace.
5. 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 Catholics, the Rosary represents a most effective means of fostering contemplation of Jesus Christ. 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. For Catholics, the repetition and meditation of the holy names of the Persons of the Blessed Trinity and the Virgin Mary in the recitation of the Rosary makes us more willing to assimilate their love and compassion for others, especially for the poor and afflicted. In your Buddhist tradition, praying the Mala helps one to become a peacemaker.
6. Dear Buddhist friends, these are the thoughts I wish to share with you this year. I am convinced that by persevering in prayer we will contribute to advancing peace in the world both now and in the future. May this peace be with you and your families on the feast of Vesakh and at all times.
Archbishop Michael L. Fitzgerald,
Should faithful Catholics be a bit concerned over this document? What we see here is a prime case of false ecumenism. Catholics should be all for striving for unity, but it must be a true unity. The biggest problem we should have with this document is that it is promoting prayer to pagan gods. The document also presents some Catholic truths, but then equivocates true prayers to the One True God with the Mala. It also equivocates the Rosary's contemplation of Jesus Christ with the Mala's use to overcome the 108 sinful desires to reach the state of Nirvana. There can be no comparison to meditation on Jesus Christ to the self-serving motives to reach a false state of Nirvana. Strong words are used here to drive a point home - we, as Catholics, should not be promoting pagan prayer.
Now, what could this document have done different? Let us not just complain without suggesting a proper solution. Let us acknowledge the Buddhist desire for peace. We can even acknowledge their motives behind the Mala, but we should also include the Way, the Truth and the Life. True Nirvana is the paradise of heaven. The way to heaven is not merely through self-improvement, but through Jesus Christ - our God who became Man in order to take our place and our deserved condemnation. Jesus Christ defeated sin and death and became our Redemption. If we accept this and believe in Jesus Christ as our Savior, and following what He has commanded - then we shall be made coheirs with Him and have our share in the true Nirvana - heaven. Would it not be better to encourage the Buddhist with their desires for peace and happiness and point them to the true happiness?
What can we do? We can be aware that such documents have been coming from the Vatican, and we can express our concerns in whichever ways we can. We must remain respectful of our elders, but is it respectful to go along with whatever they say when what they say we perceive as wrong? If we truly have respect for them, we will stand up for what is right and hope they will join us.
This Vesakh letter is not the first, there's quite a history of them. Let us take note and be noticed. We want true ecumenism that brings people to true unity in Christ. We do not want to promote prayers to pagan gods.
2003 Vesakh Letter
2002 Vesakh Letter
2001 Vesakh Letter
1999 Vesakh Letter