|CNS photo/L'Osservatore Roma no via Reuters|
By Anthony Cirelli
The Bishops Committee for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, in collaboration with the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, is sponsoring a Buddhist-Catholic interreligious dialogue to be held for the first time in Rome from June 22 to 27, 2015. This Catholic-Buddhist dialogue is being held to implement the vision of Pope Francis: a “Dialogue of Fraternity.” The meeting will include 46 Catholic and Buddhist interreligious and social action leaders in the United States. The Catholic participants are from New York City, Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and the Washington D.C. area (representing the USCCB, the Catholic Association of Diocesan Ecumenical and Interreligious Officers, the National Council of the United States Society of St. Vincent de Paul, and Georgetown University). The Buddhist participants are leaders of communities in the five U.S. cities that represent the rich variety of Sri Lankan, Thai, Cambodian, Vietnamese, Chinese, Korean, Japanese and Tibetan Buddhism traditions.
Catholic-Buddhist interreligious dialogue in the USA, which in the past focused largely on developing mutual understanding, seeks with this new form of dialogue to build upon the traditional form by fostering interreligious collaboration to address the social problems faced by people in our communities. Accordingly, the theme of this Catholic-Buddhist dialogue will be “Suffering, Liberation, and Fraternity.” As part of the overall agenda, time will be given to discuss how Buddhists and Catholics in the five cities can continue to expand this fraternity upon their return and to collaborate in addressing social ills.
The participating members from the Buddhist tradition have been involved in interreligious relations and are committed to building fraternal collaboration with the Catholic Church. The Catholic participants are representatives of the groups listed above, as well as other Catholic social services agencies, Monastic Interreligious Dialogue, the Friars of the Atonement, and the Focolare Movement, the hosts of the dialogue in Rome. The program includes participation in the Papal audience on Wednesday.
His Eminence Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, who will deliver the welcoming address at the dialogue, has called for “cooperation with other pilgrims and people of good will…denouncing all those social ills that damage fraternity.” (2014 PCID Vesakh Message) Given this request, Donald W. Mitchell, organizer of the dialogue, says: “We will meet to dialogue about nature, causes, and healing of relational ills and the social problems they cause. Then, we will explore ways to work together upon our return to the United States to heal and reconcile relational ills in our cities in the spirit of fraternity.”
Anthony Cirelli, Ph.D., is associate director of the Secretariat for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.