The Very Rev. Thomas A. Baima, Vice Rector for Academic Affairs, was an invited delegate to the international encounter of Buddhists and Catholics held last week at Castel Gandolfo, Italy. The theme was Suffering, Liberation and Fraternity. Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, the President of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, gave the keynote address. The project is part of the 50th anniversary of the Vatican II declaration Nostra Aetate, on the Church’s relationship with other religions. Father Baima, who is an expert in interreligious affairs, delivered one of the major presentations on “Fraternity in the Christian Tradition” before the 43 delegates. Joining Father Baima in the Chicago delegation were the Rev. Andrew Luczak, pastor of Saint Isaac Jogues Parish in Niles and Susan Pudelek, M.Div., from the Shrine of Our Lady of Pompeii. Both work with the Archdiocesan Office for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs. The delegation from the Buddhist Council of the Midwest included Rev. Asayo Horibe (Heartland Buddhist Sangha, Evanston), Acharya Fleet Maull and Aarti Tejuja (Shamballah Meditation Center, Chicago), Rev. Ron Miamura (Midwest Buddhist Temple, Old Town), Rev. Patti Nakai (Buddhist Temple of Chicago) and the Venerable Man Pau (Fo Guang Shan Temple, Naperville).
On Wednesday, the members of the dialogue traveled to Vatican City for an hour long session with His Holiness, Pope Francis. Pope Francis has stressed that “fraternity is an essential human quality, for we are all relational beings. A lively awareness of our relatedness helps us to look upon and treat each person as a true sister or brother; without fraternity it is impossible to build a just society and a solid and lasting peace.” It is the Pope’s hope that the Buddhist and Catholic delegates who participated in this encounter can evolve a new model of interreligious dialogue which moves beyond simply understanding each other and empowers joint social engagement.
A video of the papal audience can be seen through this link:
The encounter was co-sponsored by the Archdiocese of Chicago along with Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco and Washington, DC, all of which have long histories of local Buddhist and Catholic relations. It was coordinated by the Bishops’ Committee on Ecumenical and Interreligious Affaris of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.