The Vatican this week urged Buddhists and Christians to strengthen solidarity and care for others especially in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.
“May this dramatic situation of the COVID-19 pandemic strengthen our bonds of friendship and further unite us in service to the human family,” said the Vatican.
In its annual message for the Buddhist feast of Vesakh, the Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue said the pandemic challenged followers of all religions to find new ways of serving humanity.
The festival, which is traditionally observed by Buddhists and Hindus in South and Southeast Asia, commemorates the birth, enlightenment, and death of Gautama Buddha in Theravada Tibetan Buddhism and Navayana.
In its message released on May 26, the Vatican quoted Pope Francis’ encyclical “Fratelli tutti” in urging Buddhists and Christians to adopt “a culture of dialogue,” “mutual cooperation,” and reciprocal understanding.”
The message noted that the current world situation, “tragically marked by the COVID-19 pandemic,” challenges everyone “to collaborate in new ways at the service of the human community.”
In last year’s Vesakh greetings, the Vatican underscored the common values and wisdom of the two faiths that call for collaboration in addressing the hard times caused by the pandemic.
“The suffering caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has made us aware of our shared vulnerability and interdependence,” read the message.
“We are called to discover and practice the solidarity enshrined in our respective religious traditions,” it added.
Pope Francis in his 2021 World Day of Peace message underscored that “everything is interconnected, and that genuine care for our own lives and our relationship with nature is inseparable from fraternity, justice and faithfulness to others.”
The Vatican has sent annual messages to Buddhists for more than 25 years on the feast of Vesakh. The feast, also known as Hanamatsuri, is celebrated on May 26 this year by the majority of countries with Buddhist traditions.
According to the Pew Research Center, about seven percent of the world’s population is Buddhist and half of the world’s Buddhists live in China.