Pope Francis this week stressed the important role of religion in fostering fraternity during a meeting with a group of Buddhists from Taiwan.
The pontiff said that at a time of “continued acceleration of changes affecting humanity and the planet,” religions are called to foster fraternity by promoting a “culture of encounter,” especially among the young.
Pope Francis met in the Vatican on Thursday, March 16, with a delegation of the United Association of Humanistic Buddhism of Taiwan who is in Rome for an interreligious “educational pilgrimage.”
The pope said the visit is a “privileged occasion” to advance the culture of encounter where “we take the risk of opening ourselves to others, trusting that we will discover in them friends and brothers and sisters, and in the process learn and discover more about ourselves.”
“As we experience others in their diversity, we are encouraged to accept and embrace our differences,” the pope was quoted as saying in a report on Vatican News.
He said an “interreligious educational pilgrimage” can be “a source of great enrichment, offering multiple opportunities for us to encounter one another, to learn from one another and to appreciate our various experiences.”
“The culture of encounter builds bridges and opens windows to the sacred values and convictions that inspire others,” said the pope, adding that “it tears down the walls that divide people and keep them prisoners of preconceptions, prejudices or indifference.”
Pope Francis said an educational pilgrimage to sacred places of a religion “can also enrich our appreciation of the distinctiveness of its approach to the divine.”
“The masterpieces of religious art that surround us in the Vatican and throughout Rome reflect the conviction that, in Jesus Christ, God himself became a ‘pilgrim’ in this world out of love for our human family,” he said.
The pope said that the “oases of encounter” that the faithful have created throughout history contribute to “an integral education of the human person.” He said it is “even more necessary in today’s divided world.”
Pope Francis expressed his hope that the pilgrimage to Rome of the Buddhist monks will result in a deeper encounter with the Christian tradition.