MESSAGE OF THE PONTIFICAL COUNCIL
FOR INTER-RELIGIOUS DIALOGUE
TO THE HINDUS
ON THE FEAST OF DIWALI
(27 OCTOBER 2000)
Dear Hindu Friends,
I am pleased to offer my cordial greetings to all of you on the occasion of the joyful feast of Diwali. Children, young adults or older persons, you all await with great longing for this feast because every year, like fresh air, it restores your religious vigour and enhances in you a renewed purpose to continue on the path which is prescribed by your religious tradition. I believe that such feasts are not purely social events but are, so to speak, meaningful junctures in the life of human beings who are essentially religious by nature. Feasts, such as Diwali, are therefore particularly a time to reflect on the deeper and ultimate purpose of our life.
According to our calendar, which is also widely followed in the world, this year is an important one for us Christians as we commemorate the 2000th anniversary of the birth of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Saviour. Many celebrations are being held throughout the world, but especially in Rome and in the land where Jesus was born, and where he taught, suffered, died and rose again. In the celebration of this event, people who do not share the same faith in Jesus Christ are not forgotten. Indeed the Catholic Church lays special emphasis on deepening friendship between Christians and people of other religious traditions. We are convinced that together we can achieve much for the good of the world. We see, for example, that our two religious traditions, Hindu and Christian, each according to its distinctive teachings, give the mystery of God the highest place in human life.
Referring to the Ultimate Truth, the Sanatana Dharma states: “Permanent among the impermanent, Conscious among the conscious, the One among the many…the surveyor of all actions, dwelling in all creatures, the witness… the unique, free from all attributes; Eye cannot see him, nor words reveal him…he is utter fullness” (cf. Katha U. V,13; Svet.U. VI,11; Mund. U. III, 1, 8; Brihad.U. V,1,10).
Christians believe that Jesus Christ reveals the fullness of God’s Mystery: He is “the Word who became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth…And from his fullness have we all received, grace upon grace…grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God; the only Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, he has made him known” (John 1:14-18). Jesus taught love of neighbour and showed compassion, particularly for the poor. He called for a spirit of forgiveness and forgave those who were putting him to death. He showed himself to be the Redeemer, liberating those who are in the bonds of ignorance and sin. Is not Jesus thus a model and a permanent message for humanity?
It is my sincere wish and prayer that we Hindus and Christians, through our mutual respect, esteem and friendship, may become concrete examples and a proof of harmony and peace for many others throughout India and beyond. May the world around us, particularly the world of the oppressed, the marginalised, the forgotten ones and the innocent victims of injustice, feel the warmth of our growing friendship. May both Christians and Hindus continue to grow in mutual respect and understanding and be enriched together in order that they may contribute to building peace and harmony in our world. A spirit of openness and dialogue has been characteristic of both our respective traditions. While acknowledging the fundamental differences in our two religions, if nevertheless we show each other respect this will help not only for our own mutual enrichment but will serve as an example and an encouragement to the religious world at large.
It is Pope John Paul II who, during his last journey to India, reminded us once again that the “Catholic Church wants to enter ever more deeply into dialogue with the religions of the world. She sees dialogue as an act of love which has its roots in God himself. ‘God is love’, proclaims the New Testament, ‘and whoever remains in love remains in God and God in him…Let us love, then, because he has loved us first…no one who fails to love the brother whom he sees can love God whom he has not seen’ (First Letter of St. John, 4:16, 19-20)” [Meeting at Vigyan Bhavan with Representatives of Other Religions and Christian Confessions, 7th November 1999].
7. It is in this spirit that I renew my greetings and send best wishes for a life of peace and serenity. Happy Diwali!
Cardinal Francis Arinze,
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