On 2nd November 2016, five members from different Jain organisations, travelled from London to Vatican City at the invitation of the Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue (PCID) to attend a general Audience with HH Pope Francis on the following day.
The group was welcomed by Reverend Father Santiago who is in charge of also the Hindu and Buddhist faith coordination at the PCID. All Soul’s Day (‘Day of the Dead’), which falls on 2nd November is an annual public holiday in Rome. During a special and very informative tour of St Peter’s Basilica, Reverend Father Santiago explained the religious significance of this day. Christians pay respect and commemorate the souls of friends and loved ones who have died.
They offer prayers and atonement for the dead that they might be cleansed before they enter into heaven. The Holy Door, which is cemented shut and only opened for Jubilee Years was open to mark the Jubilee Year of Mercy. One of the meaningful rites for Catholics in the Holy Year was a pilgrimage to Rome and to walk through the Holy Door with humility and trust to be reconciled by the mercy of God, who pardons and instills hope.
The next morning around 200 members of different faiths, including Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist and Sikh, attended the Audience held in Clementine Hall, Apostolic Palace. His Em. Cardinal Tauran opened with thanks to HH the Pope and a warm welcome to all. He deemed such meetings were of benefit to attendees and made the PCID more open to dialogue. His wish was to focus on “concrete acts of charity”. He felt that “in the face of current challenges, interreligious exchange was the way forward for fruitful cooperation, in the service of whole of humanity.”
In his address, HH Pope Francis defined ‘mercy’ as the “very foundation of the Church’s life”. He proclaimed that mercy cannot be celebrated with words alone but with action and “above all, a way of life marked by disinterested love, fraternal service and sincere sharing”. “The Church increasingly desires to adopt this way of life”, he said and called upon all religions to do likewise, in order to be “messengers of peace and builders of communion”. Encounter and dialogue would foster unity and combat division and intolerance in the world.
He referred to the world as ‘our common home’ and our responsibility; today’s ecological crisis demands a united and unremitting effort to preserve and protect it from “unbridled and rapacious consumption” – resonating with Bhagawan Mahavir’s message of parasparopagraho jivānām. Acts of terrorism and violence should be clearly condemned, while love and mercy – the soul of all authentic religion – should be promoted. “Forgiveness is surely the greatest gift we can give to others, because it is the most costly…..it is what makes us more like God”.
Mercy was a familiar theme to many religious and cultural traditions in which compassion and non-violence are essential elements. His Holiness concluded that “may these religions be the doors of hope helping to penetrate the walls erected by pride and fear”.
Every member attending had truly a unique opportunity and honour to be presented to His Holiness and was given a commemorative gift.
On behalf of the Jain community the representatives offer sincere thanks to Rev. Father Santiago and the PCID for the invitation and convey best wishes to all those instrumental in making it such a memorable event.
Our heartfelt thank you to Reverend Father Santiago for an informative and insightful tour of famous sites in both the Vatican and Rome.