Buddhist Peace Activists Greet New Pope with Remarkable Letter

The Buddhist Channel, May 3, 2005

BERKELEY, CA (USA) -- As Pope Benedict XVI begins his incumbency by building bridges to Christian, Jewish, and Islamic communities, the Buddhist Peace Fellowship (BPF) is taking the initiative to extend sincere and respectful greeting in the form of a letter -- remarkable not only for what it says but for it doesn't say, and thus a marvelous example of the Buddhist practice of deep listening and loving speech.

<< Pope Bededict XVI

The letter -- signed by BPF International Advisory Council members including Zoketsu Norman Fischer Roshi, Sylvia Boorstein, and Ven. Pomnyun Sunim of Korea -- speaks to common cause with the Vatican in human liberation from suffering, and specifically in working together on nonviolent conflict resolution, opposing war, and ending the death penalty, and poverty. BPF works in coalition with the Catholic Peace Fellowship, for example, and other Christian organizations to end the death penalty.

BPF makes particular reference to the name His Holiness has chosen, appreciating its allusions to Benedict XVI's peace activism during WWI, during which the international Fellowship of Reconciliation was founded, BPF's parent organization. The letter doesn't mention the Benedictine Order's spearheading contemporary Christian-Buddhist dialogue, though some of the signatories are active participants in that ongoing process.

The letter acknowledges how it can learn from the Church's numerous charitable organizations.

And the fact of differences are alluded to, without detail. This is a love letter, not a strident polemic. Signatories are well aware of conflictual past statements by Cardinal Josef Ratzinger about Buddhism and other matters, but they are also keenly aware of the words of the Buddha, quoted in the letter: "Hatred does not cease by hatred, but by love alone does it cease."

The letter is included below. Its drafters and key signatories are available for comment.

The mission of the Buddhist Peace Fellowship (BPF), founded in 1978, is to serve as a catalyst for socially engaged Buddhism. BPF's programs, publications, and practice groups link Buddhist teachings of wisdom and compassion with progressive social change. BPF is an affiliate of the Fellowship of Reconciliation and the International Network of Engaged Buddhists. More information is available at

BPF's Letter to Pope Benedict XVI

May 1, 2005

Your Holiness,

As you assume leadership of the Catholic Church, we at the Buddhist Peace Fellowship would like to offer you heartfelt congratulations and our warmest wishes for the future. This is a critical time in history, and wise leadership in all our religious traditions is necessary. What a wonderful, rare, and challenging opportunity you have to serve as a compassionate shepherd during these troubled times ? not only to Catholics, but to people of many religious and secular backgrounds throughout the world.

The Buddhist Peace Fellowship, founded in 1978, is an affiliate of the International Fellowship of Reconciliation. Our mission is to be a catalyst for socially engaged Buddhism, and to help all beings liberate themselves from the suffering we experience in our lives, in our relationships, institutions, and social systems. Through the years many of us have participated in interfaith conversations, including Buddhist-Christian and Zen-Catholic dialogues at all levels. We have a great appreciation for the beauty of the Catholic faith and for many Catholics? passionate dedication to the work of peace. In particular we acknowledge the spiritual healing work of your predecessor, the late Pope John Paul II.

We come together from many diverse Buddhist heritages to wish you a long, productive, and blessed incumbency. Some of us were born into Buddhist traditions, but, particularly in the West, we often come to Buddhism from other faiths and creeds. Our path is, as you may know, a way of life that aims to end suffering. We have tools of faith, devotion, and meditation that are old and well fashioned. The Buddhist path is complete unto itself, but we recognize that many practitioners wish to honor and continue their own precious and long-held faith traditions. Some of us were raised as Catholics, and some continue to adhere to our Catholic faith at the same time that we bring Buddhist practices such as mindfulness and meditation into our life.

While there are ways in which our religious traditions and beliefs are different, those who follow Buddhist teachings share fundamental commitments with Catholic sisters and brothers. We affirm our solidarity with your opposition to war. In our tradition, we frequently refer to the Buddha?s teaching, ?Hatred does not cease by hatred, but by love alone does it cease.? We share a profound "reverence for life," as Schweitzer put it so well, and bear the mutual wish that precious human life not be taken from anyone in the name of the state. There are many other areas in which Catholics and Buddhists shall continue to work together, including ending the death penalty, supporting nonviolent methods for resolving conflicts, and ending poverty.

We also know that there are wonderful teachings which many Western Buddhists can learn from the Church ? commitment to the poor and the ceaseless work of charitable organizations; well-developed systems of education, healthcare, and other social services; and countless ways in which the Church has freely offered her deep wisdom and great compassion in the lives of millions.

We express our special gladness that you have chosen the name Benedict. The living heritage of Pope Benedict XV has special significance for the Buddhist Peace Fellowship ? Benedict XV?s strong voice for peace during World War I coincided with the beginning of our parent organization, the International Fellowship of Reconciliation, founded in 1919, as a response to the horrors of war in Europe. We are heartened to know that the Catholic Peace Fellowship and other religious peace fellowships are partners with us in working toward a more peaceful and just society.

There is much we can say to each other. We acknowledge that in the past there have been misunderstandings between our traditions, as there have been among the world?s other great religions. We offer this letter in the spirit of affirming a dialogue already well-begun, grounded in loving speech and understanding. In the words of your first blessing as Pope Benedict XVI, may we together continue with perseverance and good works.

We include you in our daily meditations and will send blessings in the spirit of lovingkindness ? as we vow to awaken, together, to the truth of our interconnected nature.

Sincerely and respectfully,

BPF Executive Director
Maia Duerr

BPF Staff
Diana Lion
Rev. Hozan Alan Senauke

BPF Board Members
Joshin Althouse
Trena Cleland
Anushka Fernanadopulle
Anchalee Kurutach
Sozan Schellin

BPF International Advisory Council Members
James Baraz
Michele Benzamin-Miki
Sylvia Boorstein
Melody Ermachild Chavis
Zoketsu Norman Fischer Roshi
Rev. Tova Green
Jill Jameson
Kenneth Jones
Ruben Habito
Rev. Taigen Leighton
David Loy
Rev. Patricia Enkyo O?Hara
Ven. Pomnyun Sunim
Caitriona Reed
Donald Rothberg