Vesak in Saigon: Buddhists and Catholics together for peace and friendship

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HO CHI MINH, May 29, 2013–The members of Vietnam’s two main religions, Christianity and Buddhism, came together on Vesak to breathe new life in their shared spirit of cooperation and friendship in order to promote peace in the country. The Buddhist festival was also held over the past few days in several Asian nations with ceremonies, prayers and celebrations.

As part of the Buddha’s birthday, the equivalent of the Christian Christmas, a delegation of Catholic leaders in Ho Chi Minh City, led by the Archbishop, paid a visit to the Executive Committee of the An Quang Pagoda, one of the foremost centres of Buddhist learning in Vietnam and the continent.

Vesak is an annual holiday celebrated in many countries in South Asia and South-East Asia, and not all of them with a Buddhist majority, including Nepal, Singapore, Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Myanmar, Indonesia, Pakistan and India.

Traditiionally known as ‘the Buddha’s Birthday’, it actually marks the three most important moments in the Buddha’s life, namely his birth, enlightenment (Nirvana), and passing (Parinirvana).

In 2013, the event fell on 24 May of the Gregorian calendar, the 15th day of the fourth month of the Chinese lunar calendar.

For the occasion, various Saigon pagodas and temples organised special parties and celebrations, including prayers, exhibitions, banquets, art work shows, musical events and writing competitions.

Celebrations reached their apex on Friday with a group prayer at Phap Lam Pagoda, attended by at least 10,000 people; among them Mr Nguyen, a Buddhist, who offered a special prayer “for my family and myself, that we may always be in good health.”

Earlier, a delegation of Catholic leaders, led by Cardinal Jean Baptiste Pham Minh Man, paid a visit to the highest office holders of the local Buddhist community.

A number of priests and leaders involved in interfaith dialogue at the local and national levels accompanied the cardinal and archbishop of Saigon.

Card Pham Minh Man expressed his “pleasure and satisfaction” for Vesak celebrations, renewing the feeling of friendship and respect towards Vietnamese Buddhists.

Finally, the prelate expressed hope that the Catholic and Buddhist Churches would continue to promote ties inspired by a spirit of “cooperation and friendship,” which the Ven Trich Quang Tri, a charismatic figure in Vietnamese Buddhism, reiterated as well. (AsiaNews)

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