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Letter to the Pope

By Matthieu Ricard on June 05, 2018

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The following is a letter I wrote in Switzerland at the repeated request of Emmanuel Tagnard, a religious journalist from Radio Télévision Suisse, who collected for letters for the Pope from people at different stages of a journey he took by foot from Switzerland to Rome. It was part of a series of seventeen letters to the Pope that he collected at each stage of a journey he undertook by foot from Switzerland to Rome. Emmanuel gathered these letters into a book, Très Saint Père : Lettres ouvertes au pape François, which he then offered to the Pope.

Your Holiness,
I am but a humble Buddhist monk and do not possess even the smallest qualities that would justify your taking a few moments from your precious time to read this letter. I would like to offer it as an homage, like a flower sent from across the Himalayan meadows where I ordinarily reside.

I pay homage to the determination and perseverance with which you support those in our world who are the most disadvantaged, neglected, marginalized, and persecuted.

I pay homage also to your repeated appeals to cease meaningless conflicts that lead to the needless death of so many human beings. As you so often point out and as the Buddha had said, “Hatred will not cease by hatred, only by love.”

How could there be a just war? How could there be a holy war? We must declare war on war itself. We must, as you often remind us, find within ourselves the unwavering determination to resolve conflicts through dialogue, not out of weakness, but because it is the only way to establish genuine peace. Outer disarmament must start with inner disarmament; outer peace, with inner peace.

Too often, religion is used as a rallying flag to divide people. It is important to recognize that, in spite of our theological and philosophical differences, in essence all religions preach a message of love. There is no prophet, saint, or sage who began by preaching hatred of our neighbor.

The 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet offers four ways to promote harmony among the major religions of this world :
- Ensure that the theologians and qualified representatives of these religions meet in order to gain a better understanding of the fundamental points at the heart of other religions, so as to avoid distorted views.
- Encourage contemplatives to meet one another and exchange views on what constitutes the essence of their practices, enabling them to discover what unites them at the deepest level of their spiritual path.
- Inspire the representatives of the major religions to go together on pilgrimages to each of their holy sites. Places that are visited in order to experience the heart of each religion, where we do not bring negative feelings that dwell within our mind.
- Gather the patriarchs of the world’s major religions on a regular basis as was done by Pope John Paul II in 1986. But this time, not only to pray together, but to allow them to get to know, appreciate, and respect one another better, so that in the future they may consult one another when difficulties or conflicts arise on the grounds of religious divisions.

Therefore, let me conclude this humble letter by wishing you a long life so that you may continue to put love and compassion in the service of those who need it the most in this world.

Most respectfully yours,
Matthieu Ricard