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San Mateo SVdP leader takes part in Catholic-Buddhist dialogue

July 10, 2015
Catholic San Francisco

Lorraine Moriarty, executive director of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul of San Mateo County, Archdiocese of San Francisco, took part in an interreligious dialogue at Castel Gandolfo, near Rome, June 22-27 that included 22 Buddhists and 23 Catholics reflecting on the theme “Suffering, Liberation and Fraternity.”

The dialogue between faith traditions sharing strong values of mercy and compassion was sponsored by the U.S. bishops’ Committee for Ecumenical and Religious Affairs in collaboration with the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue. The 45 attendees, mostly clerics involved in interreligious dialogue or social action, were from San Francisco, New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and Washington, D.C., and were supported by their archdioceses.

“The dialogue strengthened mutual understanding concerning human suffering and means of liberation, as well as deepened relationships as a basis for interreligious cooperation based on shared values,” the bishops’ committee and the Vatican council said in a joint statement. “The objective of this ‘dialogue of fraternity,’ as it was called by Pope Francis, is to create new and practical forms of collaboration reaching out to those in need in the cities of the participants” in the United States.

Participants are returning to their cities to explore joint interreligious social action initiatives on climate change; outreach programs for youth; prison/jail ministry and restorative justice; developing resources for the homeless, such as affordable housing; and collaboration between Catholic parishes and Buddhist communities to address neighborhood social issues.

The initiatives also include “witnessing our shared commitment as brothers and sisters, our religious values and spiritual practices, and our social collaboration with our religious communities and others in our cities.”

“The USCCB was instrumental in making this happen,” Moriarty said in an email to Catholic San Francisco. “There was a Northern California (wider geographical territory) dialogue group set up in 2003 by the Archdiocese of San Francisco (at that time by Bishop John Wester) under the auspices of the USCCB which met for eight years, alternating hosting between the Buddhists (City of 10,000 Buddahs, San Francisco Zen Center) and the Catholics (Mercy Center, Russian River).

“This encounter in Rome brought together several from the original group and some Buddhists from different sanghas,” said Moriarty, who serves on the USCCB’s National Advisory Council and has served on the California Catholic Conference’s Restorative Justice Committee. “Those who went to Rome will begin meeting shortly to plan joint social actions and hopefully expand the list of participants.”

Other attendees at the dialogue were: Father James Fredericks, professor of theological studies, Loyola Marymount University, and specialist on Buddhist-Christian dialogue, and a priest of the Archdiocese of San Francisco; Rev. Ronald Kobata of the Buddhist Church of San Francisco; Rev. Hozan Alan Senauke of the Berkeley Zen Center; Mushim (Patricia) Ikeda of the East Bay Meditation Center, Oakland; Ven. Abbot Thich Tu-Luc of the Compassion Meditation Center, Hayward.

Kobata said the June meeting marked new, practical approaches to interreligious dialogue. “I see it as a reflection of a maturing of the relationship, where the dialogue shifts from verbal understanding to cooperation in community service,” he said.

“Moving from talking about what we’d like to do, to doing what we can to promote the well-being of our communities, we can see that compassion is not the monopoly of any faith tradition,” said Kobata. “As the saying goes, ‘People do not care how much you know until they know how much you care.’”

Kobata said Pope Francis has been a significant influence.

“My impressions are that Pope Francis’ leadership, sincerity and dedication to promoting interfaith cooperation have inspired the participants in this dialogue to bring our communities together in cooperative efforts to promote peace, alleviate suffering, and live responsibly with our natural environment,” Kobata said.

Catholic News Service contributed

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