The Vatican and the highest international institution of Jainism met for the second time Tuesday in Rome to discuss common ground, focusing particularly on the Jain principle of non-violence.
The meeting between a delegation of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue (PCID), led by Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, and 14 Jain delegates led by the deputy chairman of the London-based Institute of Jainology, Nemu Chandaria, took place at the Vatican.
According to a press release from the Pontifical Council, delegates looked for concrete areas of convergence as a basis of collaboration between the two religions. They focused on the principle of non-violence, comparing it to the Christian notion of ‘charity’, finding common ground for further collaboration while highlighting differences between the two principles.
In particular, Monsignor Andrew Thanya-anan Vissanu, under-secretary of PCID, said that while Jains extend the principle of non-violence and absolute respect for life to all living beings, including plants and animals, Christians maintain that man is at the centre of creation and thus is called to respect, protect but also use God’s gifts.
The meeting recognized the “cordial relations and cooperation that exist between both Christian and Jain communities in countries where they live their day-to-day lives in proximity” and stressed the need to strengthen ties at local level to “better contribute towards the common good of the entire society”.
Msgr Vissanu stressed that the Rome meeting was a “good starting point” to promote mutual understanding in a community where in some cases the distinction between Catholics and other Christian denominations is still unclear.
The first high level Jain-Catholic meeting took place in February 1995. Contact between the Vatican and the Jain community dates back to the first interfaith prayer meeting in Assisi, Italy, in 1986. Jain delegations also participated in other interfaith gatherings in Assisi in 2002 and last October.
On November 13 the Pontifical Council organized a seminar on Christian-Jain dialogue in collaboration with the Catholic Church in India and the World Fellowship of Religions at the Acharya Sushil Muni Ashram in Delhi.
The Jain delegation was due to meet Pope Benedict XVI Dec 7 during the pontiff’s weekly general audience.