Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, the President of the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, visited BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, London on Thursday 13 June 2013.
As Protodeacon of the Roman Catholic Church, the Cardinal announced the appointment of the new pope from the balcony of St Peter’s Basilica earlier this year.
Cardinal Tauran was accompanied by a number of high-ranking Catholic clergymen, including Kevin McDonald (Archbishop Emeritus of Southwark and current Chairman of the Episcopal Office for Relations with Other Religions in England and Wales), Patrick Kelly (Archbishop Emeritus of Liverpool), Paul Hendricks (Bishop of Southwark), Monsignor Peter Fleetwood (Diocese of Salford), Santiago Michael (Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, Vatican), Martin Ganeri (Prior of Blackfriars, Cambridge), and several local Catholic leaders and officers, as well as Katharina Smith-Muller (Interreligious Advisor for the Catholic Bishop’s Conference of England and Wales).
After being accorded a traditional Hindu welcome at the main steps of the Mandir, the Cardinal and Catholic group were given a guided tour of the Hindu place of worship.
Along the way, the Cardinal noted the many points of convergence between the two faiths and monastic orders, and appreciated the heartfelt worship that was a focus of the Mandir.
The visit included a meeting between the Catholic clergy and the sadhus of the Mandir, in which they also prayed together in silence for those suffering in the world today.
The group then proceeded to the main feature of the visit, a seminar titled ‘Hindus and Catholics: The Practice of Compassion as a Contribution to World Peace’.
The seminar, in which leaders and representatives from several Hindu organisations were also present, commenced with Vedic peace prayers sung by Hindu youths and Christian prayers performed by the Catholic leaders.
After the Welcome Address by Satyavrat Swami, the Cardinal presented his Keynote Address in which he explained “this meeting here in London organized with the fullest cooperation of the Catholic Church in England and Wales is a re-affirmation of the Catholic Church’s commitment to strengthen relationships with the Hindus wherever they are.”
Thereafter, Paramtattva Swami and Dr Martin Ganeri presented their papers on the concept of compassion and world peace from their respective faith traditions.
The seminar concluded with an exchange of gifts, for which His Holiness Pramukh Swami Maharaj had sent from India a silver ‘Amrut Kumbh’for His Holiness Pope Francis I. The Hindu symbol for auspiciousness, immortality and fulfilment was inscribed with the words: “United in our Commitment to World Peace and the Common Good. AUM Shanti Shanti Shanti”.
After a traditional vegetarian Indian meal with the other Hindu delegates, the Cardinal and his Catholic colleagues departed very grateful for the warm hospitality and opportunity for interfaith dialogue.
In the Visitors’ Book, the Cardinal wrote he found it to have been “an inspiring visit which is a sign of hope for the coming generations.”
The visit comes as part of a long-running engagement with the Catholic Church, including when Pramukh Swami Maharaj met Pope John Paul II at the Vatican in 1984 and, more recently, when the Catholic leader for England and Wales, Archbishop of Westminster Vincent Nichols, visited the Mandir in London in 2009 as part of a pan-religious interfaith meeting. This affirms the on-going commitment of Pramukh Swami Maharaj at greater understanding and cooperation among the various faith traditions in working towards a more peaceful, productive and harmonious world.