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Officials of the Dicastery for Interreligious Dialogue with the Hindu delegationDicastery for Interreligious Dialogue

VATICAN CITY (LifeSiteNews) — A Vatican dicastery hosted a meeting between various Christian and Hindu groups this week, using texts from the Hindu tradition and Pope Francis to promote a “fraternity-based new humanism.”

In a press release issued May 3, the Vatican’s Dicastery for Interreligious Dialogue revealed details of the meeting it had organized on May 2. Some 55 participants took part, “representing the Christian and Hindu religious traditions in Europe,” according to the dicastery. 

The meeting, which was not advertised beforehand on the dicastery’s website, was apparently held in the dicastery’s offices and focused on the theme “Hindus and Christians in Europe: Building together a ‘fraternity-based new humanism.’” There was no further clarification on what such a term entailed.

Led by Cardinal Miguel Ángel Ayuso Guixot as prefect, the dicastery’s meeting “was the first of its kind” and was jointly organized along with the Hindu Forum of Europe, the Italian Hindu Union, and the World Council of Churches (a conglomerate group of Protestant and Orthodox churches).

The dicastery wrote that “participants reflected on the changing dynamics of the Hindu-Christian relationship in Europe and envisaged ways of enhancing cooperation on issues that would foster human flourishing through inter-religious dialogue, solidarity and hospitality.”

The 55 participants reportedly all “acknowledged that the Hindu concept of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam (the whole world is one family) and Pope Francis’s Encyclical Letter Fratelli Tutti serve as compasses to guide Hindus and Christians towards a ‘new humanism’ in an increasingly intercultural and inter-religious Europe.”

READ: Abp. Viganò: ‘Fratelli tutti’ means acceptance of everything…except being Catholic

Following the meeting, the group participated in the Pope’s weekly general audience held in St. Peter’s Square.

The phrase “Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam” is held as a key text in Hindu thought, along with being a regular referential text for syncretistic endeavors. It is also the theme for India’s year-long current presidency of the international G20 group.

“Essentially,” reads an explanation of the phrase, “the theme affirms the value of all life – human, animal, plant, and microorganisms – and their interconnectedness on the planet Earth and in the wider universe.”

The dicastery’s relationship with Hinduism is based on the Second Vatican Council’s document Nostra Aetate, which states concerning Hindus:

Thus in Hinduism, men contemplate the divine mystery and express it through an inexhaustible abundance of myths and through searching philosophical inquiry. They seek freedom from the anguish of our human condition either through ascetical practices or profound meditation or a flight to God with love and trust.

While Catholics profess belief in one God as Trinity, Hinduism is pantheistic, and is at best incredibly mixed on what people believe with regard to God. Some Hindus believe in numerous gods, others believe that there are many forms which one god takes. 

Pope Francis listens a speech as Hindu cleric Kurukkal SivaSri T. Mahadeva (R) looks on during the interreligious encounter at Bandaranaike Memorial International Conference Hall on January 13, 2015 in Colombo, Sri Lanka.

Writing in 1987, Dr. Peter Kreeft succinctly outlined the differences between Catholicism and Hinduism, noting the numerous fundamental contrasts. Due to the Hindu rejection of free will, and consequently sin, along with the notion that an individual is a part of God, Kreeft writes:

Thus the two essential points of Christianity – sin and salvation – are both missing in the East. If there is no sin, no salvation is needed, only enlightenment. We need not be born again; rather, we must merely wake up to our innate divinity. If I am part of God, I can never really be alienated from God by sin.

Commenting on the Hindu belief of individual participation of God’s essence, the philosopher added: “Hinduism identifies not the immanent human self with the transcendent divine self but the transcendent human self with the immanent divine self. It is not Christianity. But neither is it idiocy.”

Vatican relations with non-Christians 

The dicastery’s meeting with the assembled Hindus marks a significant increase in official relations with Hinduism, as the press release itself noted. Previously, the Dicastery for Interreligious Dialogue has been sending an annual message to Hindus for their feast of Deepavali. 

Now, though, by concentrating on developing a “fraternity-based new humanism,” the Vatican department looks to be forging new ecumenical ground.

READ: Vatican praises atheistic Buddhist ‘compassion’ as ‘antidote to the global crises’

Pope Francis’ controversial 2020 encyclical Fratelli Tutti has become a key reference text for such ecumenical endeavors since its promulgation. That text touts a form of brotherhood without God and “religious indifferentism,” leading Church historian Roberto de Mattei to warn that when “fraternity” is divorced from Christian charity, “far from constituting an element of cohesion in society,” it “becomes the source of its disintegration.”

It is with Fratelli Tutti that the dicastery has recently been making headway in its relations with Muslims, Buddhists, and now Hindus.

Only weeks ago, Cardinal Guixot praised those who practice a Buddhist form of compassion, saying they “offer an antidote to the global crises we have mentioned, offering comprehensive compassion in response to widespread and interconnected evils.”

He favorably compared Buddhism and Christianity, equating Christ’s words from the Gospels with the Buddhist texts.

READ: Vatican’s ‘congratulatory message’ to Muslims calls Ramadan ‘important’ for Christians

However, Pope Francis’ exhortations of a “fraternity” and a “unity” divorced from the Catholic faith are not supported by Catholic tradition.

Pope Leo XIII condemned such arguments in his 1888 encyclical Libertas. Referring to the Church’s relationship with other religions, Leo wrote that the Catholic Church tolerates

certain modern liberties, not because she prefers them in themselves but because she judges it expedient to permit them, she would in happier times exercise her own liberty; and, by persuasion, exhortation, and entreaty would endeavor, as she is bound, to fulfill the duty assigned to her by God of providing for the eternal salvation of mankind.

Leo noted that “one thing, however, remains always true – that the liberty which is claimed for all to do all things is not, as We have often said, of itself desirable, inasmuch as it is contrary to reason that error and truth should have equal rights.”

Leo repeated this when he wrote in his 1896 encyclical Satis cognitum that everyone should become a child of God by taking “Christ Jesus as their Brother, and at the same time the Church as their mother.”

This was similarly taught by Pope Pius XI in his 1928 encyclical Mortalium animos. Explaining why Catholics were prohibited from participating in non-Catholic “assemblies,” Pius XI wrote:

The union of Christians can only be promoted by promoting the return to the one true Church of Christ of those who are separated from it, for in the past they have unhappily left it. To the one true Church of Christ, we say, which is visible to all, and which is to remain, according to the will of its Author, exactly the same as He instituted it.

Indeed, Pope Benedict XVI affirmed this teaching in a 2010 address, in which he stated: “The witness of charity, practised here in a special way, is part of the Church’s mission, together with the proclamation of the truth of the Gospel.”