Franciscans in Dialogue with Buddhism

Br. John Wong, Custos of the Custody of St. Anthony (Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei), was privileged to be the only Catholic religious and priest at a recent International Monastic Retreat outside of Bangkok, engaging in dialogue with 350 Buddhist monks and nuns from different traditions and nationalities. Br. John attended at the invitation of a Buddhist community in Thai Plum Village, and with the blessing of the Minister General Michael Perry.

The participants gathered as brothers and sisters in a hamlet in the one of the valleys of the foothills of Khaoyai National Park, and shared silence, vegetarian meals, and the challenges in bringing peace to our broken world.  Towards the end of the retreat, Br. John met with the principal leaders and shared Laudato si’ — Pope Francis’ letter, On the Care of our Common Home — with them.  Several leaders agreed to share this document with their communities. Then, at the request of the leaders, Br. John also spoke about the issues of Human Trafficking, pastoral care of vocations, a holistic approach to Initial Formation, as well as ways of caring for friars who leave the Order.

After the retreat, one monk wrote:

“Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh had once said that Jesus and Buddha are Brothers. Here is Father John Wong, a Catholic Priest in the Franciscan tradition from Malaysia, a dear friend of mine, and also of all the brothers and sisters here at Thai Plum Village. We both sides, Catholic Tradition and Buddhism, have been benefiting a lot from each other. 

We have come to realize that we are all the leaves of one tree, the waves of one sea, the stars of one sky, the children of the same Mother Earth, and Father Sun, and the followers of the same religion – the religion of truth that can be found in this very life, the truth of Communion, and the truth of Inter-being, and of Non-Discrimination.”