Friday, April 11, 2008

Religious leaders to meet the Pope, bearing gifts

This blog as profiled Ravi Gupta in the past, one of the representatives of the world's religions who will be presenting gifts to the Holy Father during the April 17 interfaith meeting at the Pope John Paul II Cultural Center. This week, the USCCB's papal visit blog introduced us to all the participants:

  • Representing the Hindu community will be Dr. Ravi Gupta, Assistant Professor of Religion at Centre College, Kentucky, participant in the Hindu-Catholic religious dialogue:
    Dr. Gupta will present to Pope Benedict a gift of the sacred syllable Om in brass sculpture. Hindus believe that Om is the primordial sound of creation itself, in which God is disclosed and where the worshiper experiences peace.
  • Representing the Buddhist community will be Ms. Masako Fukata, "an active youth leader of Rissho Kosei-kai, a socially engaged Buddhist organization" and formerly an intern at the Religions for Peace International Secretariat in New York.
    Ms. Fukata will give Pope Benedict a fine cast metal bell. Such bells are used to demarcate the times of meditation practice in all Buddhist traditions.
  • Representing the Jain community will be Mr. Aditya Vora, a member of the Long Island Multi-Faith Forum and Habitat for Humanity in West Virginia and the , embodying the foundational principles of Jain ethics: non-violence (ahimsa) and respecting “multiple viewpoints” (anekantavada).
    Mr. Vora will give Pope Benedict XVI a multisided cube that celebrates persons committed to or inspired by Jain ethical principles. The texts inscribed on the cube include the five Namokar mantras, which are recited daily by the faithful, and the principles of Jainism.
  • Representing the Jewish community will be David J. Michaels, Director for Intercommunal Affairs at B’nai B’rith International:
    Mr. Michaels will present Pope Benedict with a silver menorah. The silver menorah with its seven lights represents the tradition of Temple worship within Judaism. It is also a symbol of the perennial validity of the covenant between God and Israel, the purpose of which is to establish peace rooted in creation itself.
  • Representing the Muslim community will be Samman Hussein. Currently an intern with the U.S. Department of the Interior, she also helped coordinate "the Unity Walk in memory of the victims of the September 11, 2001, tragedy, organized by the InterFaith Conference of Metropolitan Washington."
    She will give Pope Benedict one of the most poetic verses of the holy Qur’an (24.35) in the form of a colorful calligraphic design. This verse emphasizes the encounter with God as Light, bringing peace to the soul of the believer.