Fr. Rooney takes message of Martin Luther King Jr. to Taipei

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When Father Donald J. Rooney, pastor of St. Bernadette Church in Springfield and director of the diocesan office of Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs, traveled to Taipei, Taiwan, in November, he immediately noticed the kindness of the Buddhists he encountered.

“I have never seen kindness like we saw,” he said. “We have so much to learn just on their kindness, their willingness to receive one another so graciously."

Father Rooney was in Taipei to present papers on Martin Luther King Jr. and nonviolent responses at the sixth Buddhist-Christian Colloquium organized by the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue of the Holy See in cooperation with the Chinese Regional Bishops Conference and Ling Jiou Mountain Buddhist Society. The meeting, which examined the theme of nonviolence, drew more than 80 Buddhists and Catholics representing 18 countries.

This is Father Rooney’s second time working with the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue. He was invited by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in 2015 to a Buddhist Catholic Dialogue on suffering in Rome at which he presented a paper.

Father Rooney plans to share what he learned at the Taipei conference at an upcoming program. He was inspired by the interaction of bishops, cardinals and the leadership of Buddhists and Catholics in Taipei. “It was a cordial, friendly gathering,” he said. “There is so much (collaborative) work going on.”

The work of Christian unity is more challenging than interreligious dialogue, according to Father Rooney.

“In interreligious dialogue, we are trying to end misunderstanding and the kind of conflict that develops because of ignorance,” he said.

Father Rooney belongs to a Dharma study circle that meets at Buddhist temples throughout Washington, Virginia and Maryland where he has had the opportunity to get to know Buddhist leaders. He said there are about a dozen Buddhist temples in the metro area that are based on the country from which they came.

“Buddhism isn't a religion, but a way of life,” said Father Rooney. “There were plenty of teachings of Jesus Christ, and nonviolence and the teachings of the Buddha and nonviolence. They are the same.”

Father Rooney said Buddhists and Catholics can speak together clearly on several issues, including compassionate care, ecology of the earth, pro-life issues and violence.
“There is so much we can talk about with a united voice,” he said.

It seems as if you have these two choices, violence or nothing, when it’s either violence or love, said Father Rooney.

“It has got to be love and that's what Buddhists get and so did Jesus,” he said. “But somehow today our common culture has missed that message. It is so great to talk about these things with people (who) are so loving.”

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2017