WASHINGTON – Esther,the 14-year-old daughter of Rabbi Craig Miller,may not have seen Pope Benedict XVI,but thanks to her dad,she heard him speak Thursday night – via cell phone.
“I had my phone on the whole time so she could hear,” Miller said.
At the Pope John Paul II Cultural Center,the pope addressed nearly 200 representatives from five religions – Buddhism,Hindu,Islam,Jainism and Judaism. About 40 Catholic representatives also attended.
The pope's message was clear.
During his remarks,he invited all religious people to “view dialogue,not only as a means of enhancing mutual understanding but also as a way of serving society at large.” He talked about the growth in understanding and the passing on of these religious traditions to future generations and to other faiths.
“May the followers of all religions stand together in defending and promoting life and religious freedom everywhere,” Pope Benedict said.
A young representative from each religion presented gifts to the pope after his speech. He received a menorah,a copy of the Qur'an,a metallic cube that represents nonviolence and respect for diversity to Jains,a bell Buddhists ring to invite people to pray or meditate and sculpture of the syllable Om.
“I thought the pope gave a very important,needed talk about the importance of inter-religious dialogue,” Miller said at a reception following a separate meeting the pope held for Jewish leaders.
Miller,who has been a rabbi for 10 years,said the pontiff was able to keep the usually talkative group quiet during the Passover greeting,”which is a miracle.”
It was encouraging to him when Pope Benedict spoke about supporting religious schools,especially since Miller's daughter attends one.
“He gave all of us attending a lot of strength and encouragement to continue our actions,” Miller said.
Pope Benedict told the religious leaders that they have an “enormous” responsibility to inspire society with respect for human life and freedom,”ensure that human dignity is recognized and cherished,to facilitate peace and justice,to teach children what is right,good and reasonable.”
Gunther Lawrence,executive director of the Interreligious Information Center in New York,said,”It was delightful to see all these people.”
He said his only “deep regret” was that there were not enough young people,particularly college students in the meeting. Along with the pope,he wants to impress upon young people the “vital importance” of the understanding that must take place in the world.
“The time has come to turn this dialogue over to the next generation,” he said.
This younger generation has different views and attitudes about what problems they want to address,he said,and may go around fixing them in new ways,likely with the help of technology.
Esther,listening to the pope's peaceful message of hope of cooperation,was a minor example of how technology already is helping spread his message in a room where Miller said there was “a good feeling.”
“It's the first time I met the pope,” Miller said,”and he's a good one.”