On the morning of 12th September 2018, delegates from the Tzu Chi Foundation, together with representatives from other Buddhist and Catholic groups and NGOs, were received by Pope Francis at St. Peter's Square in the Vatican City. They were there to attend an international conference organised by the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue (PCID).
Interfaith collaborations benefit the needy
The executive vice president of Tzu Chi USA, Debra Boudreaux (aka Zeng Ci Hui), and Chen Zu Song, a staff from Tzu Chi’s headquarters in Taiwan, joined Yan Bo Wen, the head of Tzu Chi Taiwan's Mission of Charity, as delegates to the conference. Also present were some 20 delegates from other Buddhist and Catholic groups and non-profit organisations, such as Dharma Drum Mountain, the Los Angeles Buddhist Union, St. Vincent de Paul of Los Angeles, Mercy Housing, Enterprise Community Partners, etc.
The conference was hosted by Bishop Miguel Ayuso, the secretary of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue. At the conference, the delegates shared about the charitable work of their respective organisation in their home country, and also about their interfaith collaborations in recent years.
In her speech, Debra Boudreaux from Tzu Chi USA shared how the Foundation has been partnering with various charities in the US since 2016, to assist and care for vulnerable families and the homeless on the streets. Their work includes conducting regular home visits, providing assistance to needy students and free medical services to needy patients, and also holding winter relief distributions.
Mercy Housing provides affordable rental homes for the homeless living in cities, such as New York, Chicago and Los Angeles, with St Vincent de Paul supplying the furniture while Tzu Chi USA subsidizes the rent and promotes mental health rehabilitation for the homeless.
The Pope welcomes Tzu Chi and other religious groups
Despite hailing from different organisations with different religious backgrounds, everyone cooperates with one another to help the needy in the spirit of Great Love. Bishop Ayuzo praised everyone for their collaborative efforts that transcend religion, and encouraged all to continue helping those who are suffering in the world.
On the morning of 12th September, Pope Francis welcomed the delegates from various religious organisations and affirmed their efforts in charity and inter-faith collaborations. The delegates also presented to the Pope on the progress and future development prospects of their respective organisations.
The CEO of Tzu Chi’s Mission of Charity, Yan Bo Wen, introduced Tzu Chi to the Pope and presented the Pontiff with a multilingual edition of Jing Si Aphorisms on behalf of Dharma Master Cheng Yen. He also gifted him Tzu Chi’s environmental products produced by Da.Ai Technology, such as scarves that are made from recycled PET bottles collected by recycling volunteers across Taiwan. These scarves are distributed by Tzu Chi volunteers during global humanitarian relief operations. Yan also shared with the Pope that the PET bottles are also used to make jackets, pants, shirts, and other daily necessities. The gifts of goodwill included soaps handmade by Dharma Masters at the Jing Si Abode, and these soaps are environmentally friendly as they are all-natural and will not harm the environment. The items demonstrate Tzu Chi's long-standing commitment to environmental sustainability.
Tzu Chi often works with Catholic organisations to provide relief to disaster victims. Many of Tzu Chi’s disaster relief distributions take place in Catholic churches, especially in countries in South America. Currently, in Ecuador, Tzu Chi is helping to rebuild the Church of Canoa, which collapsed during a major earthquake in 2016. Tzu Chi will continue to work in partnership with The Catholic Church and the interfaith community to better the lives of people in need.