Buddhist Tzu Chi Foundation volunteers traveled to the Vatican City on September 12 joining together with St. Vincent de Paul and Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio of Brooklyn to meet with Pope Francis in support of three new green affordable housing projects. The projects assist senior citizens and homeless individuals in New York, Chicago and Los Angeles–an idea proposed by the late French Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran. The Pope was briefed after his weekly General Audience, also known as “Papal Audience” where the Pope addresses the crowd in a themed speech followed by prayers.
The plans, “Green Affordable Housing Dialogue of Fraternity Projects”, entail affordable housing accommodations to be built in Brooklyn/Queens, Chicago and LA. These three cities were chosen in representation of the Catholic Church and Buddhist communities on the East Coast, West Coast and Midwest.
Tzu Chi has been providing homeless care services and organizing charity programs since 2004, and shared these expertise during the meeting.
This was not Tzu Chi’s first encounter with the pope. On April 3rd and 4th 2017, the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development held a conference entitled, “Prospects for service to integral human development: fifty years since Populorum Progressio” at the Vatican. The founder of Tzu Chi, Dharma Master Cheng Yen, was invited to send delegates as representatives of the NGO at the conference. As a result, Dr. Lin Chin-lon, the CEO of Tzu Chi’s Mission of Medicine, together with his wife Mrs. Lin, were invited as keynote speakers at the conference to discuss providing aid and relieving suffering for refugees. Pope Francis graced the conference to personally meet and interact with all the delegates, including Dr. Lin Chin-lon and Mrs. Lin.
Two years prior on February 18, 2016, a delegation of the Pontifical Council for Inter-Religious Dialogue led by Bishop Thomas Manwel Dabre from Poona, India, visited the Jing Si Abode in Hualien, Taiwan. The council sought Tzu Chi’s active participation and cooperation for the possibility of holding an international Inter-Religious Dialogue in Taiwan in the near future. The Bishop said that the goal of the Dialogue was to work together for the betterment of humanity, and reestablishing peace and unity back into families.
Buddhist Tzu Chi Foundation has frequently worked with numerous Catholic congregations over the years. Many of Tzu Chi’s disaster relief distributions take place in churches, especially in Latin American countries. A current project in Ecuador is taking place to rebuild the Church of Canoa, a collapsed Catholic church following the aftermath of an earthquake in 2016. Tzu Chi will continue to work in partnership with the Catholic Church and the interfaith community.