While there was political upheaval in South Vietnam, the Roman Catholic Church underwent changes that made it easy for Catholics to adapt to changing situations and conditions easily. The second Vatican Council held in the Vatican City, Rome from 1962 â 1965. Among all the declarations and decrees that the council passed, one that is worthy of being mentioned is the Non-Christian religions passed on 28th October, 1965. This changed the Church’s attitude towards Non- Christian religions and accepted them for whatever good they had. The declaration says that in advanced religions like Buddhism and Hinduism, the Church does not reject anything that is holy and true and that it is against discriminating behaviors based on social status, race, color or religion. In order to promote contact between Christianity and other religions, a Secretarait for Non-Christians was founded.
The behavior of Catholics towards Buddhists has changed since which can be seen in Thailand where hostile, aggressive, harsh and feelings of contempt have been replaced with assimilation and cooperation. Today you will see such sights as a Christian priest offering his respects to a Buddhist monk or image of Buddha; nuns listening to sermons in a monastery or attending a merit making ceremony there; Bishops in layman suits taking part in social work with Buddhist monks; or even Christian nuns inviting monks to the monastery to teach them meditation.
The ideas that led to this change can be seen in these passages from the Secretariat for Non Christians’ bulletin:
“In the early periods of the history of Buddhism, Buddhist missionary enterprises were zealous, extensive and efficacious, to the extent of winning almost the whole of Asia to the doctrine of Buddha. Then these activities ceased altogether. Now the Buddhists are thinking of picking up missionary activity again.”
“In the face of Buddhist expansion our attitude will be friendly, tending to co-existence and to collaboration. This attitude is also the fruit of the ecumenical spirit of the Second Vatican Council and of the institution of the Secretariat for the Non-Christian Religions.”
“We are always grumbling that the faithful of other religions in Asia refuse to
recognise us, putting us in the ranks of colonizers, oppressors and hated by the people. However, we too have many times disparaged Buddhist practices and beliefs as superstitions and outer darkness.”
“In the ascetic field we have to make a great effort to learn from the Buddhist school the hopes, the inclinations and the ascetic psychology of the local peoples in order to construct Christian ascetics…”
“The whole of Buddhism is based on the four truths: sorrow, the causes of sorrow, the destruction of sorrow and liberation from sorrow. Why could not the spreading of the Gospel of Christ be summed up also in these four truths? The true sorrow of Man is sin. Jesus came to liberate Man from sorrow-sin.”
“In this cultural collaboration, positive and constructive, the way to the foundation of the Catholic Church in the Buddhist countries is opened … When the Gospel of Christ has penetrated the cultural life of the people, then the Church is founded in the midst of that people.”
“So, in the face of the Buddhist expansion, which is not an expansion of conquest but an internal renewal, the Catholic mission will seek a friendly co-existence and a constructive collaboration.”