Pujya Swami Chidanand Saraswatiji, president of Parmarth Niketan Ashram, Rishikesh and co-founder/co-Chair of the Global Interfaith WASH Alliance, on Friday (Nov 4) met with Pope Francis at the Vatican in Rome.
Sadhvi Bhagawati Saraswati, secretary-general of the Global Interfaith WASH Alliance (GIWA) and president of Divine Shakti Foundation, was with Pujya Swamiji during the meeting.
The meeting came during a two-day International Symposium on Interreligious Sharing and Witnessing about Mercy for Peace and Reconciliation organized by KAIICID Dialogue Center and the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue.
The November 3-4 Symposium has brought together top leaders of the world’s major religions to reflect upon the concept on Mercy in the world’s religions, and the crucial role they can and must play in peace and reconciliation.
His Holiness Pope Francis spoke beautifully about the emphasis that so many of the religions placed on mercy and how important it was to bring mercy 'into our lives today'.
The pontiff said: 'To bow down with compassionate love before the weak and needy is part of the authentic spirit of religion, which rejects the temptation to resort to force, refuses to barter human lives and sees others as brothers and sisters, and never mere statistics.'
He further emphasized how important in today’s world it was that 'we all, people of every religion, cultivate mercy within our selves and share it with others.'
The Pope said: 'We receive God’s forgiveness in order to share it with others. Forgiveness is surely the greatest gift we can give to others, because it is the most costly. Yet at the same time, it is what makes us most like God.'
Pujya Swamiji presented His Holiness Pope Francis with an 'elaichimala' (mala made of fresh cardamom pods), and explained to the Pope that it was a green garland, both in color and also an eco-friendly, organic, 'green mala' for a 'green' Pope.
Pujya Swamiji lovingly said to Pope Francis: 'You are bringing a new vision and new concept of religion, a green vision, a vision of religion that thinks, cares and acts for the whole planet. You are a Pope of Hope – bringing new hope to so many people across the world.'
He also presented Pope Francis with a proposal for a high-level summit on the Ganga and Jordan rivers, the challenges being faced by these ancient and sacred rivers and the people who live on their banks.
Sadhvi Bhagawati Saraswati informed the Pope that the Global Interfaith WASH Alliance was preparing booklets on the importance of WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) in every religion. She humbly requested the pontiff to write the foreword for the book on WASH in Christianity.
She also presented Pope Francis with a copy of By God’s Grace, Pujya Swamiji’s biography which she authored, and a copy of Pujya Swamiji’s book Peace.
As Pope Francis graciously received the books, Pujya Swamiji told him: 'You are a man of peace and this is what the world needs today. Our world is turning to pieces in so many places, and we need to turn those pieces into peace. You are a great model of the peace that our world needs and you are doing so much to spread this crucial message.'