Buddhist-Catholic Dialogue — Views on End-of-life Care and Funeral Ceremonies

A "Buddhist-Catholic Dialogue" was held online February 17 — a total of 28 people. Before the dialogue started, convener Michael Kerze invited all attendees to make a self-introduction, and requested Gavin Sweeney to introduce the mission of One Legacy, an organ & tissue donation organization in Los Angeles. Sweeney expressed gratitude to be invited into this dialogue, and hoped to learn more about the end-of-life care and funeral ceremonies of different faiths.

First, Catholic priest Father Alexei Smith shared the Catholic perspective on end-of-life care & funeral rites. Father Alexei explained that within the Seven Sacraments of Catholic Church, the sacrament of Anointing the Sick is the final sacrament a Catholic will receive in their life, also known as Extreme Unction. The sacrament can be administered by a Catholic priest to a sick person, not only for those who are dying or terminally ill. During the sacrament, the priest will administer olive oil onto the forehead and the palm of the sick individual, so that their spirit will be united with the passion of christ.

Ven. Hui Ze from Hsi Lai Temple shared the Buddhist perspective on end-of-life care & funeral rites. Venerable Master Hsing Yun, founder of Fo Guang Shan, teaches that the inevitable process of life is “Old age, Sickness, Death and Birth”. One may get sick when they’re old or one may die when they’re sick; however, one will be reborn after they die. When there’s life, there’s hope and a future! Therefore, the primary purpose of holding a Buddhist funeral service is to guide the deceased to be reborn in the Pureland or vow to return to the human realm to practice the bodhisattva’s path!

At the end of the Dialogue, Convener Michael Kerze stated that due to the enthusiastic discussion of this dialogue, this topic will continue to have further discussions about the Catholic and Buddhist view of afterlife. Michael thanked One Legacy for participating in the discussion, and extended an invitation for them to join us in the next dialogue!