Archbishop, Dalai Lama discuss common ground

By Marnie McAllister, Record Assistant Editor

Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz and His Holiness the Dalai Lama met briefly May 20 at the KFC Yum! Center.
Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz and His Holiness the Dalai Lama met briefly May 20 at the KFC Yum! Center.

Respect for every human life and the search for a lasting world peace were the subject of a private meeting Monday morning between His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz at the KFC Yum! Center.

The encounter between the world-reknowned Tibetan Buddhist spiritual leader and the Archbishop of Louisville, who is also the vice president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, was arranged by the local Drepung Gomang Institute. The Tibetan Buddhist center hosted the May 19 to 21 visit of the Dalai Lama to Louisville, which centered on compassion.

Archbishop Kurtz described his brief encounter with the Dalai Lama, just a little more than 10-minutes long, as beautiful. He said the spiritual leader was “very gentle, warm, humble and gracious.”

“He led me by his hand very gently to the sofa” where they spoke for several minutes and smiled for a few photos, the archbishop said.

“His warmth and his gestures were impressive,” said Archbishop Kurtz, noting that the Dalai Lama also laid a white silk cloth around his neck and wove it into the chain that holds the archbishop’s pectoral cross.

Archbishop Kurtz gave the Tibetan Buddhist leader a parchment containing St. Francis of Assisi’s “Prayer for Peace” and a commemorative card of Pope Francis. He selected these gifts because of the annual ecumenical gathering that’s conducted in Assisi, Italy, each year. The Dalai Lama has attended the meetings in years past and the archbishop attended it in 2011. The gifts were intended, he said, as a sign of unity.

In fact, Archbishop Kurtz said, the morning encounter centered on common ground — what he called a “bond of solidarity” — among Catholic and Buddhist traditions.

“The theologies are very different,” the archbishop noted. But both express “a deep abiding respect for the sacredness of human life and the desire to seek a peaceful and non-violent means to bring about a lasting world peace.”

The archbishop said he was thrilled to have met personally with “such a holy man.”

“The Dalai Lama reaches out in respect to people of all religious backgrounds — not to turn them away from their religious convictions, but to deepen them,” the archbishop said.

Archbishop Kurtz reflects more extensively on his meeting with the Dalai Lama in his latest blog post, which he tweeted about on Monday afternoon. It’s available on the Archdiocese of Louisville’s website,

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