Head of Pope’s Jesuit Order prays in front of Buddha

SIEM REAP - Father Arturo Sosa Abascal, the head of Pope Francis’s Jesuit Order, raised some clerical eyebrows in Cambodia’s “Temple Town” Siem Reap, where he was spotted seated amongst young monks during meditation, Church sources say.

 Fr Sosa traveled to Cambodia in the second stage of his first trip to Asia-Pacific. According to the chronicle published by the Jesuit Asia Pacific Conference website, it is the first time that that he has visited a country with a Buddhist majority. 

 He was taken to the oldest Buddhist temple in Siem Reap and was invited to sit among the young monks during meditation, according to the chronicle published by the Jesuits of the region. "It is deeply consoling to see how we are united in our desire to promote peace and reconciliation in our world," Fr Sosa said, advocating promoting interreligious dialogue.

 In his homily on 15 July in the chapel of the Metta Karuna Reflection Centre in Siem Reap, the Jesuit General called for "building bridges" and creating a "culture of hospitality" in a world where there is so much violence, divisions and intolerance.

 This inter-religious dialogue culminated in the blessing of the wheels of reconciliation located along a pond in the grounds of Metta Karuna. The monks sang blessings for peace and reconciliation and the Christian beatitudes were proclaimed in the Khmer language.

 Fr Sosa has not been the most popular member of the Vatican, since his appointment, with many conservative Catholics wary of his Marxist beliefs. He also prompted criticism after comments he made back in a May 31 interview with Spanish paper El Mundo that Satan is a “symbolic figure” who doesn’t really exist, which sparked much controversy amongst the Catholic community.