ROME – Ahead of a major holiday for adherents of Sikhism, a Vatican council encouraged Christians and Sikhs alike to promote greater compassion toward all people, especially the vulnerable and marginalized.

The Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue issued a letter on Monday for the Sikh holiday, celebrated on Nov. 23 this year. The letter was signed by Bishop Miguel Guixot, secretary of the council.

The holiday – Sri Guru Nanak Prakash Diwas – celebrates the birthday of the first guru and founder of the religion. The religion is practiced largely in India, where it originated in the 15th century.

“May your festivities marking this feast renew and reinvigorate the bonds of mutual respect and love in your families and communities, so also enhance – among you – happiness, harmony and peace!” the letter read.

The bishop highlighted rising trends of selfishness and indifference, including between members of different religions. He warned that fewer people in the world are experiencing true love and tenderness, the kind of genuine concern that understands and shares in another’s suffering.

This kind of tenderness is an expression of God, he said, which is often lived through the hands of people.

“It is a display of the ability… to feel with and feel for others. It is heartily looking at, listening to, being with and comforting others especially the most vulnerable of the society and doing everything possible, even taking risks, for their welfare,” the bishop said.

“The foundation of ‘tenderness’ is, undoubtedly, God Himself who is ‘infinite tenderness.’ However, we experience the divine tenderness, care and providence in times of need mostly through human instrumentality, as though it were God’s most preferred route.”

This tenderness should reach beyond religious affiliation, he said, and should also be shared with the impoverished, sick, elderly, immigrants and disabled.

“The greater ‘tenderness’ manifests itself in our words and deeds, the better can the culture of tenderness spread its roots far and wide. This tenderness must also extend to the whole of creation because caring for the earth and caring for one another go hand in hand.”

Guixot said the development of this kindness is first introduced in the family, where children follow the example of a parent or grandparent’s generosity. Religious institutions, he said, help further and develop these virtues as well.

“Religious teachings, educational institutions and means of social communications all definitely play a vital role in inculcating among practitioners of religions, students and the other citizens altruistic, benevolent and respectful behaviour towards others.”

The bishop ended the letter, wishing the participants of Sri Guru Nanak Prakash Diwas a joyous holiday, and encouraged members of both religions to promote “a culture of tenderness.”

“[M]ay we Christians and Sikhs, joining hands with believers of other religious traditions and all people of good will, do all we can, in humility and human solidarity to promote a ‘culture of tenderness’ for the wellbeing of every human being and for the welfare of the entire created world!”