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Mayor Greg Fischer announced today that His Holiness the XIV Dalai Lama will return to Louisville in April 2017. And to spotlight the significance of the visit, the 22nd annual Festival of Faiths will move to April 19-24 and culminate with talks by the Dalai Lama.

The Mayor, joined by 2017 Festival chairman Owsley Brown III, made the announcement during a press conference today at the George Garvin Brown Garden, 415 W. Muhammad Ali Blvd.

The title of the 2017 Festival is “Compassion: Shining like the Sun.” His Holiness the Dalai Lama will deliver talks on universal human values and nonviolence at the Yum! Center on Sunday, April 23, and at a large youth event on Monday, April 24.

The visit is being planned by several local organizations involved in the city’s compassion initiatives, including the Mayor’s office, the Center for Interfaith Relations, Drepung Gomang Center for Engaging Compassion, and the newly formed International Center for Compassionate Cities.

Since taking office in 2011, Mayor Fischer has helped champion a city-wide campaign for compassion, including his Give a Day week of service, Compassionate Louisville and the Compassionate Schools Project. He has been a longtime supporter of Louisville’s signature interfaith event, the Festival of Faiths, and worked with the Festival’s Brown, as well as Jefferson County Public Schools Superintendent, Dr. Donna Hargens, to launch the Compassionate Schools Project here in 2015.

The Festival of Faiths is a nationally acclaimed interfaith event of music, poetry, film, art and dialogue with internationally renowned spiritual leaders, thinkers and practitioners. It is designed as a platform for holding conversations on meaning in a time of multiple crises of meaning; and respecting the essential union between thinking globally and acting locally.

Theologian Richard Rohr calls the Festival “the Sundance of the Sacred,” and the Huffington Post included it among America’s top 7 spiritual travel destinations.

Drepung Gomang Center for Engaging Compassion, a Tibetan Buddhist dharma center, hosted His Holiness in Louisville in 2013.  Under the Dalai Lama’s advice and guidance, DGCEC’s Compassion Education Center provides presentations, workshops, retreats and classes that inspire everyday people to grow loving-kindness and deep compassion in the movement from understanding to personal engagement.  Programming is based in universal human values using inclusive, non-religious and inter-religious language.

The International Center for Compassionate Cities (IC3) will launch with the 2017 visit.   The IC3 will serve the ever-growing global community of cities that have signed the Charter for Compassion by providing tools to measure compassion, resources to help implement compassion-based city programing and a space to share stories. Overall, the center will serve to amplify compassion in cities around the world.

The site of today’s press conference announcing the 2017 visit was steps away from Merton Square, the historic site of Thomas Merton’s 1958 epiphany in downtown Louisville. He wrote of that event: “[I]n Louisville, at the corner of Fourth and Walnut [now Muhammad Ali Blvd.] … I was suddenly overwhelmed with the realization that I loved all those people, that they were mine and I theirs. … There is no way of telling people that they are all walking around shining like the sun.”

Merton was a Trappist monk who is world renowned as a Christian writer, social critic and interfaith pioneer. In 1968 Merton met with the young Dalai Lama and forged an important kinship that continues to “shine like the sun.” Merton wrote that he felt “a real spiritual bond” with His Holiness. The image of the two at this 1968 meeting hangs over the door at the Center for Interfaith Relations.

Even today the Dalai Lama often speaks about Merton as THE Christian monk who broadened his understanding of the profound commonalities between traditions. His Holiness commented in a New York Times opinion piece in 2010: “The focus on compassion that Merton and I observed in our two religions strikes me as a strong unifying thread among all the major faiths. And these days we need to highlight what unifies us.”

More details about themes and programming, as well as ticketing, for the April event will be released in January 2017, and news and updates will be posted on the and  websites.