Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Green Cove Resident Meets the Pope

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Green Cove Resident Meets the Pope

Article excerpt

Byline: KELLY NGO

Not many people can say they've met the pope. However, Green Cove Springs resident Masako Fukata can count herself in that group.

Fukata attended an interreligious gathering with Pope Benedict XVI on April 17 as the representative of the Buddhist faith.

"I was nervous for sure," Fukata said. "But I stayed calm because I knew that I was not there alone, I was representing all the Buddhists in the United States."

Fukata was born in Tokyo and moved to Clay County when she was 13. She was raised Buddhist, but says that's not the only reason she feels her faith so strongly.

"I'm a religious person, but Buddhism has always helped me; it's just part of me," she said.

Fukata is an active member of Rissho Kosei-kai, a Buddhist organization with nearly 6 million members worldwide. She was selected by this organization to present the pope with a metal bell cast in Korea. The bell is used by Buddhists to demarcate times of meditation and the reading of the Sutra.

"The sound of the bell is supposed to ease the mind," Fukata said.

The ceremony played host to representatives from five different religions, Buddhism, Hinduism, Judaism, Jainism and Islam, each of whom had the opportunity to present the pope with a gift and discuss the importance of the item with him. …

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