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Tuesday, 4 February, 2003, 01:08 GMT
Vatican sounds New Age alert
Vatican news conference to launch the report
The report will be updated after feedback from dioceses
The Roman Catholic Church has warned Christians against resorting to New Age therapies to satisfy their spiritual needs.

Publishing the results of a six-year study of practices such as yoga, feng shui and shamanism, the Vatican said that whatever the individual merits of such therapies, none provided a true answer to the human thirst for happiness.

The new report
New Age is a misleading answer to the oldest hopes of man

Cardinal Paul Poupard
If "prayer turns into just listening to music and falling asleep, it's no longer prayer," Church official Monsignor Michael Fitzgerald told a news conference at the Vatican to launch A Christian Reflection on the New Age.

Correspondents say the report reflects the Vatican's concern about losing support among its one billion followers worldwide as New Age therapies gain ground.

The report says there is a "genuine yearning for a deeper spirituality, for something which will touch their hearts and for a way of making sense of a confusing and often alienating world".

Many people, the report acknowledges, have rejected organised religion because they feel it fails to answer their needs.

"I want to say simply that the New Age presents itself as a false utopia in answer to the profound thirst for happiness in the human heart," Cardinal Paul Poupard, head of the Pontifical Council for Culture, said at the news conference.

"New Age is a misleading answer to the oldest hopes of man."

Bad karma

The BBC's Rome correspondent David Willey says the report contrasts New Age "truths" are about good vibrations, cosmic correspondences, harmony and ecstasy with what it calls the "eternal truths" of Christian teaching.

Written in response to bishops' requests for Christian guidance on New Age phenomena such as yoga, meditation and healing by crystals.

It provides a glossary of New Age terms as "channelling", "rebirthing", "positive thinking", "karma" and "reincarnation" and goes into the history of New Age trends, examining them one by one:

  • The Age of Aquarius is defined as an astrological age which New Agers believe will usher in an era of harmony, justice and peace, following the current Age of Pisces - one of wars and conflicts.

  • Feng shui, the method of discerning positive and negative vibrations in houses, is described as an "occult" New Age practice that emphasises "being in tune with nature or the cosmos".

  • Much of New Age phenomena is driven, the report says, by marketing of books, therapies and crystals.

The Christian 'New Age'

Monsignor Fitzgerald, president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, told reporters that aspects of New Age thinking such as concern for the environment were greeted by the Church - but within limits.

"If one is brought to this by ascribing 'divineness' to the land, that's another thing," he said.

The report makes points up the fundamental differences between Christian and New Age beliefs.

While New Agers live in expectation of an age when they can command "the cosmic laws of nature... Christians are in a constant state of vigilance, ready for the last days when Christ will come again", the report says.

"Their New Age began 2,000 years ago, with Christ."

Our correspondent says that the report makes clear that the Vatican basically dislikes fuzzy spirituality.

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25 Dec 02 | Europe
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