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Vatican's 'proceed with caution' on New Age Movement

The Vatican weighed in yesterday on the New Age movement, saying some aspects of the search for inner peace were positive but warning that they can't replace true Christian religion.

Cardinal Paul Poupard (pictured), president of the Council for Culture and Archbishop Michael Fitzgerald, president of the Council for Interreligious Dialogue, presided at a press conference launching a 90-page booklet dotted with references to the "Magical Mystery Tour", "Feng Shui" and the dawning of the "Age of Aquarius".

The Vatican said the book was the product of requests by bishops for guidance on determining whether practices embraced by New Agers, including yoga, channeling and healing by crystals, were compatible with Christianity.

The booklet doesn't give a definitive answer. Rather, in setting out a study of the movement - its terminology, history and cultural context - the book stresses that the question comes down to one of individually discerning compatibility.

Archbishop Fitzgerald said many aspects of the New Age movement are viewed positively by the Church, including environmental preservation.

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

"Music that relaxes you is good. But if this music empties prayer and prayer turns into just listening to music and falling asleep, it's no longer prayer."

The booklet said the popularity of the New Age movement, particularly in the Western world, is due to a "spiritual hunger of contemporary men and women" unsatisfied with existing religion, political institutions or science.

"If the Church is not to be accused of being deaf to people's longings, her members need to do two things: to root themselves ever more firmly in the fundamentals of their faith, and to understand the often silent cry in people's hearts, which leads them elsewhere if they are not satisfied by the Church," the document said.

The booklet, titled Jesus Christ the Bearer of the Water of Life: A Christian Reflection on the 'New Age, is considered a provisional work. The Vatican will issue a definitive document after feedback on this document, according to papal spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls said.


Jesus Christ the Bearer of the Water of Life: A Christian reflection on the "New Age" (text of document)
In a galaxy far from the Vatican, a kind of new age takes shape (Chris McGillion, Sydney Morning Herald
Document on Christian Reflection on the New Age (Vatican Information Service)
New Age Theory is Focus of Major Vatican Document (Catholic World News)
Vatican preparing document on New Age movement (22/1/03)
Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue
Pontifical Council for Culture
Spiritual Wholeness - a Catholic New Age Site
The Vatican Report: Sects or New Religious Movements: a Pastoral Challenge May 3rd, 1986

4 Feb 2003