Bishop not commenting on global yoga storm

Fr. Roland Colhoun.

Fr. Roland Colhoun.

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The Bishop of Derry has declined to be drawn into a controversy sparked by one of his priests who has made headlines around the world.

Comments by Fr. Roland Colhoun generated global debate when he told the ‘Journal’ he had warned parishioners about the dangers of yoga and Indian head massages. Since the interview the story has has gone viral on social media, sparking outrage around the globe.

Among those reacting to Fr. Colhoun’s comments was Hindu statesman Rajan Zed who issued a statement to the ‘Journal’ on Sunday, from Nevada, USA stating: “Hindus are urging His Holiness Pope Francis to discipline a Derry Catholic priest who reportedly linked yoga to Satan”.

The ‘Journal’ asked if the Bishop of Derry, Most Rev. Dr. Donal McKeown wanted to respond to the call from Rajan Zed. However, a Diocese spokesperson said Bishop McKeown would not be making any comment.

When speaking to the ‘Journal’, Fr. Colhoun said: “The Indian head massage, while I haven’t done a great study into it, the difficulty is that it involves the laying on of hands on another person’s head. There is a risk when you do that because that is a rite we use in the sacramental practice for the communication of the Holy Spirit in baptism and confirmation, and ordination as well,” Fr Colhoun told the ‘Journal’, “but if you do that outside of a sacramental rite you’re running the risk of communicating a bad spirit, not the Holy Spirit.”

Fr. Colhoun went on to say: “Yoga is certainly a risk. There’s the spiritual health risk. When you take up those practices from other cultures, which are outside our Christian domain, you don’t know what you are opening yourself up to. The bad spirit can be communicated in a variety of ways. I’m not saying everyone gets it, or that it happens every time, and people may well be doing yoga harmlessly, but there‘s always a risk and that’s why the Pope mentioned it and that’s why we talk about that in terms of the danger of the new age movement and the danger of the occult today. That’s the fear.”

Mr. Zed, President of Universal Society of Hinduism, said in the statement: “Yoga, although introduced and nourished by Hinduism, was a world heritage and liberation powerhouse to be utilized by all.” Mr Zed added: “The Vatican Library itself reportedly carried various yoga related books; like Bhaktiyoga, Yoga, Yoga-system of Patanjali, Yogic Powers and God Realization, etc.” Rajan Zed indicated that they would also inform the Diocese of Derry Bishop, Most Reverend Donal McKeown, about this.