Hindus are urging Pope Francis to ‘discipline’ a Derry priest who warned parishioners against taking part in yoga and having Indian head massages, writes Sheena Jackson.
Fr. Roland Colhoun, who is based in the Waterside, issued caution when saying mass in Drumsurn two Sundays ago, when he says he was drafted in at short notice. He said his sermon was based on the devil and exorcism.
“I mentioned a number of things that are part of the new age movement. It’s so embedded in our culture now that it has gained a kind of a respectability, but the new age practices, they’re certainly not good for us and the Church is very concerned about people employing them and has written specific documents on the new age movement. There is a great body of research (theological, spiritual and physiological) already done on it,” said Fr Colhoun.
The comments have sparked a global reaction and, on Sunday, Hindu statesman Rajan Zed, in a statement in Nevada (USA) said: “Hindus are urging His Holiness Pope Francis to discipline a Derry Catholic priest who reportedly linked yoga to Satan”.
“Zed, who is President of Universal Society of Hinduism, further said that yoga, although introduced and nourished by Hinduism, was a world heritage and liberation powerhouse to be utilized by all,” said the statement, which added: “Zed noted that 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 Diocese of Derry Bishop, Most Reverend Donal McKeown, about this.”
Fr. Colhoun told the ‘Journal’ he mentioned yoga and Indian head massage. “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,” said Fr Colhoun, “but if you do that outside of a sacramental rite you’re running the risk of communicating a bad spirit, not the Holy Spirit.”
Regarding yoga, Fr. Colhoun said the medical journals have taken great interest in yoga and the case studies of yoga practitioners who gained injuries and long term disabilities.
“Pope Francis said ‘do not seek spiritual answers in yoga classes’. 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.”
Fr. Colhoun said yoga or Indian head massage “don’t have their origins in Christianity”.
“There is definitely power from them, but where it’s from the Church is nervous and that’s why it fits into the sermon on the devil,” said Fr Colhoun who accepts some people may be bemused by his comments, but said: “I would refer people to the evidence. The Church documents are written on it. It’s not an exhaustive study as the new age movement keeps changing. The documents give great caution about their practices.”