New Age Seen as Symptom of a Culture in Crisis

Vatican Document Critiques the Spiritual Movement

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VATICAN CITY, FEB. 3, 2003 ( The Vatican published a provisional report on New Age, offering a Christian reflection on a spiritual movement that even seduces Catholics.

Entitled «Jesus Christ the Bearer of the Water of Life: A Christian Reflection on the ‘New Age,'» the 90-page document analyzes the context in which the New Age has arisen, as well as its characteristics, and contrasts it with Christian spirituality. The text ends with a glossary of New Age terms.

The report was written by a working group on new religious movements, composed of members of Vatican organizations including the Pontifical Council for Culture, and the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue (the signatories) with the assistance of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples and the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity.

The foreword explains the report’s objective, stating that «the attraction that New Age religiosity has for some Christians may be due in part to the lack of serious attention to their own communities for themes which are actually part of the Catholic synthesis.»

In particular, it mentions «the importance of man’s spiritual dimension and its integration with the whole of life, the search for life’s meaning, the link between human beings and the rest of creation, the desire for personal and social transformation, and the rejection of a rationalistic and materialistic view of humanity.»

When presenting the document to the press today, Cardinal Paul Poupard, president of the Pontifical Council for Culture, said that «the New Age phenomenon, along with many other new religious movements, is one of the most urgent challenges for the Christian faith.»

«It is a religious challenge and, at the same time, a cultural challenge,» he said. With its doctrines on God, man and the world, which are «incompatible with the Christian faith,» the New Age «is at the same time symptom of a culture in profound crisis and a mistaken answer to the present situation of crisis,» Cardinal Poupard said.

According to the cardinal, the Church must respond to this situation by proposing Christian doctrine first of all, with «clarity and discernment» and, at the same time, by welcoming «people seeking meaning.» This requires «a pastoral program directed to the specific culture of modern and postmodern societies, which give birth to the New Age phenomenon.»

For his part, Archbishop Michael Fitzgerald, president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, acknowledged in statements to the press that «there are positive aspects in New Age, but taken all together it is not in accord with true Christian faith.»

«The document seeks to offer keys to understand this somewhat nebulous phenomenon of the New Age and to illustrate how it differs from the Christian faith,» he added.

«It is known that the New Age means the age of Aquarius,» the archbishop continued. «It is an astrological concept, according to which the age of Pisces, which was that of Christ, has developed and is now passing to the age of Aquarius, in which everything is gentle, there are no longer the rigors of Christianity, everything is based on harmony with creation, with the cosmos.»

«By its title,» Archbishop Fitzgerald added, «our document reminds us that Jesus Christ is the authentic bearer of the living water … he is the one who slakes man’s thirst. … The true Christian finds the fullness of his spiritual life in Christ, without the need to seek it elsewhere.»

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