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According to GRIS, in Italy one thousand religious sects • Saturday February 1, 2003

Agenzia Giornalistica Italia, Jan. 30, 2003

Bologna, Italy – Jan. 30 – In Italy, the religious or spiritual groups are about one thousand: a number which includes all the movements, starting from the traditional Churches (Catholicism, Buddhism, Judaism and Islamism) to those realities – more or less significant, often made by one only one person – which can be defined as sects. Besides six – seven hundred structures organisations, there are an increasing number of groups which start and stop their activities in a really short time, especially in the context of the New Age movement. These were the results of a research carried out by Gris, the Bologna based Social and Religious Research and Information Group recognised in 1990 by the Italian Episcopal Conference and headed by Don Antonio Cerri from Verona.

The Gris, founded in 1987, changed its old name ( Research and Information Group on Sects) in 2001. “This was to better represent our activity, which includes also studying the historical and spiritual religions and the New Age movement”, the secretary of Gris, Giuseppe Ferrari, said.

Next Monday, the Vatican will publish a one hundred page document on the New Age movement, defined nor as a religion neither as a philosophy, but rather as a set of beliefs and mystical and esoteric practices. In this document, the Vatican will express rising concerns about a “deviant” phenomenon typical of the post-modern culture, which, apparently harmful, proved to be on of more insidious among sects.

According to the Gris, 1-2% of the Italian people (500 thousand-one million of people) is member of a sect, or of a religious or spiritualist movement. “This figure is relatively low – Ferrari explained – anyway it rises with the interest in the transcendent and religious matters.” The continuous growth of religious groups which propose new doctrines and rites, elaborating ideas from already existing organisations, poses new problems. According to Gris, in fact, this phenomenon turns into a progressive degeneration of religion as well as of the religious meaning. According to Bologna’s research group (a private non-profit catholic association), the new ‘religions’ damaged the quality of religious attitude in our society: as a consequence, also the religious practice focus more on immanent rather than on transcendent matters. “we are confronting with a sort of discount of the faiths – Ferrari explained – that is with a low commitment proposal for treating the religion as any other product which can be easily changed at one’s pleasure.”

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