Harry Potter gets Vatican’s blessing

BBC, Feb. 3, 2003

Harry Potter gained the Vatican’s seal of approval on Monday when an official said the books helped children “to see the difference between good and evil”.

“I don’t think there’s anyone in this room who grew up without fairies, magic and angels in their imaginary world,” Father Peter Fleetwood told reporters.

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Some religious groups have accused the books of glamorising magic and the occult.

Mr Fleetwood was answering questions following the release of a 92-page Vatican document which examines the growing – and for the Church, troubling – appeal of New Age religions and practices.

These may include strands of various religions, including worship of nature, cosmic religiosity, pagan rituals and beliefs, astrology, and alternative health practices.

More strictly, “New Agers” believe the coming of the astrological age of Aquarius this millennium will see Christianity superseded.

‘A challenge’

In the unusually self-critical study, the Vatican admits that the “immense” popularity of the New Age movement suggests the Catholic Church does not always provide the answers to today’s spiritual questions.

“The success of New Age offers the Church a challenge,” the document states.

“People feel the Christian religion no longer offers them – or perhaps never gave them – something they really need.”

The document examines New Age beliefs in chapters titled, for example, “Wholeness: Magical Mystery Tour” and Harmony and Understanding: Good Vibrations”.

For the uninitiated, it also provides a glossary of such terms as yoga, Zen, rebirthing, karma, and feng shui.

The document tries to point out what it sees as the dangers of some of these beliefs.

“It is good and positive to have love and respect for nature and the environment but you cannot make a divinity of the earth. That is wrong,” said Archbishop Michael Fitzgerald, head of the Vatican’s department for inter-religious dialogue.

However, these criticisms do not, it seems, apply to the magical practices described in the Harry Potter series of adventure stories.

Magicians and witches, Father Peter said, “are not bad or a banner for anti-Christian ideology”.

He said British author JK Rowling was “Christian by conviction, is Christian in her mode of living, even in her way of writing.”

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