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Pope Francis urged to discipline Catholic priest who called yoga 'work of the devil'

By Steven Alexander

Published 23/02/2015

Fr Roland Colhoun
Fr Roland Colhoun
Rajan Zed, president of the Universal Society of Hinduism

Hindus are urging Pope Francis to discipline a Catholic priest from Northern Ireland after he suggested yoga was the work of the devil.

Fr Roland Colhoun made headlines around the world when he said that practising yoga or receiving Indian head massages will lead to the "Kingdom of Darkness".

The priest from the Glendermott parish in Londonderry said yoga had its origins in paganism, and would draw practitioners into the "bad spiritual domain".

There, he said, lurks "Satan and the Fallen Angels, the Kingdom of Darkness".

Yesterday, Hindus hit back in the form of Rajan Zed, president of the Universal Society of Hinduism.

He said that he would be "urging His Holiness Pope Francis to discipline a Derry Catholic priest who linked yoga to Satan".

The Hindu spiritual leader also claimed that the Vatican library itself held various yoga-related books, and he would be contacting the Bishop of Derry Bishop, Donal McKeown, to let him know about them.

In a statement from Nevada in the US, he called for yoga to be introduced in every school.

"Seeing the proven benefits of yoga, it should be introduced in all the schools of the world," he said. "Incorporating yoga in the lives of the students would be a step in the positive direction."

He said that the ancient discipline can help users to feel more relaxed, be more flexible, improve posture, breathe deeply and get rid of stress.

Mr Zed said that yoga, "although introduced and nourished by Hinduism", was a "world heritage and liberation powerhouse to be utilised by all".

And he claimed yoga was an "effort to attain perfection, through the control of the different elements of human nature, physical and psychical".

Fr Calhoun was thrust into the spotlight after he told the Derry Journal that yoga was essentially Satanic.

"Pope Francis said 'do not seek spiritual answers in yoga classes'. Yoga is certainly a risk. There's the spiritual health risk," he said.

"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 is not alone in the Catholic Church. In 2011, the Vatican's own chief exorcist, Gabriele Amorth, told The Telegraph that it leads to a belief in Hinduism, and that "all eastern religions are based on false belief in reincarnation".

And former Pope Benedict XVI, when he leader of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, warned that yoga, Zen, and other transcendental meditation could "degenerate into a cult of the body" that devalues prayer.


In 1989, the Vatican's doctrinal watchdog warned that Eastern meditation practices such as Zen and yoga can "degenerate into a cult of the body" that debases Christian prayer. Attempts to combine Christian and non-Christian meditation are "not free from dangers and errors,'' it said. The 23-page document was signed by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (later Pope Benedict XVI) and approved by Pope John Paul II.

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