ADNKRONOS, LA STAMPA (Italy), THE TELEGRAPH (UK)
ROME- With a surprising twist of flexibility, a key Italian bishop and doctrinal expert has given his green light to integrating yoga and meditation into Roman Catholic spiritual practices.
Monsignor Raffaello Martinelli, the bishop of the city of Frascati, near Rome, said that he is "open" to forms of eastern meditation previously rejected by the Vatican, as long as they are used in conjunction with the framework of Christian spirituality, writes La Stampa.
So, could we envision a Sunday mass with a "prayer mat" in the near future? Probably not, nor should anyway expect to see the faithful reciting Our Father in a lotus position, pranyana during a decade of the rosary, nor the happy baby pose after communion...Still, this could be a subtle revolution inside a Church, as it prepares to usher in a new papacy after decades of doctrinal traditionalism.
Mons. Martinelli had launched an official catechism study in 2010 with the translated English title of “50 + 3 Topical Arguments- Fragments of Catholic truth- Catechesis Dialogica.” One of the arguments deals with how Christians should meditate, which La Stampa reports for the first time: “Christians, for their meditations, can learn from other religions," the document states. "Meditation practices (such as zen, yoga, controlled breathing, mantra...) from the Eastern Christian and other non Christian religions, can be suitable means to help the faithful to stand before an inwardly lying God."
In 1999, six years before he succeeded John Paul II as Pope Benedict XVI, then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was the head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Vatican’s watchdog of doctrinal orthodoxy. He issued a document, according to The Telegraph, which warned Roman Catholics of the dangers of yoga, Zen, transcendental meditation and other 'eastern’ practices. They could “degenerate into a cult of the body” that debases Christian prayer, the document said.
Monsignor Martinelli was a collaborater of then Cardinal Ratzinger, which shows that a potential change in the Church could be brewing.
“It’s an accusation that has nothing to do with reality,” Vanda Vanni, the founder of the Mediterranean Yoga Association, told Adnkronos, an Italian news agency, in reference to the Church's standing antagonism toward the practice. “It’s a theory — if one can call it a theory — that is totally without foundation. Yoga is not a religion or a spiritual practice.”