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Harry Potter books win Vatican blessing

©Associated Press
February 4, 2003

VATICAN CITY -- The Vatican is giving thumbs up to the Harry Potter series.

The good vs. evil plot lines of the bestselling books are imbued with Christian morals, the Rev. Don Peter Fleetwood said at a Vatican news conference Monday.

"I don't see any problems in the Harry Potter series," Fleetwood said.

He was responding to questions after the release of a Vatican document on New Age phenomenon, which he helped draft as a member of the Pontifical Council for Culture.

"A Christian Reflection on the "New Age' " doesn't give many absolute answers. But while saying some positive things about the New Age movement, it warns that New Agers' quest for spirituality and inner peace can't take the place of true Christian religion.

Fleetwood was asked whether the magic embraced by Harry Potter and his pals at the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry was problematic for the Roman Catholic Church. Some evangelical groups have condemned the series for glamorizing magic and the occult.

"I don't think there's anyone in this room who grew up without fairies, magic and angels in their imaginary world," said Fleetwood. "They aren't bad. They aren't serving as a banner for an anti-Christian ideology.

"If I have understood well the intentions of Harry Potter's author, they help children to see the difference between good and evil," said Fleetwood. "And she is very clear on this."

He said British author J.K. Rowling was "Christian by conviction, is Christian in her mode of living, even in her way of writing."

Monsignor Michael Fitzgerald, president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, said many aspects of the New Age movement were positive, such as the emphasis on protecting the environment.

"But if one is brought to this by ascribing "divineness' to the land, that's another thing," he said. "Music that relaxes you is good. But if this music empties prayer and prayer turns into just listening to music and falling asleep, it's no longer prayer."

The document stresses that much of the New Age movement is driven by marketing books, therapies and crystals, and it notes some consider New Age just a label "for a product created by the application of marketing principles to a religious phenomenon."

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