February 28, 2000
volume 11, no. 41
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NEWS & VIEWS     Acknowledgments
Articles provided through Catholic World News and Church News at Noticias Eclesiales and International Dossiers, Daily Dispatches and Features at ZENIT International News Agency. CWN, NE and ZENIT are not affiliated with the Daily CATHOLIC but provide this service via e-mail to the Daily CATHOLIC Monday through Friday.

Bishop's Adviser on Sects in Mainz Offers Help to Religious Seekers

    MAINZ, GERMANY, FEB 25 (ZENIT).- Based on the observations of the Bishop's Adviser on Sects in Mainz, the current trend in Germany is toward a "do it yourself" mentality as regards religion. Theologian Eckhard Türk just completed his 1999 report on sects.

    Dr. Türk wrote, "Everyone who wants to and has the necessary small change gathers the elements for a religion put together for himself on the esoteric market: from astral projection to Zen Buddhism, from consciousness expansion to Yin and Yang, he chooses the elements for a religion put together for himself." He added that authoritarian sect leaders and gurus are largely "out," while anything that adds to personal well-being from a religious standpoint, and which can easily be combined with other elements, is "in."

Problems and Dangers of Esoteric Practice

    At the same time, the theologian noted the problems and conflicts that are connected with this trend. Many of the people who asked for advice the Diocese of Mainz's Office for Sect and World View Questions described their esoteric practices as extremely problematic. Often, people were separated from their family environment and were led by their esoteric understanding into the middle of serious conflicts. "In a few cases the esoteric lifestyle was even life-threatening, since people trusted dubious esoteric healers and refused medical therapy," warned Türk.

    Based on such developments, repeat questions didn't want simple information, but psychological and theological counselling. According to Türk's data, in 1999, a total of 789 telephonic and written requests for counselling were received in the diocesan office on sect and world view questions. About a third of these requests required long-term counselling.

Doomsday Groups had Fewer Followers

    In his analysis of the current situation of sects in Germany, Türk noted that in the past year Millenarian and Doomsday groups hardly found any followers for their message, and belief in a doomsday at the turn of the century was almost absent. In Rhineland-Palatinate, the German "Land" including Mainz, as in the whole country, the best-known "end times" group, the Jehovah's Witnesses, actually lost members.

Scientology Falters Considerably

    The number of people belonging to other "sect-like" groups, like the New Apostolic Church, the Moon Sect, and Hare Krishna, stagnated in 1999, according to the theologian. This was also true for Scientology. There are certainly still individual Scientologists operating in business enterprises. The cooperation of Microsoft with Scientologists in the development of "Windows 2000" also raised furor and an increased number of questions at the Office for Sect and World View Questions. However, the German section of Scientology was somewhat weakened by persons leaving the group, as well as by a reduction in course participation and purchase of materials.

    The advisor on sects also noted that in the past year there were an increased number of requests for information that cannot be classified as one of the known sects or psycho-groups. Questions about books and brochures entitled, "Nourishment with Just Prana Light," "Your Days are Numbered," "Uncover your Past Lives," "Germany Needs Mary's Help," and "Divine Knowledge," were hard to answer, because the groups behind them are so poorly known. At the same time, as in previous years, there were a large number of questions on Satanism, Magic, the occult, UFOs, Nostradamus, and Exorcisms. Some of these areas appear to have a growing trend.

Not Just an Advice Booth

    Türk stressed in his yearly report that his Office for Sect and World View Questions is not just an advice booth, but also the distribution point for pastoral care and formation in this field for the diocese. "The problems and the questions on sects and the esoteric scene must be taken as a challenge for the Church," he explained. The Church's presence in the religious and world view "market" is urgently necessary. Christians in Church communities must be made capable of approaching people in search of religion and offering them help in their quest for a life direction, stated Türk.

    Courses for Interested Parties in over 100 Seminaries and Conferences The theologian noted that minicourses on this theme were held in almost 100 seminaries and weekend conferences in the Diocese of Mainz last year. The Office for Sect and World View Questions is also present on the Internet with corresponding information. The point of all this is to give the life-giving power of Christian message anew to men and women. According to Türk, the task is to enable "people to find their way in the incomprehensible market of sense and salvation offerings, and to be able to develop an identity from the Christian faith." ZE00022520


February 28, 2000
volume 11, no. 41

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