A Hindu group spoke out on Friday against the silence from the Catholic Church about a Northern Ireland priest’s comments on the links between yoga and Satan. There have previously been calls from Hindus to discipline the priest for disrespecting the practice.

Fr. Roland Colhoun, a priest from Glendermott parish in Derry, courted controversy last week when he told the Derry journal that yoga and Indian head massages will lead to the “Kingdom of Darkness”. He continued to say that those who practised yoga put themselves at risk of falling foul of “Satan and the Fallen Angels”. The comments came after the priest warned his parishioners against taking part in yoga in a sermon about the devil.

On Friday, Hindu statesman Rajan Zed told Nevada (USA) that he believed neither the Vatican nor the Diocese of Derry’s Bishop, Most Reverend Donal McKeown, had made any attempts at apologizing for the disrespectful manner in which Fr. Colhoun spoke about the ancient and revered practise.

Zed, who is President of Universal Society of Hinduism, continued to say that yoga was not only practiced by Hindus but had become a global tradition used by many faiths to achieve physical and mental fitness.

“Why was this Derry priest unnecessarily disparaging yoga whom Patanjali described as ‘a methodical effort to attain perfection’ and about whom US National Institutes of Health indicated: yoga may help one to feel more relaxed, be more flexible, improve posture, breathe deeply, and get rid of stress?” Rajan Zed asked.

According to Zed, “Yoga, referred as ‘a living fossil’, is a mental and physical discipline, for everybody to share and benefit from, whose traces went back to around 2,000 BCE to Indus Valley civilization.”

Zed called on both the Vatican and on Bishop McKeown, who he feels is directly responsible for the actions and comments of Fr. Colhoun, to clearly clarify their position on yoga and to apologize to those worldwide who practise yoga and were offended by its affiliation with Satan.

Fr. Colhoun’s comments came after Pope Francis spoke about yoga in early January. On 9 January, the Pope stated in his morning homily that courses in yoga and zen meditation can never free people enough to open their hearts to God and his love. The Pope also mentioned, however, that this may not always be achieved with even spirituality or with extensive studies in church teaching.