BRENTWOOD, England (ChurchMilitant.com) - A priest who displayed Hindu, Buddhist and African idols in front of the altar in his church has provoked further outrage by chanting a Hindu mantra during an "interfaith" service of eucharistic adoration.
Father Britto Belevendran, pastor of the Church of the English Martyrs, Hornchurch, in London, intoned the Pavamana Abhyaroha (all-purifying holy chant) from the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad together with the praṇava sacred syllable OM, during a pan-religious service concluding with the exposition of the Blessed Sacrament.
Belevendran's service, relayed on YouTube, was in response to Pope Francis' invitation "to believers of every religion" to "unite themselves spiritually in a day of prayer, fasting and works of charity" on Thursday, to implore God to end the Wuhan virus pandemic.
Wearing a rainbow stole, Belevendran sang the Hindu mantra in the Hindu sacred language of Sanskrit: Asato ma sad gamaya, tamaso ma jyotir gamaya, mrtyor mamrtam gamaya ("Lead me from unreality to reality, from darkness to light, from death to immortality").
"This mantra is a flagrant contradiction of the Christian doctrines of creation and incarnation and the Real Presence of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament," a Rome-based expert in Indic religions told Church Militant.
The writer, who has published a missiology textbook on religions in the Indian context, explained that Advaita Hinduism understands creation and this world as an illusion (maya).
"This Vedic mantra, taken from the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, is affirming the non-reality and non-existence of creation and asking God to lead us out of this delusion — which includes Jesus' Real Presence — to the vidya or knowledge of the fact that everything is maya," she noted.
"In fact, matter is an obstacle to achieving moksha or salvation," she explained. "Only when one acknowledges that self and creation is an illusion and one's consciousness is in reality part of the eternal consciousness does one attain salvation by merging with the Ultimate Reality — Brahman, which is not a personal God, but a principle."
"In monist Hinduism, matter does not matter," she noted. "In contrast, the biblical God creates a real world and loves His creation. In Jesus, God becomes matter, i.e., flesh, and dwells among us. The Catholic doctrine of the Eucharist pushes this materiality even further as God becomes matter in forms of bread and wine."
"To pray this prayer at a service where the Blessed Sacrament, God made flesh, is exposed and adored, is the ultimate contradiction. It is spitting in the face of the monstrance — a desecration," the scholar, who has studied Sanskrit, lamented.
"Ironically, Fr. Belevendran is also insulting Hinduism and making a mockery of their sacred beliefs," she said. "No wonder Hindu fundamentalists are attacking Christians in India and accusing us of misappropriating their religious texts and symbols. In the West, we call it 'cultural appropriation.'"
During the service, Belevendran repeatedly affirmed Hinduism and denied Christianity by inviting his online audience to "go into the soul: from the conscious to the unconscious; from the external to the internal."
At one point, the priest made the claim that "the Mystical Body of Christ also includes people of all faiths and none. The entire humanity is there, within that Mystical Body of Christ; Christ hidden in everyone!"
Speaking to Church Militant, Joseph Shaw, chairman of the Latin Mass Society of England and Wales, remarked: "This is profoundly troubling, and needless to say such religious syncretism has always been condemned by the Church."
"It is also deeply patronizing to other faiths to imply that they are compatible with the truths of Christianity: They have their own claims to truth which should be taken seriously and treated with respect," Shaw stressed. "The ancient texts revered by Hindus should not be used as a source of quaint decorative religious poetry, like a tourist's souvenir."
Belevendran, who features on the Sex Therapy Counseling in Upminster website, defiantly went ahead with the pan-religious service, even though hundreds of Catholics bombarded a Twitter feed on which his diocese of Brentwood had posted a picture of the idols of Buddha, Shiva (the Hindu god of destruction) and an African idol.
The diocese of Brentwood deleted the picture from its Twitter feed after backlash from incandescent Catholics tweeting in response, calling it idolatry, syncretism, blasphemy and sacrilege.
The administrator hosting Belevendran's service on YouTube has been constantly deleting negative comments. A comment by Indian Catholic Joanna Fernandes that read "What is wrong with you? And you heretics in the Catholic Church. GET OUT" was swiftly erased.
Belevandran's YouTube site also posted a warning: "Everyone is welcome to the English Martyrs You Tube channel to participate in worship and praise of God. Abuse and harassment will not be tolerated. Persistent activity which is abusive or harassing will be removed and reported. If this persists, we will contact the police."
"Hearing that a Hindu prayer was proclaimed during eucharistic adoration appalls me," Deacon Nick Donnelly told Church Militant. "To do so is the antithesis of God's purity and holiness because, as St. Paul says, 'the sacrifices of pagans are offered to demons, not to God, and I do not want you to be participants with demons' (I Cor. 10:20).'"
The popular U.K. author and journalist elaborated:
This priest was entrusted with that which is most precious in the Church, Our Lord really and truly present in the Blessed Sacrament. Down the centuries countless faithful have given their lives to save the Host from profanation and desecration, but instead of protecting this precious trust, this priest has deliberately chosen to proclaim a pagan prayer before the Blessed Sacrament. This syncretism is an example of how corruption and ruination have entered the Church.
Church Militant contacted Belevendran for the third time this week to ask how he would respond to Dalit ("untouchable") converts from Hinduism who feel betrayed by a Catholic priest praying a prayer from the Brahmanical Hindu Upanishads during eucharistic adoration.
Brahmanical Hinduism, based on the Vedas and Upanishads, promotes the oppressive caste system; millions of Indian untouchables converted to Christianity to free themselves from three millennia of caste discrimination.
An expert in canon law told Church Militant: "Any direct invocation of a pagan god made during any Catholic liturgy is nefas — totally evil and forbidden by the First commandment."
"Acts of latria made towards pagan gods and/or idols, inasmuch as they manifest the denial of the one true God, Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, constitute the canonical crimes of apostasy and/or heresy and are punished by latae sententiae excommunication according to canon 1364 of the Code of Canon Law," he observed.
The pan-religious service has been promoted by the diocese of Brentwood under Bp. Alan Williams, where Belevendran serves as interfaith advisor.