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Religious Pluralism and Globalisation in the 21st Century: the Expanding European Union and Beyond

The 2001 International Conference, London School of Economics 19 April 2001 - 23 April 2001

 Day 4, 22 April 2001

Parallel Session 6: Session C: 9.30am -11.30am

Old & New Religious Movements

9.30am - 10.00am Fringe Catholic" Movements in Italy: From Basilio Roncaccia to Luigia Paparelli’s Divine Mission
Raffaella Di Marzio, GRIS (Gruppo di Ricerca e Informazione sulle Sette), Italy

"Fringe Catholic" movements (which exist quite apart from the Roman Catholic Church, because either of their peculiar doctrines or activities), although rarely studied, are an important segment of the NRM scene in Italy. While some of these movements are quite small, a couple are much larger. A number of competing "fringe Catholic" movements find their origins in the activities of Basilio Roncaccia (1876-1959). Common features of the Roncaccia tradition include healers as leaders, a central role of the Holy Trinity, and of the Cross, regarded in turn as a healing symbol. Within the Roncaccia tradition, the largest contemporary group, with some 10,000 members, is the Divine Mission ("La Missione Divina - Luigia Paparelli"), established by Luigia Paparelli (1907-1984). Luigia’s teaching and alleged supernatural phenomena attracted a large number of followers. They regard themselves as still part of the larger Roman Catholic community, but in fact represent a typical "fringe Catholicism", often influenced by local traditions, popular religion, and folk religion. The paper explores how membership in the Divine Mission, and its relationship to Catholicism, is perceived by different categories of individual members.

10.00am - 10.30am New Religious Movements and the Search for the Primitive Church in Waldensian History
Michael W. Homer, Salt Lake City, Utah

The Waldensians maintained small communities in Bohemia, France and Italy for nearly three centuries before the Protestant Reformation. Shortly after the Reformation, Swiss and German Reformers approached the Waldensians because they admired their tradition of dissent and wished to educate them and assimilate them in their movement. In 1532, the Waldensians adopted the Reformation and within the next generation they modified their traditions, doctrines and rituals to conform with Calvinism.
During the seventeenth century, many Protestant Churches began to utilise Waldensian history to argue that the Waldensians were instrumental in preserving primitive Christianity in their valleys and that their rituals and doctrines were free of innovations made by the Catholic Church. A new historiography was developed by Waldensian and other Protestant writers which argued that the Waldensians originated during the first three centuries after the death of the apostles and that they survived in the valleys and communities established by the Waldensians. Following the Napoleonic period, this historiography was adopted by many Protestant Churches which were anxious to finally spread the Reformation to Italy. In addition, new religious movements, such as Mormons, Jehovah Witnesses and Seventh-Day Adventists began their missions in Italy by first attempting to convert Waldensians and then spreading their religious message to the larger Catholic population on the Italian peninsula.

10.30am - 11.00am Diffusion and Implantation Processes of Siddha Yoga and Sukyo Mahikari into the West?
Frédérique Louveau, Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales, France
Véronique Altglas, Sorbonne, France

Siddha Yoga, which began near Bombay in the 1930s, was brought to the West by Muktananda in the 1970s. Following his death in 1982 the movement has had a female leader, Gurumayi Chidvilasananda (1955- ), and has acquired perhaps as many as 5,000 members in France and the UK. Sukyo Mahikari is a prophetic movement founded in Japan in 1959. Since the 70s, the founder’s mission has been to extend the reach of this spiritual movement all over the world. On the basis of ethnographic data gathered during fieldwork in France and England, we’ll give a very brief outline of these two movements and analyse their forms of implantation in the western context. We hope that a comparative study of a Japanese and a neo-Hindu movement will cast light on the forms of implantation and adaptation adopted by Asian religious movements in the West.

11.00am - 11.30am The Challenges and Opportunities of the Changing Religious Marketplace for New Religions: The Swedenborgian Case
Dr. Jane Williams-Hogan, Bryn Athyn College of the New Church, USA

The Swedenborgian Movement began in the eighteenth century almost simultaneously in England and the Americas. It was founded by the readers of Emanuel Swedenborg's (1688-1772) religious works. The church organizations founded on both sides of the Atlantic were congregational in structure in response to the egalitarian spirit of the times. The General Conference of the New Jerusalem in England, although found throughout Britain flourished particularly in the small towns of Lancashire and in London. The General Convention of the New Jerusalem developed first in the hamlets of New England and the cities of Baltimore, Boston, New York and Philadelphia. Later it spread into the Western regions of New York, Pennsylvania and the Mid-West. By the end of the nineteenth century both organizations were locally respected and had gained positive national reputations. At the beginning of the twentieth century Conference has 73 societies with a total membership of 6,337. They ran eleven day schools which served 4,375 students and had over 7,000 children in attendance at their Sunday Schools. The Convention in America in the same era had 154 societies and a membership of 7,095.
By the end of the twentieth century the membership figures for these two groups were approximately only a third of the size they were a hundred years earlier. During that time period both groups utilized essentially the same recruitment strategies as they had employed in the nineteenth century (governmental legislation led to the closing of the days schools), even though the religious milieu in which they operated radically altered. Partially in response to their internal dynamics and partially in response to the external changes around them, as they begin their third century, these groups have substantially altered their vision, their mission, and their marketing methods. This paper is an examination of where they were, the changes that they have initiated and an evaluation of their possible success.

Chair: George Chryssides,University of Wolverhampton, UK