Participation in non christian rituals

I am new to CAF, but have been following various discussions for sometime as a guest. I am a Catholic residing in India. I am not sure I am addressing my question in the appropriate forum and would welcome correction from members. The question that bothers me is simple, but despite research I am not sure I have found the appropriate answer to the issue.

I have been invited by certain Hindu friends to participate in their rituals (which would obviously include worship of their deities). I understand and try to live my faith in Christ and so would be more inclined to refuse the invitation. I am however concerned for some of my Catholic brothers who may be more willing to accept and participate in such rituals merely to avoid offending the Hindu friends.

I would be grateful if am directed to the Church teachings on whether it is acceptable to participate in Hindu or non Christian worship rituals. Alternatively, if there has already been a discussion or if there is a reference that I may peruse, it would be greatly appreciated.


It is not allowed. I would not attend such an event. In that way neither God and Hindu friends are offended. As for church teaching, let’s start with the 1st commandment. That is pretty clear, right?

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Thanks Contra Mundum. The first commandment is the basis for my reluctance to attend such events. My concern is countering justification from myy brothers that mere passive participation (in terms of being physically present and watching) will not run contra of the commandment as they would not be actively worshiping with the others. Do you know of any explanation or commentary to the first commandment that may include an express prohibition that I may use to build my case.

I’m afraid I don’t. Let’s hope other posters will be able to provide that. I’m sure the Catechism has something to say about this.

Essentially, we are not prohibited from visiting such places of worship. It is fine to watch. I’ve been to Hindu temples in India and observed what was going on. I most certainly did not engage in worship of any kind. But if your friends think that they can do more than that (and that they should do more than just observe in order not to offend their friends) then it is wise not to go. If, for example, you think that you might be put on the spot to join in with others then most certainly don’t go.

I don’t see a problem with attending the ritual as a guest, as long as you make it clear to your Hindu friends you do not believe what they believe.

Just a note, part of puja (which is a very common ritual in among Hindus in India) involves eating the food that’s first been offered to a deity, and I would think that would conflict with a verse about not eating food that’s been offered to idols.

If you’re worried about it, I think it would be best to explain to your hosts that there are some things you will not be able to do, but you would be happy to attend their ritual as an observer. Making a big production of it would just be disrespectful, IMHO.

I attended a Hindu wedding a few years ago as an invited guest.

There was no participation by anyone other than the wedding party, so you could say I was it was passive involvement since all I did was observe.

I spoke with our parish priest, and our Bishop before hand, and they were all good with it.

I must say, I found the whole ceremony very interesting.

Paul dealt with this exact problem in 1 Corinthians chapter 10.

The basic argument he makes is that you don’t need to worry whether or not food has been sacrificed to idols, since they aren’t real, but if you know for sure that something has been sacrificed to idols that you should not touch it for the good of those around you, either because they are weak Christians who might think you have fallen, or non-Christians who think it is a sign that you accept their practices.

Well, Pope Benedict visited a mosque in Istanbul and prayed alongside a Muslim cleric whilst there.

Surely attending a Hindu temple would be no different, assuming that no specifically Hindu prayers, sacrifices or whatnot are expected from you whilst there.

JPII went to, and prayed at the wailing wall.

Back in 2005, I visited a Synagogue one Friday in Greenville, SC just for the heck of it. Wore the Yamakul(sp?) and read along. I did NOT read the wording of “when Messiah comes” during the service for two reasons.

  1. I believe Jesus is the Messiah and has already come in the flesh
  2. I had already spoken to the Rabbi and told him I was Catholic and just visiting

For me to repeat those words, for me, would’ve not been correct or proper, both to my own soul or the Jewish people around me.

Other than that, I did enjoy though. Kept telling myself “this is how Christ worshipped” before he began the Father’s work.

I would LOVE to do that. Just haven’t gotten the nerve to do it yet.

It follows from lower down that you’re talking about just being present. I wouldn’t have a problem with that myself, but I live the U.S. and thus in a very different context (this is a practical issue for me mostly in terms of taking students on field trips for my Religions of the World course).

I think you need to look at this in a narrower way than just “non-Christian rituals.” I don’t think the “non-Christian” part is as significant as the specific nature of the ritual.

As I’m sure you know, Hindus typically claim that all deities are aspects of the One God. However, I know that different Hindu deities have very different relationships to Brahman according to Hindu theology and that popular religion takes many forms and often looks quite different than, say, Advaita Vedanta philosophy!

My own approach, as a Christian, is that I won’t do anything that could be construed as active participation in the worship of a Hindu deity, even if Hindus tell me that this is simply a way of worshiping the One God. (So, for instance, when I visit a Hindu puja with my students, I won’t receive prasad or pass my hands over the sacred flame.)

I have a different attitude to Sikh and Muslim worship (which I regard as clearly directed toward the One True God) and toward Theravada Buddhist veneration of Buddha (which seems indistinguishable from Catholic saint veneration, and Buddha himself, if he’s anything like the stories claim, seems to be worthy of dulia–indeed, the story of Buddha circulated in the Middle Ages as the story of a Christian saint).


As another poster pointed out, St. Paul says that this is OK as long as people don’t interpret it as a form of worship. (I’m also not convinced that major Hindu deities are in the same category as ancient Greco-Roman deities, but that’s a complicated and dubious matter.)

In the pujas I’ve attended, where there’s a meal afterwards, there’s a clear distinction between the puja and the meal, even though at least some of the food was indeed placed in the presence of the deities.

Receiving prasad is a clearly different kind of act. I myself will receive prasad at Sikh gurdwaras but not at a Hindu puja.


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