Harry Potter film harbours Christian themes

By  Peggy Weber, Catholic News Service
  • July 12, 2007
{mosimage}WESTFIELD, Mass. - July will be a big month for Harry Potter fans and Fr. Michael Bernier, parochial vicar at St. Mary parish in Westfield, proudly counts himself among the myriad of Potter devotees.

In fact, he described himself as a “Pottermaniac” at a talk he gave in May about God and Harry Potter. And he, like millions more, is looking forward to July 21 when the seventh and final book, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, is released and July 13 when the fifth movie, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, premieres.

“Pottermania” is once again expected to sweep through bookstores and movie theatres this summer, and Bernier told those gathered for his talk at St. Mary High School that Christians should not fear this devotion to stories about a boy wizard.

“On the surface level it does sound suspect and does raise red flags,” he said. However, he said the magic in Harry Potter is not sorcery. And he noted that the original title of the first book was Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. The title was changed to Sorcerer’s Stone for the book’s release in the United States.

“I happen to be one of the people who believes that there’s a great deal of Christian imagery and symbolism in the books. And I think it answers, at least in parts, a longing that we have for Christ,” he said.

{amazon id='1551929767' align='right'}Throughout his talk, Bernier quoted from Looking for God in Harry Potter by John Granger which emphasizes that the Harry Potter books focus on the triumph of love over death. For example, Dumbledore says to the villain Voldemort: “Indeed, your failure to understand that there are things much worse than death has always been your greatest weakness.”

Bernier also said that many people believe that Pope Benedict XVI “came out against the Harry Potter books.”

“Pope Benedict has not said anything actually about the Harry Potter books themselves. I don’t know if he’s even read them,” he said.

He told his audience of about 25 people that before he became Pope Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, as head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, responded to a book written about the dangers of Harry Potter. He sent a note to the author thanking her for the book and said if the accusations were true then they would be of grave concern.

A majority of those attending the priest’s talk were Harry Potter fans. A few joked that they arrived by “floo powder” or “platform 9 3/4” — referring to ways people travel in the wizard world.

James Madigan, 14, said he planned to be at a local bookstore at midnight July 21 to get his reserved copy of the latest Harry Potter book.

Lisa Miranda, 14, said she came away from the lecture realizing for the first time that the Harry Potter books had “religious ties.”

Bernier predicted that author J.K. Rowling would end the series not with Harry’s death but possibly Hagrid’s. He also predicted that Snape, who has always been portrayed in a dark light, would end up as a good character. But above all the priest said he hopes readers embrace the goodness of the books and the enjoyment of reading.

“They’re wonderfully written books that appeal to kids and adults. They’re easy to read and they’re entertaining,” he said.

And he noted that Granger’s book praises the many good things in a series where “never has the Christian message been smuggled into hearts so effectively.”

Bernier said that Harry Potter is “a symbol of all of us as sons and daughters of God — humanity pursuing its spiritual perfection in Christ.”

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