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MELBOURNE, Australia (January 18, 2001 - Radio Australia’s Pacific Beat)---A Catholic priest has warned that new religious movements in the Pacific may have a political agenda.

Father Kevin Barr, who has worked in Papua New Guinea and Fiji, said many U.S.-based televangelists and charismatic-style churches are becoming more influential in the Pacific Islands.

In an interview with Pacific Beat’s Bruce Hill, Barr said this new religious influence is unhealthy.

"I think we’ve had a tremendous influx of what I call Americanized Christianity," Barr said. "There are a lot of fundamentalist evangelical groups, a lot of whom preach prosperity. It’s not only in the Pacific, but all over the world. But we’re certainly seeing this happening."

Barr said he’s concerned that mainstream churches in the Pacific may lose church members to the new evangelical groups.

"The style of Christianity they preach doesn’t seem to be true to the message of the Scriptures, particularly concerns for justice and concern for the poor," he said.

Barr said the new churches are pushing more toward an "individualistic approach to Christianity" that focuses more on material wealth and less on social welfare.

"It promotes economic values that I would say are incompatible to the Gospel," he said.

Barr said some Pacific Island governments, such as Papua New Guinea, have welcomed some of these churches "with open arms."

"Some of the groups are particularly aimed at people in government, business and top jobs in the army. They certainly go after people they want. They promise prosperity and individual advancement," he said.

For additional reports from Radio Australia/Pacific Beat, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Radio/TV News/Radio Australia/Pacific Beat.

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