VATICAN CITY, Oct. 30 (UPI) -- The Vatican warned Roman Catholics this week of the dangers of Halloween and urged parents and church leaders to direct children to more wholesome pursuits.
L'Osservatore Romano, the official Vatican newspaper, ran an article Thursday with the headline "Halloween's dangerous messages," ANSA, the Italian news agency, reported.
''Halloween has an undercurrent of occultism and is absolutely anti-Christian,'' the Rev. Joan Maria Canals, a liturgical expert, told the newspaper.
Canals, a member of a Spanish commission on church ritual, urged parents to "try to direct the meaning of the feast towards wholesomeness and beauty rather than terror, fear and death.''
The holiday is believed to have its origins in Celtic festivals marking the beginning of the dark half of the year. The Irish believed that on Samhain, as their festival was called, the boundary between the living world and the world of spirits became thin. The holiday is now celebrated on the eve of the Christian feast of All Saints.
Halloween was not a traditional festival in most of southern Europe but has become increasingly popular. More than 1 million pumpkins are sold in Italy now for the holiday, and costume-makers report they are almost as busy at the end of October as they are for Carnival, the traditional festivity before Lent begins.