Religion news 12 September 2023

Artist's impression of the exoplanet K2-18b (right) orbiting the red dwarf K2-18. Image credit; ESA/Hubble CCLicense4.0

Possible detection of molecule could indicate life on a planet 120 light years away

NASA has possibly discovered a molecule on an exoplanet 120 light years away that on earth is only produced by life. The molecule called dimethyl sulfide is produced by life in oceans on earth – phytoplankton in marine environments. This was one of a number of observations from the James Webb Space Telescope. It found carbon-bearing molecules including methane and carbon dioxide on the K2-18 b exoplanet, which is more than 8 times the size of earth, in the constellation of Leo. This alongside the shortage of ammonia, supports the hypothesis that there may be a water ocean underneath a hydrogen-rich atmosphere on the planet.  The paper announcing the results was by Nikku Madhusudhan, an astronomer at the University of Cambridge, who said: “Our ultimate goal is the identification of life on a habitable exoplanet, which would transform our understanding of our place in the universe”. NASA report here

PM’s public display of Hindu faith shows “Britain is a multi faith democracy”

The Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and his wife, Akshata Murty, visited the Hindu Temple Swaminarayan Akshardham, in New Delhi, on Sunday. A film of their visit on the BAPS TV channel shows them being led round its ornate interior, where they knelt in reverence at shrines and gave gratitude to their hosts. The Temple is associated with the Neasden BAPS Temple in north London. This is the third time in a month that Sunak has made a public display of his Hindu faith. Just before the trip he gave an interview to the Press Trust of India saying he was a proud Hindu and remembered a Diwali reception in Number Ten as  “an incredibly proud and emotional moment for me”. On 16 August, he visited the “Ram Katha”, a recital of the story of Lord Rama, led by the Indian spiritual leader Morari Bapu at Jesus College, Cambridge, and said his Hindu faith influenced every aspect of his life and gave him the courage to do his best as Prime Minister. Fraser Nelson writing in The Spectator said Sunak’s example, alongside Kate Forbes and Tim Farron, showed that a new generation of British political leaders were normalising faith in the public sphere and these were “important milestones in establishing Britain not as an anti-religious secular state but a multi-faith democracy”.

Pope decries workplaces where people are injured and treated like spare parts

The Pope has said that workplaces must be safe for workers, and all workers must be cared for and protected. Speaking to members of the Italian Association for Injured Workers at the Vatican, he stressed employers’ responsibility to care for staff, decrying cutting corners for profit, or when companies try to improve their image with charity work. He said too many deaths and misfortunes still occur at work and he praised initiatives to improve legislation on workplace accidents and the rehabilitation of people with disabilities. Many times, some workers are treated like spare parts he said, but each person is a gift to the community.

Investigation into Catholic bishops’ handling of sex abuse cases in Switzerland

Catholic bishops in Switzerland have issued a statement making public that a church investigation is underway into allegations “against several emeritus and incumbent members of the Swiss Bishops’ Conference and against other clerics in dealing with cases of sexual abuse. Some of them are accused of having committed sexual assaults in the past”. A letter containing the information was forwarded to the dicastery for the bishops at the Vatican and Bishop Joseph Bonnemain was appointed to investigate, with his report due to be completed by the end of the year. The statement says “The main subject of this preliminary church investigation is the allegations of covering up cases of abuse… The responsible public prosecutor’s offices were informed about the cases mentioned in the letter”.The aim of the investigation is to determine whether there are sufficient indications for the initiation of church criminal or disciplinary proceedings. 

Barrister appointed to review sacking of CofE independent safeguarding board members
The Archbishops’ Council has instructed Sarah Wilkinson, a barrister from Blackstone Chambers, to review the downfall of the Independent Safeguarding Board, whose members, Steve Reeves and Jasvinder Sanghera, were sacked in the summer. The termination of their contracts followed tension with the Archbishops’ Council and led to chaotic disagreements at the General Synod in July. She will account for the board’s activities from the beginning and “establish and identify the reasons for the action to terminate, and identify lessons to be learned based on the findings”, reporting back by the end of November.

“Incredibly brave” 32 year old Jewish aid worker dies in Ukraine

The Jewish Chronicle tells the story of Emma Igual, a 32 year old Spanish Jewish aid worker, who has died after a shell hit her minivan near the almost obliterated city of Bakhmut in Ukraine. The JC had interviewed her several times, reporting on her dangerous “incredibly brave” actions with the charity she set up called “Road to Relief”.  She delivered humanitarian aid to the frontline, once setting up a mobile surgery, never fearing going into war zones. The JC reports that Emma was proud of her Jewish roots, stemming from her grandmother’s escape from Austria during the Holocaust. This spark was re-kindled when she was a student at Berkeley, California.


Sign up for our news bulletin