Religion News 13 July

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Virtual choir fundraiser to save cathedral choirs

Norwich Cathedral’s Master of Music Ashley Grote, has assembled 269 choristers from 41 choral foundations to form a massive virtual choir raising money to support cathedral choirs across the country.  Singers are unable to perform in person because of the risk of spreading the coronavirus, but this virtual performance of “Sing Forever” by Robert Prizeman is hoped to raise  £1million for the Emergency Cathedral Choir Fund. The Church Commissioners have pledged £1million to allow lay clerks to be employed until Christmas; and the emergency fund will keep them on until Easter. Church musicians have written to the culture secretary saying the ban on singing is based on assumptions not science, and the future of choral singing is at stake. Public Health England scientists have commissioned tests from Salisbury Cathedral singers to test whether spray and spittle from singers will spread the virus. The future of Cathedral music is of concern, as Cathedrals will lose £28.4 million this year and £15.5 million next due to the virus.

Hope for a tribal and divided church

The new Archbishop of York Stephen Cottrell was on the media stage this weekend, days after being confirmed in the job. He told the General Synod, which met virtually on Saturday, that the church had allowed itself to become tribal and divided, but he planned to build a safe and loving church: “we are just going to have to learn how to love one another.” He told the Sunday programme on Radio 4 that he wanted to do a job which is hopeful, despite the difficult start with the ‘horrors’ of Covid-19. And he told Times Radio on Sunday morning that the church had been active in all communities during the lockdown, in often hidden ways helping people in need. Quizzed about the church’s slow reforms allowing women to be priests and bishops, and long discussions over homosexuality, he said the church doesn’t move forward unless there is consensus – judged by a two thirds majority – so it takes longer to change. The Brexit vote at 52:48 looked like a draw, he said.

Archbishop: The pandemic is “not all about us”

The General Synod – the Church of England’s parliament – is unable to pass legislation online – though it has agreed to bring forward new laws allowing that later this year. So the one day session on Saturday featured hours of questions. The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, fielded more than twenty on the closure of churches due to the coronavirus pandemic, a litany that caused him to lament that the pandemic was not “all about us” and, faced with the severity of the virus, the inward focus of the questions was  “depressing and slightly surprising”.

Tweets of national importance

Bishops who tweeted their objections to the Prime Minister’s adviser Dominic Cummings’ flouting of the lockdown, were supported by several members of the General Synod. Nine questioners had taken the bishops to task, but several speakers said they were glad the bishops spoke out and David Walker, Bishop of Manchester, said the tweets were a contribution to a discussion that was very much of national importance.

Commemorating  25th anniversary of  Srebrenica massacre

A zoom ceremony is being planned to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the Srebrenica genocide, when 8,000 Muslim men and boys were massacred because of their faith. East London Mosque and the London Muslim Centre,  with the Bosnia Heritage Foundation, will host a live event on  Wednesday 15 July at 6pm. Speakers include Vanja Filipovic – Ambassador of Bosnia and Herzegovina to the UK; Yasmin Qureshi MP – Shadow International Development Minister, Chair of Srebrenica APPG since 2012; and Hasan Nuhanovic – Genocide survivor, author and former UN interpreter during the war.


Pope saddened that Hagia Sophia museum becomes a mosque

Pope Francis says he feels ‘deeply saddened’ by the decision to convert the Hagia Sophia building in Istanbul from a museum back into a mosque.  The building is a UNESCO world heritage site which was first built as a Cathedral in 360AD, but became a mosque when the city fell to the Ottoman Empire in 1453. It became a museum in 1935 at the request of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, founder of the Republic of Turkey. But on Friday, President Erdogan said it would revert to a mosque and prayers would resume there on 24 July.

Chinese leaders sanctioned over fate of Uighur Muslims

The United States has imposed sanctions on Chen Quanguo, a senior official in the western region of Xinjiang, where the UN estimates about one million Muslim Uighurs have been detained in re-education camps. He and three other senior officials are accused of human rights violations and the sanctions can freeze any US assets and prohibit Americans doing business with them. Three of the officials have been barred from entering the United States.


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