Religion news 18 September 2023

By Psu973 - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

France launches government fund to save rural churches

The Times’ Paris correspondent reports that President Macron has launched a €200 million fund to save thousands of churches from falling into ruin, mostly in rural areas with populations of less than 10,000. It is thought that up to 3,000 churches are in danger of decay, with some putting the figure higher at 5,000. The move follows a public conversation after €840 million was raised to restore Notre Dame cathedral in Paris following the fire in 2019, but in contrast little money is spent on village churches. President Macron said there was an attachment to the buildings whether people believed in God or not.

Document suggests Pope Pius XII was told about the holocaust

Documents from the Vatican archives, published this weekend in the Italian daily Corriere della Sera, include a letter suggesting Pope Pius XII did know about the holocaust. A letter dated 14 December 1942, from a German Jesuit Rev Lothar Koenig, to Pius’ secretary, Rev Robert Leiber, starts “Dear friend,” and says the Nazis were killing up to 6,000 Jews and Poles daily from Rava Ruska, a town in pre-war Poland that is today located in Ukraine, and transporting them to the Belzec death camp.  Supporters of Pope Pius said he used quiet diplomacy to save Jewish lives, but this document contradicts the Vatican’s position that it could not verify diplomatic reports of Nazi atrocities in order to denounce them. A major conference on Pope Pius’ legacy is to be held at the Vatican from 9 – 11 October.  Associated Press story here

Cardinal warns the synod in Rome will not be a parliament or referendum

Cardinal Vincent Nicholas has cautioned that the Rome synod next month will not be “an ecclesiastical UN Assembly, nor a Church parliament or convention, nor a referendum on the teaching of the Church. In the words of Pope Francis, it is to be ‘a grace-filled event, a process of healing guided by the Holy Spirit”.  In a pastoral letter, he said the aim and concern of the Pope’s “synodality” initiative, is to create a listening church, open to all, a place of dialogue and inclusion held together, often in tension, with respect, truth and love. Attendees at the synod, which is part one with another a year later, have been chosen by the Pope and include Bishop Nicholas Hudson, auxiliary bishop for the diocese of Westminster.

Pope Francis to open Clinton global conference addressing major world issues

Pope Francis will open the “Clinton Global Initiative” today, a conference on how to address global issues, which was instigated by former US President Bill, his wife former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and the Clinton Foundation’s Vice Chair Chelsea Clinton.  The Pope will take part in a video conference with Bill Clinton when the conference opens in New York, and will discuss issues such as climate change, the refugee crisis and the welfare of children. Attendees include Hollywood stars, the president of the world bank and leaders in politics, business and philanthropy. Its aim is to seek global commitments on issues of common concern.

Lord Boateng says CofE synod is not giving prominence to racial justice

The chair of the Archbishops’ Commission on Racial Justice, Lord Paul Boateng, has said the Church of England is still not giving prominence to racial justice, citing last July’s synod when they were “relegated to a fringe meeting” instead of being allocated a time within the synod agenda. He made the observation in an interview with BBC Radio 4’s Sunday programme, about the Commission’s third report , which has just been published halfway through its project timeline. He said the CofE was beginning to wrestle with the issues and praised the work of the Church Commissioners in recognising the CofE’s role in perpetrating slavery, benefitting from it and even owning slaves and he praised their action in setting aside a £100million fund to redress past wrongs.  But he said the church required courage, and more needed to be done on collecting data on global majority heritage people, in order to drive structural change. He clarified that the Commission was not set up to bring about change, but support the church to change itself.

CofE picks new commissioner for independent safeguarding reviews

The Church of England has announced that a safeguarding professional, Kevin Crompton,  is to be the interim commissioner of independent reviews, taking forward work left by the Independent Safeguarding Board, which disbanded in July when members resigned. The CofE says he will ensure that the case reviews and complaint responses promised by the former ISB will continue, “where those met the terms of reference for the ISB”. In addition an independent advocacy service will be offered. Those with outstanding review requests can now choose reviewers from organisations including the  NSPCC and Thirtyone:eight.  The Church Times reports reaction from Jane Chevous, who runs a survivors’ group, saying they hadn’t been consulted about what they wanted and she looked forward to “meeting the commissioner with my questions”.

Call for politicians to make commitment to Sikhs in election campaign

The Sikh Federation says 15,000 Sikhs took part in a three day convention at Guru Nanak Gurdwara, Smethwick, marking the 20th anniversary of its formation. Those who manage the 250+ Sikh Gurdwaras in the UK were encouraged to ensure that only the politicians providing a public commitment to the Sikh community would be provided a platform at Gurdwaras in the run up to the General Election, because the Sikh vote “is not taken for granted at the next General Election”. A Sikh Manifesto will be released at least 3 months before the next General Election. In a statement, the Federation said “those participating in the convention expect to see a Labour Government elected next year that could be in power for at least 10 years.   The number of Sikh MPs in a Labour Government is expected to increase from two who are both Shadow Ministers to nine”.  

Sky diving rector raises £2,300 for church roof

The Rev Glyn Lewry has taken part in a sponsored sky dive to raise money for roof repairs to St Peter’s, Uplowman, near Tiverton in Devon. He raised £2,300, a contribution to the £100,000 target. He told the Church Times that he overcame a fear of flying and heights and agreed to the skydive in a moment of madness. The moment he jumped “was quite terrifying.”


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