Religion news 19 April 2023

Image credit: photographer Dave Custance

Coronation procession led by Welsh silver cross with crucifixion relics

The Cross of Wales, a new processional silver cross which includes small wooden fragments said to be from the cross on which Jesus was crucified, will lead the King’s procession into Westminster Abbey for his coronation. The cross was commissioned by Charles in 2020 to celebrate the centenary of the Church in Wales and is made from recycled silver bullion from the Royal Mint in Llantrisant. The wooden fragments are a gift from Pope Francis for the coronation and are shaped as crosses 1cm and 5mm in size, set behind a gemstone within the silver cross. The Cross of Wales will be dedicated today in Llandudno, before being moved to London. finished Words from the last sermon of St David are inscribed on the back of the Cross, in Welsh: “Byddwch lawen. Cadwch y ffydd. Gwnewch y Pethau Bychain”, which translates as: “Be joyful. Keep the faith. Do the little things.”

Pope appeals for peace in Sudan

Pope Francis has appealed for dialogue in Sudan as the country experiences its third day of war, with two rival generals leading armies equipped with guns and war planes, battling it out in Khartoum in a dispute over  transitioning to civilian rule. Around 200 people have been killed in the fighting which began on Saturday. The Pope visited South Sudan earlier this year, with the Archbishop of Canterbury and the moderator of the Church of Scotland, to appeal for peace in the south where war and famine have claimed almost half a million lives. There are fears that the war in the north will further destabilise the south. The Pope said: “I am close to the Sudanese people, who have already been through so much”.

CofE review into abuser John Smyth is delayed again

The Church of England’s independent review into the abuse by John Smyth, a barrister and Christian summer camp leader who beat boys for pleasure in his garden shed, has once more been delayed. In a statement the independent reviewer, Keith Makin, said he had reported to police matters that had come to light in recent weeks, as was his duty: “This impacts on the planned timescale for completion of the review, and I am aware from my regular contact with victims, of the distress that this is likely to cause them, their families, and others affected by this case”. The Church Times reports that the review announced in 2018 and due to report in 2020, is now three years overdue.

Humanists produce guidance for parents on how to navigate religion in schools

Humanists UK has produced a guidance document for parents in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, on how to navigate religion in schools. It says one-third of state-funded schools in the UK are Christian, yet the 2021 census showed that the number of people ticking “non religion” is growing. The guidance offers advice on the law surrounding school assemblies and the content of religious education lessons and outlines the legal right of parents and young people to withdraw from both. It says parents who are not religious are “exposed to ongoing discrimination”. Humanists UK Education Campaigns Manager Robert Cann said: “A reckoning must surely be coming between the non-religious population and our very Christian education system”.

Muslim Hands appeal on Islam TV Channel raises £1.45 million in one night

Throughout Ramadan, the Islam Channel has allowed charities to present programmes about their work and raise funds for future development. As the festival draws to a close, the Channel reports that Muslim Hands raised over £1.45 million for its work with the  people of Syria, Palestine and Yemen. The Channel schedule for Ramadan includes daily living programmes covering cookery and health, talks from Islamic scholars, a recitation of the Quran and charity appeals.

US faith groups join campaign to protect abortion rights

Coalitions of Jews, Catholics, Hindus and Christians are protesting against the decision of a Texas judge to ban mifepristone, an abortion pill. The Religion News Service reports their view that the decision is based on a “sectarian version of Christianity” and that a court decision on when life begins reflects a narrow view and imposes Christian nationalism on all. US Catholic bishops and the Southern Baptist Convention back the judge’s decision, but religious groups have come together to campaign in favour of abortion rights.  Polling by PRRI (Public Religion Research Institute) suggests 64 per cent of the population believe abortion should be legal in all or most cases. Last Friday the U.S. Supreme Court temporarily restored full access to the abortion medication until 19 April.

Diocese records doubling of income through contactless and QR codes

The diocese of Chester says digital donations by QR codes and contactless payments have doubled in two years. Income rose from £114k in 2021 to £230k in 2022.  It goes on to say that “nationally, digital payments in churches have risen from £5 million in 2021 to nearly £10 million in 2022 according to the Parish Buying Scheme. These figures pertain to parishes that use payment systems provided by the Parish Buying Scheme. However, some parishes have independently purchased their own payment systems, so their digital donations are not included in these statistics.

Church Commissioners to create nature reserve in Herefordshire

The Church Commissioners for England has signed a tenancy agreement to promote nature alongside sustainable agriculture on a 100 acre site on the banks of the River Wye, Hereford’s Bartonsham Meadows. A statement from the Church of England says the agreement will “help restore the land to a more natural state and create a wildlife haven for nature and people alike”.  The plans include  planting grass and wildflowers, restoring ancient hedgerows , reintroducing cattle grazing, and introducing new floodplain meadows to protect the city of Hereford from flooding.


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