Religion news 28 September 2023

International Mass in Westminster Cathedral . Image credit: © Mazur/

The October Synod in Rome where everyone will be talking about women

The role of women in the Catholic church is widely expected to be centre stage at the Rome Synod of bishops next week. Panellists at a Religion Media Centre briefing suggested the headlines would be: “Synod opens the door to women deacons?”; “Women can no longer be silenced”; “Women in the church, the great debate”. The gathering will also discuss clericalism, worship, the abuse of power, migration and climate change, concerns which emerged from a two-year global consultation in a process of listening to all church members. Christopher Lamb, Rome correspondent of The Tablet, made clear that the synod is consultative and only the Pope can have the final say. He said the process to overhaul the way synods meet is likely to be “the signature of this Pope”. Read our report here and view the briefing on YouTube here

Church leaders in Ireland have ‘great concern’ for fragile peace

Church leaders in Ireland are visiting Rome today to take part in a seminar marking the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement. The actual anniversary date was last April but this event has been specially organised by the British and Irish ambassadors to the Holy See. Leaders from the Church Leaders Group (Ireland) are involved including the Church of Ireland, the Methodist and Presbyterian Churches in Ireland, the Roman Catholic Church and the Irish Council of Churches. In a joint statement they said they have “great concern for the state of our fragile peace”. The agreement “marked the first faltering steps down a very long road to a new, brighter, and shared future … shaped by tolerance and respect for our differences, and a recognition of the need for greater understanding and reconciliation”. They will take part in a service and hold meetings with diplomats.

Bishop criticises Home Secretary on threat from illegal immigration

The Bishop of Leicester Martyn Snow, has said he profoundly disagrees with the Home Secretary’s view that uncontrolled illegal immigration is and “existential challenge for the political and cultural institutions of the West”. Posting on X / Twitter, he said: “I profoundly disagree with the Home Secretary’s speech about asylum and multiculturalism, her characterisation of Leicester, and of those seeking refuge in the UK. I am immensely proud to be Bishop of this diverse, creative and vibrant city.”

Islam Channel fined £40,000 for documentary judged antisemitic and offensive

Ofcom has imposed a £40,000 financial penalty on Islam Channel Ltd for “serious and repeated breaches” of broadcasting rules. It found that The Andinia Plan, a one-hour documentary on a conspiracy theory which originated in a neo-Nazi publication, amounted to hate speech against Jewish people. It alleges there is a plan to establish a Jewish state in Patagonia, the southern region of South America governed by Argentina and Chile. Ofcom says the content was antisemitic, highly offensive and not sufficiently justified by the context. It says “We concluded that these were serious and repeated breaches of our rules which warranted the imposition of the following statutory sanctions: a financial penalty, to be paid by Islam Channel Ltd to HM Paymaster General; a direction not to repeat the programme; and a direction to broadcast a statement of our findings on a date and in a form to be determined by Ofcom”.

Three-quarters of religious people in England and Wales back assisted dying

A survey for the assisted dying campaign group Dignity in Dying, has found that around 7 in 10 (69 per cent) of people who follow a religion in England and Wales say they would support assisted dying becoming a legal option for terminally ill people in the UK. Support was even higher among Church of England / Anglican people, at 78 per cent. The findings are based on a YouGov poll of 1,844 people in England and Wales. Rabbi Dr Jonathan Romain, who chairs Dignity in Dying, said: “Millions of people have watched a loved one suffer at the end of their life. They know that, whatever your beliefs, there is no moral argument for prolonging suffering when a dying person says that’s enough, I want to take control.”

France bans its women Olympic athletes from wearing headscarves

A spokesperson for the UN office on human rights has intervened in the row over France’s decision to ban athletes representing France from wearing headscarves during the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris. Marta Hurtado said: “No one should impose on a woman what she needs to wear, or not wear”. Last weekend, France’s minister for sport, Amélie Oudéa-Castéra, have a media interview re-affirming the state’s commitment to secularism and its opposition to the display of religious symbols during sporting events, spelling out: “Which means that the representatives of our delegations, in our French teams, will not wear the headscarf.”. Guardian story here


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