Religion news 29 November 2023

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Pope cancels visit to Cop28 on medical advice

The Pope, who is 86, has cancelled his planned trip to the Cop28 meeting in Dubai, on medical advice. He has been suffering from flu and respiratory tract inflammation for several days and has rearranged his diary to rest and recover. A statement from the Vatican said the Pope’s health had improved but on the advice of the doctors, Pope Francis “with great regret” has cancelled his visit to Dubai. He was due to visit this weekend, at the opening of the summit, addressing the assembly and participating in the inauguration of the Faith Pavilion. But his doctors have told him to continue to rest and not face the strain of the journey.

New research institute says people with faith are more satisfied with their jobs

The new “Institute for the Impact of Faith in Life” was launched at a reception in London last night, unveiling research suggesting that people with a faith are more satisfied with their jobs than those without a faith; and they are more likely to say they carry out their duties “in a thorough manner”. The Institute has three staff including Dr Rakib Ehsan, senior research associate, who wrote the report. He told the reception that the Institute would research the positive impact of faith on British life. He said this report indicated religious affiliation brought trust, a sense of belonging and purpose in the workplace and was a vital source of social capital. The Institute’s secretary, Dr Jake Scott, explained that the organisation is not politically motivated. He declined to give details of its anonymous backers. The launch comes months after a meeting at Number Ten where business leaders discussed the importance of faith in the workplace; and days after the APPG for International Freedom of Religion or Belief discussed a report proposing that businesses adopt a set of actions to accommodate religion and belief.

Charities warned against allowing hate speech or extremism

The chair of the Charity Commission, Orlando Fraser KC, says they are aware of “a significant number of serious concerns about activities linked to the conflict in Israel and Gaza”, concerning allegations of antisemitic or hate speech. Writing in The Telegraph, he said “charities must not allow their premises, events or online content to become forums for hate speech against any community or unlawful extremism”. He pledged that the Commission would deal with violations robustly. He said charities are free to campaign so long as it relates to their charitable purposes: “But I am clear that they have a responsibility to do so with respect, tolerance and consideration for others”. The comment is republished on the Charity Commission website.

David Lammy says every attack on a Jewish person is an attack on Britain

Shadow foreign secretary, David Lammy, has told a gathering of Labour Friends of Israel that the Hamas attack on 7 October, which killed more than 1,200 people, was the worst day the Jewish people have suffered since the Holocaust, and an attack on Jews everywhere.  He said that every attack on a Jewish person, a synagogue, every chant of hate “is an attack on Britain, is an attack on all of us”. He pledged that a future Labour government would appoint a Middle East peace envoy and be dedicated to a “just and lasting peace based on two states in which all enjoy security, dignity and human rights.” Jewish News report here

Interfaith vigil for children killed in Israel and Gaza

An interfaith vigil for the children of Israel and Gaza will be held at St James’s Piccadilly this afternoon from 3.30pm. Speakers include Imam Ibrahim Mogra, Rabbi Jonathan Wittenberg and the Rev Lucy Winkett. In Gaza, 5,300 Palestinian children have died; and in Israel 35 children have died and more than 30 held hostage since 7 October.  The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child said that the war had “claimed the lives of more children in a shorter time and with a level of brutality that we have not witnessed in recent decades.”

Baroness Hollins becomes Catholic Union President 

Baroness Sheila Hollins, former president of the British Medical Association and the Royal College of Psychiatrists, has become the Catholic Union’s first woman president in its 150 year history. She succeeds Sir Edward Leigh MP, who is 73 and had been president for nine years. Baroness Hollins served on the Pope’s Commission for the Protection of Minors set up to improve safeguarding. She says of her new appointment that she is looking forward to working with Catholic Union members and supporters across the country to help all Catholics play their part in public life.

European Court of Justice says employees can ban religious dress

The European Court of Justice has ruled that public offices in member states can prohibit their employees from wearing signs of religious belief. The judgment came in the case of a Muslim employee from Ans in Belgium, who was told she could not wear a headscarf in her office at work. The employer, a local municipality, said this was to ensure neutrality at work, with no proselytising. The woman launched a legal challenge saying this infringed her religious freedom, but the court said the municipality had a margin of discretion in deciding what was neutral. France has banned headscarves and overt religious clothing in state schools and government buildings, arguing that they violate secular laws.

Poll suggests only 32 per cent of Britain’s population believe clergy are trustworthy

The 2023 Ipsos Global Trustworthiness Index reveals that clergy rank in the bottom third of professions. The most trustworthy of 18 professions listed, are doctors, scientists and teachers. The least trustworthy are politicians. Clergy / priests rank 11 out of 18 with only 27 per cent of those surveyed saying they are trustworthy. British Religion in Numbers  has published an analysis of the results which shows that in Britain, based on interviews with approximately 1,000 adults aged 21–74, clergy rank a little higher than the global average, with 32 per cent of Britons believing they are trustworthy.

Obsessive man jailed for harassing a woman vicar

An obsessive man who stalked a woman vicar, forcing her to move 100 miles away, has been sent to prison for two years. Reading Crown Court was told that Terry Atkins, 47, bombarded the Rev Lucy Fyfe-Jamieson with calls and emails, including 59 in one day, pursued her to her house and forced his way in. She moved from Canterbury to another church but he tracked her down in breach of a restraining order, she called the police and he was arrested. She told the court she had been  overwhelmed, out of her depth and felt completely helpless. Story in The Times

Sabrina music video filmed in Catholic church leads to priest’s removal

A priest in Brooklyn has been “relieved of his duties” after allowing the singer Sabrina Carpenter to film the music video for her single “Feather” inside a Catholic church. Pink News has a full description of the performance, where she dances around the altar in a black tulle dress, “shortly after killing toxic men n her life in a horror inspired visual” and then celebrating in an upbeat funeral service.  Scenes were filmed both inside and outside the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary church in Williamsburg. The film has been watched more than 11 million times. But the local bishop, Robert Brennan, said  he was appalled and he has relieved Monsignor Jamie J. Gigantiello of his duties. The priest posted on Facebook that he had no idea such a scene would be filmed or that anything provocative was occurring in the church.

Washington National Cathedral backs off charging people to attend Christmas services

Washington National Cathedral, in the US, has backed down in a row over charging people for tickets to attend Christmas services. It had announced that people could buy passes, selecting tickets at $7 each to attend services between 22 – 25 December. But after an outbreak of complaint and criticism on Twitter / X, the Cathedral has issued a statement saying services are free, but people can opt to pay $7 to pay for overhead costs.  


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