Cardinal Vincent Nichols, leader of the Roman Catholic church in England and Wales, has described the “well springs of common good” that have emerged during the coronavirus pandemic and appealed for churches to open so this can be grasped and built upon to re-shape society’s new normal. In an article for the Telegraph on Tuesday, he said: “There has been an upsurge in the practice and appreciation of service and self-sacrifice. In so many ways choices are being made that put others first: at home, with regard to neighbours, in local communities, in hospitals, in our societal effort to repress this virus. This is in sharp contrast to a popular culture which has tended to put ‘self’ always in first place. ‘Individualism’ has dramatically receded..” He asks: “How can these emerging strengths be made more permanent and become features of the ‘new normal’? The simple answer is this: only if they have deep roots and an environment in which to flourish.”
But the next day, the Prime Minister told the Commons that it’s too soon to re-open places of worship. Speaking at Prime Minister’s Questions, he said he understood the “urgency many people feel about the need to reopen places of worship” but there was a risk of infection if places were opened prematurely. “It is a tough one: every time we do something like this, we push up the risk of infection and the risk of pushing up the R again.” He was answering a question from the Tory MP for Loughborough Jane Hunt, who pleaded that religious faiths be allowed to let people into their places of worship, observing social distancing within their premises and that wedding venues be allowed access for bookings. Boris Johnson said: “We are not there yet. It is vital that the people of this country understand the continued need to push down on the infection rate.”
President Trump and his wife Melania, were pictured visiting the Saint John Paul II National Shrine in Washington on Tuesday, the day after he stood in front of St John’s church opposite the White House, brandishing a Bible. An official said the President and his wife were observing a “moment of remembrance,” laying a wreath in a quiet visit to the shrine. The Roman Catholic Archbishop of Washington Wilton Gregory said: “I find it baffling and reprehensible that any Catholic facility would allow itself to be so egregiously misused and manipulated in a fashion that violates our religious principles, which call us to defend the rights of all people, even those with whom we might disagree.”
David Brody, a presenter with Christian Broadcasting Network, uncovered his interview with President Trump from 2011 when he said he would never do anything negative to a Bible. “I would have a fear of doing something other than very positive”, he said.
Conservative Christian supporters of President Trump have defended his action in using the Bible for a photo opportunity outside St John’s church:
Pastor Robert Jeffress, an evangelical clergyman from Dallas Texas, who preached the sermon at President Trump’s inauguration service at St John’s, was interviewed on Fox News. He said: “It was unbelievable that anarchists were trying to destroy that historic church. President Trump was absolutely correct in walking over last evening and standing in front of that church to show his solidarity not only with that congregation, but with houses of worship all across America, demonstrating his intent to protect churches from those who would try to destroy them.”
Rev Johnnie Moore, President, The Congress of Christian Leaders: “I will never forget seeing @POTUS @realDonaldTrump slowly & in-total-command walk from the @WhiteHouse across Lafayette Square to St. John’s Church defying those who aim to derail our national healing by spreading fear, hate & anarchy. After just saying, “I will keep you safe.”
Ralph Reed, former executive director of the Christian Coalition in America, and now founder and chairman of the Faith and Freedom Coalition said: “Trump’s visit to St. John’s made clear that while addressing real grievances about discrimination and enacting sound public policy such as criminal justice reform are needed, the real answer to what ails America is the repentance, forgiveness, and redemption that can be found in faith in Christ. Some of President Trump’s critics seem more upset about him holding a Bible at a church than they were about the vandals who nearly burned it to the ground.”
Dr Shaukat Nawaz Khan, a prominent Muslim community leader from Waltham Forest in London, has died of Covid 19. He was chairman of the British Pakistanis Foundation, Chief Executive of Asia Link Network International and Honorary Vice President of the International Health Foundation, among a string of other appointments. He travelled widely giving lectures and was visiting professor of social science at Karachi University. Tributes in his honour have poured in from around the world.
The Muslim Council of Britain has issued a statement, standing in solidarity with “our black brothers and sisters in the United States, UK and beyond”, following the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. It said “We recognise that anti-Black racism must be stamped out wherever it may manifest, for a failure to do so will continue to result in the taking and ruining of precious life. We commit to playing our part in tackling anti-Black racism within the UK, supporting the individuals and organisations doing vital work in this space, whilst focusing on addressing anti-Black racism within Muslim communities.”