Religion news 4 October 2023

Cockermouth floods. Image credit CCLicense2.0

Pope publishes Part 2 of Laudato Si’, his encyclical on creation, in Rome today

Pope Francis will unveil part two of Laudato Si‘, his encyclical on creation today, a date chosen because it is the feast day of St Francis of Assisi and ends the month long Season of Creation when the church has prayed for the world. The Pope told a group of lawyers at the Vatican over the summer that he planned to publish an exhortation, a second Laudato Si’, on this day. The first part published in 2015 called on Christians to care for the planet. The second part will address current concerns. Climate change is expected to  be one of the key issues discussed by the Synod of Bishops, which starts in Rome today.

Confidential CofE discussions about same sex blessings

The Church Times reports that there have been confidential briefings on prayers of blessing for same sex couples with people representing both sides of the divide. A team from the “Living in Love and Faith” project, which is trying to broker words for the blessings, has met both conservatives and liberals in a bid to “test the temperature”. The Church Times quotes the blog of synod member Professor Helen King who concluded that the bishops didn’t know how to implement decisions of synod. On Monday the Pope offered his own solution to the same division in the Catholic church – he said there was no need for bishops conferences to turn it into a fixed protocol. Instead, couples asking for blessings should be afforded pastoral charity.

Exeter offers postgraduate degree in magic and occult science

Exeter University is offering a postgraduate degree course in magic and occult science next year after a “surge in interest” in the subject. The Times reports it has emerged from within the Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies and the course modules include dragons in western literature and art, the legend of King Arthur, the philosophy of psychedelics, palaeography, Islamic thought, archaeological theory and practice and the depiction of women in the Middle Ages. Academics from a number of disciplines – history, literature, philosophy, archaeology, sociology, psychology, drama and religion –  will explore magic across the globe. Course leader Emily Selove told The Times: “This MA will allow people to re-examine the assumption that the West is the place of rationalism and science while the rest of the world is a place of magic and superstition”.

Christian campaign says Chancellor’s new living wage rate is not high enough

Church Action on Poverty is campaigning for a “real living wage”, saying the £11 an hour just announced by the chancellor does not go far enough. It says the cost of living is going up so fast that this is not enough for food, household bills or heat. One calculation has assessed that the London Living Wage should be  £11.95 per hour. CAP has also produced new stats showing that there is more than £90 million of unclaimed benefits income  and it is urging households to seek their advice to ensure they know what  they’re entitled to.

Handmaid’s Christian sect investigated over sex abuse claims

The Guardian reports that the FBI has interviewed five people who alleged they were abused by members of the People of Praise, a Christian sect whose members include the US Supreme Court justice Amy Coney Barrett.  The investigation followed a campaign by a PoP survivors group, which also claims that sex abuse claims were routinely mishandled or covered up for decades. People of Praise is a Catholic charismatic and conservative group, where members speak in tongues, are ruled by men and where women are rulebound to be submissive, with roles such as pastoral care, organising aid for other members and advice on community issues. Women in the group have been called handmaids, a term changed to “leaders” after links with The Handmaid’s Tale.

Rekindling Zoroastrianism in America

Twenty young American Zoroastrians aged from 21 to 35, have organised a road trip to share the stories and ideas of their faith. They boarded a bus and visited six Zoroastrian houses of worship, criss-crossing California over the Labor Day weekend on 4 September. The Religion News Service reports that the trip had a profound impact on them, embedding their identity in the faith. Zoroastrianism is 3,000-years-old, with its origins in central Asia, and beliefs including monotheism and veneration for the teachings of the prophet Zarathustra. The RNS report says there are 150,000 Zoroastrians worldwide, with 25,000 in North America. There are 4,000 in England and Wales.

Hindus in America educate others on their spiritual heritage

Hindu American Awareness Appreciation Month is underway in the States, an opportunity for Hindus to educate people in their own faith and outside, about their spiritual heritage. The organisers, Hindu American Foundation, say Hinduism is often caricatured as being only about yoga, the caste system, Hindu nationalism and idol worship. But they want people to understand that being Indian and Hindu is not synonymous. Instead they are highlighting the global Hindu community, saying there are shared values and excellent achievements in architecture, mathematics and astronomy. It’s not just about an inner quest for peace, they say. Religion News Service report here


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