Religion News 23 June

Pic: Philafrenzy CClicense

Conservative MPs block change to Sunday trading laws

Conservative MPs have reportedly forced the government to backtrack over plans to relax Sunday trading laws. The Prime Minister had wanted shops to be able to open for longer than the permitted 6 hours on Sunday, to boost the economy as the UK emerges from the lockdown. But a letter with the backing of 50 Conservative MPs, said this would have a negative impact on family life because “Sunday represents an important common day of rest where families and communities can spend time together”. The MPs who signed the letter are said to be: Fiona Bruce, Andrew Selous, William Wragg, David Amess, Martin Vickers, David Jones, and Bob Blackman. It’s believed the change was to have been included in this week’s Business and Planning Bill, but has now been dropped. Downing Street said the move remains “under review”.

International visitors banned from the Hajj

Saudi Arabia has confirmed that this year’s hajj will go ahead despite coronavirus, but only “very limited numbers” of people will be allowed to take part. International visitors will be banned and only people of various nationalities already residing in the country will be allowed to perform the hajj. The annual pilgrimage, which is at the end of July this year, usually attracts two million Muslims to Mecca and Medina, were they observe five days of worship. Making the pilgrimage is one of the five pillars of Islam, which every Muslim must perform, if they are able to do so.

Pope says ‘see the poor’

The Pope has called on mankind to use the coronavirus pandemic to “reconnect with our real surroundings” and “see the poor”. In an interview with his biographer Austen Ivereigh. he said: “This coronavirus crisis is affecting us all, rich and poor alike, and putting a spotlight on hypocrisy. I am worried by the hypocrisy of certain political personalities who speak of facing up to the crisis, of the problem of hunger in the world, but who in the meantime manufacture weapons.”  The poor, he said, have “become part of the landscape”, adding: “We need to tell ourselves this often: that poor person had a mother who raised him lovingly. Later in life we don’t know what happened. But it helps to think of that love he once received through his mother’s hope.”

Retired Pope Benedict XVI visits brother 

The former Pope, Benedict XVI, aged 93 and in ailing health, has spent five days in Regensburg seeing his older brother Georg Ratzinger, who is also a priest.  Not in the best of health himself, the former pontiff was accompanied by a doctor, a nurse and his personal assistants on his first trip out of Italy since 2013, Reuters reported that he has now returned to the Vatican.

British synagogues should remain closed

The Chief Rabbi has reiterated that British synagogues should remain closed until the government permits communal worship. His statement follows data released by the Office for National Statistics last week which showed the death rate from the virus was higher within the Jewish community than the wider population. According to the Jewish News, Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis said: “We would all dearly love to be back in our shul buildings for communal prayer services and all the other wonderful activities that make our shuls powerful spiritual hubs and vital community centres”.  Nevertheless he said that it “would not be right to open our shuls at a time when there is genuine risk to life”.

Sentencing for St Paul’s Cathedral bomb plot

A supporter of Islamic State who plotted to bomb St Paul’s Cathedral encouraged others to launch similar attacks, a court has heard. Safiyya Amira Shaikh, 37, from west London, admitted preparing terrorist acts and disseminating terrorist publications, the Guardian reported. At a sentencing hearing at the Old Bailey, Alison Morgan QC, prosecuting, said she was a violent extremist who planned the attack and encouraged others with sophisticated propaganda. She had visited St Paul’s to find the best place to leave a bomb and initially intended to carry out the attack at Christmas but later put it back to Easter.  The hearing continues.