Coronavirus and Religion update – 17 April

UK

A report from the Office for National Statistics suggests the number of church and faith-based weddings has fallen to just 23% of all ceremonies – the lowest percentage on record. The report looked at marriages in 2017 and indicates a long term trend.  In 1900, 85% of all weddings were religious cere­monies, in the late 1970’s this had fallen to 49%.

York Minster is planning a memorial service for people who have been bereaved during the coronavirus pandemic. It will take place later this year and aims to allow people to give thanks for the lives of those who have died, to help people grieve and comfort those who were not able to be with their loved ones when they died.”

A rival consortium has  put in a last minute bid to buy the assets of the Jewish Chronicle. Last week, its owners, the Kessler Foundation, said they would seek voluntary liquidation, with all journalists and staff being made redundant. Days later, the Kessler Foundation submitted a bid to the liquidators to acquire the assets of both the Jewish Chronicle and the Jewish News, which in February had announced an intention to merge. But  now a rival bid has come in, from a group including media, political and business people.

The Sandford St Martin awards for excellence in religious broadcasting, will be awarded at a virtual ceremony, rather than in person at Lambeth Palace, on June 11th. Shortlisting has taken place during the lockdown and the contenders include a TV documentary on the im­­pact of The Satanic Verses over the past 30 years, and a radio programme about the religious experience of Nadim Ednan-Laperouse, the father of a teenage girl who died from an allergic reaction. He tells the story of a vivid religious experience, seeing angels and a yellow shimmering light around his daughter’s body, as she lay dying.

GLOBAL

The Orthodox church celebrates Easter this weekend, as it follows the Julian Calendar, a different calendar to churches in the west.  Due to the coronavirus, in Jerusalem, the Greek Orthodox church cancelled the traditional Easter procession along the Via Dolorosa, believed to be the path Jesus walked on the way to his crucifixion.  Orthodox churches in Greece are only open to clergy and cantors because of coronavirus, with Easter ceremonies moved to May 26th.  In Russia outside Moscow,  Ukraine, Georgia and Bulgaria, orthodox churches have remained open.

The National Council of Churches (USA) has urged President Donald Trump to reverse his decision to suspend funding from the World Health Organization. In a statement they said: “This is dangerous, immoral and wrong. Even though international institutions such as the WHO are not perfect, suspension of funding … is irresponsible and ill-timed.”  The World Council of Churches acting general secretary Rev. Prof. Dr Ioan Sauca expressed deep dismay that blame is being shifted to WHO:  “We are alarmed that precisely at this critical juncture, when this instrument should be strengthened and made more effective in the face of such an unprecedented threat, it is being deliberately undermined.”

The bell of Notre Dame rang out on the first anniversary of the fire on April 15th 2019.  It tolled at 8 p.m. (1800 GMT), as people came out to applaud medics and carers working on the front line tackling Coronavirus. The outbreak has killed more than 17,000 people in France.

In India, Muslims are being blamed for the spread of COVID19, with “Coronajihad” trending on social media. This follows the story of a cluster of infections developing after a Muslim gathering in New Delhi. Public health leaders say a sense of isolation within the Muslim population has not enhanced community participation and could drive the disease underground.