Religion news 1 December

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Cardinal George Pell: My dismayed sense of vindication

Cardinal George Pell, the former Vatican treasurer whose child sex abuse conviction in Australia was dramatically overturned, has given an interview to the Associated Press in which he says he feels a dismayed sense of vindication as the financial mismanagement at the Vatican is being exposed. Secretive accounting is being investigated after €350m of Vatican money was invested in London property. He reflects on the finances and his time in prison in a forthcoming book Prison Journal and says he did not realise there was so much criminality at the Vatican when he started out. In September, his rival Cardinal Angelo Becciu, a top-ranking Vatican official, was forced to resign over the misuse of Vatican money, allegations that he denies. Days later, George Pell returned to Rome. He told the interviewer that he is sure the truth will emerge.

Police investigate Christian Concern film as ‘possible hate crime’

Police are investigating a video produced by the campaign group Christian Concern, which mocks LGBTQ+ Christians, as a possible hate crime. The video was presented by Ben John, development director at the Wilberforce Academy, and shows him tearing into a film produced for the Church of England’s Living in Love and Faith project, which aims to promote discussions among church members on sexual ethics, issues that are bitterly divisive in the church. One of the stories that Ben John criticises is about Alex Clare-Young, a transgender member of the Living in Love and Faith team, who found the video so repulsive that he reported it to the police. The chief executive of Christian Concern, Andrea Williams, a lay member of the General Synod, said the video was not abusive. Two bishops have condemned the video, saying it is wrong to personally insult and target individuals who have shared their experiences.

Labour promises to tackle Islamophobia

The Labour leader Keir Starmer, deputy leader Angela Rayner and general secretary David Evans have issued a statement promising to take steps to tackle Islamophobia, following a meeting with the Labour Muslim Network. It issued a report to mark Islamophobia Awareness Month, suggesting around a third of Labour party members had experienced or witnessed Islamophobia in the party. The Labour leaders’ joint statement says they take Islamophobia seriously and are utterly committed to eradicating it as it has no place in the party. Recommendations include developing Islamophobia training, establishing a code of conduct and implementing a transparent and impartial complaints process.

French imams to sign charter of republican values

The Muslim Council in France will meet President Emmanuel Macron this week to confirm the text of a new “charter of republican values” for imams to sign. It is reported that this includes the rejection of Islam as a political movement and a ban on foreign influence. There are an estimated five million Muslims in France and the Muslim Council plans to create a register of imams who will sign up to the charter, in return for accreditation. The measure has been introduced after public outcry at the beheading of a history teacher in Paris for showing cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad and the killing of three people in a church in Nice.

Methodist church in America splits over sexuality

In America, a group of progressive United Methodists has split to form a new inclusive denomination called the Liberation Methodist Connexion, or LMX. The church is divided over sexuality and last year its governing conference decided against allowing the church to ordain LGBTQ+ clergy or perform same-sex marriages. The vote caused a rupture that was to have been discussed this year, but the meeting was abandoned because of Covid19. The breakaway denomination decided not to wait and has gone ahead with forming a new group seeking full participation of people with “God-given identities and expression”. Its website says its theology is based on Methodism, with various expressions of Liberation theologies, including caring for the earth and finding new ways to live together outside of systems like colonialism, white supremacy, patriarchy, clericalism and heteronormativity.

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