Religion news 1 February 2022

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The rules and values of British public life

The report by senior civil servant, Sue Gray, into parties at Number Ten during the lockdowns has lifted the lid on how “some of the gatherings in question represent a serious failure to observe not just the high standards expected of those working at the heart of Government but also of the standards expected of the entire British population at the time”. Details were scant of the twelve parties listed which were “in scope”  of the inquiry, because a separate report from the Met Police is underway.

Stephen Timms, Labour MP: “Repeatedly making statements from that despatch box that subsequently turn out to be untrue is a serious problem”.

Keith Kahn Harris, Associate fellow of the Institute for Jewish Policy Research and a lecturer at Leo Baeck College: “When young people see this sort of train wreck, do they think ‘standards are so low in the adult world that I have a chance at getting to the top’ or ‘standards are so low in the adult world and I am terrified’?”

In Channel 4’s Despatches, broadcast the night before the report was published,  Michael Gove, Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, said: “The Prime Minister has been clear that mistakes were made and he’s taken responsibility for those. I’m sure that when the report is published there will be from individuals concerned recognition, contrition and so on and you know we owe them an element of Christian forgiveness.”

Archbishop defends value of the BBC

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, has defended the role of the BBC in holding truth to power in an era where the pursuit of truth feels more urgent and complicated. “Strong democracy requires governments to consciously support structures that can challenge and potentially undermine them”. His signed article was included in Prospect magazine, alongside other leaders who considered the BBC’s future following the Culture Secretary’s broadside to freeze the licence fee and threaten its future.  

Pope gives lesson on money to Italy’s taxation agency

Pope Francis has urged members of Italy’s taxation authority to “implement gospel values”, favouring the redistribution of wealth and supporting public services for society’s neediest members. In a meeting with the revenue agency, he explained Biblical injunctions not be a slave to money; explored the idea of tithing – giving one tenth of income away; and suggested the disciple Matthew, a tax collector, managed his own wealth by being of service to the needy.

Peace and harmony among people of faith

World Interfaith Harmony Week is observed this week, a United Nations initiative to promote mutual understanding and interreligious dialogue. All countries are urged to encourage harmony in all places of worship at this time. A global online event has been organised for Thursday, on “Faith and spiritual leadership to combat stigma and conflict during pandemic recovery”.

LGBT+ Christians feel less safe in church than any other place

A survey commissioned by nine LGBT+ Christian groups suggests more than two thirds do not “feel safe to be themselves” in their place of worship. They would feel safer if they didn’t have to worry about the content of sermons, prayers or notices.  They wanted to be able to be open about their identity and be warmly welcomed and affirmed by church leaders. When asked if there were places where they felt less safe, church came out on top, higher than work or social situations. Dr Sarah Carr, who conducted the research, said the additional pressure caused by faith communities on mental wellbeing and feeling of safety is deeply concerning.

Book prize in honour of Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks

The Sacks book prize to encourage Jewish thought, has been inaugurated in memory of the late Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks. Worth $50,000, it will be awarded to books presenting Jewish ideas sourced in Jewish texts and is offered by Yeshiva University in New York, where Rabbi Sacks once taught. The judges will include his widow, Lady Elaine Sacks.

Pagan festival of Imbolc and St Brigid’s Day

The festival of Imbolc is celebrated today (1 February). It was originally a Celtic pagan religious holiday, honouring the goddess Brigid and marking the mid point between the winter solstice and the spring equinox.  But it was Christianised as the festival day of Saint Brigid, a 6th century abbess who is said to have  founded Ireland’s first nunnery in Kildare. She is the patron of healing, arts, fertility, poetry, music, prophecy and agriculture.

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