Religion news 1 February 2024

St. Brigid's Well, Brallistown, County Kildare. Image credit: Andreas F. Borchert CCLicence3.0Image credit: Andreas F. Borchert CCLicence3.0

St Brigid’s Day honouring Irish saint and creativity of women

Today is St Brigid’s Day, honouring the Irish saint closely associated with the beginning of spring, poetry, healing, fire, metalwork and the celebration of women. She is a Christian saint whose stories echo the pre-Christian Celtic world and paganism. St Brigid’s Day events are being held in Irish embassies throughout the world, celebrating the creativity of women in politics, sport and music. Our factsheet explains the stories about Brigid and how she has come to be understood, with her saint’s day coinciding with the pagan festival of Imbolc, which ushers in light and spring.

Met apologises after row when gospel singer was stopped from busking

The Met Police have apologised after an incident on Oxford Street, London, when a Christian gospel singer was stopped from busking by a special constable. In the verbal altercation that followed, the constable said church songs should not be sung outside church grounds and as she moved away, she stuck her tongue out at the camera filming the row. The Met issued a statement on Twitter / X saying the officer had been mistaken about the rules: “We’re sorry for the offence caused and will take the learning forward… The officer knows she could have handled this differently and is speaking to her manager”. It went on to say some of the comments on social media were personal and hurtful and this was unacceptable.

Guardian report on British Muslim support for Labour

The Guardian reports that Keir Starmer’s office has begun polling British Muslim voters amid concern over their support for the party in its response to the war in Israel / Gaza. The report suggests Muslim support is important in key target seats but it is waning after Sir Keir refused to back calls for a ceasefire, a decision which caused eight front benchers to resign. The Guardian cites a poll by UK in a Changing Europe which suggested almost half of the country’s two million Muslim voters chose Labour at the last election and reports that if that declines, this could “make the difference between victory and defeat in more than a dozen seats”. Sunder Katwala draws comparisons with polls going back to 2005, charting support for Labour among Muslim communities.

Catholic and Church of England bishops meet in Norwich

Forty-two bishops representing the Catholic Church in England and Wales and the Church of England met in Norwich on Monday and Tuesday, for their biannual joint meeting. They visited the shrine of Julian of Norwich, and attended three sessions to discuss present day church life. One was on the coronation, performed by the Archbishop of Canterbury and including Cardinal Vincent Nichols as the first Catholic archbishop to have a formal role in a coronation service for 400 years. The second session was on the synod proves in the Catholic church and its meeting in Rome; and the third was a talk on the Catholic Church’s newest English saint, John Henry Newman. The Catholic bishops conference of England and Wales explains that this was the seventh joint meeting since 2006, aiming aim to foster joint witness and mission.

US Jewish Press editor faces jail over Capitol riots

Elliot Resnick, who used to edit The Jewish Press, self-described as the largest independent weekly Jewish newspaper in the United States, has admitted obstructing the police as they tried to stop the mob that stormed the Capitol on 6 January 2021.  According to the Jewish Chronicle, a Federal District Court in Washington heard that Resnick climbed a staircase on the building’s east side, urged others to follow him, scuffled with police officers, forced open a door and entered the Capitol Rotunda, pulling other rioters through. The Jewish Press at first said Resnick was covering the riot, but they parted company months later.  He will be sentenced on 12 June. The maximum sentence is five years and a $250,000 fine.

Plans for a dedicated Hindu place of worship at Cambridge university

Cambridge university’s student union has approved a proposal for a dedicated Hindu place of worship, after hearing that the Hindu student population is the third largest faith-based community, but is without an exclusive faith space. A report in Varsity quotes the student union’s postgraduate president, Vareesh Pratap, saying a multi faith space would not be compatible with private practices in Hindu worship. The resolution says accessible prayer spaces are imperative for securing “genuine equality, diversity and inclusion”. 

CofE clergy pay mistake brings out sympathy vote on Twitter

The Church of England has apologised to clergy whose pay was delayed for 24 hours. explaining it was a mistake by a junior member of staff. On social media, there was criticism levelled at senior staff who should have overseen the work, surprise at the number of clergy who barely survive month to month, and offers of help from bishops if clergy face going into the red. Whoever it was at the centre of this story, CofE Twitter/X was sympathetic: “If you can’t make a mistake in the church, where can you make a mistake? Blessings to the beautiful human who made this error and has probably had a crappy 48 hours”. And in confessional mode starting “We’ve all been there”, former BBC producers shared their guilt: “When I was a junior person at the BBC I once took BBC TV schedules off air and also disconnected a live feed from a stadium as Wolves were about to score. These things happen”.  


Sign up for our news bulletin