Religion news 11 May

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The Prime Minister has advised a cautious relaxation of the lock down, so that people who cannot work from home, such as construction and manufacturing workers, should be actively encouraged to work, ensuring safety while travelling and in the workplace. But faith leaders have warned that places of worship may not be able to resume normal services until the end of this year. In a BBC report, the Bishop of London, the Rt Rev Sarah Mullally, said would have to be social distancing, provision to wash hands, and further decisions over singing and the use of shared books or service sheets.

Imam Ibrahim Mogra, from Leicester, warned of the particular difficulties opening mosques where people pray five times a day, remove footwear, wash and stand close to each other. He was not convinced that social distancing could be maintained.  Following the Prime Minister’s televised address, the Muslim Council of Britain has organised an online community update call for this afternoon (Monday 11th) to offer community leaders the chance to discuss and share views on next steps that communities and institutions should be considering to prepare for the weeks ahead.

Christian and Jewish leaders will take part in ‘virtual pilgrimages’, running or walking to places giving front line services, to offer prayers of thanks. The runners will include the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby; the leader of the Roman Catholic church in England and Wales, Cardinal Vincent Nichols; and Ephraim Mirvis, the Chief Rabbi.  The first run will be on Monday night in London when Rabbi Jonathan Wittenberg’s route will take in the Royal Free, University College London hospital, Great Ormond Street hospital and the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery. At the same time Rev Colin Sinclair, the moderator of the Church of Scotland, will visit two hospitals and some care homes near his home in Edinburgh. The pilgrimages have been organised by the Council of Christians and Jews.
Rabbi Jonathan Wittenberg said: “It’s so important to support and appreciate the huge efforts so many are making to care for us and our society in such devoted and often creative ways. There’s fear and suffering but also great loving kindness.”

The annual Christian Aid week started on Sunday and this year, will raise money for poor and marginalised communities affected by the coronavirus. Last year it raised £8m but is expecting considerably less because of the virus, anticipating a drop of £6m. To coincide with the week, Christian Aid commissioned a poll from Savanta Comres which said 26% of all British adults have prayed for an end to the coronavirus and for people working on the frontline. Slightly fewer (20%) prayed for people living in poverty.  Younger people aged 18-34 were more likely to give to charity.

The Sunday Times reported that priests in Dublin received a letter this weekend, saying their pay would be cut by 25% because of the coronavirus. Meanwhile in Liverpool, Church of England curates have been furloughed for four weeks because the virus has affected giving.


Two Sikh doctors in Canada have shaved their beards so that they can wear PPE equipment, vital for working  on the frontline with Covid19 patients. Their face masks could not form a seal, and rather than wait for alternative supplies which would take weeks, they shaved.  Dr Sanjeet Singh Saluja and his brother Rajeet said they agonised over the decision, as it contravenes Kesh, a pillar of their religion, allowing hair to grow out of respect for God’s creation. But another pillar of the faith is Seva, service to mankind, and after soul searching and sleepless nights, they felt that had to make a choice.

While Europe observed commemorations of the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II, the Pope has spoken of the importance of the declaration that followed, which enabled reconciliation across the continent. Speaking on Sunday, the Pope said the Schuman Declaration should inspire current European leaders, urging them to face the social and economic consequences of the pandemic “in a spirit of harmony and collaboration.”

Reuters is reporting that 12 Russian Orthodox priests have died of coronavirus, most living in Moscow. The last case involved Father Andrei Nolcanov, who became ill soon after celebrating an Easter service in an empty church, broadcast online. Churches continued to be open until mid-April .  Today the Russian government will review its lockdown restrictions, which are expected to be extended until the end of May.

God TV, a global evangelical TV network, is under investigation in Israel for flouting laws which forbid proselytising. It launched in Israel two weeks ago broadcasting Christian preaching, teaching and other content and says it abides by the law. Its CEO Ward Simpson admitted the channel’s content had caused ‘quite a stir’ and there were attempts to close it down. He explained that messianic Jews continue to keep Jewish practices but follow Jesus as Messiah.

Redacted material in a Royal Commission into sexual abuse of  children in Australia, has found that Cardinal George Pell knew about the abusive activities of two priests during his own years as a priest in the 1970s and 1980s, and that he failed to act to stop them. Cardinal Pell has expressed his “surprise” at the findings which “were not supported by evidence.” He had told the commission that he had been unaware of crimes until years later.


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