Religion news 11 September

Image credit: CNA

Pope says pleasures of good food and sex are divine

The Pope has spoken of the pleasures of a well-cooked meal or loving sexual intercourse as “divine”. In a series of interviews with the Italian writer Carlo Petrini, he said such pleasures had unjustly fallen victim to “overzealousness” on the part of the church in the past. The church had always accepted human, simple, moral pleasure: “Pleasure arrives directly from God, it is neither Catholic, nor Christian, nor anything else, it is simply divine”. Pope Francis was giving his thoughts on the relationship between the planet and human activities, in “TerraFutura. Conversations with Pope Francis on integral ecology” published this week.

Scottish hate crime legislation passes first hurdle despite protests

The Scottish parliament has pushed through a controversial bill to abolish the law of blasphemy and bring other legislation together to prevent hate crime. The government says it is designed to protect vulnerable groups and seeks to outlaw threatening or abusive behaviour “with the intention or likelihood of stirring up hatred”. But it has run into strong opposition from groups who believe it is too vague and open to interpretation and will stifle free speech. Government statistics show that hate crime rose in Scotland last year, with 660 religiously aggravated charges, an increase of 24%. The First Minister has pledged to listen to concerns as the bill goes through it legislative process.

English Cathedrals celebrate centuries of heritage

English Cathedrals open their archives this week, for another Heritage Open Days festival. St Edmundsbury Cathedral, in Bury St Edmunds, moves online to unveil treasures from its Ancient Library, founded in 1595 and full of donations from local people. Hereford Cathedral offers tours of the cloisters which are to be repaired; Exeter is arranging visits around cemeteries and ancient buildings, charting the history of the area from Roman Times; and in Carlisle, visitors are assured a glimpse of a Tudor ceiling.

77 year old climate activist vicar arrested again

The Rev Sue Parfitt, a 77-year-old Anglican priest, has been arrested again in climate change protests in London. This was her second arrest during protests in the capital over the past fortnight. She joined a 92 year old former teacher in obstructing an entrance to parliament on Wednesday, when Prime Minister’s Questions took place. The previous week she was taken into police custody for obstructing a highway.  She is one of several clergy to be arrested for taking part in the action. The Rev Stephen Nunn, former senior chaplain at Kingston Prison in Portsmouth, was charged with conspiring to cause criminal damage and spent 9 days in prison. A Quaker was arrested after protests at newspaper printing works. And a Roman Catholic priest, Fr Martin Newell, was held at Brixton prison overnight after obstructing a road.

Finding moral courage when faith and belief structures are gone

Cumberland Lodge is hosting a four-part series of online discussions on the way faith and belief in the UK is changing and the implications for social cohesion. The private sessions in November, will consider how people find a sense of moral courage, belonging and a vision for the future when affiliation to a set of beliefs or a faith is changed. The themes that emerge will be published and shared with policymakers and community leaders.

Legal challenge in Belgium to allow animal slaughter according to religious rites

A Belgian law requiring that all animals be stunned before death is being challenged in the EU Court of Justice. The ruling effectively outlaws slaughter according to Jewish and Muslim rites, where the animal’s throat is cut and stunning is not permitted. Reuters reports that the Belgian law goes against an EU law of 2009 which says animals should normally be stunned, but grants exceptions on religious grounds. The ruling will be delivered in the next few months.

Taoist priest creates memorial shrine in China

A Taoist priest in a monastery in the Shandong district of China, has created a memorial to the 558 people who have died in the locality, including victims of Covid19. A Reuters reporter visited the priest and said he believes that the blue and gold memorial stones are places where their spirits live on, and true death is when people have been forgotten. Taosim is one of five officially sanctioned religions in China and the practice of memorials is unusual. The priest, Liang Xingyang, believes the collection is unique.