Religion news 12 August 2021

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Image credit: Catherine Pepinster

No, we’re not on a stag night: we’re the Dominicans on a 230-mile pilgrimage

This Sunday, four Dominican friars will complete a 230-mile pilgrimage on foot from Kent to Oxford via Canterbury to mark the 800th anniversary of the arrival of the Dominican Order in England.  The journey is one of a series of events celebrating the anniversary, but the pilgrimage is the most spontaneous, with friars dressed in their striking white habits perplexing onlookers. Some passers-by imagine the friars are wearing fancy dress. “Are you on a stag do?” is a question asked more than once, while others have stopped to tell the Dominicans of difficulties in their lives. Read Catherine Pepinster’s report on our website here

Church links Greece wildfires to climate change and urges a better response

The Tablet reports that the head of the Orthodox church, Archbishop Ieronymos II of Athens, has linked the devastating wild fires in Greece to climate change and has urged better ecological awareness and a more effective response. On Monday, the island of Evia was evacuated as families lost everything. Orthodox churches in the USA, Serbia, Ukraine and Romania are contributing to appeals for help. Wildfires are also reported in California, Turkey, Algeria and Siberia and yesterday, Sicily recorded a temperature of 48.8 centigrade which, if verified, would be the hottest ever recorded in Europe.

Religious weddings in the UK in decline

Latest data from the Office for National Statistics shows that religious wedding ceremonies account for just one fifth of all marriages in the UK. In 2018, 48,118 religious ceremonies were recorded, against 179,752 civil ceremonies. The statistics show that religious ceremonies have fallen by 30,000 over the past decade, whereas civil ceremonies have increased. Overall, there were fewer weddings in 2018 than the previous year. Kanak Ghosh, from the ONS, told the Daily Mail that there has been a gradual long-term decline in both numbers and rates of marriages since the early 1970s, but one interesting trend is that more people are choosing to get married at older ages, particularly those aged 65 and over.

Serial sexual  predators at Fort Augustus Abbey blighted children’s lives

The BBC reports findings of a Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry into sexual abuse by monks at Fort Augustus Abbey, and Carlekemp Priory School in North Berwick, which was associated with Fort Augustus. Evidence was heard of  physical, emotional and sexual abuse over many years which caused emotional scars that were long-lasting and debilitating, blighting the victims’ adult lives. The inquiry chair, Lady Anne Smith, said a number of monks were serial sexual predators and targeted victims at both schools. A representative of the English Benedictine Congregation told the inquiry the religious order offered an “unreserved apology” to everyone affected by the abuse. The inquiry is yet to produce its final report which will make recommendations for the future.

More than half young people surveyed in America use tarot cards and fortune telling

 The Religion News Service reports a US survey suggesting that 51% of people aged 13-25, engage in tarot cards or fortune telling. The survey is by Springtide Research Institute which surveys the “inner and outer worlds” of young people . It concludes that there is little ownership over a religious belief system, but many identify with a traditional faith, while looking beyond for spiritual growth. The survey found  divination practices were most popular among young people who identify as Russian or Greek Orthodox (78.1%), Mormon (69.4%) or Jewish (62.1%). Atheists had the lowest interest in metaphysical-adjacent practices at 34.4%.

Hindu temple in Pakistan repaired after mob attack in blasphemy row

The Associated Press reports that a Hindu temple attacked by an angry crowd in central Pakistan has been handed back to the Hindu community after extensive repairs. The building was vandalised by a group of Muslims angry that an 8-year-old Hindu boy had allegedly desecrated a local religious school. The mob alleged he had committed blasphemy, an act punishable by death in Pakistan. Dozens of people suspected of taking part in the attack have been told to pay for the temple’s repair.

Former tennis star Margaret Court at centre of government grant controversy

The Australian former world tennis champion Margaret Court now runs a  Pentecostal church, the Victory Life Centre, in Perth, western Australia. The Guardian reports that it received $283,000 in government subsidies during the pandemic when it supplied food to double the number of people it normally supports on the front line. The report says the grant is controversial, as the church declared at the start of the pandemic, that the blood of Jesus would protect parishioners from the coronavirus;  and Margaret Court herself has made clear her opposition to same-sex marriage.

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