Religion news 14 January 2022

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Children adopted through Ireland’s Catholic institutions allowed access to birth records

Ireland will allow adopted people automatic access to their birth records for the first time under new laws the government hopes will end a “historic wrong”, for thousands sent for adoption in secret by Catholic institutions. Reuters reports that the legislation was published a year after an inquiry found that thousands of children died in Irish homes for unmarried mothers and their offspring, mostly run by the Catholic Church, from the 1920s to the 1990s. Successive governments had argued that a 1998 Supreme Court ruling prevented them from opening adoption files because of the mother’s right to privacy, but this bill would seek to end Ireland’s “outlier status”.

Senior Jewish leader resigns after past social media posts revealed

Jewish News reports that Gary Mond has resigned as senior vice-president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews and from the board completely, after it announced an investigation into his social media posts and allegations of anti-Muslim sentiment. It followed a report into his past social media activity by the Jewish News. In a statement, he said “The leadership of the board leans to the political left with the silent majority not being heard. I apologise for any hurt that has been caused as a result of the excavation into my Facebook activity from many years ago. However, this cannot be a justification for any attempt to silence contradictory thought.”

Chief Rabbi calls for urgent action to tackle the climate crisis

The Jewish Chronicle has an exclusive with the Chief Rabbi, Ephraim Mirvis, calling for urgent action by the Jewish community to tackle the climate crisis. He says everyone has a responsibility to safeguard and protect the planet, now and for all future generations. The report says the United Synagogue has announced a scheme named “Dorot”, to phase out disposables, rewild unused land, investigate their investment portfolio for ecological gains, conduct a green audit of synagogues and plant 37,000 trees this year.

All CofE dioceses sign up for environmental challenge

The Diocese of Norwich says that all 42 dioceses in the Church of England have signed up to a pledge promoted by the A Rocha charity, renewing their commitment to reach carbon net zero by the end of the decade. It is part of an initiative to give awards for actions to improve their environmental footprints.

US immigrants staying in houses of worship avoid deportation

 The US based Religion News Service reports that three immigrants who have lived in houses of worship to avoid deportation, have been granted one-year stays of removal this week. They include Jeanette Vizguerra, who has lived at the First Unitarian Society of Denver since spring 2019. She is founder of Metro Denver Sanctuary Coalition, part of the New Sanctuary Movement, faith communities that allow undocumented immigrants at risk of deportation to take refuge in their houses of worship. It now encompasses hundreds of congregations nationwide and relies on an internal 2011 U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement memo discouraging federal agents from raiding “sensitive locations” — namely, hospitals, schools and churches.

Challenge to Holy See’s immunity in sex abuse cases

The Associated Press reports that clergy abuse victims have asked the European Court of Human Rights to rule on whether the Holy See can continue to avoid being held liable for sexual abuse committed by Catholic priests by claiming state immunity. Lawyers challenged an earlier ruling that the Vatican couldn´t be sued in a local Belgian court because it enjoyed sovereign immunity. The 24 victims’ lawyers said the October ruling was flawed. The key question was whether the Holy See should enjoy the benefits of immunities afforded to a nation state, while escaping the responsibilities that come with being a real nation.

Citizens stop church plans to turn a 12th-century French abbey into a bric-a-brac house

The Tablet reports that a French town has dropped plans to sell its 12th-century abbey church to a television auctioneer after a citizens’ petition and the local diocese opposed making it into a “bric-a-brac house” to boost the local economy. The Romanesque La Madeleine church in Châteaudun, southwest of Paris, was offered to a businessman but the diocese of Chartres refused to deconsecrate it. The Tablet reports that “state-owned church buildings often need costly upkeep and are seldom used now. About 30 disused churches are sold for this reason every year in France”. The President of the Bishops Conference of France has announced that church property would be sold off to pay for compensation to victims of clerical sexual abuse.

Pope says democratisation of church is from the Holy Sprit not political consensus

Pope Francis has said that the move towards greater democratisation in the church is not a search for majority consensus, but rather a style guided by the Holy Spirit. He was referring to a new internal organisation that will increase the voice of all church members in decision making – “synodality”. He said that kin politics, majority consensus is by a parliament but in the church, the main protagonist is the Holy Spirit, whose voice is found through meditating on scripture within community.

Prayer and a post office in churches at the centre of the community

A feature by Gordon Rayner in the Daily Telegraph considers the debate in the Church of England over how churches can pay their way and remain open without damaging their sense of reverence. Dr Michael Nazir-Ali , former Bishop of Rochester and now a Roman Catholic, did not approve of his old cathedral hosting crazy golf:, saying churches and cathedrals are places for reverence and should stay that way. But in West Hampstead, the Grade-II listed St James’s church which hosts the Sherriff Centre with a post office, café, licensed bar and debt advice service, is a template of church at the centre of community. Full feature here

Hillsong church youth camp told to stop singing

Health officials in Australia have told Hillsong Church to stop singing and dancing at a youth summer camp in Newcastle, New South Wales. Social media posts showing young people moving to the music and singing without masks has created an angry backlash from members of the public who say it resembles a music festival more than a worship event. But Hillsong has rebutted the charge saying singing is a small part of activity within worship and the camp’s primary activity is outdoor sport and recreation, where guidelines are observed.


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