Religion news 14 July 2021

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Image credit: Church of Scotland

MPs decision to cut international aid condemned as “devastating, unjust, heartless”

Faith and aid leaders have condemned the Commons vote which agreed a £4billion cut in international aid, reduced from 0.7 to 0.5% of gross national income. The cut has been hugely controversial since first being announced with predictions that removing aid to the poorest nations would result in 100,000 deaths and millions facing malnutrition. But the Tory backbench led rebellion did not succeed after the government promised the cut would be temporary and 0.7% would be restored when the economy improved. The Bishop of Worcester John Inge said he was very disappointed and it was “not right that the world’s poorest should be the only ones to suffer from a reduction in spending following the pandemic”. Chine McDonald, head of public engagement at Christian Aid, said the decision was devastating, unjust, heartless. The Church of Scotland said the vote was a moral failure

Methodist church urges caution as Covid-19 restrictions end

In advice issued to church members, the Methodist church is urging caution when the Covid-19 restrictions bound by law are lifted in England on 19 July. The church is advising retaining some restrictions, with buildings re-opening in a cautious, phased return, acknowledging that people  are fearful and need to feel safe with continuing risk assessments. Church members are advised to continue to wear face coverings where  appropriate, worship should take place with good ventilation or outdoors, collections should be  online or at the door rather than passing a collection plate, the Peace should not involve hand shaking or hugging and there should be no common cup for communion. Finally, it says “although not required by law, it is probably wise to retain the NHS Test and Trace system for the time being in case of an outbreak in the church community. We do not recommend requesting proof of vaccination before a person is admitted to church”.

Pope Francis continues to receive hospital care after major surgery

As Pope Francis begins his 11th day in hospital after surgery on his intestine, US Catholic commentator Thomas Reese predicts that this is the beginning of the end of his papacy. In an article for the Religion News Service, he says Pope Francis has “rebranded the papacy for the 21st century with a pastoral, prophetic and inclusive voice”. But Reese, a Jesuit priest and journalist, warns that reforming the Catholic Church takes decades, not years. He says Pope Francis’ success depends on those that follow continuing his work, yet the clerical establishment put in place by his predecessors John Paul and Benedict, remains.

Two Auschwitz survivors die within one week

The Jewish News reports that two Auschwitz survivors, Esther Bejarano aged 96 and David Mermelstein aged 92, have died within days of each other. Bejarano lost both her parents and her sister at the hands of the Nazis and only survived Auschwitz by pretending to play the accordion and joining the Auschwitz Girls’ Orchestra. She died in a Jewish hospital in the German city of Hamburg. Mermelstein was born in Czechoslovakia and was deported with his family to Auschwitz in 1944. He was the only survivor. He moved to Miami soon after the war and was  known for helping holocaust survivors get restitution.

Summer church resources reflect on key role in society during the pandemic

Tearfund and the Alpha course have joined forces to produce a series of five films and other resources, telling the story of how Christians in the UK have been on the frontline of social action during the pandemic. Named “Reactivate”, the materials are designed to be used by churches over the five Sundays of August. Ruth Tormey, Tearfund’s Head of Church and Supporter Engagement, said their own efforts enabled the delivery of 97,000 essential hygiene kits with soap and sanitiser and more than 12,500 food parcels.

Growing US trend to compost dead bodies meets opposition

The Religion News Service reports that a new process of allowing a body at death to be composted into soil has taken hold in Washington, Colorado and Oregon, despite opposition from the Roman Catholic church. The Natural Organic Reduction process involves the body being placed in a reusable container, covering it with wood chips and aerating it, which creates an environment for microbes and essential bacteria. It takes 30 days to fully transform a body into soil. The report says Catholic conferences in several states object to the process because it doesn’t show enough respect for the dead. The Colorado Catholic Conference said: “the human body is sacred and the dignity of the human person is the foundation of a moral society.” 

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