Religion news 14 September

Image credit: Photograph: Snug Architects

Eternal Wall of Answered Prayer” monument to tower over the west Midlands

The “Eternal Wall of Answered Prayer”, an iconic, looping arch standing 51 metres high, has moved one step closer to being constructed at Coleshill, in the west Midlands. It was the vision of Richard Gamble, former Leicester City football club chaplain, who says it will be a symbol of hope, made from one million bricks representing people who say their prayers have been answered. Twice the size of the Angel of the North, it will be visible from up to six miles away, and has won planning approval from North Warwickshire council and the Secretary of State. The design is by architect Paul Bulkeley and is described as an “infinity loop” with an “eternal surface”, having no beginning and no end. Construction is expected to start in spring 2021, with completion in autumn 2022.

Pope urges political leaders to listen to demonstrators, as the Archbishop of Belarus is banned from the country

The Roman Catholic Archbishop of Minsk and Mahilyow in Belarus, Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz, has been blocked from re-entering the country after a business trip in Poland. The website of the Belarus Catholic church reported that border guards stopped him  at a crossing between two villages. The Catholic News Agency says that the Archbishop had defended protesters following the disputed presidential election on 9 August. Last week he demanded an investigation into reports that riot police blocked the doors of a Catholic church in Minsk while clearing away protesters from a nearby square. He prayed outside a prison on 19 August, where detained protesters were reported to have been tortured.

Speaking to the faithful in St Peter’s Square on Sunday, Pope Francis spoke of protesters who “express the growing disappointment” on  “political and social situations.” He did not mention Belarus, as he urged demonstrators to present their demands peacefully, and political leaders to listen . The Vatican’s foreign minister, Archbishop Paul Gallagher, has gone to Belarus to meet church and civil authorities.

New system proposed to deal with complaints against clergy

Church lawyers have proposed a temporary fix to clergy discipline measures, which Bishops say are in urgent need of reform. A working party of the Ecclesiastical Law Society suggests the introduction of a system of filtering complaints to identify cases that are frivolous, capable of local resolution, or involve serious misconduct. They say discipline should remain a responsibility of bishops and they will continue to see how any new discipline measures work alongside safeguarding procedures to ensure justice and fairness for all

The Bishop of Oxford, Dr Steven Croft, has apologised for shortcomings identified by an independent review of his diocese’s handling of a case where a vicar was convicted of ‘spiritual abuse’ against a teenage boy, including intense mentoring and one to one Bible reading meetings. The vicar was suspended.

Tony Blair: UK needs to tackle ideologies fuelling extremism

A report from the Tony Blair Institute “Resonating Narratives” has investigated the support for extremist positions among Muslims and non-Muslim white young men aged 18-34.  In a Savanta ComRes survey of 2000 people, it found that one fifth of both groups agree with extreme positions depicting Islam and the West in conflict. They share feelings of victimisation and anti-establishment sentiment, thinking that democracy is broken and should be replaced. 31 per cent of non-Muslim white young men believe Islam promotes violence and that there are no-go areas where Sharia law dominates. The Institute says these beliefs mirror those already identified as embedded in far-right groups. In a foreword, Tony Blair says the country needs to unite behind a new focus, “not just on violent extremism but on the dangerous ideologies behind extremism in the UK”.

Jewish new year celebrations “hit by rule of six”

Jewish communities in the UK are preparing Covid19 compliant services and gatherings for Rosh Hashanah – the Jewish New Year – this weekend. Reform Judaism is streaming all its festival services online. United Synagogue services will continue as planned, with social distancing and safety measures, though capacity at most services has been cut to well under a quarter. The large multi-generational festive meals are forbidden under the government’s newly introduced “rule of six”, so communities are rallying round with gifts  of food for those who find themselves alone. Full report here.

Katie Piper to present Songs of Praise

Katie Piper, who survived an acid attack planned by a former boyfriend, has become a presenter of Songs of Praise. Nine years since the attack, she has rebuilt her life to become a television presenter, participant in Strictly come Dancing, winner of a BAFTA for a documentary in her life, wife and mother. She has spoken about a spiritual experience while in intensive care which gave her contentment and prompted her to join a church.