Religion news 15 July 2021

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Image credit: Vatican news

Pope Francis leaves hospital 10 days after surgery

Pope Francis has left hospital, 10 days after undergoing surgery to remove half his colon. The Associated Press reports that he stopped at St Mary Major Basilica to give thanks for the success of the operation and pray for others before returning home. At the Vatican gate, he got out of his car with the help of a bodyguard and greeted Italian security guards before entering the grounds. His next planned visits are to Hungary and Slovakia from 12-15 September and then Glasgow in November for Cop26.

Mediator in Christ Church v Dean dispute leaves without a resolution

Andrew Billen, in The Times, reports that the mediator appointed to reach a settlement between Christ Church Oxford and its dean, Martyn Percy, has ended the process after a year of talks. The Charity Commission had urged the parties to resolve the dispute, which has been dragging on since 2018. A tribunal will be held later this year to hear a woman’s claim of harassment against the dean, a claim he denies. Dean Percy plans to take action against the college in an employment tribunal next year.

URC passes tough resolutions on Israel Palestine

The United Reformed Church general assembly has passed 10 resolutions on the situation in Israel and Palestine. These include a request for local churches to contact their MPs to express concern about the actions of the Israeli government regarding settlement expansion and house demolitions, and to ask what the UK is doing in response. There is also an appeal to refrain from purchasing products produced in Israeli settlements and to support Palestinian products available in the UK. It says it has a “long-term commitment to working in Palestine and Israel, standing in solidarity with those who face ongoing violations of international law arising from the 54-year military occupation of Palestine”. It seeks a sustainable peace based on justice, equity, security, and dignity for all. The assembly was held last weekend.

Saudi Arabia will take legal action on Hajj pilgrims without permits

Saudi authorities say they will take legal action against anyone who tries to enter the Grand Mosque area and other holy sites during the Hajj season, without a permit. Only 60,000 pilgrims living in Saudi Arabia are being allowed to observe the Hajj next week during coronavirus restrictions. Arab News reports that at a news conference, Saudi authorities said 10 people had been arrested for violating regulations and instructions and have each been fined US $2,666.

Islamic primary school application in West Sussex provokes objections

An application to build an Islamic faith primary school in Crawley, WEst Sussex, has been recommended for refusal by planning officers. The Crawley Observer reports that Jamiat-Ul-Muslemeen Quwat-Ul-Islam Masjed wants to build a school for 180 children next to Broadfield Mosque, because it says there is a long waiting list for children who want to study Islam and learn Arabic and points out there is no Muslim school in West Sussex. The report says that the Kemnal Academies Trust, which runs five primary schools and one secondary academy in the town, has objected saying new school places are not needed and “the current school system in Crawley ensures that all pupils are thoroughly integrated, leading to a harmonious society in which families of different cultures mix, respect and understand each other”. The application will be discussed by councillors next week, but it is not supported by either West Sussex county council or the Department for Education.

Diverse heritage of Britain on display in South Asian Heritage Month

Preparations are in hand for this year’s South Asian Heritage Month, when the history, culture and current life experiences of British people from diverse religious and social backgrounds are explored and understood. Co-founded by Jasvir Singh and and Binita Kane, a programme of events has been published including such topics as why there is a visible absence of south Asian women in sport and men in football; the 50th anniversary of Bangladesh’s independence and a celebration of south Asian literature, film and song writing. The opening day is Sunday 18 July. Details here

Football — an English folk religion

The Muslim blogger and journalist, Hasnet Lais, has suggested that the fervour surrounding England’s progression through Euro 2020 indicates that football has adopted the function of a folk religion. In an article on the UK Muslims Facebook page, he says increasing secularisation and waning spirituality in Britain has created a spiritual void with people yearning for a higher calling. He contends that football has taken on characteristics and behavioural functions associated with religious practice. He suggests that like Christianity, football has contributed to a sense of community and unity, evoking love, loyalty and solidarity, “sentiments which were traditionally instilled through a devotion to the Almighty”.

Dippy the dinosaur residing at Norwich Cathedral

Dippy, the Natural History Museum’s dinosaur cast, has taken up residence in the nave at Norwich Cathedral, its final stop on a national touring exhibition. More than 1.7 million people have seen the 21.3 metre plaster cast replica of the fossilised bones of a Diplodocus carnegii skeleton, discovered in Wyoming in 1898.  The Dean of Norwich, Jane Hedges, said: ‘‘We hope people will have a lot of fun with Dippy’s visit and that there will also be serious conversations too, about important issues such the relationship between science and faith and also about how we can all play our part to protect our planet for the future.”

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