Religion news 15 March 2022

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Image credit: Jim Forest CCLicense

Ukraine headlines

Reports that Russia has asked China for missiles; Drone film over Mariupol shows devastating destruction; 160 car convoy allowed out of the besieged city; Pregnant woman and baby injured in hospital attack have died; Kyiv suburbs withstand relentless shelling as apartment block is hit by airstrike; Peace talks end without agreement but resume today

Russian Orthodox church in Amsterdam severs links with Moscow

A Russian Orthodox church in Amsterdam is breaking away from the Moscow patriarchate over its support for the war in Ukraine. The head of the Russian Orthodox church, Patriarch Kirill, has referred to Ukraine’s “evil forces” and said gay pride parades were part of the reason for the invasion. Dutch news reports that the church had previously told  Archbishop Elisey that they would no long pray for Kirill by name in prayers, so Elisey then attended a mass and told the priests that the Russian foreign ministry was following the church ‘with great interest’. The letter Z, a Russian symbol for the war in Ukraine, was daubed on its gates.  The church is now closed because of security concerns and the clergy are said to want to join the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople.

Anxiety, powerlessness and fear reported by the Dean of Russia and Ukraine

The Anglican priest living and serving in Moscow, Canon Malcolm Rogers, has spoken of the feeling of powerlessness as the news unfolds. He is Chaplain of St Andrews, Moscow; the Archbishop of Canterbury’s representative to the Patriarch of Moscow and all Russia; and area dean of Russia and Ukraine. In a pastoral letter he said he nervously wonders “whether or when we should leave”. He told the story of a Ukrainian family living in a colleague’s flat in Poland: “Our neighbours at St Andrew’s in Moscow are different. They are the young Russian crushed by what has been done in his name; the mother sick with anxiety for her son who has been sent to Ukraine, the foreign student unsure whether to leave or how to leave, the person who has been named on the wrong sort of list, the older person who fears a return to the isolation and economic depression of the 80s. In our hubris we think that we are somebodies who can save the world – and we end up paralysed”. But in powerlessness, he said, it was possible to see and serve neighbours.

Russian Orthodox church in Oxford ransacked

St Nicholas the Wonderworker Russian Orthodox church in Oxford was raided in a burglary at the weekend. The altar was ransacked; holy relics, crosses, altar vessels and valuable items were taken; the safe was broken into and a collection to support refugees from Ukraine was stolen.

Ukrainian Catholic priests can come to the UK

The Telegraph reports that Ukrainian Catholic priests will be granted British visas to allow them to come to the UK. It reports the contents of a letter from Bishop Kenneth Nowakowski to the faith minister Kemi Badenoch, saying it had won permission to sponsor priests allowing them entry to the UK.  They will work in parishes and at the crisis centre at the Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral in Mayfair.

Hundreds of British churches join thousands of people offering help to Ukrainian refugees

Hundreds of British churches have signed up to a scheme which offers information, friendship and advice centres to Ukrainian refugees arriving in the UK. Welcome Churches is one of many Christian based charities offering help. Its website in English, Ukrainian and Russian, offers a map showing hundreds of churches offering help, information on health, work and schools. The scheme runs alongside the government scheme where more than 20,000 people have offered accommodation in their homes to refugees.

Other news

Catholic women given permission to perform baptisms in Germany

The Associated Press reports that the Roman Catholic Diocese of Essen has become the first in Germany to allow women to perform baptisms, citing a lack of priests. Bishop Franz-Josef Overbeck tasked 18 lay ministers, including 17 women, this weekend. The measure is temporary and will initially last for three years.

Methodist leaders join call for People’s Covid Vaccine

The Rev Sonia Hicks and Barbara Easton, President and Vice-President of the Methodist Conference, have joined more than 130 world leaders in a call for urgent action to vaccinate low and middle-income countries and bring an end to the Covid-19 pandemic.  In an open letter they  urge world leaders to unite behind a People’s Vaccine, accessible to everyone, everywhere and free from patents and profiteering.

Rabbi in Portugal arrested over Abramovich’s ancestry claim

The Jewish Chronicle reports that Rabbi Daniel Litvak, who helped Roman Abramovich prove his Sephardi Jewish ancestry, has been arrested in Porto. Police said he cannot leave Portugal while an investigation takes place on allegations of money laundering, corruption, fraud and falsification of documents in the process of granting citizenship to descendants of Sephardic Jews. The Jewish community in Porto has denied the allegations.

Biodiversity nature drive in churchyards in June

The Church of England has announced the ‘citizen science’ event between 4-12 June, when people will be invited to churchyards to record what animals and plants they see, to help plot the National Biodiversity Network.  Last year more than 540 activities and events were organised by churches across the country with 17,232 pieces of data recorded.

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