Religion news 16 February 2022

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Image credit: Adam Jones, Kelowna, Canada CCLicense2.0

Polish Archbishop calls on Christians in Russia and Ukraine to pray that war is averted

The President of the Polish Bishops’ Conference, Archbishop Stanisław Gądecki, is calling both Catholic and Orthodox believers in Poland, Russia and Ukraine to pray that armed conflict might be averted. Vatican News reports that the Archbishop says any war is a tragedy for humanity and ultimately futile . “Thousands of people die. Many of them on both sides remain handicapped and millions carry inner wounds that are difficult to heal…Ukrainians and Russian Christians should have much in common and tend not to hatred, but to mutual respect and friendship. However, an indispensable condition is respect for the rights of peoples, including the right to self-determination and territorial integrity”, he said.

Failure to stop church abuser over 30 years was “grave and regrettable”

An independent review into complaints of abuse against the late Church of England vicar the Rev Graham Gregory, tells how they were made across five dioceses over 30 years and opportunities to expose and stop the abuse were lost.  He was sentenced to three years in prison in 2014 for indecent assault and further sentenced to another four years in prison in 2018 on charges of three indecent assaults against children. He died in jail in 2019. The review was commissioned by the National Safeguarding Team and carried out by Ray Galloway, who previously led the Jimmy Savile Inquiry at Leeds General Infirmary. He said Gregory was a determined and persistent abuser of children but they and their parents were not listened to when they complained and no action was taken.  “Arguably the gravest and most regrettable conclusion of the Review is that of missed opportunity and the harm done that may have been avoided”.

“People’s Review” calls for dismantling of government’s Prevent programme

A report by the “People’s Review of Prevent”, set up by opponents of the official government review into the strategy, is calling for the dismantling of the Prevent programme, saying it is discriminatory in its impact on British Muslim communities. It says Prevent, which aims to stop people being drawn into terrorism,  “enshrines surveillance against British Muslims under the guise of counter terrorism legislation” and is particularly critical of the impact on children and young people, saying  it leads to harm and distress. The report is by the director of Prevent Watch Dr Layla Aitlhadj and Professor John Holmwood, Emeritus Professor of Sociology and Social Policy at the University of Nottingham. The “People’s Review” was set up by 500 organisations which objected to the appointment of Sir William Shawcross to lead the government review and this report gives them a voice.

Charity commission investigating Amnesty International report on Israel

Jewish News reports that the Charity Commission is assessing whether charitable donations were used to fund a recent Amnesty International report which said that Israeli laws, policies and practices against Palestinians in Israel and the occupied territories amounted to apartheid.  It has been asked to assess whether this is of regulatory concern. The report says Marie van der Zyl, president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, and Keith Black, chairman of the Jewish Leadership Council, issued a joint statement saying that the report was an attack on the very concept and existence of Jewish sovereignty and on the Jewish people.

Archbishop not sure he got church closures in lockdown right

The Telegraph reports that the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby has denied being solely to blame for the closure of churches during the pandemic. In an interview with the Radio Times, he said senior leaders came to the decision in which he had influence, but he was not sure “he got that right”. In the context of Boris Johnson being questioned by police over parties at Number Ten during lockdowns, he said it was impossible to expect perfection from politicians “because every politician is profoundly human and they will fail”. The Telegraph added: “While he entertains questions like “am I going to be the one who they’ll say finished the Church of England off?”, he has said that ultimately that “it’s God’s problem, not mine”.”

Media morals: Bake-Off is a gladiatorial game

In the interview with the Radio Times , the Archbishop declared that The Great British Bake Off is “the modern equivalent of gladiatorial games” when contestants are told to leave; that he watched the Line of Duty and binged listened to The Coming Storm, a series about QAnon. The interview was to publicise his forthcoming six part series on BBC Radio 4 starting next Sunday, when he will interview public figures on faith, morality and spirituality. Guests will include Tony Blair, author Stephen King, Citizens Advice CEO Clare Moriarty, Former Chief of the Defence Staff General Sir Nick Carter, novelist Elif Shafak and the psychologist Dr Susan Blackmore.  

Cathedral removes painting after faces of local leaders found hiding among saints

 The Telegraph reports that a religious painting has been withdrawn from an Italian Cathedral after the faces of the priest and a local charity leader were found hiding in the picture alongside saints. The painting in Canosa, southern Italy, depicts St Sabinus meeting St Benedict, but it was removed days after its unveiling, when the painting was viewed more closely. The men pictured were the head of the charity that commissioned the £17,000 painting and the priest who runs the cathedral. The town’s mayor, Roberto Morra said the affair was a “considerable embarrassment to the entire community”. The painting will be re-worked and re-hung.


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