Religion news 16 May 2022

Image credit: RMC

Religion Media Festival “Exploring Belief” in London today

The Religion Media Festival “Exploring Belief” is held in north London today, offering the media opportunities to find stories from Cardinal Vincent Nichols’ interview with Roger Bolton; discussions on whether robots have souls, and another on women in leadership in religious organisations – have they made any difference; and tips on how journalists can find stories from under reported communities and religious groups. Plus – an introduction to the new BBC Religion Editor, Aleem Maqbool. The festival is at the JW3 centre in north London starting at 11am – all details here

Dean Percy’s parting shot: You think I am leaving in disgrace … I am not

The former Dean of Christ Church Oxford, Martyn Percy, used his leaving service to deliver parting shots at the hierarchies that forced him out after a four -year acrimonious dispute. Forbidden from a farewell at Christ Church, and prevented from preaching by the Bishop of Oxford, the service was finally held at Exeter College chapel, outside the jurisdiction of the bishop. In a Religion Media Centre exclusive, Rosie Dawson saw correspondence where Martyn Percy told the bishop: “You clearly think I am leaving in disgrace … I am not.” In his sermon, he spoke of treachery, being the victim of others bearing false witness and of being badly let down. Martyn Percy has declared he is leaving the Church of England. Oxford Diocese issued a statement saying the bishop and others had gone to considerable lengths to care for Martyn Percy and it hoped for reconciliation over time.

Franklin Graham starts UK “God Loves You” tour despite LGBT protests

The American evangelist Franklin Graham has started his UK tour with a sell out event at Liverpool Exhibition Centre. Featuring worship, music and a call to repent and be converted, it was similar to the rallies his father Billy Graham put on in the 1960s. Franklin Graham’s outspoken views that homosexuality is a sin led to massive protests when he planned to tour the UK two years ago with all seven venues cancelling their invitations. In Liverpool this weekend, protests were held at a parish church and a rainbow flag raised in support of LGBT people. The tour continues in Newport, South Wales, on 21 May; the Sheffield Arena on 25 May and the Excel Centre, London, on 16 July.

How do cathedrals survive in a world isolated from religion?

The four-day National Cathedrals Conference opens in Newcastle today to consider the role of the church and cathedrals in public life. Former Prime Minister Sir John Major will deliver a speech on the role and responsibilities of the church against the backdrop of Brexit, Covid and other challenges. The Labour peer, Lord Andrew Adonis, will consider the role of the church in ethical politics. More than 330 delegates will be present at the conference, representing cathedrals throughout the UK, in an event organised by the Association of English Cathedrals. The Dean of Lichfield Cathedral and Association chair Adrian Dorber, said: “We will ask ourselves: how do we serve a world that has become increasingly isolated from religion and still plant the seeds of our mission”.

Bishops in the Lords challenge the government’s levelling up agenda

The Church Times carries an account of six Church of England bishops challenging the government on issues of social justice, during a debate in the Lords on the Queen’s speech. They critiqued the government’s policy on climate change mitigation, helping rural as well as urban communities,  dealing with stark differences between wealthy and poor, providing proper housing, helping prisoners,and allowing legitimate protest. The bishops  quoted are: Oxford, St Albans, Guildford, Chelmsford, Gloucester, Southwark.

Lord Patten comes to the defence of Hong Kong Cardinal Zen

The last British governor of Hong Kong, Chris Patten, has issued a blasting note of defiance and support for Cardinal Joseph Zen of Hong Kong, arrested this week for colluding with foreign forces,  and facing years of imprisonment when he next appears in court on 24 May. Lord Patten told the Sunday programme on BBC Radio 4: “He is a tough person, a pastor, an outspoken advocate of Catholic social policy and civil liberties, one of most important Christian leaders, a great and decent honourable man”. He said the Vatican should be speaking out more on his behalf. The new CEO of Hong Kong, John Lee Ka-chiu, is a Catholic, crediting his Jesuit education for creating his vision of society.

Government relations with National Union of Students break down over antisemitism claims

The government has suspended its engagement with the National Union of Students after concerns about antisemitism and claims made against its new Muslim president-elect, Shaima Dallali. The NUS will be removed from all the Department for Education departmental groups, and replaced with alternative student representation. The Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi  said he was seriously concerned at the number of reports of alleged antisemitism linked to the NUS. The Union has commissioned an independent investigation following a number of complaints by Jewish students.

United Synagogue’s forest of trees for the Queen’s Jubilee

The Jewish Chronicle reports that the United Synagogue is marking the Queen’s Jubilee by partnering with the Woodland Trust to establish its first UK forest. It will plant a tree for each of its 37,000 adult members over the next three years and communities can group together for a grove of 750 trees. The Woodland Trust will be responsible for planting and maintenance.  “Plant a tree for the Jubilee” is part of an environmental initiative by the Office of the Chief Rabbi and the United Synagogue to commemorate a loss or express gratitude. Alongside the tree planting is a target to phase out the use of disposables within synagogues and other buildings.

Pope creates ten new saints

Pope Francis has created ten new saints including a Dutch priest-journalist, the Rev Titus Brandsma, who was killed at the Dachau concentration camp in 1942. The Associated Press reports that “in the runup to the canonization, a group of Dutch and German journalists formally proposed that Brandsma become a co-patron saint of journalists, alongside St. Francis de Sales, given his work to combat propaganda and fake news during the rise of Fascism and Nazism in Europe”.  Other candidates are a lay Indian convert killed for his faith and six French and Italian priests and nuns who founded religious orders.

Tributes paid to John Wilkins, former editor of The Tablet

Tributes abound in obituary columns to John Wilkins, editor of The Tablet for 22 years, who has died aged 85. Details of his funeral have just been announced – it will  take place at 11am on 7 June at Holy Apostles, Pimlico.  Stephen Bates, writing in the Guardian, said he was the leading secular British Roman Catholic commentator of the last 40 years. Paul Vallely, in the Church Times, said John Wilkins saw it as his duty to keep open the debates that the Pope wanted shut down and regarded The Tablet as a “loyal opposition”.


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