Religion news 19 May

Vatican News

In France, Roman Catholics gathered for their first mass in weeks on Sunday – from the safety of their cars.  Around 500 people packed into about 200 cars parked up at least a metre apart outside the main exhibition hall in Chalons-en-Champagne, according to AFP.  Strict rules were in place which meant cars were checked to ensure a maximum of four occupants were wearing masks and had access to hand sanitizer.  At the front of the car park, a pulpit complete with a cross and a statue of the Virgin Mary had been erected on a truck trailer, from where a sermon was delivered. To receive communion, worshippers had to switch on their hazard lights and clean their hands with gel. Priests in masks then went from car to car.

Similar plans are being considered for churches in Northern Ireland, according to the Daily Telegraph. Ministers are due to discuss allowing “drive-through” services as part of a gradual easing of restrictions, the paper reported. Yet to be approved, the proposals were published by the Northern Ireland Executive last week. Billy Jones, pastor of the Dunseverick Baptist Church, told The Telegraph: “Hopefully from next Sunday, I will be leading the sermon from a lorry which has a platform attached with a sound system. People can tune in to a specific radio frequency from their vehicles too if they want. It will mean the local community can come together with a desire to encounter god and can enjoy the fellowship by expressing faith – even if it is from their cars.

Thousands of Greeks returned to church on Sunday after lockdown restrictions were eased. Normally adjoining pews were replaced with chairs inside the Ayios Spiridonas Church in Piraeus, Reuters reported. Chairs were set two metres apart with boundaries in the courtyard marked with red and white masking tape. Gloves and hand sanitizer were available and some people kissed church icons, as is customary in the Greek orthodox religion. The icons were wiped down after each person approached.

There was some return to normality at the Vatican on Monday as Saint Peter’s Basilica opened to visitors, AFP reported. Public masses have resumed throughout Italy after a hiatus of more than two months.  The Pope is not yet expected to lead any public religious ceremonies either in the basilica or in Saint Peter’s Square, as the Vatican seeks to avoid crowds.

Ofcom has sanctioned a TV channel ‘Love World News’ which broadcast claims about the causes of, and treatments for, Covid-19. The channel is owned by a Nigerian, Pastor Oyakhilome, and aired programmes which linked the virus to 5G networks, saying that it was part of a plot to create a “new world order”. Scientists have widely condemned such views as “complete rubbish” and biologically impossible. Ofcom said that it was not against controversial views, but these had to be “put into context” and not undermine trust in the health authorities.