Religion news 20 August

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Pope Francis says the poor must have access to the coronavirus vaccine

Pope Francis says the world’s poorest people must have access to a coronavirus vaccine if one becomes available, At the General Audience on Wednesday, he said that after the Covid19 pandemic, the world couldn’t “return to normality if normal means social injustice and degradation of the natural environment.. How sad it would be if the Covid19 vaccine priority is given to the richest.” He said the pandemic had exposed the plight of the poor and inequality. The larger virus is social injustice, inequality of opportunity, marginalization and the lack of protection for the weakest.

Mormon support for Trump is waning

More than 200 Mormons, who are Republicans, have published an open letter calling Trump “the antithesis of so much the Latter-day Saints community believes”. They say they will instead vote for Joe Biden. Individually, there is disquiet at his infidelity and foul language. The Independent has carried an article suggesting that this is a symptom of a wider loss of support for Trump from the Mormons, who make up a sizeable vote in swing states such as Arizona. The campaign has launched the “Latter-day Saints for Trump Coalition”, appealing for support due to Trump’s opposition to abortion rights and his backing of religious liberty.  The church has made a statement affirming its long standing position that it does not take a political stance.

Church leaders told that young people face greatest challenges from Coronavirus

The Barna research group in the States has collated a number of research projects on the challenges faced by young people in the pandemic. It says everyone is living in a state of uncertainty and younger adults are facing some of the greatest challenges. Recent research suggests 47% of church pastors say their ministry to young people is a great concern. Polls  reveal that young people are spending more time on screens, are more alive to inequality and racism in society, 1: 3 are in need of food and financial help, 1:5 are lonely. For churches seeking to help, a further piece  of research advises the older generation to tread lightly with its language and avoid ‘Christianese’ – ‘evangelism’ and ‘missionary’ are no longer cool.

Methodists appoint two young climate change campaigners

The Methodist Church has appointed two young people to new positions as climate change campaign workers, with the aim of growing a coalition ahead of COP26 in Glasgow next year. Mollie Pugmire and James Appleby have already begun to develop links with churches in Italy, Zambia, Fiji, Pakistan, India, Russia, Ukraine and the USA. On 22 August they will take part in two webinars to connect young people across the country to show how they can be at the forefront of engaging with climate justice.

Ancient Hebrew manuscripts on display at the British Library

The British Library is to display ancient Hebrew manuscripts in an exhibition starting on 1 September. The Hebrew Manuscripts: Journeys of the Written Word exhibition includes a 16th century spell-book claiming to have 125 magical and medical answers to life’s dilemmas; a letter from a rabbi to Henry VIII giving Biblical backing for annulling his first marriage to Catherine of Aragon; and a copy of the philosopher Moses Maimonides’ Guide for the Perplexed, dated 1380. Some manuscripts date from the 10th century and were produced by the diaspora across Europe, Africa, the middle east and China.

Lourdes pilgrimage attracts just 5,000 people – a fifth of usual number

Five thousand pilgrims attended the mass for the annual Assumption celebrations at Lourdes last weekend – a fifth of the usual number.  Pilgrims had to observe social distancing, the recess of the grotto where the Virgin Mary appeared to St Bernadette of Lourdes in 1858 was cordoned off and the healing pools were closed.

Mural masterpiece of the crucifixion at risk from vandalism in Oldham (pictured)

A 1955 mosaic and fresco mural on a redundant Roman Catholic church in Oldham, is under threat. Save Britain’s Heritage says the 26 foot high mural – George Mayer-Marton’s ‘The Crucifixion’ – is at risk of vandalism, threat and redevelopment. The Catholic News Agency says that it was originally blue and gold, but has been painted over in off white, though it remains intact underneath. The Diocese of Salford says it has put additional security in place and would like to find the mural a permanent new home.

Narnia statues in Beverley church

The Guardian reports that St Mary’s church Beverley has commissioned the creation of statues of Narnia characters to stand in the church.  The installations are part of a 10 year restoration project and were made by a local masonry company. They include Aslan, the witch and Mr Tumnus and share the space with medieval wooden carvings, lions, unicorns and mermaids.

Islamic New Year

Thursday 20 August 2020 marks the start of the new Islamic year of 1442, with the month of Muharram, one of the four sacred months in the Islamic calendar. In a  new year message, Harun Khan, Secretary General of the Muslim Council of Britain, says: “The advent of a new year is an apt time for resolution-making and setting goals.  In many parts of the world, the coronavirus is one more hardship to add to existing traumas. I hope that we can all take the opportunity provided by this blessed month to pray for all those suffering, Muslim and non-Muslim, from calamities, injustice and oppression across the globe, and that we can continue to come together both as local communities and afar.”


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