Religion news 20 May 2024

Contemporary depiction of Our Lady's 9th apparition at Lourdes on 25 February 1858. By Virgilio Tojetti - public domain

Archbishop urges and end to the two-child benefits limit

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, has urged the government and the Labour party to commit to scrapping the two-child limit on benefit payments to families, He told The Observer that it was a cruel and immoral policy that plunges hundreds of thousands of children into poverty. He said: “It denies the truth that all children are of equal and immeasurable worth, and will have an impact on their long-term health, wellbeing and educational outcomes”. Asked to comment on the appeal, Labour MP Wes Streeting said the Archbishop was the one person in the country whose job it is to signal virtue. But Mr Streeting could not commit to repealing the limit until he saw the detail of public finances once in government.

Vatican changes rules on supernatural phenomena

The Vatican has updated rules on verifying supernatural phenomena, such as apparitions of the Virgin Mary, statues weeping tears and crucifixes oozing blood. A document from the department of doctrine, says social media has led to more reports of strange experiences and its revamped rules aim to stop hoaxers from exploiting the gullible in pursuit of power and money. In the past, discerning whether an experience was authentically supernatural took decades. Under the new system, there are six possible pronouncements including “Nihil obstat” which acknowledges the phenomenon took place in the midst of a spiritual experience and no risky aspects have been detected.

Antisemitic fire bomb attack on French synagogue

French police shot dead a man armed with a knife and an iron bar, who had attempted to burn down a synagogue in the north-western city of Rouen.  They were called when smoke was seen coming from the building after a petrol bomb had been thrown through a window. Jewish News says the walls and furniture were blackened by fire. France has the third largest Jewish community in the world, after Israel and the US and the act ins seen as an attempt to intimidate every Jew.

Dazzling diversity of religion in Cuba

The Religion News Service carries a report by Luis Andres Henao on the dazzling diversity of religion in Cuba, 65 years after the 1959 Castro-led revolution installed an atheist, Communist government that sought to replace the Catholic Church. He describes bells tolling on Catholic churches, the call to prayer for Muslims in Havana, Buddhists chanting at a jazz musician’s home, Jews adapting food for sabbath dinners, Santeria devotees dancing and drumming to Afro-Cuban deities, LGBTQ+ church services, growing evangelical congregations and, all the while, 60 per cent are Catholic and worship continues at the remote shrine of the Virgin of Charity beneath the Sierra Maestra mountains. The revival of religion is put down to the current tolerance of religion by the government.

CofE same sex marriage and blessings debate inches forward

The Church Times has seen a confidential CofE document suggesting that stand-alone services of blessing for same-sex couples could move forward “without necessarily pursuing full synodical authorisation”. Another proposal is to introduce stand-alone services and same sex clergy marriages by region, with a new structure of bishops to look after people who disagree. Canon John Dunnett of the Church of England Evangelical Council said the proposals would ratchet up the need for this new structure.. Report by Francis Martin here

Bishop opposed to same sex relationships takes part in consecration of new gay bishop in Wales

The Bishop of Lancaster, Jill Duff, known for her conservative evangelical views against same sex relationships, participated in the laying on of hands at the consecration of the new assistant bishop of Bangor, David Morris, who is gay and engaged to his partner, Marc Penny. The Church Times explains that she is also honorary assistant bishop in the diocese of St Asaph, and lives in north Wales. It quotes her saying she took part because she was asked to do so, her views remain unchanged but she “went in service and humility to honour the bishops” in Wales. She said it would be quite a different question to take part in a similar consecration in England. “Who am I, as an English bishop, to judge a Welsh bishop? But if I’m an English bishop, in an English jurisdiction, that feels quite a different thing to me”.

Pastor pays tribute to “gentle” teenager killed in a sword attack

The funeral has been held for 14-year-old Daniel Anjorin, who was killed in a sword attack last month as he was walking to school in Hainault, east London. The service was held at Jubilee Church in Ilford, where Daniel and his family were regular members of the congregation. Pastor Tope Koleoso said it was a gentle, peaceful ceremony for a gentle, spirited and peace-loving boy. A statement posted on the church website by his family said their son was with the Lord but will be forever missed: “We extend our deepest appreciation to all who have stood by us, sharing in our sorrow and offering solace”. A man aged 36 has been charged with his murder.

Church of Scotland commended for work in communities

The Duke of Edinburgh has praised the Church of Scotland for its work in communities and for tackling challenges facing the church. In a speech opening the annual general assembly meeting in Edinburgh, he also paid tribute to the royal chaplains for their care and love following the death of the Queen at Balmoral. The Assembly heard that a new ecumenical Scottish Christian Forum is being developed, building on existing relations with other churches. The assembly ends on Thursday 23 May.

Former vicar charged with raping a teenager

A former Anglican vicar aged 80 has been charged with rape and gross indecency with a boy under the age of 14, alleged to have happened 30 years ago. Ifor Whittaker was known then as Father Colin Pritchard at St John the Baptist Church in Sedlescombe, East Sussex. He has been remanded in custody and is due to appear in court on 10 June.


Sign up for our news bulletin