Religion news 21 January 2022

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Image credit: © H. Elvir Tabakovic, Can. Reg.

Pope Benedict accused of mishandling sex abuse cases

Former Pope Benedict XVI has been accused of misconduct in his handling of sexual abuse cases while he was Archbishop of Munich between 1977 and 1982. A legal firm in Germany was commissioned by the Diocese of Munich to carry out an investigation into abuse cases going back 70 years. Its report said that under his tenure, two clergy were kept in pastoral work despite their offences, and a third was given a job after being convicted in a court outside the area. Pope Benedict XVI, formerly Joseph Ratzinger, retired from the papacy in 2013 on grounds of ill health. He denied any wrongdoing and said he had no direct knowledge of the cases, but the lawyers said this was not credible. The report reviewed cases involving at least 497 victims and 205 clergy. Its authors say they are convinced the “dark field” of inquiry is much wider.

Ukraine church leaders appeal for western prayers and support

Church leaders in Ukraine have appealed to western Christian leaders to speak out and support them, as 100,000 Russian troops mass on the border amid widespread speculation of a Russian incursion. Monsignor Gregory Semenkov, chancellor of the Roman Catholic Kharkiv-Zaporizhia Diocese, told the Catholic News Service on 14 January that the bishops’ conference was non-political, and had never taken a position on whether Ukraine should join Nato or the European Union. But the invasion preparations were posing “severe hazards for the church” and “the church in the West is saying little”. Father Roman Krat, judicial vicar of Ukraine’s Odessa-Simferopol Diocese, told the CNS that he believed an invasion was likely and he expected Catholic priests would be required to accept Russian citizenship to continue ministering if troops invaded. Today the US secretary of state, Antony Blinken, is due to meet his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, in Geneva to discuss the crisis, following the failure of talks between Nato and Russian officials. Blinken has expressed the fear that if Russia invaded Ukraine, “the threat of all-out war hung heavily over everyone”.

‘World views’ tag could stop university department closures

The newly appointed president of TRS-UK, the professional body for teaching and research in religion and theology in higher education, says rebranding religious studies as world views would attract more young people and help stem the tide of university department closures. Dr Opinderjit Takhar, who is also director of the Centre for Sikh and Panjabi studies at Wolverhampton University, believes the drop in student recruitment is down to many schools no longer offering religious studies, instead embedding it in the citizenship curriculum. But the subject is about how different communities interact with society, she says, and this is not about tolerance but something more: “We want a mutually understanding society. We want coexistence rather than just putting up with each other which is what that word tolerance is all about.” Full interview here

Church of England disinvests from 28 companies, including BP

The Church of England’s national investing bodies have announced that they are disinvesting from 28 companies, including BP, which failed to meet Paris agreement targets to reduce carbon emissions. They have been put on a restricted list preventing future investment. The investing bodies are the Church Commissioners for England, the Church of England Pensions Board and the CBF Church of England Funds. Exxon Mobil is on the restricted list, but the bommissioners have postponed a decision to disinvest, allowing change to be made. Full story here

Plans agreed to make the House of Bishops more ethnically diverse

Plans have been agreed to elect UK minority ethnic /global majority clergy to the Church of England’s House of Bishops, the gathering of senior bishops. At present there are just four out of 53 from UK ethnic minorities, but under the scheme there will be at least ten elected or appointed to take part and they will be in place by May. The move follows a report from the church’s anti-racism taskforce “From Lament to Action” and aims to introduce a diversity of voices and experiences, acting as a catalyst for change.

Ordination of women resources listed on Vatican synod website

The Vatican has included a group advocating women´s ordination as a resource for further study, on its website outlining the new synodical process, in which the whole church is invited to discuss its governance. The Women´s Ordination Conference is listed as a resource for people to inquire, listen and engage in discussion. It has produced materials for discussion in the “Let Her Voice Carry” campaign, alongside online events. The website lists many different resources with a disclaimer: “The publication of any contribution should not be understood as an endorsement of its content; nor should anyone interpret such a publication as an act of formal recognition by the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops of the group or community submitting the contribution”. But the fact that this group is on the website at all has surprised commentators, who say that in the past the Vatican has silenced and investigated anyone proposing a discussion on this topic.

29 killed at Christian meeting in Liberia

There are reports that at least 29 people were killed while attending a Christian event in Monrovia, the capital of Liberia in west Africa. Police say a gang wielding knives targeted a crowd at a prayer meeting, labelled a crusade. The president has called for three days of mourning.

St Irenaeus to become one of 37 people honoured as a doctor of the church

The Pope has conferred the title of “doctor of the church” on St Irenaeus, the second-century saint who was a bridge between eastern and western Christianity. Only 36 people have been given the title, including St Augustine. The Pope has expressed his respect for St Irenaeus, for his contribution to church unity.

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