Religion news 21 July

Image credit: Treske

Knights’ Chamber, Peterborough Cathedral, becomes a court

The Knights’ Chamber at Peterborough Cathedral is to be turned into one of ten ‘Nightingale Courts’ to hear a backlog of cases which have been postponed during the coronavirus pandemic. It will deal with cases involving non-custodial corporate crime, while others will deal with civil and family cases, tribunals and non-custodial crime cases. During the lockdown, almost half of all courts were closed and jury trials were paused, resulting in a backlog of 480,000 cases in magistrates courts and 41,000 cases for crown courts. The Knights’ Chamber was built in 1220 to house the knights of Peterborough Abbey and is now a venue for events and meetings.

Sex abuse victims’ payments increased

The Telegraph has reported that the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Birmingham has tripled a payout to a victim of child sex abuse from the 1970s. The Archdiocese made the decision to reopen closed financial settlements with two abuse victims, a year after it was criticised by the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse for its handling of cases. In one case, a victim received £15,000 and another received a second undisclosed financial settlement.

Face masks in church

People visiting cathedrals and attending church in England are being encouraged to wear face masks. The government’s most recent guidance suggests masks should be worn in enclosed public spaces where people meet others outside their social circles. Gatherings of more than 30 people are permitted so long as social distancing guidelines are observed.

Hong Kong Archbishop row

A row has erupted on the letter pages of the Church Times over the Archbishop of Hong Kong’s support of China’s national security law. Paul Kwong voiced his strongly held views in a letter to the Church Times on 10 July, saying he supports the right to peaceful protest but months of wider violence had made the law “necessary for our wellbeing”. The rioters had committed acts “which cannot be tolerated in any country”. There were furious responses – David Allardice, writing from Hong Kong, said he was shocked at support for un-Christian views and that the Archbishop’s integrity had been compromised. Another writer from Hong Kong, Lee Faulkner, took ‘deep offence’.  There are an estimated 40,000 Anglicans in Hong Kong – about 5% of the total Christian population.

Germany loses record number of church members – and has record income

The Roman Catholic church in Germany has lost a record number of members in the last year, but received more money in church tax than ever before. According to official figures released on Monday, the German Church received €6.76 billion in 2019 – an increase of more than €100 million on 2018. The rise is believed to be due to the growth of Germany’s economy in 2019, as an individual registered as a Catholic pays 8-9% of their income tax to the Church. The Catholic News Agency reports that the church had, in the same period, lost around 220,000 members. The new church tax figures were published on the same day as a Vatican instruction calling for changes to parish life to be focused on evangelization.