Religion news 21 May 2024

Image credit; Tasnim News Agency CCLicense4.0

Funeral for Ebrahim Raisi, once tipped as the future Ayatollah of Iran

Five days of mourning begin in Iran today following the death of the country’s President, Ebrahim Raisi, who was killed in a helicopter crash at the weekend. Mr Raisi was in a mountainous area of north-western Iran, with the Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian when the helicopter came down on Sunday claiming the lives of both men. Mr Raisi been tipped as a potential successor to the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.  State media said elections would be held on 28 June to choose a new president. In the meantime, vice-president Mohammad Mokhber has been appointed to assume interim duties. Mr Raisi’s funeral will take place today in Tabriz.  Pakistan’s Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif announced a national day of mourning and described Mr Raisi and Mr Amir-Abdollahian as “good friends of Iran”. Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said his country would also observe a national day of mourning. The Associated Press explains that the supreme leader appoints half the 12-member Guardian Council, a clerical body that oversees the republic to ensure it complies with Islamic law.

Muslim Vote prepares to provide list of election candidates it will endorse

The campaign group The Muslim Vote, which aims to mobilise Muslim communities in the lead-up to the general election, has said it will produce a list of candidates it will endorse, later this year. They’re hoping to encourage many of the 3.9 million Muslims in the UK to vote, focusing on constituencies where they can have the most impact. Abubakr Nanabawa, the spokesperson for the campaign, is quoted in The Guardian describing the mobilisation of Muslim voters as “historic” and said many want to make a “real difference” at the polling booth, particularly in light of the Israeli offensive in Gaza, which has killed more than 35,000 people: “If any government wants our vote, then they have to earn it. , he said. The group was launched in December last year after the vote on a ceasefire in Gaza was rejected by parliament a month earlier. Nanabawa said the two main issues people are concerned about are the offensive in Gaza and the cost of living crisis and the group will be “recommending a raft of candidates closer to the election”, across all constituencies, that align with their policy requests on foreign policy, the NHS and education.

CofE church attendance figures rise for third successive year

Preliminary figures indicate that attendances at Church of England services rose by almost five per cent in 2023 – the third year of consecutive growth, according to an early snapshot of the annual Statistics for Mission findings. The analysis suggests in-person attendance is drawing closer to the pre-pandemic trend. In 2021 all-age Sunday attendance was 22.3 per cent below the projected pre-pandemic trend, but the new figures reveal that the gap had narrowed to 6.7 per cent last year. All-age weekly attendance rose to within 8.3 per cent of the trend last year, compared with 24.1 per cent in 2021. The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, has welcomed the news and said he was especially heartened to hear that more children were coming to church. The same statistics are reported in the Daily Telegraph, which points out that that church attendance has more than halved since 1987, prompting some clergy to warn it was “a doom spiral of the church’s own choosing”.

Pope says conservative criticism of progressives is “suicidal attitude”

In his first in-depth TV interview with a U.S. broadcast network, Pope Francis has addressed a wide range of topics, including the war in Ukraine, antisemitism, and U.S. immigration policy. A portion of the full interview, which was due to be broadcast in full last night on CBS, was aired on Sunday evening on the network’s flagship magazine program, “60 Minutes”. In the segment, the Pope also touched upon sexual abuse in the church and same-sex unions. He responded to criticisms by some American conservative bishops for the so-called “progressive shift” to Roman Catholic doctrine. He said that the adjective “conservative” in such instances was “one who clings to something and does not want to see beyond that.” He added: “It is a suicidal attitude. Because one thing is to take tradition into account, to consider situations from the past, but quite another is to be closed up inside a dogmatic box”. Report here

King Charles to be patron of the Council of Christians and Jews

It’s been announced that King Charles will be Patron of the Council of Christians and Jews, the UK’s first interfaith charity and the leading forum for Christian-Jewish dialogue. It follows a major review of more than 1,000 charitable organisations, and marks the first anniversary of the coronation. “In an age of interfaith tension in the UK, this news is welcome,” said CCJ Chair Bishop Sarah Bullock. “Fighting antisemitism and all prejudice needs us all, and His Majesty’s patronage signals commitment to this at the highest level.”  In 2021, CCJ conferred its annual Bridge Award to King Charles, an award recognising people who have made a significant, exceptional, and leading contribution to building bridges between peoples, in a Christian-Jewish or wider setting. On accepting the award, The King said: “Never, I would say, has the CCJ been more needed in our conflict-torn world.” The late Queen Elizabeth II was patron of the CCJ for 70 years. It was founded in 1942 by the then Chief Rabbi, Joseph Hertz and Archbishop William Temple, then Archbishop of Canterbury. It is one of the oldest interfaith organisations in the UK, and by using Christian-Jewish engagement as a springboard, plays a wider role in the interfaith arena.

Westminster Abbey gives £500,000 to homelessness charity The Passage

The Church Times reports that Westminster Abbey has donated £500,000 to  a London-based homelessness charity, The Passage, to support its emergency accommodation scheme, No Night Out. The charity says the funding has come at a crucial time with official figures revealing that more than 4,000 people slept rough on the streets of London between January and March this year – a 33 per cent increase on the corresponding period last year, with over 2,000 individuals doing so for the very first time.  The Abbey said that the funding had been possible because of a recovery in visitor numbers since the pandemic. The Passage has been supporting people at risk of homelessness in London for 40 years. Its resource centre in Victoria has helped more than 2,100 people, serving more than 34,500 hot meals, and giving advice on securing employment, benefits, and secure accommodation.

Survey shows 69 per cent of 18-24 year olds say faith significantly impacts their life

The Christian Post cites a recent survey by the Institute for the Impact of Faith in Life which reveals a significant shift in religious attitudes among Gen Zers (people born in 1997 or later) in the UK, suggesting a potential revival of faith and increased spiritual questioning. The research found that individuals aged 18-24 exhibit higher levels of religiosity than any other age group. The study indicates that 69 per cent of respondents aged 18-24 believe their faith significantly impacts their lives, compared to only 51 per cent of those older than 65. They survey was based on 2,000 responses.

Openly trans Christian hermit comes out on Pentecost Sunday

The Religion News Service reports that Brother Christian Matson, a Catholic diocesan hermit in Kentucky, has come out as transgender. He is a Benedictine oblate, a lay person connected to an order, and believes he is the first openly transgender person in his position in the Catholic Church.  Brother Christian, aged 39, converted to Catholicism in 2010, four years after transitioning in college, and says he chose the life of a diocesan hermit after being rejected from many orders in the UK and US. A church lawyer advised that only two aspects of Catholic life were categorically off the table – marriage and the priesthood – and eventually he found a bishop in Kentucky who was open to offering him a path.

Séance gameboard to “communicate directly with Jesus

A board game offering a séance to communicate direct with Jesus is on sale via Amazon. “The Holy Spirit Board”, by Holy Spirit Games, can “answer all of life’s most important questions, straight from the man himself!”. The advertisers say its golden magic cross pointer and metallic mirrored finish make it “perfect for churches, prayer groups or just getting together with friends “


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