Religion news 22 February 2024

Image credit: Glossop parish church

Gove’s final decision – no more money for the Inter Faith Network

The Inter Faith Network says its co-chairs received a letter yesterday afternoon from the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Michael Gove, saying that the funding offered, subject to conditions, to IFN in July 2023 for the period until March 2024 would not be provided.  Their statement says: “The reasons are foreshadowed in his earlier letter of 19 January and relate to the inclusion on IFN’s Board of a Trustee who is a member of the Muslim Council of Britain”. IFN’s board meets today (Thursday 22 Feb) and a statement will be issued afterwards. IFN has previously taken an “in principle decision” to move toward closure unless the offered government funding – or funding at an equivalent level from elsewhere – was received by today. Closure would draw to an end its 37 years as a convenor and facilitator of inter faith work in the UK.  

Celebration but concern at CofE independent safeguarding proposal

The recommendation in the Alexis Jay report into safeguarding in the Church of England, to create an independent safeguarding system governing both operations and scrutiny, has been met with relief by survivors of sex abuse in the church. Jane Chevous, co-founder of Survivors Voices, told a Religion Media Centre briefing that there was a mood of celebration among survivors that the moment had finally come, but also distress that they were left waiting too long. However the briefing also heard concerns about the way the recommendations might be implemented. A “Response Group” set up by the CofE to implement change includes members who were involved in a CofE safeguarding organisation which collapsed last year; there are no survivors on this group; a national structure may undermine the key message that safeguarding is everybody’s business; transferring staff risks some leaving taking experience and corporate memory with them; creating a new structure risks slower pace or pause of existing work; and rushing a recommendation through with no alternatives discussed, was a risk to future success. The Bishop of Birkenhead, Julie Conalty, deputy lead bishop for safeguarding, told the briefing that she welcomed the report which sets out the way to go in the future. There were complexities in the recommendations but that was not to take away from their importance and the recognition that things need to change.

Read the report here and view the briefing on our YouTube channel here

William Shawcross says UK Hamas support network is fuelling antisemitism

The independent reviewer of the government’s Prevent programme, William Shawcross, has said that the government has ignored his recommendations and has not tackled the threat from the Hamas support network in the UK which has become more dangerous since the 7 October attack on Israel. He gave interviews to the Telegraph and the BBC and warned the failure to act was fuelling a dangerous surge in antisemitism. The Home Office has denied the charge, saying it had accepted his recommendations in full and delivered 30 out of 34.  

Two former nuns give details of being abused by former Jesuit priest

Two former nuns who allege they were abused by the former Jesuit priest, Fr. Marko Rupnik, a Slovenian born mosaic artist, have given a press conference outlining their claims of psychological, spiritual, and sexual abuse. Gloria Branciani and Mirjam Kovac, who are Italian and Slovenian respectively, have instructed a lawyer to obtain documents from the Vatican which would help them in their case. Fr Rupnik was expelled from the Jesuit order in June last year, for failing to testify on charges of abuse and for breaking his vow of obedience. He is being investigated by the Vatican’s Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith, which announced this week that it was reviewing new evidence. If found guilty, he could be expelled from the priesthood. He is currently said to be living at his art centre in Rome.

New pagan movement in Rome based on ancient Roman temple sites

Ancient pagan traditions are being re-energised by a new religious movement in Rome, “Communitas Populi Romani”, a community started in 2013 by a group of young enthusiasts of Roman history, culture and religion. The Religion News Service explains that many are former Catholics, some turn to Juno, Jupiter and Apollo, others to Kemetic Orthodoxy, based on an ancient Egyptian religious faith.  One of the organisers says there are 20 members who meet three or four times a month  close to the original temples across Rome, with their own priests. The report says paganism is growing in Italy, with 230,000 people, a 143 per cent increase over 10 years. And it offers the observation that the fascination with ancient Rome has  become a worldwide phenomenon: “A social media trend last year found a staggering and surprising number of people — especially men — think about the ancient Roman Empire at least once a day”. The report by Claire Giangravé is on the Religion News Service website here

Spanish police arrest parish priest for allegedly selling drugs

Spanish police have arrested a parish priest and another man on suspicion of selling Viagra and powerful aphrodisiacs. Father Alfonso Masa and the man said to be his partner, are alleged to have received the drugs by parcel for subsequent distribution by post. The Times reports that officers found the drugs in the priest’s parish house in the town of Don Benito. Story here

Churchyard in Derbyshire turns into bustling wildlife area

The Telegraph tells the story of a churchyard in Glossop, which has been developed into a living sanctuary through rewilding. In an initiative promoted by the Church of England, the vicar of the parish church, the Rev Dr David Mundy, has gathered volunteers to plant snowdrops (pictured) and wild flowers, lay out decaying vegetation and provide boxes for birds to nest. The result is a thriving area of land attracting wildlife as well as encouraging community spirit. Story with pics here


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