Religion news 22 June 2022

The original Canterbury Cross 850AD Canterbury Heritage Museum. Image credit: Storye book CC BY-SA 2.5

Canterbury Cross awarded to the Queen for her unstinting service to the church

The Queen has been presented with a Canterbury Cross by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, in thanks for her “unstinting” service to the Church of England over her seven decades on the throne. The Archbishop said it was a “heartfelt symbol of the love, loyalty and affection in which the Church of England holds Her Majesty”. The cross has four arms ending in curved tips that give the appearance of a circle, a design based on a Saxon brooch which has been adopted as a global symbol of Anglicanism.

Christian debt charity reports spike in mental health issues related to universal credit

The Christian debt charity Christians Against Poverty, has told a Religion Media Centre briefing that there was a noticeable increase in mental health issues reported around the time that the government withdrew the £20 universal credit uplift, as the country came out of lockdowns last autumn.  While the causes of suicide are complex and various, the charity’s external affairs director Gareth McNab said people on the lowest incomes and in debt, had been pushed to the edge after years of “scraping by”, made worse by the pandemic and rising costs. They would continue to press for more government help for the vulnerable, as fuel costs soar in the autumn. The briefing on CAP’s report  “On the Edge”, will be going up on our website and YouTube channel later this week.

Bishop questions strategy for a “shinier, bigger, better” version of the church

The Bishop of Chelmsford Dr Guli Francis-Dehqani, has spoken of her unease with language about strategy in the context of the future of the church. In an address to the diocesan synod on 11 June,  she said she wasn’t comfortable with it because it risked putting too much emphasis on human powers to ensure the church’s future survival as a “shinier, bigger, better version”. It risked ignoring frailty and missing the blessings of the small and vulnerable. She said she had not arrived as bishop last autumn with a clear vision or strategy to lay before people, but a process of listening and guiding would take place with difficult conversations ahead and she appealed to church members to make positive contributions to shape the future. She said: “I won’t be launching any new initiatives… I’m committed to supporting and empowering, as best we can, each local context to discern for yourselves how you are to be God’s people in your bit of the world”.  

144 women ordained as Tibetan Buddhist female monks

The senior Buddhist authority in Bhutan has ordained a group of 144 women as bhikshunis, or female monks, at the Ramthangkha monastery, in a ceremony hailed as a “major step towards ending the institutionalized inequality between men and women in Tibetan Buddhism.” The news was posted on Facebook and described as the culmination of a decades-long movement for full ordination for women in the Tibetan lineage. Religion news story here

Italy the best place in Europe to be Jewish

A study commissioned by the European Jewish Association, says Italy is the best country in Europe for Jewish life, scoring highly on security, the fight against antisemitism, and freedom of religion. Second place went to Hungary and third was a tie between the UK, Denmark and Austria. Belgium came last because of its ban on kosher slaughter and failure to appoint  a national coordinator against antisemitism. The study was by Dr Daniel Staetsky, a senior researcher at Jewish Policy Research. He told the Jewish Chronicle that the UK could improve its ranking by more government support for security and clearer definition of antisemitism. The results were announced in Budapest at the EJA’s annual convention.

Catholic bishop takes responsibility for the whole of south and mid Wales

Bishop Mark O’Toole has been installed as the new Archbishop of Cardiff, in a service at St David’s Cathedral. On Thursday he will formally take up an additional appointment as the bishop of the adjoining diocese, Menevia, creating an area of responsibility covering south and mid Wales, though each diocese will remain independent. The Tablet reports his previous career highlights, from studying theology at Oxford university under Lord Rowan Williams, serving as private secretary to the late Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor and his most recent appointment as the Bishop of Plymouth.

Burkinis banned once more in Grenoble swimming pools

The city of Grenoble’s decision to allow burkinis to be worn in swimming pools for religious reasons, has been overturned by the top administrative court in France. The Associated Press reports that the  Council of State said it violated the principle of government neutrality toward religion. It says some Muslim women criticised the court’s decision as unfairly targeting their faith and their bodies, and based on outdated misconceptions about Islam. But the Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin hailed the ruling by the Council of State as a “victory for secularism.”


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