Religion news 26 October

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Welsh church leaders threaten judicial review of building closures during lockdown

Church leaders in Wales have threatened a judicial review of the Welsh government’s ban on church services in the latest coronavirus lockdown. They say the three-week closure is an “extreme interference” in freedom of thought, conscience and religion under Article 9 of the Human Rights Act. They are concerned that community services such as food banks will have to close. There are several free evangelical churches among the signatories and their action is supported by the conservative Christian Legal Centre.

The ‘vicar of Baghdad’ banned from senior charity roles for 12 years

Canon Andrew White, known as ‘the vicar of Baghdad’  has been banned from being involved in the senior management of any UK charity for 12 years. The decision  was made in July, but has just been published alongside a Charity Commission report into the charity CAWRM Ltd, also known as Jerusalem Merit, where he was an ambassador. The report investigated financial records and transactions and found failures in accounting and reporting. The charity’s work is to relieve poverty and hardship among refugees in the Middle East.

Murderer groomed entire congregation in Stowe

The diocese of Oxford has published a review into how a church member was able to manoeuvre his way into a congregation and murder an elderly retired schoolmaster and defraud an elderly former headmistress. Ben Field was convicted of murder in 2019. The review said he had effectively groomed the vicar and the entire congregation at Stowe Parish Church, where he became PCC secretary and a deputy church warden. But his interest in the church was merely a scam.

First Catholic African American cardinal announced

Wilton Gregory, the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Washington DC, has become the first African American to be made a cardinal.  He was among 13 new cardinals announced by Pope Francis on Sunday, and hit the headlines earlier this year for criticising Donald Trump’s use of religion for political purposes.

Middle East countries boycott French goods in cartoons row

Emmanuel Macron, the president of France, has defended the right to free speech, following the beheading of a teacher who showed cartoons of the prophet Muhammad in class. He said the teacher, Samuel Paty, “was killed because Islamists want our future”, but France would not give in.  There has been a furious backlash with many countries boycotting French goods in protest. The French foreign ministry said the “baseless” calls for a boycott were being “pushed by a radical minority”.

Women confront priests in church services over Poland’s abortion law change

Women rights activists in Poland have staged angry protests in church services this weekend, over the ruling by Poland’s constitutional court that aborting foetuses with congenital defects is unconstitutional. The Associated Press reports that Poland already had one of Europe’s most restrictive abortion laws, and the ruling will result in a near-complete ban. This was the fourth successive day of protests throughout the country. Angry young women confronted priests during mass, an astonishing change in a country where the church was once venerated for its authority.

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