Religion news 28 July 2021

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Image credit: Becciu press conference

Fraud and embezzlement trial starts in the Vatican

Ten people have gone on trial at the Vatican, charged with financial crimes including fraud, embezzlement and money-laundering. The case started yesterday in the Vatican museums but The Guardian reports that only Cardinal Angelo Becciu and one other defendant were present. The hearing, before presiding judge Giuseppe Pignatone, who has experience of taking on the mafia, lasted eight hours and was adjourned to 5 October, when it is expected to last several months. The court action centres on a multimillion-pound deal to buy a property in Sloane Avenue, Chelsea. Cardinal Becciu held a press conferenced afterwards protesting his innocence and vowing to clear his name.

France suspends imam for remarks against women

Mmadi Ahamada, the imam of the Saint-Chamond mosque in France, has been suspended by the Interior ministry for making discriminatory remarks against women. The complaint was made after his sermon on Eid was made public, including commands for women to stay in their homes, not show off and not give in to “the accomplishment of corruption and vice”. Gérald Darmanin, the interior minister, confirmed that his role as imam has been terminated and the regional administration said the question of the non-renewal of his residence permit was under review.

Olympic chaplains minister to athletes’ failure and disappointment online

Olympic athletes are being offered a virtual chaplaincy service, allowing their spiritual and mental needs to be addressed when they face failure, injury, disappointment, or unfulfillment, the Religion News Service reports. Will Thompson, Japan director for the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, told the RNS that meeting an athlete in need of spiritual encouragement and direction was important, and could greatly impact their lives on and off the field of competition. The Tokyo Olympics includes a multifaith centre but prayers, worship and counselling are provided virtually due to Covid-19. Accredited chaplains can enter the Olympic village only for an emergency. Forty-eight per cent of Japanese people are Shinto, 46 per cent are Buddhist and 1 per cent are Christian, the US State Department says. 

HSBC strategist becomes first church estates commissioner

Alan Smith, the former global head of risk strategy at HSBC, is to be the CofE’s first church estates commissioner, responsible for chairing the committee that oversees the management of a £9.2 billion investment portfolio. He is a member of the bank’s environmental, social and governance committee, shaping sustainability strategy and he chairs a flagship Cop26 Initiative to create climate resilient infrastructure. He is also assistant warden at his local parish church, the Church Times reports.

Covid vaccine is a personal choice, Hillsong founder says

Pastor Brian Houston, the founder of the Hillsong global megachurch, has said that having the Covid vaccine is a personal choice. He was speaking after a church member from California died from Covid, having spoken out on social media against the vaccine. Houston said the church strongly encouraged people to follow the guidance of their doctors: “While many of our staff, leadership and congregation have already received the Covid-19 vaccine, we recognise this is a personal decision for each individual to make with the counsel of medical professionals.”

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