Religion news 28 July

Image credit: VOA Urdu

Pilgrims arrive for the Hajj

Muslim pilgrims have started arriving in Mecca for the hajj, which is a scaled down event this year due to the coronavirus pandemic. International visitors have been banned and up to 10,000 people are expected – in contrast to the 2.5 million people who usually attend. The hajj begins on Wednesday, ushering in five intense days of worship.  The Associated Press reports that two-thirds of the pilgrims will be from among foreign residents in Saudi Arabia and one-third will be Saudi citizens. The kingdom has one of the Middle East’s largest outbreaks of the coronavirus, with nearly 269,000 reported infections, including 2,760 deaths. VOA Urdu has put up a film of cleaners sanitising the holy site.

Sheffield Cathedral music department: safeguarding review

The Dean of Sheffield, Peter Bradley, whose Cathedral is in turmoil over the axing of the choir, told a congregation on Sunday that he defended the decision and added that the chapter is reviewing its provision for safeguarding in the music department. “In early July, Chapter commissioned a lessons-learned review of safeguarding in the Music Department during the past five years. Chapter has committed to publishing the executive summary of the review report when it is finished during the autumn.” In his sermon, he said he could not comment on allegations of bullying, but these are “taken very seriously by the Chapter and dealt with through robust official procedures”. He further explained the controversial decision to close down the music department and start again, saying an incremental change was unlikely to be successful. He said sometimes nobody attends choral evensong on weekdays and few people attend on Sunday evenings; recruitment to the choir had been weaker than hoped; the Chapter wanted greater flexibility, experimentation and imagination in worship such as a sung eucharist on Friday lunchtimes and to consider creating more choirs with girls and students.  

John Smyth complaint investigation

The Church of England says a formal complaint has been received by the National Safeguarding Team, in relation to the late John Smyth, a prominent Christian barrister, who is alleged to have carried out sadomasochistic physical abuse against boys at Christian summer camps. The statement says: “It is in the public domain that when Lambeth was contacted in 2013 about an allegation against Smyth it liaised with the relevant diocese. This was to ensure that the survivor was being supported, police had been informed and that the bishop had contacted the Bishop of Cape Town, where Smyth was then living. However, since a formal complaint has now been received by the National Safeguarding Team, it is reviewing information and will obviously respond on this to the person who brought the complaint and take any further action if needed.  These issues will all be considered by the Makin Review which the Church commissioned last year into the Smyth case and is expected to publish into 2021.”

GLOBAL

Coronavirus headlines

  • The Brazilian writer, activist and Dominican brother, Frei Batto, has described the COVID-19 pandemic deaths in his country as a genocide. Brazil has the second highest incidence of coronavirus in the world, with 2,394,513 cases and 80,000 deaths.  LaCroix International reports that Frei Batto wrote an open letter saying that  precautionary and restrictive measures adopted in many other countries could have avoided this “slaughter.” He blames the president, Jair Bolsonaro. “This genocide is not the result of the Bolsonaro government’s indifference. It is intentional”. He said the president  chose not to save lives, but to save the economy.
  • Pope Francis has urged young people to send a message of encouragement to the elderly, especially those in nursing homes, amid the loneliness of the coronavirus pandemic. Speaking after the Angelus prayer on Sunday, the Pope said:  “In the memory of Saints Joachim and Anne, the grandparents of Jesus, I would like to invite young people to make a gesture of tenderness towards the elderly, especially the most lonely ones in homes and residences, those who have not seen their loved ones for many months. Dear young people, each of these elderly people are your grandparents. Do not leave them alone. … They are your roots”.  
  • The Supreme Court in the USA has  rejected a request from a church in Nevada to block an order restricting attendance at religious services. Calvary Chapel Dayton Valley in Dayton, Nevada argued that the state was wrong to allow casinos, restaurants and amusement parks to allow 50% of their capacity, while churches were restricted to just 50 people. But the NY Times reports that the court rejected the plea by 5:4 votes.
  • 13 nuns have died at a convent near Detroit, after multiple covid19 infections between Easter and 10 May. There were 65 nuns in the community and the others are in isolation, unable to attend the funerals or visit each other’s rooms.
  • 40 people in a north Alabama Baptist church contracted coronavirus after revival meetings last week. None have been hospitalised.

Christian charity director resigns after row with a congresswoman

The Republican congressman Ted Yoho has resigned from the Christian charity ‘Bread for the World’, following a finger jabbing row with the Democratic congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on the steps of the US Capitol. Speaking in the House, Ocasio-Cortez said he swore and verbally abused her. The charity’s CEO said the actions were inappropriate and not in line with their ethical standards, so they sought Yoho’s resignation. Yoho apologised but denied using offensive language.

World Council of Churches 11th Assembly news

The World Council of Churches 11th Assembly will be held in Karlsruhe, Germany, from 31 August – 8 September 2022 – a year later than intended because of the coronavirus. Bishop Petra Bosse-Huber, from the Evangelical Church in Germany, said: “The current world situation needs the churches’ common witness for unity and against all forms of injustice and racism,” she said. “The assembly has set itself the task of being a bridge builder for a reconciled and united world.”