Religion news 28 October

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South Wales police force church service to close during lockdown

South Wales police interrupted and shut down a service at New Hope Community Church in Llanrumney, Cardiff, on Sunday night, which was held in breach of Covid-19 lockdown regulations. All church services in Wales are banned for three Sundays as part of a total lockdown to curb the spread of the virus. The police say they entered the church and explained the rules before the congregation left. The church filmed the episode and posted it on Facebook. Pastor Wade McLennan told Premier Christian news that he felt led by God during a meeting with the leaders of his church to breach the rules and stand up for the right to worship. He plans to breach the rules again by holding another church service. Separately, 35 church leaders in Wales, supported by the conservative Christian Concern group, are seeking a judicial review of the decision to close down churches during the lockdown.

Irish churches revolt against proposed closure during pandemic

The Tablet is reporting fears that Irish laws imposing Covid-19 restrictions could lead to imprisonment or fines for a priest who says mass. Deputy Michael McNamara issued the warning during a debate in the Dáil over measure to restrict individual rights from 9 November until 9 June 2021. The regulations would prohibit religious services, with an exception for funerals. Health minister Stephen Donnelly said the government was following the public health advice on places of worship and there was no penalty attached to them, but Mr McNamara and a diocesan administrator quoted in The Tablet remained to be convinced. Irish Church Together and 70 Irish Pentecostal Church leaders say the closure of places of worship is “counterproductive”. Ireland’s four Catholic archbishops and the taoiseach will meet this week for discussions.

Bishop of Manchester pledges support to see the city through dark winter

The Bishop of Manchester David Walker was among a handful of senior community leaders at the launch of “OneGM”, a movement to offer support through the Covid-19 pandemic. On Twitter he said: “Faith communities will offer our volunteers, leaders and buildings as part of the effort. Our worship gatherings will sustain the spiritual lives of our people”. The Manchester area is in tier 3 lockdown, with the closure of pubs and bars that do not serve food, along with casinos, bingo halls, betting shops, adult gaming centres and soft play areas. Households are banned from mixing indoors and in most outdoor settings, although meeting in parks and other public places is still permitted. A £60m package has been offered to the region’s councils to provide business support schemes.

Vatican City records 27 cases of Covid-19

The Vatican is reporting an outbreak of Covid-19, with 27 cases recorded in the City and one inside the the Domus Sanctae Marthae, where Pope Francis currently resides. The Religion News Service reports that this follows an announcement that 11 Swiss guards in the City had also tested positive. Fifteen other people have recovered from the virus. Pope Francis is 83 and at risk but has been pictured frequently during the pandemic, without wearing a face mask. A co-ordinator of the Vatican’s Covid-19 commission says the Pope has now started to wear a mask.

French Muslims ‘scapegoated’ after teacher’s beheading

A backlash is continuing against President Emmanuel Macron for his response to the beheading of a teacher for showing his class cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad. He has insisted on the right to freedom of speech, and meanwhile there has been a clampdown on mosques, organisations and individuals. The Muslim Council of Britain says French Muslim communities have been scapegoated and calls on the French government to urgently review its “alarming response and rhetoric”. Middle East countries have boycotted French products, there have been cyber-attacks against French websites, the French ambassador to Turkey has been recalled after Erdogan criticised the Macron, and Iran summoned a French diplomat to tell him that the response to the killing was “unwise”. The Guardian reports that powerful clerics in the Iranian city of Qom are calling on Islamic nations to impose political and economic sanctions.

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