Religion news 29 September 2021

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£20 worth of food: Image credit Jack Monroe

1100 faith leaders say cut to universal credit will force millions  into poverty

Two bishops have joined 1100 religious leaders in a chorus of protest against the government’s plans to end the £20 weekly uplift on universal credit, which was introduced during the pandemic and is to be ended this weekend. The decision means that on average, people receiving the benefit will have £324.84 a month to live on.  The bishops of Doncaster and Selby joined 1100 other religious leaders to warn that the cut would force millions of people into poverty. Church Action on Poverty and Christians Against Poverty are behind the latest campaign, but with days to go, there is little hope of a U-turn. The government’s decision and its impact was explored in a Religion Media Centre briefing, when campaigners and the Centre of Social Justice – the think tank that came up with the idea of universal credit – agreed that the uplift was the right thing to do. But they also said that if investment money was at hand to uplift payments, this was not the best way of using it.  A long term poverty strategy was needed to address the massive issue of debt repayments, with benefit recipients paying back 25 per cent on loans, in some cases. The briefing was told that charities and faith groups, already exhausted after the last 18 months, are gearing up for a surge in demand for front line help, especially for food, this winter. And the decision to end the uplift is being challenged in court,  though the case has been delayed til November. See the zoom briefing on our YouTube channel here

Canadian Catholic bishops pledge £30 million to heal abuse against children in residential schools

The Roman Catholic bishops of Canada have announced a pledge to give $30 million for “healing and reconciliation initiatives” for  survivors of abuse suffered by indigenous children in residential schools over the past 100 years. survivors, their families, and their communities. The projects will be decided by First Nations, Metis, and Inuit populations in each region. Residential schools were compulsory boarding schools funded by the Canadian government and run by religious authorities during the 19th and 20th centuries with the aim of assimilating indigenous youth into Euro-Canadian culture. But reports of neglect and abuse have come to light, and more than 4,000 children are said to have died, with unmarked graves recently discovered at sites of  former schools. The bishops have issued a statement of apology acknowledging that “grave abuses” had been committed.

Archbishop of York suffered sleepless nights at reported threat to traditional parishes

The Telegraph reports a lecture by the Archbishop of York Stephen Cottrell entitled “The dream for the church”, where he reflects on the way a plan for the Church of England was reported as a threat to parishes. The report says that in a lecture for St Martin in the Fields on Monday night, the Archbishop said he suffered “sleepless nights” after being accused of jeopardising rural parishes.  Stephen Cottrell was in charge of the shop for three months while the Ap of Canterbury took a sabbatical and in that time presided over the General Synod in July where its strategic plans for a “simpler, humbler, bolder” church were panned and understood to mean the death of the traditional parish, while new church groups without trained and ordained clergy sprang up elsewhere.  In the lecture, the Telegraph reports that he said he was aghast that his desire to “support, uphold, build and sustain local church and parish church in all its manifold forms have somehow been interpreted as quite the opposite”. He went on to say: “We might even be able to scrape the barnacles off the hull of the church and put out again into deep waters”. The Telegraph also reported that this month,  all 42 diocesan secretaries have been sent a note “warning clergy to prepare for changes and cuts as officials prepare to overhaul the system, sparking fears that churches in rural towns and parishes will not survive”. 

Cardinal Archbishop of Cologne on leave after sex abuse protection allegations

Pope Francis has confirmed Cardinal Rainer Maria Woelki in office as Cardinal Archbishop of Cologne, following accusations that  he protected priests accused of sexual abuse. The Pope granted him several months leave to reflect on the events that led him to offer his resignation. The Cardinal admitted that he had made mistakes and apologised profoundly to the victims, vowing to be back in office in the spring.

Dalai Lama supports Edinburgh cafe at risk of closure

Reka Gawa, a follower of the Dalai Lama, has raised almost £45,000 through  GoFundMe, to buy the café she set up in his honour in Edinburgh. The Times reports that she started The Himalaya Café in South Clerk Street after a chance meeting with the Dalai Lama in the canteen of the Scottish parliament in 2004, when she was so overcome that tears rolled down her cheeks. She offers dumplings, bhajis and chai tea, serves the homeless, provides a free space for yoga and meditation and promotes Buddhism and Tibetan culture. But faced with closure, she took to social media for donations and the Dalai Lama came out publicly to support her café.


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