Religion news 6 October 2021

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Up to 330,000 children abused by Catholic clergy and laity in France

An inquiry into sex abuse in the French Catholic Church has found that 216,000 children — mostly boys — have been sexually abused by clergy since 1950. And that number could rise to 330,000, when taking into account abuses committed by lay members of the church, including teachers. The inquiry said there were at least 2,900 to 3,200 abusers, and the church had shown a “cruel indifference towards the victims” with a “betrayal of trust, betrayal of morale, betrayal of children”. There had been a systemic cover-up and silence. A Vatican statement said Pope Francis heard the report with a deep sadness for the victims and hoped the church would take the path of redemption.

Roman Catholic church overhauls power structures in ‘most ambitious reform for 60 years’

This weekend, Pope Francis will launch the most ambitious Catholic reform process for 60 years, overhauling power structures in the church and giving a stronger voice to ordinary believers. Dr Alana Harris told a Religion Media Centre briefing that she hoped the synod structure, where clergy, bishops and laity would discuss pressing concerns for the church, would “harness perspectives”. It would discuss hard issues that divide people — on the place of women, for example — and those that would gather majority support such as response to poverty and climate change. Dr Alana Harris thought a synod of the Catholic Church in England and Wales might also lead to closer relationships with the Church of England’s own General Synod. The Bishop of Salford, John Arnold, told the briefing he was hopeful: “It will be a really good time for prayerful listening and discernment, so we can find better solutions for the future and the problems of today”. View the briefing again on our YouTube channel.

Calls for a public inquiry into Magdalene laundries

A report into Magdalene Laundries, mother and baby institutions, and workhouses in Northern Ireland has recommended a public inquiry into what happened there. An estimated 10,500 women sent to these institutions were forced to give up their children and were detained as slave labour. Mass graves have been found with remains of women, children and babies. The report by the Truth Recovery Design Panel, also recommends legislation to allow access to records and compensation.

Sex abuse investigation in US Southern Baptist Church starts immediately

Members of the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee have taken a procedural step that allows for the full, transparent, and unimpeded investigation into sex abuse in the church. The 44-31 vote followed three meetings over three weeks on a contentious decision that has led to speculation that the church could be bankrupted by claims. The motion calls for a selective waiving of attorney-client privilege “that includes an investigation into any allegations of abuse, mishandling of abuse, mistreatment of victims, a pattern of intimidation of victims or advocates, and resistance to sexual abuse reform initiatives of the actions and decisions of staff and members of the executive committee from 1 January 2000 to 14 June 2021″. A third-party company, Guidepost, has been selected to carry out the investigation which will start immediately.

Vatican finance trial takes a new twist

The prosecutor in the Vatican trial of 10 employees and clergy members, including Cardinal Angelo Becciu, on finance offences, has made a surprise request to withdraw all the material collected during the investigation and to start afresh with new interrogations for each of the defendants. The Religion News Service reports that Vatican judge Giuseppe Pignatone adjourned the court and said he would announce his decision on the request today (Wednesday). 

City of London rejects plans for tower block near UK’s oldest synagogue

The Grade I-listed Bevis Marks synagogue, the oldest in the UK, has won the first stage of a battle to stop plans for two skyscrapers which would tower over it at Aldgate, in the City of London. Planners said one of the proposed buildings, a 48-storey office block, would have a major impact on the synagogue, which is 320 years old. A second application, for a 21-storey tower, is yet to be considered, but objections have been lodged on the grounds it would block natural light. The Guardian reports that the synagogue is the only one in Europe, and possibly the world, that has held continuous worship throughout its existence.

Clergy protest outside Conservative Party conference against immigration bill

Church leaders including a Catholic bishop and the Methodist president, held a prayer vigil outside the Conservative Party conference in Manchester as representatives gathered. They were protesting at the impact of the government’s Nationality and Borders Bill, which will differentiate between the way asylum seekers are treated depending on how they arrive in the UK. They say the proposals “lack humanity and respect for human dignity”. The event was co-ordinated by the Rev Ian Rutherford, the city centre minister at Methodist Central Hall, Manchester, and clergy were joined by asylum seekers and refugees.

Nurse in Croydon sues health trust for forcing her to remove her cross on a necklace

An operating theatre nurse is suing Croydon Health Services NHS Trust for discrimination after saying administrators bullied her into removing or covering up her cross necklace. Mary Onuoha, 61, says she was “treated like a criminal” and forced out of the job, which she is challenging as constructive unfair dismissal. Premier Christian News reports that her lawyers say the trust’s dress code was applied inconsistently, with other nurses and members of staff frequently wearing various types of jewellery, hijabs, saris, turbans and religious bracelets in wards and theatre without being asked to remove them. But the cross was regarded as holding a risk of injury or infection. Ms Onuha is represented by the Christian Legal Centre.

Creating Connections: sign up in Manchester, Nottingham, Leeds, Plymouth and Birmingham

The Religion Media Centre is launching a project this autumn to enhance religious literacy and understanding in a landscape often fraught with misconceptions and assumptions on both sides. “Creating Connections, where Religion meets the Media” features a series of events to improve links between religious groups and journalists in England. They are an opportunity to explore the way religion and worldviews are interwoven into community life and it is hoped that key stories on religion and belief will be brought to life and lasting contacts for the future will be made. Reserve a place using the links below. All events take place in the afternoon.

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