Religion news 7 January 2022

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Prayers published of the Capitol Hill insurrectionists

On the anniversary of the January 6 Capitol Hill attack, the Religion News Service in the USA, has compiled a timeline of prayers publicly pronounced by people on all sides of the insurrection. They include Florida pastor and White House official Paula White opening the Trump rally south of the White House:Let justice be done. Let we the people have the assurance of a fair and a just election”.  A group of Proud Boys, 90 minutes before they helped lead the charge towards the Capitol: We understand that the ideas and ideologies that come out of some of these value systems and — in socialism and (inaudible) — are antithetical to what you would wish for us, Lord. (We) particularly understand that family is the institution you put on this earth that’s most important to us”. And the Q Shaman Jacob Chansley: Thank you, Heavenly Father, for being the inspiration needed to these police officers to allow us into the building, to allow us to exercise our rights, to allow us to send a message to all the tyrants, the communists and the globalists that this is our nation, not theirs, that we will not allow the America — the American way, of the United States of America — to go down”.

Northern Ireland bakers who refused to make gay marriage cake win latest court action

The bakers from Northern Ireland, who refused to make a cake with icing saying “support gay marriage” have won their latest case at the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.  In 2014, Gareth Lee, a supporter of the campaign to legalise same-sex marriage in Northern Ireland, asked the Ashers Baking Company to feature words alongside the  Sesame Street puppets Bert and Ernie on the cake. He took legal action when they refused on grounds that it violated their Christian beliefs. In a seven year court battle, he won in regional courts but lost in the UK Supreme court, so then appealed to the European Court, where yesterday it dismissed the case on technical grounds. This has left LGBT rights groups warning that people now feel vulnerable in Northern Ireland.

American study questions effectiveness of religious programmes in prison

An American academic study has found that prisoners who find God in jail are no less likely to reoffend than atheists. The findings, published in the Telegraph,  are based on a study of 174 male prisoners by researchers at Pennsylvania State University, led by Iman Said. They found that other factors such as retraining, having a job , renewing family ties and safe accommodation were more significant in reducing reoffending than turning to religion. Iman Said is quoted saying: “Our findings call into question prison-based religious programmes as the sole way to reduce recidivism and boost post-release success and suggest a lack of a relationship between religious beliefs and recidivism.”

New man in charge of senior appointments in Church of England

Stephen Knott has been appointed as the new Archbishops’ Secretary for Appointments, advising on senior roles such as bishops and deans in the Church of England. A press statement says that he will work closely with Downing Street and the church’s Ministry Development Team ensuring increased diversity. He was married to the governor of Edinburgh Castle, General Alastair Bruce of Crionaich, in a ceremony last July, following their 20 year partnership. Comments on Thinking Anglicans welcomed his appointment as bringing a new theological perspective to the role.

Chief Rabbi helps mother in custody battle

The Jewish Chronicle has published an exclusive that the Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis secretly flew to Austria to help a British mother at the centre of a decade-long custody battle. Beth Alexander, 37,  has seen her 12-year-old twin sons once in person in the past five years and has lost an application for contact.  The report said the Chief Rabbi and delegation directly appealed to her former husband and met the local rabbi to press the case.

Former UK talk show host clarifies J K Rowling antisemitism claims

The former US talk show host Jon Stewart has denied accusations of antisemitism in a podcast where  he discussed the depiction of goblins at Gringotts Bank in the Harry Potter film  Harry Potter And The Philosopher’s Stone. In a rebuttal, he said his podcast conversation was light-hearted and the media’s reporting of it was out of context. He did not think JK Rowling or the Harry Potter films were antisemitic. News outlets had “piled into this ridiculously out of context nonsense” and he did not want the franchise censored “in any way”.

Ransom paid to free American missionaries in Haiti

The Associated Press reports that an unidentified person paid a ransom that freed three missionaries kidnapped by a gang in Haiti at the end of last year. They were from the Christian Aid Ministries, based in Ohio,  who were released from captivity after a ransom was demanded of $1 million per person. AP says this is the first public acknowledgement that a ransom was paid.

Carnival parade and Mediterranean sea blessings mark Epiphany 2022

Christians marked Epiphany yesterday, 6 January, which in western Christianity marks the visit of three wise men to the baby Jesus and in the Orthodox tradition, the baptism of Christ.  In Madrid, the Three Kings parade, featuring a giant mechanical elephant, live camels, and acrobats, as well as a traditional fireworks display, was celebrated after a delay caused by Covid. In Piraeus, near Athens in Greece, believers jumped into the sea in a water blessing ceremony. And in Rome, Pope Francis urged the faithful to decry consumerism and move past a “dreary faith” to serve others and the common good.  

New icon of St Magnus on exhibition in London

A new icon of St Magnus, the Earl of Orkney who was martyred in 1117, has been painted by one of the leading iconographers in the UK,  Dr Irina Bradley. The image is based on a facial reconstruction of the saint, drawn from photographs of his skull, which was found in a wooden box at Kirkwall’s St Magnus Cathedral. The icon features in an exhibition opening this weekend at the London Jesuit Centre and the next-door Church of the Immaculate Conception (known as the Farm St Church) in central London, home of the British Jesuits. There are approximately 75 pieces in the exhibition, which is entitled ‘Metamorphosis’, focusing on the transformation which takes place within the souls of the faithful.


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