Religion news 7 September

Image: Vatican Media

Pope says gossip is dividing the church

At his weekly blessing in Rome, Pope Francis said that gossip is a “plague worse than Covid” that is seeking to divide the Roman Catholic church. He is thought to have been referencing the church and Vatican communities, which have used gossip to correct deviancy. The Associated Press suggests that survivors of sexual abuse say private reprimand has allowed abuse to fester and let both predator priests and superiors who covered up for them escape punishment. The Pope said the devil is the “biggest gossiper” who is seeking to divide the church with his lies.

Climate Sunday observed in British churches

Yesterday was the first ‘Climate Sunday’, in a campaign to encourage all churches in Britain to designate one Sunday a year to consider the climate crisis. Churches Together in Britain and Ireland, together with leading Christian charities, launched the scheme to encourage faster action towards zero emissions. Churches could lead climate-focused services and campaign to halt climate change.  More than 700 churches have registered to take part. The Bishop of Salisbury, Nicholas Holtam, who leads work on the environment, said climate Sunday “will be a brilliant resource to help Church of England parishes understand and respond to the climate crisis”.

Rowan Williams retires from the Lords

The former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, has retired from the House of Lords, having reached the age of 75. After first sitting as a bishop, he then became a cross bench peer in 2013 with the title Lord Williams of Oystermouth. Politically active, last week he took part in Extinction Rebellion’s protest in Parliament Square. His interventions in the Lords have been around moral and social issues such as assisted dying and detention of migrant children.  

Oxford and Cambridge top university guide for Theology and Religious studies

The Guardian university guide published this weekend, puts Oxford at the top of the chart for the best places to study in Theology and Religious studies. Second was St Andrews, then Cambridge and Durham. 26 institutions offer the subject wrapped in 156 different courses. The annual rankings are made on the basis of the standard of the student on entry and after completing the course, the quality of teaching, current students’ opinions, and the chance of getting a job afterwards. The rankings also assess the quality of the subject offered and in this Cambridge came out top, with Oxford second, Liverpool Hope third and Durham fourth.

Sudan separates religion from state ending 30 years of tension

Sudan’s transitional government is separating religion from the state, ending 30 years of Islamic rule. The Prime Minister and leader of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North rebel group, signed a declaration in order to enable Sudan “to become a democratic country where the rights of all citizens are enshrined”. The deposed dictator Omar al Bashir, had tried to implement a hard-line interpretation of Islamic law. America designated Sudan a terror sponsor in 1993, and later imposed sanctions.

European synagogues ‘open’ to the public

Synagogues and other Jewish heritage sites in hundreds of cities across Europe are opening to the public this month, in a long running campaign to foster ties between Jewish communities and non-Jewish Europeans. Concerts, talks and cultural events will be pit on in person, where possible because of Covid19, or online. The event, co-ordinated by the European Association for the Preservation and Promotion of Jewish Culture and Heritage, included on its opening day a tour of objects at the Ashmolean Musuem on The Jewish Journey: 4000 years in 22 objects, with the author and journalist Rebecca Abrams.