Religion news 8 July 2024

Image credit: Jarosław Baranowski CCLicense3.0

Pope declares democracy is in crisis amid far right threat in France

Pope Francis has spoken of his fears for democracy, saying it was in crisis and wounded, and denouncing polarisation and partisanship. He was speaking during a visit to the Italian city of Trieste, near Slovenia, on the day when the far-right “National Rally” party increased its seats in the French parliamentary elections, from 88 to 143. The result leaves them in third place, a surprise as they were expected to win but were squeezed out by the left wing alliance. Pope Francis warned against ideological temptations and populists: “Ideologies are seductive. Some people compare them to the Pied Piper of Hamelin. They seduce you, but they lead you to deny yourself”. He said the crisis of democracy afflicted various nations, but did not mention France by name.

Synod rejects KC investigation into unchecked Soul Survivor abuse

Proposals for the Church of England to commission a KC report into cases of abuse and cover up at Soul Survivor, has been rejected by the general synod. The movement’s founder, Canon Mike Pilavachi, resigned after reports were made public of his abuse of young men, who were groomed, wrestled to the floor and given massages. Soul Survivor, based in Watford, has commissioned its own KC investigation. But the Rev Robert Thompson told synod this was insufficient and wider issues on the culture that allowed it to happen unchecked, should be considered. He said: “Bad apples are usually the product of unhealthy trees”. His proposal was backed by several senior clergy leaders, who wanted a broader investigation into how charismatic evangelical churches throw up so many powerful men and abuse cases. But his proposal was rejected after the Bishop of Stepney, Joanne Grenfell, said the Archbishops’ Council should take things forward, making recommendations from the current KC investigation and sticking to existing safeguarding processes.

CofE calls for better support for families with disabled children

The Church of England’s general synod has backed calls for healthcare providers to improve support to families of children born with disabilities, and to challenge the “assumption that bringing a disabled child into the world is a tragedy to be avoided”. In the debate at the synod meeting in York, the Archbishop of Canterbury pledged his support, based on what happened to his wife Caroline, when she was pregnant with their daughter Ellie, now aged 32, who is neuro diverse. He said doctors were concerned and “it was made very, very clear to my wife that if the test was taken and proved positive it would be expected that we asked for a termination”.  But Ellie was “precious, wonderful and kind”. He appealed for the motion to be overwhelming supported, because of a belief in human dignity.

Muslim vote swing away from Labour mapped

The Observer has carried an investigation into the election success of “The Muslim Vote”, which backed candidates in constituencies with significant Muslim voters and won four seats from Labour. Its co-ordinator, Abubakr Nanabawa, is quoted saying that Muslim communities were motivated not just by Labour’s response to the war in Gaza, but also its failure to remove the two-child benefits cap and the state of the NHS. He condemned reports of intimidation and harassment against candidates and their supporters in Leicester and Birmingham, saying this did not represent their values.  The campaign also backed Jeremy Corbyn and George Galloway. More In Common has mapped the decline in support for Labour among Muslim voters here. BBC analysis by Aleem Maqbool here

Anglican cadences” in Sir Keir Starmer’s speech to the nation

The words used by Keir Starmer in his first address to the nation have echoes of religion, according to the Rev Tim Howles, associate director of the Laudato Si Research Institute in Oxford.  Posting on Twitter / X, he picked up words in the PM’s speech, delivered on the steps of Number Ten Downing Street: “Service is merely a pre-condition for hope”; “A draining away of the hope, the spirit, the belief in a better future”; and “I invite you all to join this government of service in the mission of national renewal”. Tim Howles said: “It is a little-known fact that Keir Starmer’s deputy speech-writer is Abigail Martin, former press officer and speech-writer to the Archbishop of Canterbury. I noted “hope”, “belief”, “mission” etc yesterday. Expect to hear plenty of Anglican cadences”.

Archbishop Vigano excommunicated for promoting schism

Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, the former apostolic nuncio to the United States of America, has been excommunicated for the “misconduct of schism, abandoning communion with the Bishop of Rome and the Catholic Church”. The Vatican said: “His public statements manifesting his refusal to recognize and submit to the Supreme Pontiff, his rejection of communion with the members of the Church subject to him, and of the legitimacy and magisterial authority of the Second Vatican Council are well known”. He had been summoned to Rome to answer charges against him at the end of last month. In a filmed message on Twitter / X, he said that the Pope was an “enthusiastic collaborator in the Great Reset”, with the goal of dismantling the church and replacing it with an organization inspired by Masonic principles. He said there was a sinister conspiracy between the deep state and the deep church and drew attention to the fact that the Pope is a Jesuit. 

Hundreds celebrate Dalai Lama’s 89th birthday

Hundreds of people celebrated the Dalai Lama’s 89th birthday at his headquarters in the Indian hillside town of Dharamshala, on Saturday.  They included representatives of a Tibetan government-in-exile, and many exiled Tibetans. The Dalai Lama fled from Tibet in 1959 after a failed uprising against Chinese rule. The Associated Press reports that the main celebrations took place in the temple inside the complex where he lives, with colourful Tibetan and Buddhist flags adorning poles and railings, dancing and shared sweets.


Sign up for our news bulletin