Religion news 9 April 2024

Image credit: @MuradQureshiLDN

Vatican: sex change operations, surrogacy and gender theory are “grave threats to human dignity”

The Vatican has published a report Dignitas Infinita: on Human Dignity,” saying sex change operations, surrogate motherhood, abortion and poverty, are grave threats to human dignity. The declaration, which took five years to write and has been approved by the Pope, reiterates the church’s opposition to gender reassignment surgery because “sex-change intervention…risks threatening the unique dignity the person has received from the moment of conception.” The Catholic News Agency reports that the declaration addresses growing concerns such as gender theory, sex changes, surrogacy and euthanasia in addition to abortion, poverty, human trafficking  and war. “In the face of so many violations of human dignity that seriously threaten the future of the human family, the Church encourages the promotion of the dignity of every human person, regardless of their physical, mental, cultural, social, and religious characteristics,” reads the document, which was issued by the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith. It says gay people should be respected, and denounces places where people “are imprisoned, tortured, and even deprived of the good of life solely because of their sexual orientation”. In The Tablet, the chair of the Irish Bishops’ Council for Life, Bishop Kevin Doran, warmly welcomed Dignitas Infinita. However, the magazine also quotes Marianne Duddy-Burke from DignityUSA which campaigns for LGBT+ people, saying: “It is shocking to see gender affirmation treatments classified as the same kind of threats to human dignity as war, impoverishment, human trafficking and sexual abuse.”

Diocese denies link between bishop resignation and priest investigation

The Catholic Diocese of Clifton has denied that there is a link between the resignation of the Bishop of Clifton Declan Lang and an investigation into Canon Christopher Whitehead, whose ordination as Bishop of Plymouth was stopped on 1 February, three weeks before the planned date, so that an investigation could take place into complaints against him.  He has been told no further action will be taken and he has returned to parish ministry. The link with the bishop was made in an article on “The Pillar” website, a Catholic publication based in the USA, citing information from “sources close to the Dicastery for Bishops in Rome”. But the Diocese of Clifton spokesman said the connection drawn was completely wrong. He explained that the Bishop of Clifton, Declan Lang, resigned on 14 March, two years before the set retirement age of 75, due to ill health. He has become the administrator of the diocese until the new bishop, Canon Bosco MacDonald, takes over on 8 May, which is an entirely usual procedure.

Cap restricting faith schools intake “about to be repealed”

The Times reports that the government is considering the repeal of the “50 per cent rule” cap, which requires new oversubscribed faith based free schools and academies to allocate 50 per cent of their places openly, irrespective of faith. The measure was introduced by the coalition government in 2010 and has been consistently opposed by the Catholic church, which says it would force schools to turn away pupils because they were Catholic, while admitting others because they were not, and this would be against Canon Law. The Times article says repealing the cap could be in the next Conservative manifesto or even brought in before an election is called. The Catholic Education Service’s latest figures show there are 2087 Catholic schools in England which make up 9 per cent of the total of state schools and 58 per cent of pupils are Catholic. There are 82 Catholic schools in Wales making up 6 per cent of the national total of maintained schools and 48 per cent of pupils are Catholic. The Department of Educationo has been asked to comment.

Global Catholic church reports more baptised members but fewer priests

Figures released by the Vatican show that while the number of Catholics globally has increased, the number of priests has continued to decline. The Church Times quotes the 2024 Pontifical Yearbook and the 2022 Statistical Yearbook, which show a rise of one per cent in the number of baptised Catholics to nearly 1.4 billion in 2022. The largest rise was in Africa at 3 per cent, with the Americas 0.9 per cent and Asia 0.6 per cent growth. The Yearbooks detail the numbers of bishops, priests, deacons and members of religious orders around the world each year. The number of priests has continued to decline, with the greatest fall — 1.7 per cent — in Europe. There has also been a continued fall in the number of men coming forward for ordination, particularly in Europe and Asia. Europe also had a small decline in the number of Catholic bishops. Vatican News reports that  there has been a sharp decrease in women religious. In 2022, they exceeded the number of priests across the world by almost 47 per cent but are currently in sharp decline. Globally, they went from 608,958 in 2021 to 599,228 in 2022, a relative decline of 1.6 per cent.

Open iftar project 2024 ends in Trafalgar Square in the pouring rain

The Ramadan Tent Project held its last open iftar in Trafalgar Square last night in the pouring rain, marking the culmination of a project that has organised open iftars in towns and cities across the country, with a mission to bring communities better together. Organisers say the festival is the world’s largest and most unique, celebrating Ramadan and Islamic art, culture, history and heritage. The events have included the sunset ritual to the end of the day of fasting, with entertainment, spiritual reflections and food, and they’ve taken place in public landmarks and in football stadia such as the Etihad in Manchester, Villa Park in Birmingham and the Amex Community Stadium in Brighton. Muslims form the second largest faith group in the UK according to the 2021 census, numbering around 4 million in England and Wales. All are expected to take part in celebrations tomorrow, Wednesday 10 April, when the holy month of Ramadan comes to an end as the new moon comes into view.

National Methodist conference on acute housing crisis

Methodists from throughout the UK will converge on Birmingham in May for a conference on the homelessness and housing crisis. The Methodist Homelessness and Housing Gathering  will be a one-day event at The Church in Carrs Lane, and “will explore the why, the what and the how” to tackle the issues. Organisers says the crisis is getting worse due to pressures resulting from immediate eviction, with no government action to end “No-Fault Section 21 evictions”, where private landlords can repossess their properties from shorthold tenants “without having to establish fault on the part of the tenant.” Hence it is sometimes referred to as the “no-fault” ground for eviction. The Gathering will include a range of speakers from the Church and from the housing world, including representatives from charities such as Hope into Action and Housing Justice as well as Homes England, the government’s housing and regeneration agency, and the Greater Manchester Combined Authority. The event will also hear what Methodist churches are doing to tackle homelessness and the lack of affordable housing with case studies from Wales, London, York, Manchester, Keswick and Leeds.

Bible manuscripts from 250AD up for auction at Christies

The Times reports that some of the most important texts in the history of early Christianity are coming up for auction at Christie’s in June. The seller is a private collector, Dr Martin Schoyen, whose collection comprises 20,000 manuscripts, including 400 pieces connected to the Bible. The star lot, according to The Times’ history correspondent, James Blackburn, is the Crosby-Schoyen Codex, a collection of early Christian texts with the oldest complete versions of two books of the Bible, believed to be from around the mid-3rd century AD. It has been valued at up to £3 million and contains the first complete versions of the Book of Jonah and the First Epistle of Peter. The manuscripts are vital evidence of the Judaeo-Christian tradition that existed at the time. It was written during the height of the Roman Empire, before the conversion of Constantine in 312 and when Christianity was merely an oft-victimised sect.  

Silent discos giving way to doom heavy metal and pipe organ concerts

Doom heavy metal bands Pantheïst and Arð, which play alongside a church organ, have been inundated with performance requests in churches since their story was highlighted a year ago. Their concert at Huddersfield Town Hall featured a cathedral organist and they’ve been joined by other bands supported by Dr Mark Mynett, from Huddersfield University. He told the Guardian the genre has a new name “Organ Metal” and concerts are planned to include a classically trained singer, at Rochester Cathedral, venues in Germany and St Mary Redcliffe in Bristol, which has a world famous organ, played by Handel, with 4,327 pipes. Many pipe organs are at risk of being lost as churches close but the new genre is rejuvenating interest in them. Dr Mynett said: “Pipe organs are a unique auditory experience – the organ’s resonance fills the space with these rich sonic tapestries, and we’re sleepwalking towards losing all of that.”

Total eclipse of the sun witnessed in a fleeting moment

Millions of people across the USA and Mexico witnessed the total eclipse of the sun yesterday. The western arc of Great Britain was in the line to see a partial eclipse, but the weather was terrible and thick cloud prevented sightings. The eclipse of the sun has attracted various religious sentiments and theories including that it is a dark sign of things to come, or will herald the rapture when true, elect Christians are swept into heaven, leaving the sinners behind.


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