Religion news 9 September

Image credit: St George's Cathedral, Southwark


93% of British Catholics accessed church services online in lockdown

A survey of 2,500 Catholics by Birmingham University suggests that 93% accessed Church services online during the coronavirus pandemic. But the research, for Catholic Voices, also shows that only 4% would worship mainly or entirely online in the future. The decision to prevent mass being said for congregations was widely criticised during lockdown, but a majority – 61% – thought this was the right decision.  Just 22% agreed that the govt led the nation well during the lockdown. 50% said that lockdown had helped them to feel closer to God, and 54% more prayerful.

Wedding ceremonies in all religions could be legally recognised

The family law commissioner, Professor Nick Hopkins, told a Religion Media Centre zoom briefing that wide reform of marriage regulations would mean wedding ceremonies in all religions would be legally recognised. Marriage laws have not been reformed since 1836 and anomalies mean couples have to choose between civil or religious ceremonies and some go through both processes in order to be legally wed. The Rev Bruce Thompson, chairman of the Methodist Church’s Lincolnshire region, welcomed the Law Commission’s proposals and said many people had turned away from church weddings, because churches had not been welcoming. Dr Lois Lee, a sociologist from Kent University, said the civil marriage ceremony had become the most popular form since 1977, and so reform of the law was long overdue, but many people would like to have some religious content. She believed that secularisation had not led to decline in marriage and that the ceremony was “extraordinarily buoyant”. Full report here

Dean of Christ Church Oxford exonerated

The Dean of Christ Church, Oxford, the Very Rev Martyn Percy, has been cleared by a Church of England safeguarding investigation. He was reported to the Church of England’s safeguarding team in February by senior academics at the college of Christ Church, over allegations that he had not passed on relevant information of abuse to outside authorities. The Bishop of Oxford, Steven Croft, welcomed the decision and said the investigation brought “full closure” to the matter. Full story here

Timeline of the row between Dean Percy and Christ Church Oxford here

Pope Francis expected to publish third encyclical on the poor and the environment

Pope Francis is to sign his third encyclical outlining a new economic model for the world post pandemic, on 3 October at the tomb of St. Francis in Assisi. The Religion News Service suggests that the choice of venue means the document will focus on  the poor, the environment and interconnected human relationships. Its title is ‘Brothers All’ and it follows five years since “Laudato Si”, the second encyclical concentrating on environmental issues.

University research criticised Northern Ireland school for sectarian governor appointments

Northern Ireland schools have boards of governors who  depend in part on the school’s religious background and origins. The BBC is reporting that Ulster University has found that schools often have reserved places for people of a particular faith reflecting their local communities and the school’s ethos. The lead researcher suggested school governors should be selected on the basis of the skills they bring rather than their religious affiliation.

Birmingham mosques back blood donation initiative

Seventeen mosques in Birmingham are promoting a campaign to persuade their congregations to donate blood plasma in the fights against coronavirus. The Birmingham Mail reports that the mosques are aware of the possibility of a second wave of the virus and recognise that the NHS is in urgent need of blood plasma from the Birmingham BAME community. So they are calling for Islamic leaders to get behind the campaign.