Religion news 30 September 2020

Image credit: Gary Campbell-Hall, CCLicense

Cardinal George Pell returns to Rome after acquittal on sex abuse charges

Cardinal George Pell, the former Vatican finance minister, is returning to Rome for the first time since he was cleared of child sex abuse allegations in Australia. His journey comes days after Cardinal Angelo Becciu, a top Vatican official, resigned following reports that he had misappropriated funds, which he has denied. It is understood that an investigation is underway over investments of Vatican money in a flat in Chelsea.  The Financial Times reports that the Vatican invested a further £100 million in London properties, but there is no suggestion of wrongdoing.

In 2014, Cardinal Pell was put in charge of reforming the scandal hit finances of the Vatican and the two men clashed acrimoniously during this time.

In 2017, Pell was forced to return to Australia to face charges of sexual abuse against two choirboys. He was convicted and spent a year in prison before his conviction was dramatically overturned.

On Monday, Pope Francis named Gianluca Perone, an Italian lawyer and professor of commercial law at the University of Rome, to work as an additional prosecutor in the Vatican City State’s court.  His expertise includes commercial and corporate banking and contract law.

In August this year, Pope Francis appointed six women including the former Labour minister Ruth Kelly, to the Council for the Economy which oversees Vatican finances. She has been in her role for two weeks.

High court could declare China’s treatment of Uyghurs is genocide

The Guardian has an exclusive that MPs and peers are proposing that Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities could petition a high court judge to declare that genocide is taking place in China. This would mean that trade ties between the UK and Beijing would be broken. The Conservative MP Iain Duncan Smith is leading the move, which starts with an amendment to the trade bill in the Lords. He said it was time to stand up against the abuses in China.

Religion and Worldviews explored in one day conference

Culham St Gabriel Trust is organizing a one day virtual conference this weekend for teachers to explore the new understanding of how religion is taught in schools, known as “Religion and Worldviews”. The changing approach was discussed in a Religion Media Centre zoom briefing, with the Trusts’s CEO Dr Kathryn Wright explaining that worldviews is more than a belief, which is often cerebral, but more about “what makes people tick”.  Dr Lois Lee from the University of Kent, pointed to data suggesting 70% “a huge number” of young people aged 15-24 identify as having no religion. The consequences of this for the study of religion are profound: “You have to foresee one of two things: either the concept of religion becomes less and less interesting or only becomes interesting to people as something that other people do and it becomes thought of as exotic and perhaps weird and perhaps dangerous”.

Islamic Relief calls for a green recovery plan to combat climate change

Islamic Relief UK is calling on the British Muslim community to urge the Prime Minister to create a green recovery plan as the economy is rebuilt following the coronavirus crisis. It is putting its name to the Climate Coalitions Declaration and is urging other Muslims to do the same, fulfilling Islamic obligations to the earth.  In an article in the Economist, the charity says it wants to see a clean energy revolution that boosts jobs across the UK, protection for green and wild spaces and increasing support to those most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change at home and abroad. It warns that time is running out, with just ten years left to halt irreversible climate catastrophe.

Keep churches open appeal

Almost 700 church leaders have signed an open letter to the Prime Minister appealing for churches not to be closed again in the coronavirus pandemic. The signatories come from all parts of the UK, and the letter is addressed to Westminster and all devolved governments. It expresses concern that government policies did not prioritise things that give quality, meaning and purpose to life. “Increasingly severe restrictions are having a powerful dehumanising effect on people’s lives, resulting in a growing wave of loneliness, anxiety and damaged mental health”.  The authors include the Rev William Phillip from the Christian Institute and signatories include free evangelical church leaders and Presbyterians.