Religion news 12 October

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Pope says women should be promoted to positions of responsibility

Pope Francis said on Sunday that he wanted more women to participate in areas of responsibility in the church. At the Angelus prayer at the Vatican, he highlighted the contribution that women can make.  He warned against clericalism which diminishes lay people. “Today we still need to make greater space for a more incisive feminine presence in the Church – I mean a lay presence – but underlining the feminine aspect, because women are often put to one side.”

Anglican Children’s Society supports children’s transgender rights

The Children’s Society, which is allied with the Church of England, has defended the right of children wanting to transgender, to be heard.  They joined three other charities to support children in the wake of a High Court case brought by a 23-year-old woman Keira Bell, who regrets undergoing treatment to transition to be a male, and the mother of a 16 year old who says she is incapable of understanding the decision.  They are taking action against the Tavistock and Portman NHS Trust, the only NHS clinic offering a children’s gender clinic. The case was heard at the end of last week and judgment is reserved. The court was told that the number of inquiries to the clinic has risen 20 fold in ten years and 13 children in the last ten years seeking advice have been under 13.  The Church Times asked the Children’s Society what they made of the view that pre-pubescent children were incapable of making such a decision. They said: “There is significant evidence that not listening to children and failing to include them in decision-making about their lives is harmful to them, with links to lower well-being and mental health risks in particular.”

Queen’s birthday honours list includes faith heroes of the pandemic

 Several people of faith have been honoured in the Queen’s birthday honours list for their efforts during the lockdown, They include Dabirul Islam Choudhury CBE, who at the age of 100 raised more than £420,000 by walking laps of his garden in East London during Ramadan . The full list of more than 60 Muslims honoured is  here . Rajinder Singh, the “skipping Sikh” who at the age of 73, raised £14,000 for the NHS by promoting skipping and keep fit videos on youtube, was made an MBE.  Several clergy were honoured including the Rev Matthew Price of Gorleston Norfolk, who ran a food bank during the lockdown, who has been awarded a British Empire Medal.

Painful decisions ahead for churches with small congregations

The Bishop of Norwich Graham Usher has warned that churches with small congregations face challenging times ahead, after the coronavirus led to a shortfall in income. He told the Eastern Daily Press: “Some of our church communities are very small. There are two options: either re-evangelise and encourage people who are not currently in the church community to become more involved in the life of the church, or there needs to be some painful and difficult conversations to have about future viability.” He became bishop in November 2019 and Covid-19 struck soon after. He revealed that his own morale has been mixed in the pandemic. “There have been times when things have felt very dark. But over the last six months I have held on to patterns of daily prayer, and things have been easier since I’ve been able to see people in the flesh.”

Religious alliance in New York fails in attempt to avert lockdown restrictions

An Orthodox Jewish group and the Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn took the state governor to court over his intention to limit public worship to ten people, following a spike in Covid-19 cases. They argued it violated their first amendment rights to freely practice religion. But a federal judge in Brooklyn rejected their case. She said their objections did not outweigh the need to protect the health of the greater public The lockdowns were imposed on areas which have seen high incidence of Covid-19. They co-incided with three Jewish holidays this weekend – Chol Hamoed Sukkoth, Shemini Atzeret, and Simchat Torah.

Armenian Cathedral shelled in Ngorno Karabakh

The Holy Saviour Cathedral, an Armenian Apostolic church in Shusha city, in the disputed region of Ngorno Karabakh, has been shelled and damaged during fighting which has been going on for more than two weeks. Armenia has accused Azerbaijan of targeting the site, which was photographed shortly after the blast by a reporter from the German paper de Bild. Nagorno-Karabakh is within Azerbaijan but run by ethnic Armenians and has been a hotly disputed territory for decades. In the latest violence, more than 300 people have died and thousands have been displaced. The Armenian foreign minister is due to meet his Russian counterpart in Moscow today in the latest diplomatic effort to broker peace.