Buffer zones around abortion clinics to become law
Parliament has passed a bill allowing 150 metre buffer zones around abortion clinics, preventing protesters from harassing, obstructing, or interfering with any woman attending a clinic, with the penalty of a fine or up to six months in prison. An amendment to allow silent prayer in the zones was defeated in the Commons last night. Buffer zones have been opposed by Catholic bishops of England and Wales who say there is a risk that they will impact people of religious faith, “raising questions about the state’s powers in relation to the individual in a free society”. On Monday, Isabel Vaughan-Spruce, a Christian opposed to abortion, was arrested for silently praying in a buffer zone near an abortion facility in Birmingham. She was arrested for a similar offence in December, but a court found her not guilty of breaking the law.
Bishop of Durham criticises government’s crack down on illegal immigration
The Bishop of Durham, Paul Butler, has criticised the government’s plan to stop illegal immigration by people coming to the UK in boats across the channel. In a statement, he says: “We must not abdicate our legal and moral responsibility to some of the world’s most vulnerable by simply treating asylum seekers as a group not to be welcomed or integrated, but detained and returned. We must do and be better.” He questions that the response is based on compassion, justice and moral leadership, saying it is likely to push thousands of people into “a prolonged legal limbo and imprisonment, and does nothing to support timely and effective consideration of asylum requests”. He adds “it is disappointing that the government has decided to not take on a greater role in leading the world to equitably support those forced to flee their home”. Full statement here
Roman shrine found in a dig next to Leicester Cathedral
An archaeological dig in the grounds of Leicester Cathedral has uncovered what is believed to be a Roman shrine beneath a graveyard. Excavations began in October 2021 as part of the “Leicester Revealed” project, which has led to the closure of the Cathedral until autumn this year. Archaeologists believe they have found the cellar of a Roman building and a 1,800-year-old altar within a shrine which may have been the location for worship of gods and sacrifices. Leicester Live report here.
Peers urged to reject renewed plans for Holocaust Centre
Jewish News reports that Baroness Ruth Deech has written an article in the latest edition of House magazine, urging members to oppose the Prime Minister’s backing for a Holocaust Memorial and Learning Centre in Victoria Tower Gardens next to the houses of parliament. She says the plans have been met with “the disappointment of many, not least within the Jewish community and Holocaust survivors”. The plans have been fiercely contested and were judged unlawful by the High Court following a legal challenge by the London Historic Parks and Gardens Trust. But in February, the government introduced the Holocaust Memorial Bill to repeal the protection given to the gardens. Baroness Deech, who is Jewish, rejects the claim that just seven per cent of space in the gardens will be lost as misleading and says the site will overshadow the Buxton memorial to slavery abolition.
Global South Archbishop pledges episcopal oversight to orthodox Christians in the CofE
The chair of the Anglican Global South Fellowship Association, Archbishop Justin Badi, has published a Lent message pledging episcopal oversight to “orthodox Christians in the Church of England and other revisionist provinces”. He repeats an earlier statement that the Church of England’s decision to bless same sex couples after civil marriages means they have walked away from historic biblical teachings and the GSFA no longer regards the CofE, the mother church, as the historic first province, nor the Archbishop of Canterbury as the first among equals. He ends his message quoting Ephesians 6: “put on the whole armour of God so that you will be able to stand against all strategies of the devil”.
Polish TV report alleges John Paul II concealed sex abuse cases
A television news report in Poland alleges that Pope John Paul II, formerly Archbishop of Krakow 1964-78, knew about sexual abuse of children by priests under his authority and sought to conceal it when he was an archbishop. It named three priests who were moved to other parishes or send abroad after they were accused of abusing minors. Two eventually served prison sentences. The reporters spent two and a half years on their investigation. John Paul II died in 2005. Associated Press report here
Barriers to Muslim women participating in sport
The Muslimah Sports Association, England’s largest Muslim women’s sports charity, has issued a report saying 37 per cent of Muslim women are not involved in any sport or activity. Yet 97 per cent want to increase their participation. The BBC reports that the survey tried to identify why there is an under-representation of Muslim women in sport and found physical activity levels and general wellbeing of women from diverse backgrounds had suffered during lockdowns. Other factors included the lack of women-only facilities and modest sports attire and the risk of discrimination.
Vatican returns museum sculptures to Greece
The Vatican is to return to Greece three sculpture fragments from the Parthenon that have been in the collection of the Vatican Museums for 200 years. It says it is a “donation” to the Orthodox Christian archbishop of Athens and all Greece, not necessarily a transfer.
Medieval screen brought back to colourful splendour in St Albans
The 15th century Wallingford screen at St Albans Cathedral has been brought back to its original medieval colour using latest technology. The Cathedral says its “Saints in Colour” project this week uses scanning and projection techniques to bring to life the screen and 19th century statues with a millimetre accurate 3D scan and re-colourisation, based on historic research by Dr James Alexander Cameron. Precentor Jonathan Lloyd said early monks saw the screen as “a mirror of the divine kingdom”.