Religion in the News: 25th Mar – 31st Mar

Welcome to this week’s edition of Religion in the News, a round of the previous week’s news in relation to religion in society.


This week,


Al Jazeera reports: ‘Pope issues new legislation against child sexual abuse in Vatican’

Pope Francis enacted new laws in order to prevent child sexual abuse in the Vatican and other Holy See institutions in Rome, as well as   its diplomatic corps around the world, which come into effect on Friday 31st March.

These laws come as the Roman Catholic Church tackles recent abuse cover-up scandals from across the globe, this legislation requires all officials in the Vatican, and in the Roman Curia (the central administration of the Roman Catholic Church), to report abuse against children and vulnerable people immediately, or they will face fines and/or prison sentences. Anyone found to be an abuser must be “removed from their position” under the legislation.

The legislation further covers the training of staff on how to prevent abuse, along with a new service for victims and their families providing medical, psychological, and social support.


Al Jazeera further reports: ‘Chile court orders Catholic Church to compensate abuse victims’

The Roman Catholic Church was ordered to pay compensation to the victims of former influential priest Fernando Karadima following a unanimous ruling by the court which requires the Church to pay one-hundred million pesos for moral damages to each of the three victims.

The statute of limitations on sexual crimes in Chilean law meant that Karadima was never charged under civilian authorities, however he was found guilty of sexual abuse in the Vatican during an investigation in 2011, meaning he could no longer administer in public.


Al Jazeera further reports: ‘’Long overdue’: Facebook bans white nationalism on its platforms’

Praise, support and representation of white nationalism and white separatism have been banned on all Facebook social media platforms, including Instagram and  Facebook after the terrorist attacks at the Christchurch mosques, with the policy beginning next week.

New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern welcomed the decision from Facebook, stating,

 “Arguably these categories should always fall within the community guidelines of hate speech, but nevertheless it’s positive the clarification has now been made in the wake of the attack in Christchurch”.

Facebook said that while people will be able to demonstrate pride in their ethnic heritage, praise or support for white nationalism and separatism would not be tolerated.


BBC News reports: ‘Pope calls on Moroccans to fight fanaticism’

Pope Francis was invited to Morocco by the nations King Mohammad VI, as part of the “development of inter-religious dialogue”. The Pope spoke out against fanaticism to a crowd of thousands, further telling them of the importance for the faithful to “live as brothers”.

Pope Francis also defended freedom of conscience and religious freedom as fundamental for human dignity.

One-thousand-six-hundred Moroccans have been radicalised, joining the Islamic State group since 2015, while King Mohammed says religious education must be increased to prevent such radicalisation.


HuffPost reports: ‘More Than 120 Faith Leaders Denounce Tennessee Bills That Would Cut LGBTQ Rights’

More than one-hundred-and-twenty rabbis and pastors in Tennessee added their names to a statement opposing anti-LGBTQ+ proposals introduced by the states Republican-dominated legislature, which would protect those with conservative religious beliefs in discriminating against LGBTQ+ people, for example in banning same-sex marriage in the state, protecting adoption agencies that refuse to place children with LGBTQ+ parents, and making it illegal for transgender individuals to use locker rooms for their gender identities.

Rev. Paul Purdue, senior pastor at Belmont United Methodist Church signed the statement and says that the legislation is “oppressive and unjust” towards specific groups. He further stated, “Jesus’ great commandment is to love God and to love our neighbours as ourselves, if we love people, we offer them the same rights that we expect.”


The Guardian reports: ‘Christian right summit in Verona draws massive protest’

Around 20,000 people protested in Verona against the World Congress of Families (WCF), an American coalition, which is anti-gay, anti-abortion, and anti-feminist.

The WCF promotes values of the Christian right, and is supported by the far-right League, a partner in the Italian Governments coalition.

The protests were brought together by seventy rights movements from across Italy, with Luisa Rizzitelli, a spokesperson for Rebel Network saying, “The only positive thing to come out of this event is that all these groups have come together, and Italy is uniting,”

The congress’s self-declared goal is to “restore the natural order”, with speakers going against same-sex relationships, feminists, and abortion.

Campaign manager for All Out, a gay rights’ association, Yuri Guaiana stated,

 “They’ve said terrible things about homosexuality, divorce and contraception, and yet they [those involved with WCF] played the victims, saying we were attacking them simply for defending the family. This is why it’s important to protest – to show that Italy is not going to surrender to hate.”


Religious News Service reports: ‘Man sentenced to life in prison for murder of Muslim teen Nabra Hassanen’

Darwin Martinez-Torres murdered Nabra Hassanen on the 17th June 2017 during Ramadan and was sentenced on Thursday with four counts of capital murder, and four collateral crimes.

Since the attack Muslim rights groups feared it was driven by anti-Muslim sentiment, however law enforcement stated that it was a “road rage incident”, and there was no evidence found that it was a hate crime.

Martinez-Torres took a plea deal which gave him life-sentence, but spared him the death-sentence in 2018, this requires him to answer any questions the victim’s family has over the next year. The Hassanen’s legal team hope to use this as an opportunity to see if the attack was driven by Islamophobia.

Ray Morrogh, Fairfax County Commonwealth Attorney, stated after the hearing that “the question of possible Islamophobia” is still up in the air, moreover “The sorrow from this case will ripple through this community for a hundred years … [the Muslim community here is] going to stand together and get through this somehow.”


Religion News Service further reports: ‘In Mexico, modern witches celebrate ancient rites of spring’

This article describes and illustrates the ceremonies performed by sorcerers, witches, shamans, and so on, during the first Friday of the third month this year (Friday 1st March 2019) in the small town of Catemaco in Mexico, where people gather at “La Punta”, the spiritual centre of the town.

Here, rituals such as ‘Black Mass’ take place, as a senior sorcerer takes the lead to offer thanks for the gift of “Mother Earth, water, fire, and air”. The article further states that such ceremonies have the aim of getting rid of negative energies, and to cleanse the souls of the participants.

During the black mass, a pentagram of fire is made to symbolise the closing of a portal.

At the ceremonies, offerings are made to Mother Earth in the form of food, and tarot card readings take place.

The rites held here mark the alignment of the planets and praise the start of spring.


And finally,


The Independent reports: ‘Number of Religious marriages hits an all-time low as couples favour more ‘social’ ceremonies’

Religious marriages in the UK are at an all-time low, as 24% of marriages in 2016 were religious ceremonies according to the Office of National Statistics, with 60,069 religious marriages falling by 4.1% from 2015, and by 48% from two decades ago.

According to the Office of National Statistics, there is a long-term decline in the number of marriages, while there is a rise in the popularity of civil ceremonies, with civil marriages outnumbering religious marriages every year since 1992.

There is no definitive explanation for the decline in religious ceremonies, the rising costs of weddings is a likely factor, with the average UK wedding costing £32,273.