Pope backs civil unions for gay couples
POPE FRANCIS has said in a new film that gay couples have a right to family life. The biographical film, Francesco, was premièred at the Rome Film Festival on Wednesday. Interviewed in it, the Pope says: “Homosexual people . . . are children of God and have a right to a family. Nobody should be thrown out or made miserable over it. What we have to create is a civil union law. That way, they are legally covered.” The Pope’s remarks fall short of equating same-sex unions with heterosexual marriages. They none the less mark a shift in what he is prepared to say publicly on the matter. In 2014, the Vatican press office issued a denial after he was quoted as speaking in favour of civil unions.
Next Archbishop of Hong Kong announced
THE next Archbishop of Hong Kong is to be the Bishop of Western Kowloon diocese since 2011, the Rt Revd Andrew Chan. He was elected at a special meeting of the Province’s eighth General Synod this week. In January 2021, he will succeed the current Archbishop, the Most Revd Paul Kwong, who is retiring. Bishop Chan, who is 58, was ordained deacon in 1991 and priest the following year. He was appointed Dean of St John’s Cathedral, Hong Kong, from 2005 until his present appointment. In June 2019, Bishop Chan co-signed a pastoral letter condemning the attitude of the government towards protesters against the extradition Bill (News, 11 June 2019). In November, he co-signed another letter, led by Archbishop Kwong, which denounced the “use of force, vigilante justice, threats, violence, and domination to resolve problems” after the protests turned violent (News, 29 November 2019). The Bill was later dropped, but, in July, China introduced a new security law giving it direct influence in the territory (News, 9 July).
Decline continues in US Episcopal Church
THE Episcopal Church in the United States remains in a “dire” state of decline both in attendance and membership, the annual Parochial Report 2019, published last week, has found. The number of parishes and missions in the Church decreased by 30 from 6423 in 2018. In the past decade, membership has fallen by more than 17 per cent. Average Sunday worship attendance fell by 2.5 per cent to 518,411 in 2019. The Revd Dwight Zscheile, an Episcopalian and vice-president of innovation and associate professor of congregational mission and leadership at Luther Seminary in St Paul, Minnesota, told ENS: “The overall picture is dire — not one of decline as much as demise within the next generation unless trends change significantly. At this rate, there will be no one in worship by around 2050 in the entire denomination.” The average pledge to the Church increased, however, from $2964 to $3087 an increase of $500 in five years.
Evicted Christians ‘in woodland hut’ in Laos
SEVEN Christians have been evicted from their homes in the rural Salavan province of Laos this month for refusing to renounce their faith, despite a law protecting freedom of religion in the country, Vatican News reports. The law, enacted last December, gives Laotian Christians the right to conduct services and preach throughout the country, although churches must fund their own operations. Local media report that the Christians are now living in a hut in the woods with few or no provisions. Christians represent about two per cent of the seven million people of Laos. The majority are Buddhist. Religious persecution is reported to be more prevalent in rural areas.