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UK news in brief

21 October 2022

Exeter Cathedral 

The Bishop of Exeter, the Rt Revd Robert Atwell (back, centre), with the newly commissioned spiritual directors in Exeter Cathedral

The Bishop of Exeter, the Rt Revd Robert Atwell (back, centre), with the newly commissioned spiritual directors in Exeter Cathedral

Bishop of Exeter commissions 11 spiritual directors

THE Bishop of Exeter, the Rt Revd Robert Atwell, commissioned 11 newly trained spiritual directors in the diocese, at a service in the cathedral on Sunday. More than 50 spiritual directors were in attendance. In his address, the Revd David Runcorn spoke of the “hiddenness” of the work of spiritual accompaniment — a theme taken up by Bishop Atwell, who described the ministry as “the best-kept secret in the Church of England”. “Spiritual accompaniment” or “soul friendship” is described as a ministry of discernment and wisdom in ordinary life.


Petition deplores sexualisation of school uniforms

THE Bishop of Birkenhead, the Rt Revd Julie Conalty, met students from Sandbach High School this week who are campaigning to prevent the sexualisation of school uniforms by the porn industry and well-known retailers. Bishop Conalty became aware of their petition to “ban school uniforms in sex shops and pornography” through social media. More than 15,000 people have signed, meaning that the Government is legally obliged to respond formally. A teacher at the school, Sarah Maile, said: “Our older students mentioned that once they’d moved into the sixth form, when they weren’t wearing their school uniforms anymore . . . they were experiencing sexual harassment less.” Bishop Conalty said: “The irony is, of course, that school is meant to be a safe place, and children should be safe to travel to and from school.” The petition can be viewed and signed at: petition.parliament.uk/petitions/615829

Former vicar jailed for possessing indecent images

A FORMER vicar in the diocese of Carlisle has been imprisoned for possessing indecent images of children just a few years after a ten-year order against him for the same offence expired, local media report. Peter Leslie Benson, 62, of Duckworth Lane, Bradford, was sentenced at Bradford and Keighley Magistrates’ Court on Monday to 26 weeks in prison after pleading guilty on 1 September to four counts of making indecent photographs/pseudo-photographs of a child. A spokesperson for the diocese of Carlisle said that the diocese was “appalled” to learn that he had reoffended. Mr Benson had been “suspended and moved from the vicarage in which he was living” on his arrest in November 2009. The spokesperson continued: “As a diocese we continue to place the utmost importance on upholding all necessary safeguarding protocols and procedures. In Peter Benson’s case, as soon as he was accused of his original crimes, he was suspended and moved from the vicarage in which he was living. In August 2010, he received a suspended sentence and two years’ Supervision Order (Probation). He was also subject to a Sexual Offences Protection Order. He was prohibited for life from ministry and subsequently left the Church of England. All appropriate safeguarding plans were enacted should Benson have wished to attend church.”


Report on Kent baby deaths ‘heartbreaking’ says Welby

THE deaths of at least 45 babies could have been avoided had they received nationally recognised standards of care at East Kent NHS Hospitals Trust, an independent review of maternity units at two of the hospitals has found. The Inquiry, which reviewed 202 cases over 11 years from 2009, reported that the outcomes of 97 of these could have been different. An overriding theme, was “the failure of the Trust’s staff to take notice of women when they raised concerns . . . questioned [and] challenged the decisions that were made about their care.” The Archbishop of Canterbury described the report as “heart-breaking” on Wednesday. “May God comfort those who have suffered so much. Earlier this year hospital leaders told me about improvements they are already making. It is critical that the work continues so no one else faces the same loss.”

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