*** DEBUG END ***

World news in brief

05 July 2024


A tattoo of Pope Francis seen in St Peter’s Square in 2017

A tattoo of Pope Francis seen in St Peter’s Square in 2017

Vatican bans tattoos for Basilica staff

THE Vatican has banned workers at St Peter’s Basilica from having visible tattoos or body piercings, to maintain “decorum”, Reuters reports. The new regulation, published at the weekend, applies to the 170 lay employees of the Fabbrica di San Pietro. Its head of communications, Fr Enzo Fortunato, told Reuters on Monday that the new rule formalised standards that “have been in place in the past in a different form”. The regulation also states that staff must have “an exemplary religious and moral conduct, including in private and family life, in conformity with the doctrine of the Church”. In 2018, at a pre-Synodal meeting, Pope Francis said: “Don’t be afraid of tattoos — but don’t exaggerate either. If anything, use the tattoo as a talking-point to begin a dialogue about what it signifies.”


Virgin Mary birthing sculpture beheaded

A SCULPTURE in St Mary’s Cathedral, Linz, in Austria, of the Virgin Mary giving birth to Jesus, has been beheaded in an act of vandalism, the Roman Catholic diocese of Linz reports. The statue, which had drawn criticism, was on display as part of an art installation on women’s roles, family images, and gender equality. The incident, which occurred on Monday, was reported to the police. The Episcopal Vicar for Education, Art and Culture in the diocese, the Revd Johann Hintermaier, said: “We were aware that we were also provoking debate with this installation. If we have hurt people’s religious feelings, we are sorry, but I strongly condemn this violent act of destruction, the refusal to engage in dialogue, and the attack on the freedom of art.”


Widow of murdered Christian in Pakistan dies

ALLAH RAKHI BIBI, the 72-year-old widow of the Pakistani Christian Lazar (Nazir) Masih, died last Friday after suffering a cardiac arrest, Church in Chains reports. Mr Masih had died in hospital on 3 June a week after he was violently attacked by an extremist mob (News, 7 June). He and his son had been accused of having burnt pages of the Qur’an with their rubbish, and were attacked by a mob that burned their shops and homes (News, 31 May). The family this week said that Ms Bibi had complained of chest pain and called for a government ambulance, but that “the paramedics told us that the pain was probably due to stress”. Meanwhile, a young Christian man in Pakistan, Ehsan Shan, has been sentenced to death by Special Judge Ziaullah Khan, of the Anti-Terrorism Court (ATC) in Sahiwal, for allegedly circulating blasphemous content on TikTok which, it was ruled, incited riots in Jaranwala.


Children among Christians arrested in Eritrea

MORE than 200 Christians have been arrested in Eritrea in the past 12 months, Release International reports, some along with their children. The charity calculates that about 400 Christians are currently imprisoned indefinitely, and without trial or charge, because of their faith; 110 were seized between January and May. “Most were taken from their houses — some at 3 a.m.,” Dr Berhane Asmelash, a former prisoner and partner of Release, said. “We are very concerned for the physical and mental well-being of the children, some of whom are only two years old. This is totally unacceptable, and we strongly condemn this inhuman act by the Eritrean government.”


Network calls for religious freedom in Cuba

THE Alliance of Christians of Cuba (ACC), an independent network of 60 religious leaders created in 2022, has urged the Cuban government to improve its record on human rights, including reforms that will protect freedom of religion or belief (FoRB). In a statement published after its second AGM in Las Tunas last week, the group condemns ongoing violations of Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and calls for a new legal framework that would allow religious groups to register, making it possible for legal action to be taken when FoRB violations occur. The statement goes on to demand the release of all political prisoners and prisoners of conscience, and urges the government immediately to halt “pre-criminal” legal proceedings used to try individuals suspected of the potential to commit crimes in the future.


MARCELO SCHNEIDER/WCCEyes of faith: members of the the World Council of Churches (WCC) Commission on Education and Ecumenical Formation visit the Odusan Unification Observatory, near Seoul, on Thursday of last week. It was the first in-person meeting since the WCC’s 11th Assembly in 2022

Browse Church and Charity jobs on the Church Times jobsite

Forthcoming Events

Green Church Awards

Awards Ceremony: 6 September 2024

Read more details about the awards


Festival of Preaching

15-17 September 2024

The festival moves to Cambridge along with a sparkling selection of expert speakers

tickets available


Inspiration: The Influences That Have Shaped My Life

September - November 2024

St Martin in the Fields Autumn Lecture Series 2024

tickets available



Festival of Faith and Literature

28 February - 2 March 2025

The festival programme is soon to be announced sign up to our newsletter to stay informed about all festival news.

Festival website


Visit our Events page for upcoming and past events 

Welcome to the Church Times


To explore the Church Times website fully, please sign in or subscribe.

Non-subscribers can read four articles for free each month. (You will need to register.)