News Roundup

Majority of people in Scotland have ‘no religion’, census finds

A total of 51.1% responded “no religion” in Scotland‘s Census 2022 – up from 36.7% in 2011, according to a new report released by the National Records of Scotland (NRS).

NRS said “no religion” was the most common response in every council area across the country, except the Western Isles and Inverclyde.

The “Church of Scotland” remains the largest religious group, but its numbers have continued to drop – from 42.4% in 2001 and 32.4% in 2011 to just 20.4% in the latest census.

The next largest religious groups were “Roman Catholic” (13.3%), “Other Christian” (5.1%) and “Muslim” (2.2%).

The number of people who described themselves as “Muslim” increased by 43,100 over the same period.

NRS said census data from England and Wales shows a “similar trend to Scotland”.

Census data from Northern Ireland shows an increase from 13.9% in 2001 (“no religion” and “no response” combined) to 17.4% in 2021 (“no religion” only).

The Irish Census for 2022 showed that 14pc of the population say that have “no religion”.


Christians are being ‘marginalised’, says Anglican Archbishop

Christians in the UK are being marginalised, rather than persecuted, according to the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Most Rev Justin Welby made the remarks following his visit to the crypt of St Oscar Romero, a Catholic Archbishop in El Salvador who was assassinated in 1980.

“I think, being here now [in San Salvador], I wouldn’t use the word persecution,” Archbishop Justin said of the difficulties encountered by some Christians in the UK.

“But I would use words like marginalisation, like pushing people aside, discounting their views because they’re Christians and ignorant. Silencing the people who get got at because they’re preaching in the street. The people who are told that because of their Christian views, they’re not eligible for this or that job or position or whatever it happens to be.


Japan’s depopulation ‘critical’ as fertility rate hits historic low

Japan’s fertility rate hit a new record low of 1.20 in 2023, far below the replacement rate of 2.1, health ministry data showed today, prompting one Government official to label the situation ‘critical’. There were almost 850,000 more deaths than births.

The latest figure is 0.06 point down from the previous year and the lowest since the government started keeping records in 1947.

The fertility rate — the number of children a woman is expected to have in her lifetime — has been in decline for decades. The figure stood at 1.76 in 1985, then fell to 1.45 in 2015 and 1.33 in 2020 as more women choose to marry and start a family later in life.

The number of births hit a record low at 727,277, down 43,482 births from 2022. Marriages fell to 474,717, which is 30,213 fewer than 2022. The number of divorces rose to 183,808, or 4,709 more than in 2022.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshimasa Hayashi said during a news conference that the nation’s depopulation trend was in a critical phase.


New law could force Chinese priests to share secrets of the confessional

A new law could make Catholic priests in Hong Kong reveal what is said in the confessional, exposing thousands to trumped up charges of treason.

Under Article 23 – new legislation passed in March this year -priests could face a 14-year jail sentence if they refuse to reveal what is said to them by members of their congregation.

The news comes as the country marks the 35 year anniversary of protests at Tiananmen Square when the People’s Liberation Army cracked down on student-led protests and killed an unknown number of people.

Currently there are believed to be around 96.7 million Christians in China, out of China’s total population of around 1.4 billion.

The Chinese Communist Party’s want churches to fall in line with its official viewpoints and they are encouraged to praise and pledge allegiance to the Communist Party and its ideology.


Indian Supreme Court: Anti-conversion law may be ‘unconstitutional’

Catholics in India expressed optimism following the Supreme Court’s recent comments that a draconian anti-conversion law may be found to violate the Indian Constitution.

During a May 16 hearing concerning the anti-conversion law in northern Uttar Pradesh state, the Supreme Court noted that “some parts [of the law] may seem to be violative of the fundamental right to religion guaranteed under Article 25 of the Constitution.”

“This Supreme Court observation gives us great hope,” Archbishop Peter Machado of Bangalore in southern Karnataka state told CNA.

“The court observation highlights the primacy of the fundamental right of freedom of conscience,” he said. “We do not support or indulge in fraudulent conversions. But the law should not be used to persecute us and deny our fundamental right.”

Twelve of India’s 28 states have criminalised religious conversions, including religious conversions that are voluntary and not forcibly coerced. The laws have led to the arrest of clergy and instigated acts of violence against Christians.


State to pay women up to 35 for contraception

The State’s “Free Contraception Scheme” has been expanded to include women aged 32-35, according to the Department of Health.

This means that from 1 July 2024, all women aged 17 to 35, inclusive, will be covered under the scheme.

This comes despite a 2019 Working Group on Access to Contraception, under the then Health Minister, Simon Harris, say the proposal would probably be a waste of public funds.

This extension has been supported by an additional €4 million in funding through the Women’s Health Fund under the Women’s Health Action Plan 2024-2025, with a total of €48 million now allocated to the scheme for 2024.

The announcement was careful to include women who now identify as men: “The scheme is open to women, girls and other people identifying as transgender or non-binary . . . and for whom prescription contraception is deemed suitable by their doctors”.


NI Judge rules child (5) may attend church with foster parents against wishes of biological mother

A senior Northern Ireland judge has ruled that a five-year-old child can be taken to regular church services and activities by his Christian foster parents against the wishes of her natural mother, who is an agnostic.

The High Court in Belfast heard the mother objected to the child receiving any form of religious instruction, while the foster parents were very active members of the Pentecostal Church.

The judge accepted evidence from the trust and the guardian that the child was well-settled in the placement and is receiving excellent care.

“The child’s emotional needs are clearly catered for in the placement,” he said.

“She has now achieved a stability in her current placement that was absent for the recent period in the mother’s care.

“Any change of placement would bring challenges. The child would lose the companionship of the children within the foster placement and her friendship group within the school setting.

“A critical factor is the lack of any continuity in contact with the child’s maternal family. There is none and nothing likely on the horizon.

“The current foster placement is a welcome port in the storm for the child.”


Surrogacy bill passes all stages of Dail, moves to Seanad

A bill to enable international and compensated surrogacy contracts passed the Dail on Wednesday night and will now be taken up by the Seanad.

TDs debated a Report on the bill compiled by the Select Committee on Health, a body consisting solely of Dail Deputies.

The Report proposed numerous amendments to the text of the bill, most of which were accepted.

Health Minister, Stephen Donnelly, said one amendment, accepted by the Government “will bring in an allowance for net loss of income to be included as part of the permitted reasonable expenses incurred by a donor”.

This will allow egg donors “to be paid for a net loss of income” particularly those who “take time off . . . from their jobs to complete the donation process”, he said.

Critics say these expenses often amount to a fee in disguise, something reminiscent of commercial surrogacy which the bill’s authors say they oppose.

Another approved amendment added the word “net” to qualify “loss of income in the context of reasonable expenses incurred by a surrogate mother”.

Minister Donnelly said this “will allow for aspects such as social protection payments or income tax liabilities to be taken into account when seeking to calculate a surrogate mother’s potential loss of income”.


Next UK government should help families flourish, says Cardinal

Support for families should be a prime concern of voters in the upcoming UK election according to the Head of the Archbishop of Westminster.

Cardinal Vincent Nichols, has recorded a message encouraging Catholics, particularly young adults, to get involved and vote.

“I would like to put forward a theme for us all to think about. How do we seek to construct a society in which families can flourish? That’s the bedrock – many positive things flow from that,” he said.

In his message, Cardinal Nichols signposts resources that offer guidance on seven key topics of interest to Catholics.

“I ask you to look at these resources, explore them, become a bit more familiar with them so that when it comes to 4 July, you’ve got in your mind what you want to see the next government strive to achieve,” says Cardinal Nichols.

“My view is that our next government should strive to create the circumstances in which families can flourish. So please get ready to vote on 4 July.”


‘No staunch Catholics’ among today’s European politicians, says Cardinal

The decline of Christianity has led to a sclerotic EU, but even an imperfect one is better than none at all.

That’s according to the papal adviser and Archbishop of Luxembourg Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich.

In an interview he said Christians are increasingly becoming a minority and there is no way back to a Christian Europe, which has led to a lack of political ideas.

Eighty years ago, the construction of Europe was an explicitly Christian project; French Foreign Minister Robert Schuman and Italian Prime Minister Alcide De Gasperi in particular were staunch Catholics. When asked whether there are no more Schumans or Gasperis today, Hollerich said: “To be honest, I don’t see any.”

According to the Jesuit, politicians today no longer have any convictions: “They read the polls and adapt their opinions accordingly.” This is a big mistake, both at national and European level. Hollerich: “The political dispute has faded into the background. Today, those who lead us no longer have a backbone.”

At the same time, the cardinal, who represents Europe on Pope Francis’ Council of Cardinals, emphasises: “If I had to choose between an imperfect Europe or its absence, I would always opt for the European Union.”