FaithWorld

U.K. academic says Easter date can now be fixed

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(The Last Supper, Leonardo da Vinci, 1498)

The Last Supper took place on a Wednesday — a day earlier than thought — and a date for Easter can now be fixed, according to a Cambridge University scientist aiming to solve one of the Bible’s most enduring contradictions.

Christians have marked Jesus’ final meal on Maundy Thursday for centuries but thanks to the rediscovery of an ancient Jewish calendar, Professor Colin Humphreys suggests another interpretation.

“I was intrigued by Biblical stories of the final week of Jesus in which no one can find any mention of Wednesday. It’s called the missing day,” Humphreys told Reuters. “But that seemed so unlikely: after all Jesus was a very busy man.”

His findings help explain a puzzling inconsistency between the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke, who said the Last Supper coincided with Passover and John, who said the meal took place before the Jewish holy day commemorating the Exodus from Egypt.

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Kate Middleton confirmed ahead of royal wedding

(Kate Middleton, fiancee of Britain's Prince William, reacts to the crowd during a visit Witton Country Park in Darwen, northern England April 11, 2011. A large crowd of well-wishers braved a downpour in northern England on Monday to cheer Prince William and Kate Middleton as they took part in their final official engagement before their wedding. REUTERS/Alastair Grant/Poo)

(Kate Middleton, fiancee of Britain's Prince William, during a visit Witton Country Park in Darwen, northern England April 11, 2011/Alastair Grant)

Royal bride-to-be Kate Middleton has been confirmed into the Church of England ahead of her wedding to Prince William this month, his office said on Wednesday. The ceremony, carried out by the Bishop of London Richard Chartres who will give the address at the April 29th wedding, took place on March 10 with Middleton, 29, accompanied by her future husband, a spokeswoman for St James’s Palace said.

“Catherine Middleton was confirmed by the Bishop of London at a private service at St James’s Palace attended by her family and Prince William,” the spokeswoman said. “Miss Middleton, who was already baptised, decided to be confirmed as part of her marriage preparations.”

British Christian couple loses foster ruling over gays stance

london court

(The Royal Courts of Justice, 18 April 2003/Michael Reeve)

A British Christian couple opposed to homosexuality because of their faith lost a court battle in London on Monday over the right to become foster carers. The couple, who are Pentecostal Christians, had gone to court after a social worker expressed concerns about them becoming respite carers after they said they could not tell a child that a “homosexual lifestyle” was acceptable.

Eunice and Owen Johns, both in their 60s and from Derbyshire in the English midlands, asked judges to rule that their faith should not be a bar to them becoming carers, and that the law should protect their Christian values.

But Lord Justice Munby and Mr Justice Beatson ruled at the Royal Courts of Justice in London that laws protecting people from discrimination because of their sexual orientation “should take precedence” over the right not to be discriminated against on religious grounds, the Press Association reported.

UK to allow same-sex marriage in church – reports

samesex

(Bride and groom figurines on wedding cakes at Cake and Art bakery in West Hollywood, California June 4, 2008/Mario Anzuoni)

Britain plans to allow same-sex unions to be celebrated in places of worship, removing a key legal distinction between homosexual civil partnerships and heterosexual marriage, newspapers reported on Sunday. The move would lift the ban on religious ceremonies for the registration of gay unions imposed when Britain legalised civil partnerships six years ago.

The government may also propose scrapping the legal definition of marriage as a relationship between a man and a woman, allowing gay men and women to call their partners husbands or wives, the Sunday Times said. Equalities minister Lynne Featherstone will launch a consultation on the issue next week, the Sunday Telegraph said.

British police avert clashes at Luton anti-Islamist rally

edf 1

(An English Defence League supporter with effigy of Osama Bin Laden mask during a rally in Luton, February 5, 2011/Paul Hackett)

About 1,500 far-right protesters marched through the centre of the British city of Luton Saturday to rally against “militant Islam,” requiring a heavy police presence to avert clashes with 1,000 anti-fascist demonstrators. A sixth of Luton’s population is Muslim, and past marches by the English Defence League have led to conflict with their opponents. The city centre turned into a virtual ghost town before the rally, with shops boarded up and pubs closed.

But police and community activists averted large-scale violence, making only eight arrests on a mix of assault, drugs and weapons charges. There were no serious injuries.

Will Pew Muslim birth rate study finally silence the “Eurabia” claim?

paris prayers

(Photo: Muslims who could not fit into a small Paris mosque pray in the street, a practice the French far-right has compared to the Nazi occupation, December 17, 2010/Charles Platiau)

One of the most wrong-headed arguments in the debate about Muslims in Europe is the shrill “Eurabia” claim that high birth rates and immigration will make Muslims the majority on the continent within a few decades. Based on sleight-of-hand statistics, this scaremongering (as The Economist called it back in 2006) paints a picture of a triumphant Islam dominating a Europe that has lost its Christian roots and is blind to its looming cultural demise.

The Egyptian-born British writer Bat Ye’or popularised the term with her 2005 book “Eurabia: The Euro-Arab Axis” and this argument has become the background music to much exaggerated talk about Muslims in Europe. Some examples from recent weeks can be found here, here and here.

Anti-Muslim bias now the social norm, UK cabinet minister says

warsiPrejudice against Muslims has “passed the dinner-table test” and become socially acceptable in Britain, says the Conservative Party’s chairwoman Baroness Sayeeda Warsi.

Warsi, a Pakistan-born minister without portfolio in Prime Minister David Cameron’s cabinet, will say in a speech at the University of Leicester on Thursday evening that dividing Muslims into “moderate” and “extremist” fuels intolerance, according to prepared remarks published in the Daily Telegraph. (Photo: Baroness Warsi at the Conservative Party Conference in Birmingham, October 3, 2010/Toby Melville)

“It’s not a big leap of imagination to predict where the talk of ‘moderate’ Muslims leads; in the factory, where they’ve just hired a Muslim worker, the boss says to his employees: ‘Not to worry, he’s only fairly Muslim,’” according to the first Muslim woman in a British cabinet. “In the school, the kids say: ‘The family next door are Muslim but they’re not too bad’. And in the road, as a woman walks past wearing a burka, the passers-by think: ‘That woman’s either oppressed or is making a political statement.’”

Pope breaks tradition with BBC broadcast

pope bbcPope Benedict called for people to remember the significance of Christ’s birth in a Christmas message specially recorded for Britons and aired on the BBC on Friday. It was the first time the pope has addressed a Christmas message specifically to one of the countries visited during the year, the BBC said. (Photo: Pope Benedict records his BBC ”Thought for the Day” address at the Vatican December 24, 2010/Osservatore Romano)

Pope Benedict XVI is seen during a recording session for BBC radio’s ”Thought for the Day” programme, at the Vatican December 24, 2010.

Credit: Reuters/Osservatore Romano

Pope Benedict XVI is seen during a recording session for BBC radio’s ”Thought for the Day” programme, at the Vatican December 24, 2010.

Pope records special Christmas message for the BBC

pope waves (Photo: Pope Benedict waves from his private apartment in Saint Peter’s Square at the Vatican January 4, 2009/Tony Gentile)

Pope Benedict has recorded a Christmas message at the Vatican specially for Britain following his successful state visit to the country in September, according to the BBC. It is the first time the pope has addressed a Christmas message specifically to one of the countries visited during the year, the state-funded broadcaster said.

The recording will be broadcast on Christmas Eve in the “Thought for the Day” slot on the BBC Radio 4 current affairs programme “Today.”

“Thought for the Day” lasts about three minutes and has a regular place on the morning programme broadcast Monday to Saturday. It offers a personal perspective, from leaders of a variety of religious denominations, on topical issues.

U.S. pastor who threatened to burn Koran plans British visit

terry jonesAn American Christian preacher who rose from obscurity to cause global uproar this year by threatening to burn the Koran says he plans to visit Britain to speak at an event hosted by a far-right anti-Islamist group.

Anti-extremist groups have urged the British government to ban entry to Florida Pastor Terry Jones, whose threat to burn Islam’s holy book on the anniversary of the September 11 attacks provoked widespread condemnation.

Britain’s Home Secretary (interior minister) Theresa May said on Sunday she would be looking into the case.