The actor Chris Pratt has been called ‘the worst Chris’ of Hollywood in an online debate which strayed into is his supposed political and religious beliefs. US entertainment site E! News launched an online poll of a popular celebrity debate about ‘the best Chris in Hollywood’ – with Chris Pratt an option among Chris Pine, Chris Evans and Chris Hemsworth – after American filmmaker posted a picture of four actors named Chris, saying “one of them has to go.” Chris Pratt was in TV show Parks and Recreation, before being in big-budget movies such as Jurassic World, Guardians of the Galaxy and Avengers: Endgame as Star-Lord. One person replied: “Pratt. His views are terrible and he supports anti-lgbtq activist churches. Easy.” While another said: “He's the best looking but too Bible-bashy.”

 

A Christian member of the Welsh Senedd has asked for evidence that proves closing churches is a necessary step to prevent the spread of Coronavirus.  As of this Sunday, churches in Wales will be closed for three weekends, as part of a short lockdown in the country.  Darren Millar, a Christian and the Conservative Member of the Senedd for Clwyd West, said on Wednesday: "In the absence of any evidence that suggests that churches and chapels in Wales pose a significant threat of transmission of the coronavirus, closure does not seem to be a proportionate or necessary act. I'm sure that you would agree with me that spiritual health is just as important as people's physical and mental health and well-being and houses of God should be a place of refuge in time for crisis and therefore, there is a very good case to keep them open." He told fellow politicians that Wales has already had the longest closure of places in worship in the UK, still has a ban on choirs, unlike in England, Scotland or Northern Ireland, and recently had a case where communal reciting of the Lord's Prayer was said not to be allowed. 

 

Churches across all denominations are now increasingly turning to online giving as a majority of them report reduced giving in the pews amid the coronavirus pandemic, according to Ministry Brands. The trend was highlighted in results from an online survey of 1,400 church leaders conducted by Ministry Brands, a provider of software, services, and information platforms for churches and ministries, from July to September and published Wednesday in the report Coping with COVID-19: Insights from Church Leaders. “Overall, almost 60 percent of respondents indicated that a reduction in giving income is one of the top challenges facing their church. This was particularly noticeable among Catholic churches, a full 67 percent of which expressed concern about reduced giving,” said the report which attributed the reduced giving to fewer in-person services. Churches are now ramping up their ability to collect donations online and congregations that never offered this option before must now help their members adjust to the virtual offering plate.

 

AMSTERDAM (JTA) — Jews’ share of the population of Europe is as low now as it was 1,000 years ago and is declining even further, according to a landmark new demographic study. The study published Wednesday by the London-based Institute for Jewish Policy Research found 1.3 million people who describe themselves as Jewish in continental Europe, the United Kingdom, Turkey and Russia That figure has declined by nearly 60% since 1970, when there were 3.2 million Jews in the same area, wrote the report’s authors, Daniel Staetsky and Sergio DellaPergola. That decline, which follows the death of about 6 million European Jews in the Holocaust, owes mostly to the emigration of more than 1.5 million people following the collapse of the Iron Curtain, their data shows.

 

Hillsong Church founder Brian Houston has urged his fellow pastors to stand up against Australia's COVID-19 restrictions, claiming Christians are being discriminated against as numbers at church services remain limited.  In a series of social media posts, the Sydney, Australia-based pastor criticized the New South Wales government over restrictions on church service attendance while other coronavirus restrictions are being loosened. “It’s time church leaders unite to take a stand. We are all committed to keeping people safe, but it seems churches are not even being considered for a steady easing of restrictions,” Houston wrote on Instagram. Under the current NSW guidelines, church services may not have more than 100 attendees. In contrast, beginning this December, weddings can have up to 300 guests. Hospitality venues may host a maximum of 500 people seated at outdoor events, and thousands of fans can attend sporting events. “Do you think people are not friendly at weddings? It is getting to the point where it is discrimination,” he wrote on Twitter.

 

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will bring the recently signed normalization agreement with Bahrain for Knesset approval, his office said Thursday. He will also present the peace treaty with the United Arab Emirates for final ratification at Sunday’s weekly cabinet meeting, according to a statement from the Prime Minister’s Office. At a ceremony this week in Manama, Israeli and Bahraini officials signed eight bilateral agreements, including a “Joint Communiqué on the establishment of diplomatic, peaceful, and friendly relations.” The Joint Communiqué — the centerpiece of the budding Israeli-Bahraini friendship — was not legally a treaty, but rather a “framework agreement,” Israeli officials said, stressing, however, that with the signing Israel and Bahrain formally established diplomatic relations.

 

Questions swirled on Thursday about the origins of Pope Francis' bombshell comments endorsing same-sex civil unions, with all evidence suggesting he made them in a 2019 interview that was never broadcast in its entirety. The Vatican refused to comment on whether it cut the remarks from its own broadcast or if the Mexican broadcaster that conducted the interview did. And it did not respond to questions about why it allowed the comments to be aired now in the documentary Francesco, which premiered on Wednesday. In the movie, which was shown at the Rome Film Festival, Francis said gay people have the right to be in a family since they are "children of God". "You can't kick someone out of a family, nor make their life miserable for this," the pope said. "What we have to have is a civil union law; that way they are legally covered." Those comments caused a firestorm, thrilling progressives and alarming conservatives, given official Vatican teaching prohibits any such endorsement of homosexual unions. While serving as archbishop of Buenos Aires, Francis endorsed civil unions for gay couples as an alternative to same-sex marriages. However, he had never come out publicly in favour of legal protections for civil unions as pope.

 

A senior defense official on Thursday predicted Saudi Arabia would soon move to normalize ties with Israel. The comments by the official, who spoke to reporters as Defense Minister Benny Gantz visited America, came amid reports that Sudan was poised to follow the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain in normalizing diplomatic relations with the Jewish state. “Soon Sudan and later Saudi Arabia will come out of the closet,” the official was quoted saying by Hebrew media, without further elaborating. Saudi leaders have publicly ruled out forging ties with Israel before a Palestinian state is created, even as they have welcomed the normalization deals between the Jewish state and Gulf Arab states signed in Washington last month.

 

Campaigners have been granted a judicial review over a Scottish Government move to redefine the meaning of “woman”. For Women Scotland (FWS) have taken legal action against the Government for including men who identify as female in a law designed to address the number of women on public boards. FWS claim that the definition of “woman” was altered in the Gender Representation on Public Boards (Scotland) Act 2018 following pressure from the Scottish Trans Alliance. A spokeswoman for FWS said: “It should not be possible for Scottish Government to redefine protected characteristics in discrete legislation nor undermine UK equality law. “Governments at Westminster and Holyrood have, shamefully, ignored UK law and left ordinary women with the task of defending our legal rights at personal and financial cost. “We object to the wholesale redefinition of women, which was done at the request of a lobby group, and without public consultation or Parliamentary scrutiny.”