It’s not a hugely exciting headline. The Vatican (home of the Catholic Church) has said that the bread which is used to celebrate the Eucharist during Roman Catholic Mass must not be gluten-free – although it may be made from genetically modified organisms. Cardinal Robert Sarah explained that the bread can be low-gluten but should have enough protein in the wheat to make it without additives. What does make it exciting for GCSE Religious Studies students is that the article which explains these precise rules also refers to the fact that Roman Catholics believe the bread and wine served at the Eucharist are converted into the body and blood of Christ through a process known as transubstantiation.
The Eucharist, which is also called the Holy Communion, Mass, the Lord’s Supper or the Divine Liturgy, is a sacrament accepted by almost all Christians. Most students have heard of the Last Supper and how Christians re-enact the key moment on at least a weekly basis when they celebrate the Eucharist.
The idea of transubstantiation helps explain why in the Catholic Church women can’t be priests, as the Eucharist has to be performed by a male priest for he is acting as Jesus ‘in loco Christos’ when the bread and wine truly become the Body and Blood of Christ.
The six-part series called Broken, which stars Sean Bean and Anna Friel, first aired on Tuesday 30th May. If you missed the first episode go to BBC iPlayer to catch up (until mid-July). Why? Well for a drip feed of Catholic religious beliefs, teachings and practice for the AQA Component 1 exam, this TV series is a ‘godsend’!
You will be able to see in the first episode the role of a priest in the local community; the preparations for First Holy Communion; the Eucharist; the importance of prayer; the last rites for a dead person and confession. If you’ve never been inside a Christian church before, or it has been a long time, then just by watching this drama by Jimmy McGovern you’ll see how the place of worship is used by a community in Northern England.
To top it off there is also a mention of Food Banks – perfect GCSE content!
A few weeks back you heard the President of the USA criticise Iran for supporting terrorism, whilst he was standing in Saudi Arabia.
Then this week after a terrorist attack carried out by Islamic State killed 17 innocent civilians in Iran, President Trump’s sent both his condolences: “We grieve and pray for the innocent victims of the terrorist attacks in Iran, and for the Iranian people, who are going through such challenging times,” and these additional comments: “We underscore that states that sponsor terrorism risk falling victim to the evil they promote.” You can imagine how Iran felt about this latter comment.
The Iranian foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, tweeted: “Repugnant WH (White House) statement … as Iranians counter terror backed by US clients.”
This is where what we learn in GCSE Religious Studies comes in handy in making sense of all this. It is so important that when you read about world politics you are aware of the difference between Sunni and Shia Islam. The Sunni jihadis of Isis (Islamic State) consider Shia Iran to be apostates (a defection or revolt against the true Islam), and Iran is deeply involved in fighting the group in both Syria and Iraq. To make things trickier for Iran they have a sizeable Sunni population along their restive borders with Iraq and Pakistan, and it is from here that Isis is hoping to recruit. Understanding the Syrian Civil War also needs you to know about Sunni and Shia Muslims, as Newsround tried to explain.
In the new AQA GCSE Religious Studies our students have to know more than just ‘Muslims believe…’ or ‘Muslims do…’ for their exam paper about Islam and instead need to be specific about the different types of Muslims and their specific beliefs. So in class we often refer to Sunni and Shia Muslims, and we try to specify when their beliefs and practises are different.
The Council on Foreign Relations has a really interesting set of articles about the Sunni-Shia Divide which outlines the origins of the schism; modern tensions; practising the faith; sectarian militants and flash points.
Looking at the articles though I was left wondering who the Council on Foreign Relations were; we all need to check where our facts and knowledge are coming from, especially in 2017, when the media is so full of bias and fake news.
Interestingly the Council started in 1921 in the USA and has had all sorts of members from past presidents, media owners, Federal Judges and ambassadors. Below are its founding members:
On its website it says it is ‘an independent, nonpartisan membership organization, think tank, and publisher’.
We always need to check our source of information especially when there is so much politics involved in Religion.
Richard Neave began his research in 1998, by looking at skulls from Northern Israel from the 1st century AD and he then unveiled for a BBC documentary called The Son of God what Jesus probably looked like.
I am not sure why it was reported in the Independent today when the TV documentary was shown in 2001 (!). You can read about the documentary on the BBC website, and watch a clip about the Resurrection from the programme on YouTube. A slightly confusing thing is that there is also a 2014 film with the name The Son of God with more numerous YouTube clips. The crucifixion scene from that film is on YouTube lasting about 4 minutes and is as you’d expect quite emotional and not very enjoyable to watch.