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Jan 28, 12:28 PM EST

Religion news in brief

AP Photo
AP Photo/Rick Bowmer

Mass. Catholics hold vigil in endangered churches
Convent shuts after helping generations 'overcome'
Inside a Voodoo Gede ceremony
Religion News
St. Paul-Minneapolis Archdiocese files list of assets, debts

50 years after funeral, Churchill towers over UK politicians

EPA administrator at Vatican ahead of encyclical.

Portugal approves citizenship plan for Sephardic Jews

Religion news in brief

Pope warns of 'absentee fathers' in new chapter on family

Mormon leaders call for measures protecting gay rights

Pope: Christian unity means no competing for faithful

Swiss Guard's cookbook reveals Vatican culinary treats

After dove debacle, Vatican makes balloons new peace symbol

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Mormon leaders call for measures protecting gay rights

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) - Mormon church leaders are calling for a "balanced approach" in the clash between gay rights and religious freedom.

The church is promising to support some housing and job protections for gays and lesbians in exchange for legal protections for believers who object to the behavior of others.

It's not clear how much common ground Mormons will find with this new campaign. The church insists it still opposes gay marriage and believes that sex outside of marriage between a man and a woman violates God's law.

But Mormon leaders who held a rare news conference Tuesday said "we must all learn to live with others who do not share the same beliefs or values."

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland said, "Nothing is achieved if either side resorts to bullying, political point scoring or accusations of bigotry."

The Rev. Russell Moore of the Southern Baptist Convention called the Mormon leaders "well-intentioned, but naive" about gay opposition to religious exemptions.


Sundance film pulls back curtain on Scientology

PARK CITY, Utah (AP) - "Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief" has premiered at the Sundance Film Festival to a packed house, and with police protection.

Director Alex Gibney's film claims that the church routinely intimidates, manipulates and even tortures its members.

Before Sunday's premiere, the Church of Scientology took out full-page ads in the New York Times and Los Angeles Times claiming the documentary is full of falsehoods.

But Gibney interviewed former Scientology believers, including Oscar-winning director Paul Haggis, who left the church in 2009 after decades of membership.

As Haggis climbed to the highest levels of Scientology, he finally learned its founder's ultimate theory: That a tyrannical galactic overlord named Xenu dropped frozen bodies from millions of years ago into volcanoes, and those spirits attach themselves to people today. Scientology claims to "clear" the body and mind of those spirits.

The church says Gibney refused to meet with members it offered as sources. But Gibney says the church declined all requests for interviews, as did John Travolta and Tom Cruise, both of whom are Scientologists.


Church of England ordains first female bishop

LONDON (AP) - The male monopoly in the leadership of the Church of England has ended with Monday's consecration of the 500-year-old institution's first female bishop.

The Rev. Libby Lane became the eighth Bishop of Stockport in a service at York Minster. Her consecration comes after the church ended a long and divisive dispute by voting last year to allow women to serve as bishops.

The consecration service was interrupted by a lone protester, the Rev. Paul Williamson. He stepped forward and objected when the congregation was asked if it was their will that Lane be ordained. Williamson said "No!" and asked to speak, arguing there was no precedent in the Bible for women bishops.

The archbishop of York, John Sentamu, answered with a prepared statement and then asked again if the church approved. This time, the response was a thunderous "Yes!"


Catholic church in San Francisco to phase out altar girls

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) - A Roman Catholic church in San Francisco has become one of a handful around the country to prohibit girls from being altar servers, a decision that has disturbed some parishioners.

The Rev. Joseph Illo told KPIX-TV that he decided to train only boys to assist him at Mass when he was assigned to Star of the Sea Church last year because he thinks the primary purpose of altar service is preparation for the priesthood, which women are ineligible to join.

In a statement posted on the church's website, Illo says boys often lose interest in altar service when the programs are co-ed because "girls generally do a better job."

Girls and women have been permitted to serve Mass alongside priests since Pope John Paul II approved the practice in 1994. But a mixed-gender altar service is not a requirement, and the decision is usually left up to local bishops. San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone authorized Star of the Sea's move to only having altar boys.

Some churchgoers told KPIX they were unhappy with the change, calling it discriminatory.


Vandalism: No solo tourists in New Orleans' oldest cemetery

NEW ORLEANS (AP) - A historic New Orleans cemetery that may have started the city's tradition of above-ground crypts will soon be off-limits to tourists on their own because of repeated tomb vandalism.

Starting in March, entry to St. Louis Cemetery No. 1 will be restricted to relatives of those buried there and others accompanied by a tour guide registered with the Catholic Archdiocese of New Orleans, which owns the property.

Spokeswoman Sarah McDonald says some unlicensed guides encourage people to deface tombs. She says other people have littered and camped out there.

And in late 2012, someone covered the reputed tomb of voodoo priestess Marie Laveau with pink paint.

Tour companies will have to show insurance and a city license, and pay the archdiocese up to $5,400 a year.

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