Anglican Conservatives Reject Global Unity Plan

LONDON — Conservative Anglican leaders have rejected a proposed covenant to hold their global communion together just as the Church of England gave preliminary approval to the plan.

The covenant, backed by Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, aims to contain deep splits in the Anglican Communion over sexuality, the role of women and the authority of the Bible.

The communion is a fellowship of churches with ties to the Church of England in more than 160 countries.

Last week, the Church of England's governing General Synod voted to approve draft legislation that could lead to a final vote on the covenant in 2012. The covenant will now be referred to dioceses for consideration.

But in a statement, traditionalist leaders representing the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans and the GAFCON movement, dismissed the covenant as "fatally flawed." The plan also has been attacked by liberals within the church.

The conservative statement was endorsed by archbishops from West Africa, Rwanda, Tanzania, Nigeria, Uganda, Kenya, Australia and Anglican Church of North America, a breakaway group from the Episcopal Church.

Long-developing divisions among Anglicans broke wide open in 2003, when the Episcopal Diocese of New Hampshire elected an openly gay man, V. Gene Robinson, as bishop.

The draft covenant would commit national churches "to act with diligence, care and caution in respect of any action which may provoke controversy."

Disagreements would be referred to a panel of Anglican leaders, which could declare a proposed action to be incompatible with the covenant. National churches would be free to withdraw from the covenant at any time.

Outgoing Jewish leader and survivor of Nazi Germany receives national civilian honor

BERLIN — The German president has given one of the nation's highest civilian honors to the outgoing head of Germany's Central Council of Jews, praising her role in fighting extremism and anti-Semitism.

In awarding Charlotte Knobloch the Large Federal Cross of Merit with a star last week, President Christian Wulff thanked her for work toward reconciliation in post-World War II Germany.

The 78-year-old Knobloch witnessed the Nazi destruction of the Munich synagogue in 1938 and survived Nazi Germany by hiding with a German family. She is expected to be the last survivor to lead the Jewish council. Her term ended on Nov. 28.

An estimated 200,000 Jews now live in Germany.

Turkey returns confiscated orphanage to Ecumenical Patriarchate

ANKARA, Turkey — The spiritual leader of the world's Orthodox Christians was given back the deed to a historic building in a move hailed as a symbolic but important victory for the formerly dominant church in Turkey.

The Turkish government on Monday returned control of the 19th-century orphanage, one of the largest wooden buildings in the world, to the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Constantinople after a ruling for the church in the European Court of Human Rights.

The European Union has called for Turkey to return dozens of other properties seized from Jewish and Christian foundations decades ago. Several court cases are currently under way by minority religious groups against the Turkish state.

The Patriarchate in Constantinople — the spiritual leader of Turkey's Greek minority — dates from the Orthodox Greek Byzantine Empire, which collapsed when the Muslim Ottoman Turks conquered the city in 1453.

Turkey is overwhelmingly Muslim and officially secular and has long been criticized by the EU and human rights groups for its dealings with its religious minorities. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's government has taken steps to improve minority rights to meet some EU demands.

Turkey took control of the 19th-century building in 1997, many years after it was abandoned by a Greek Orthodox foundation that oversaw orphanages, on the grounds that it had fallen into disuse.

Patriarch Bartholomew I — who is known as the "Green Patriarch" for his environmentally friendly attitudes — plans to turn the building into an institute for the environment after it is restored.

Wuerl celebrates first Mass in DC as cardinal

WASHINGTON — Newly elevated Roman Catholic Cardinal Donald Wuerl has celebrated his first Mass in the archdiocese as a cardinal.

Wuerl was one of 24 men made a cardinal Nov. 20 by Pope Benedict XVI during a ceremony at the Vatican. He returned from Rome and celebrated his first Mass as cardinal last Sunday at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.

Wuerl is the fifth archbishop of Washington to have become a cardinal. He became the leader of the Archdiocese of Washington in 2006, after serving as bishop of Pittsburgh for 18 years.

Mesa vigil aims to prevent suicides of gay Mormons

MESA, Ariz. —Members of the Phoenix Gay Lesbian Bisexual Transgender Coalition are holding a suicide-prevention outreach and candlelight vigil aimed at preventing gay Mormon suicides in Arizona.

The group began its vigil last week near the Mesa Arizona Temple as the the church launched its annual Christmas lights display.

Organizer Caleb Laieski says the event is designed to show members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and others who are not open about their sexual orientation that there are support networks available to help them.