Religion story highlights from 2013

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SALT LAKE CITY — During 2013, people of faith in Utah and throughout the world experienced some remarkable changes, milestones and joined together to help those in need.

Here are the highlights.

It hadn't happened in 600 years but in February, Pope Benedict XVI, leader of the 1.2 billion Catholics worldwide, resigned.

Weeks later, following a two-day conclave, the new Pope Francis emerged.

Utah's Catholics enthusiastically welcomed the choice, a man known for his humility.

"The fact that he was born of immigrant parents, says so much about immigration, which is a very important topic for all of us," Rev. Monsignor Joseph Mayo said, pastor at the Cathedral of the Madeleine.

Thomas S. Monson, leader of the more than 15 million member Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, celebrated his fifth anniversary as president and prophet in February.

In May, his beloved companion, Frances, passed away. The Monsons had been married for nearly 65 years.

"My mother's motivation to be good and perform good works stems from her deep and abiding love for others," Ann Monson said.

In February, Latter-day Saint Church leaders announced the creation of 58 new missions, bringing the total to 407 worldwide.

To accommodate the influx of missionaries, Church leaders announced the expansion of the Missionary Training Center in Provo.

In April, Church leaders issued a statement saying they are satisfied with the Boy Scouts of America's proposed policy compromise on gay scouts. That proposal would allow gay scouts - but not gay scout leaders - to participate fully in scouting programs.

During October's General Conference about 150 members of "Ordain Women," who had been denied tickets to the priesthood session, gathered on Temple Square to wait in the stand-by line.

They were denied seats with the explanation that this meeting is for men and boys; the previous week's women's conference was for them.

"It was very painful to be turned away," Ordain Women founder Kate Kelly said.

Many did watch the Priesthood talks online and on their cell phones.

For a month this summer, three priests of Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Cathedral in Salt Lake and Prophet Elias in Holladay were not permitted to perform sacraments. The parish council tried to cut the priests' salaries. By a narrow margin, parish members voted to reinstate the priests.

Four-thousand alumni of the Polynesian Cultural Center traveled from Utah and throughout the world to participate in the 50th anniversary celebration.

One of the most powerful typhoons ever recorded slammed into the Philippines in November, killing more than 4,000 and displacing some 900,000.

Many Utahns traveled to help, including a group of former Latter-day Saint missionaries, all professionals with different skills.

"Not only can we bring tremendous medical experience, we speak the languages," Jared Richards of the Philippines Relief Fund said. "We can break it down, we can rally them. We're going to work miracles."

Their work and that of other groups bring support and hope.

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Carole Mikita


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