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Pope Francis gives a lamb a lift during a  visit to a Nativity scene at the Church of St Alfonso Maria dei Liguori Below: Francis chats to two children taking part in the nativity (CNS)

Pope visits live Nativity scene

Francis lets a lamb rest on his shoulders during visit to Rome church

Pope Francis announced the extraordinary synod in October last year  (CNS)

Francis gives thanks for the graces of 2013 on New Year’s Eve in St Peter’s Basilica

The people and the stories making the news in what was a momentous year for the Church

Tourists crowd the bridge leading to Castel Sant'Angelo in Rome (CNS)

How to visit Rome in the austerity era

The Catholic Herald’s Rome correspondent knows the Eternal City inside out. Here he offers tips for pilgrims for whom every penny counts

The statue has been brought to Rome from Portugal to mark Marian Day and the Vatican’s Year of Faith.

Pope Francis speaks to reporters on his flight home from Rio (CNS)

Or is the Church actually in the grip of a crisis that threatens its very existence?

A selection of images from Paul Koudounaris’s new book, Heavenly Bodies: Cult Treasures & Spectacular Saints from the Catacombs

Pope Francis (AP)

The original statue of Our Lady of Fatima to be brought to the Vatican for Marian celebration

Pope Francis receives a gift from Italy's Gianluigi Buffon, and Argentina's Lionel Messi at the Vatican (CNS)

Lionel Messi hails “one of the most special days of my life”

Lionel Messi leads delegation ahead of friendly match