The story of the Middle East for 2014 is one of war and displacement, broken families and tireless aid workers and the rise of a new terrorist group.
Despite rebuilding efforts, more than 85,000 people still live in dozens of tent camps across Haiti's expansive earthquake zone.
Pope Francis has named Auxiliary Bishop Christopher Coyne of Indianapolis to head the diocese of Burlington, Vt.
Coyne, 56, succeeds Bishop Salvatore Matano, who was installed in January 2013 as the ninth bishop of Rochester, N.Y.
Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, apostolic nuncio to the United States, announced the appointment Monday in Washington.
Driven in part by continuing legal disputes related to lethal injection drugs and state moratoriums on the death penalty, the 35 people executed in the U.S. this year marks the fewest in two decades, according to a year-end report by the Death Penalty Information Center.
The center, which opposes capital punishment, also found that the 72 death sentences issued in 2014 represents the fewest in 40 years.
A not-insignificant part of the diplomatic coup pulled off by the White House and Cuban leaders Dec. 17 was that hardly anyone knew they had been working toward a reset in relations between the two neighbors and longtime antagonists.
The $1.1 trillion federal spending bill approved by Congress avoided a repeat of last year's government shutdown and largely kept in place social services spending, especially programs benefiting low-income families.
Beyond the current fiscal year that ends Sept. 30, the future is less certain, however, as Republican victories in the November elections gave the party control of both chambers on Capitol Hill. With the new leaders come new plans on limiting federal spending and reducing the country's $17.6-trillion debt.
The Senate has confirmed Rabbi David Saperstein as the State Department's ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom, making him the first non-Christian to hold the job.
Saperstein, who led the Reform Jewish movement's Washington office for 40 years, focusing on social justice and religious freedom issues, was nominated by President Barack Obama in July and confirmed by a 62-35 vote on Friday.
Saperstein takes a liberal bent on domestic issues, and all but one of the votes against him came from a Republican.
Catholic Relief Services and a host of other nonprofit agencies that distribute food aid overseas were successful in getting lawmakers to purge a provision in a bill that could have cut the amount of food aid they would be able to distribute in the future.
The provision would have increased from 50 percent to 75 percent the amount of food aid that must be transported on privately owned, U.S.-flagged ships. In 2012, Congress had lowered the requirement from 75 percent to 50 percent.
Chuck Colson turned seven months behind bars into an opportunity to start over. Now the Justice Department is looking to his example as it tries to reform the federal prison system.
The bipartisan Charles Colson Task Force on Federal Corrections kicked off its work at the Capitol on Tuesday, with former Rep. J.C. Watts Jr., R-Okla., its chairman, declaring its charge to make the federal prison system safer, less costly and more humane.
"Crimes were committed, laws were broken and lies were told to the American people by our government. We must never as a nation go down that path again."