Controversy over family issues and the ongoing serach for peace in the Middle East were just some highlights of Vatican news in 2014.
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.
On Nov. 23, the Israeli Cabinet approved a new "nationality law" and sent it to the Knesset, Israel's parliament, for ratification. Immediately, a fierce constitutional debate broke out. Did the bill privilege Jewish ethnicity over democratic equality?
Former Israeli President Shimon Peres asked Pope Francis to head a parallel United Nations called the "United Religions" to counter religious extremism in the world today.
NCR Today: A straightforward, undisputed analysis of offenses in the conflict, whether by Hamas or Israel, will probably be hard to come by. But the U.N. is going to try.
Book review: Had it not been for Jo Roberts' stunning new book, Contested Land, Contested Memory, I might have paid less attention to the events in the Middle East.
As Israel continued its ground offensive into the Gaza Strip, Pope Francis urged Israeli President Shimon Peres and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to end the spiraling conflict.
The pontiff telephoned the two leaders Friday to express "his very serious concerns" only six weeks after both joined him at the Vatican for a historic prayer meeting.
Francis said he was concerned about the "climate of growing hostility, hatred and suffering" that was claiming many victims, resulting in "a serious humanitarian emergency," the Vatican said in a statement.
Praying for peace is never a useless exercise -- it keeps evil at bay and helps people not give in to violence, Pope Francis said.
In response to "tragic events" unfolding in the Middle East in early July, the pope delivered "a heartfelt appeal to continue to pray with persistence for peace in the Holy Land."
Pope's quotes: Some of our favorite quotes from Pope Francis
The continued meetings between the two religious leaders have provoked speculation about whether the two churches may one day be reunited after nearly 1,000 years of estrangement.