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4,000 cubic meters of rock fell from nearby cliff

Topless Christmas Day Femen protest in Cologne Cathedral slammed as ‘unnecessary disturbance’

Germany’s left-wing Green Party among those criticising anti-Catholic demonstration as ‘disrespectful’

Papal blessing: Nothing can excuse the failures of the modern Catholic Church. But Pope Francis has made an impressive start

Francis has thrown open the Vatican windows and let in fresh air

Papal blessing: Nothing can excuse the failures of the modern Catholic Church. But Pope Francis has made an impressive start

Francis has thrown open the Vatican windows and let in fresh air

Facebook and Twitter top twenty: The Independent stories you've been sharing this year

From drunken nights out with a llama to testicle-eating fishes, it’s a mixed bag of stories you’ve been sharing on social media in 2013.

Among the top twenty Independent articles you’ve been tweeting and posting on Facebook this year, there are serious reports, ferocious comment pieces, astounding research and a fair few articles that pay tribute to the adage ‘the truth is stranger than fiction.’

Swiss guards have protected the Papal Palace since the 15th century. Now a crack corp including KPMG has been charged with 'cutting through the complexity' of a corrupt Roman Curia

Pope turns to management consultants in bid to reform Vatican

Francis has broken with tradition by drafting in an army of secular experts to transform the Vatican’s management.  But will this radical approach help him achieve his goal of a ‘poor Church for the poor’?

Pope Francis gives Christmas presents to 2,000 immigrants

Pope had gift packages delivered to the Dono di Maria homeless shelter in Rome

Who said it: Joseph Stalin or Oliver Cromwell?

Vladimir Putin has compared Joseph Stalin with 17th century Roundhead leader Oliver Cromwell, saying there was no difference between the two men.

The Pope has given his support to breastfeeding in public

Pope Francis encourages mother to breast-feed in public

During an interview with an Italian newspaper, the Jesuit Pope used breastfeeding as an analogy for feeding humanity

Happy brithday to Pope Francis, who has once again been named Person of the Year, this time by a leading lifestyle magazine that actively promotes gay rights.

Pope Francis named ‘Person of the Year’ by leading gay rights magazine

The religious leader is the December coverstar of The Advocate magazine, on which he appears with a photoshopped tattoo on his cheek

Pope Francis has been forced to defend recent policies and comments which have angered conservatives

Pope Francis says he’s not a Marxist – but knows lots of good people who are

Pontiff defends his policies against conservative criticism that he is going ‘beyond Catholicism’

Pope Francis named Time Magazine's person of the Year: The new spiritual leader on the block

The award recognises impact, not ethics. But in the Pope's case, we have a voice reminding us of tenderness, mercy and compassion

Pope Francis says he owes his life to a group of nuns who worked in a hospital whilst he was suffering from a recurring lung problem

Pope Francis reveals how a nun saved his life when he was just 21

Incident occurred whilst the pontiff was in hospital due to a lung problem

'Thou shalt not wear trainers!' - Pope Francis reveals he worked as a bouncer in Buenos Aires

During an informal chat with followers the 266th Pope revealed that as student he worked in a bar and did some work as a bouncer

No pope has ever definitively declared the fragments to belong to the Apostle Peter

Are they relics of St Peter? The Vatican says it doesn’t matter

Bones discovered under basilica in 1939 exhibited in public for first time

Fighting turns sectarian as militias battle rebels in Central African Republic

About 2,000 people have sought refuge in a Catholic mission after heavy fighting broke out in the volatile north-west, aid workers said.

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Independent Travel
Burgundy, the River Rhone & Provence – Five-star MS Swiss Corona 7 nights from £999pp
Lake Como St Moritz & the Bernina Express 7 nights from £809pp
Vietnam
Lake Maggiore, Orta & the Matterhorn 7 nights from £939pp
South Africa
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Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there