Benedict XVI: the revolutionary Pope? Resignation seen as 'eruption of modernity'

The decision was taken with meticulous care, but there is no reason to believe it was not taken alone, or at most with the knowledge of a tiny handful.

Henry I (c. 1068/69 – 1135): Henry was buried in Reading Abbey but this was destroyed in the Dissolution

England’s missing monarchs: Richard III may have been found but eight other rulers are still missing

For a royalist country, England has been rather careless with its old monarchs. Richard III may have now been found after being mislaid for 500 years, but eight other rulers are still missing.

The Dead Sea Scrolls: A Biography By John J Collins / The Essenes, the Scrolls and the Dead Sea By Joan E Taylor

For six decades, the enigmatic texts have excited and baffled seekers after the origins of faith

Patriarch Maxim: Church leader under communism

Patriarch Maxim of Bulgaria was a priest who saw regimes come and go over his long tenure. From 1971 Maxim led the Bulgarian Orthodox Church – Bulgaria's dominant religion, claiming more than 80 per cent of the country's 7.4 million people.

Simon Calder's Holiday Helpdesk: Is it safe to go to Dahab?

Every day our travel guru answers your travel questions

The acting Coptic Pope, Bishop Pachomius, blindfolds Bishoy Massad, the eight-year-old selected to draw the name of the next patriarch at St Mark’s Cathedral in Cairo

Egypt's ancient Coptic Christian church chooses a new pope in elaborate ceremony

Altar boy Bishoy Massad looked a little awestruck as he stepped up to the podium at the front of the Coptic Orthodox cathedral in Cairo today.

Republic of Ireland abandoning religion faster than almost every other country in the world

Worldwide, only Vietnam experienced a greater drop in those describing themselves as religious

The Archbishop of Dublin, Dr Diarmuid Martin (right) has warned that the Catholic Church in Ireland is 'at breaking point'

Irish Catholics rejecting church doctrine

Vast majority surveyed say Vatican's teachings on sex and marriage are no longer relevant

Palestinian Christian priests conduct prayers in Beit Jala in protest at the Israeli plans to extend the 470-mile security barrier through the town

Oh brothers, where art thou?

Israel's plans to extend its controversial 470-mile security barrier further into Palestinian territory have pitted a Christian community's nuns and monks against each other, writes Catrina Stewart in Beit Jala

Malban Cottage has been remodelled from two properties to now sleep ten

Stay The Night: Combermere Cottages, Shropshire

The decorators have been in at Combermere Abbey and given the old stables a fresh contemporary look

Scenes from Kiev: Elton John hugs a patient at a drop-in centre funded by his Aids Foundation

Sir Elton and Kiev's lost generation

For people infected with HIV in Ukraine, there has often been little hope. For years they have been stigmatised, ignored, offered inadequate treatment and found themselves pushed to the edge of society, regularly forced to live without homes, support or even the official papers needed to find a job. Until now, however, there has been one clear beacon: a refuge desperately needed in a region that now has the world's fastest-growing infection rate.

Vatican orders inquiry into Ealing sex abuse claims

The Vatican has ordered an inquiry into historic sex offences at a London abbey.

Our Lady of Alice Bhatti, By Mohammed Hanif

This is real life. That thing you slashed was a real cock." Alice Bhatti, a Christian nurse working in a dilapidated hospital in Pakistan's dusty, sprawling metropolis Karachi, barely thinks twice before putting a blade to her wealthy assailant's penis. She is anything but the underdog that her status in such a society would imply. Alice is no frail social outcast battling against Pakistan's misogynistic patriarchy and religious majority. Mohammed Hanif has penned his protagonist as a feisty yet compassionate ex-convict, who bludgeons a corrupt surgeon, tackles extremist Muslim girls at her nursing school, and cares for her patients with endearingly understated zeal.

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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
Spain
Prices correct as of 19 December 2014
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