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A Lutheran church ceremony in Jerusalem on Sunday ordained the first Palestinian female pastor in the Holy Land. Sally Azar will head the English-speaking congregation at the Church of the Redeemer, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land said.

The Church of England said Wednesday it will allow blessings for same-sex, civil marriages for the first time but same-sex couples still will not be allowed to marry in its churches. The decision followed five years of debate and consultation on the church’s position on sexuality.

Among those arrested were at least four evangelical pastors, according to Agência Pública, a Brazilian investigative news agency, which analyzed the government labor records of 1,398 detained demonstrators. The pastors were representative of the significant presence of evangelicals and Catholics among the mob.

An 800-year-old puzzle about a set of 13th-century floor tiles has added to historians’ thinking about the relationship of Europeans and Arabs at the time of the Crusades. It is telling visual evidence that Christian Europe was more porous than historians have believed.

In this issue of A Public Witness, we look at the role of Christianity in Brazilian politics and consider what the violence on Jan. 8 means for churches. While many reporters and commentators draw comparisons between Jan. 6 and Jan. 8, religion is too often left out of the conversation.

Pope Francis joined tens of thousands of faithful in bidding farewell to Benedict XVI at a rare requiem Mass Thursday for a dead pope presided over by a living one, ending an unprecedented decade for the Catholic Church that was triggered by the German theologian’s decision to retire.

Vladimir Putin ordered Russian troops to recognize a 36-hour truce throughout Ukraine during the Orthodox Christmas holiday weekend. Russia’s gesture comes almost 11 months into the invasion that has cost more than 6,000 civilian lives.

The U.N. Security Council scheduled an emergency meeting at the request of the Palestinians and other Islamic and non-Islamic nations to protest the visit of an ultranationalist Israeli Cabinet minister to a flashpoint Jerusalem holy site and demand an end to Israeli extremist provocations and respect for the historic status quo at the site revered by Muslims and Jews.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, who will be remembered for being the first head of the Roman Catholic Church to resign in 600 years, died on Saturday (Dec. 31) at his home at the Vatican.

“It was a personally moving experience,” said Amy Brown after visiting the house where her great uncle spent 36 years as a general surgeon in Jordan. Amy, married to the secretary general of Baptist World Alliance Elijah Brown, visited just one month after the passing of the elder Lovegren, who would have been 101 years old on Dec. 11.