Pope Francis sent the following telegram to Archbishop Leo Cushley upon the death of Cardinal O’Brien:

The Most Reverend Leo W. Cushley, Archbishop of Saint Andrews and Edinburgh

I was saddened to learn of the death of His Eminence Cardinal Keith Patrick O’Brien, and I offer heartfelt condolences to you, his family and all who mourn his passing. Commending his soul to the merciful love of God our Father, and with the assurance of my prayers for the Archdiocese of Saint Andrews and Edinburgh, I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing as a pledge of peace and consolation in our Lord Jesus Christ.


The Holy See Press Office announced today that, on March 29, Holy Thursday, at 4 in the afternoon, Pope Francis will go to Regina Coeli (Queen of Heaven) prison to celebrate the Mass of the Lord’s Supper. He will meet with sick prisoners in the infirmary and then celebrate Mass during which he will wash the feet of 12 prisoners from Section VIII.


A new production combines innovation and tradition to lead younger generations to a new appreciation of one of the greatest works of art of all time – the Sistine Chapel.

The famous Last Judgment by Michelangelo is the centrepiece of a new, fully-immersive “live show” at the Conciliazione Auditorium in Rome.

Entitled “Universal Judgment: Michelangelo and the secrets of the Sistine Chapel,” the immersive spectacle features live-performances, 4k projections, and brilliant special effects. The four-part show was produced by Marco Balich, a director and producer famed for organizing ceremonies at the Olympic games.

“Universal Judgment” is the first production of Balich’s “Artainment” company, combining art and entertainment “to educate and amuse, in order to realize the full and harmonious development of the human person,” according to Monsignor Dario Edoardo Viganò, prefect of the Vatican’s Secretariat for Communication.

The show features a theme song composed by pop star Sting, as well as dancers and acrobats, and an impressive sound system. “We want to imbue the fruition of a work of art with a strong emotional impact,” said Balich, “using the codes that relate to the younger generations that have grown up with Play Station, that go to the movies in 3D, watch Netflix, but are on the other hand almost distracted with respect to this wonderful artistic patrimony.”

The Vatican Museums offered their expertise to ensure the accuracy of the presentation. Experts from the Vatican helped recreate the frescoes of the Sistine Chapel, and offered critical perspective on the relationships between Michelangelo and Popes Julius II and Clement VII; as well as explaining the process of papal conclaves.

The €9 million production opened March 15 at the Conciliazione Auditorium, with two shows per day for at least a year. However, it is hoped that the show will become a permanent fixture in Rome. (vaticannews,va)



The Vatican marks the day a pontificate began as a holiday, thus, March 19, 2013 was the day Francis’ papacy began, so today is a holiday. March 19, the feast of St. Joseph, is always Father’s Day in Italy – what a lovely day to celebrate fatherhood!

By Sr Bernadette Mary Reis, fsp (vaticannews)

On March 19, 2013, the Solemnity of St Joseph, Pope Francis celebrated Mass inaugurating his pontificate. Since then, the 81-year old pontiff has certainly left his mark on the Church. The statistics put together by the Holy See Press Office (see below) give us but an outline of Pope Francis’ papacy. (photo vaticannews)

In the footsteps of John Paul II and Benedict XVI

Pope Francis has demonstrated that he is continuing in the footsteps of both John Paul II and Benedict XVI. The themes of both synods – the family and young people – were very dear to John Paul II. And both Encyclicals have connections with Benedict XVI. The first, Lumen Fidei, is based on a manuscript begun by Pope Benedict and concludes his Encyclicals on Faith, Hope and Charity. The second, Laudato Si not only cites Pope Benedict numerous times, but also treats a recurring theme from Pope Benedict’s pontificate.

Pope Francis’ Signature

But Pope Francis is also leaving his own mark on the papacy, one which is rooted in his formation and pastoral experience in Argentina. The creation of a special Council of Cardinals to assist him in the reform of the Roman Curia is a concrete example of the collegiality that Pope Francis embraces.

Perhaps most remarkable of all is the Pope’s affable and affectionate personality that shines through every public and personal encounter with him. Francis is a Pope who enters into the everyday lives of people with phone calls and letters, with “Good evening,” “enjoy your lunch,” and “please don’t forget to pray for me.”

Statistics released by the Holy See Press Office:

Lumen fidei (20 June 2013)
Laudato si’ (24 May 2015

Apostolic Exhortations
Evangelii gaudium (24 November 2013)
Amoris laetitia (19 March 2016)

Misericordiae vultus (11 April 2015)

Motu Proprios
3 in 2013
2 in 2014
4 in 2015
9 in 2016
4 in 2017
1 in 2018

General audiences 219

Themes of the Wednesday Catechesis
Profession of Faith
The Sacraments
The Gifts of the Holy Spirit
The Church
The Family
Christian hope
The Holy Mass

Angelus/Regina Coeli 286

International trips: 22
Pope Francis has traveled a total of 250,000km visiting: Brasil, Jordan, Palestine, Israel, South Korea, Albania, the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France, Turkey, Sri Lanka, the Philippines, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Ecuador, Bolivia, Paraguay, Cuba, the United States, Kenya, Uganda, Central African Republic, Mexico, Greece, Armenia, Poland, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Sweden, Egypt, Portugal, Colombia, Myanmar, Bangladesh, Chile, Peru

Trips within Italy: 18

Pastoral visits to the parishes of Rome: 16

III Extraordinary Synod on the Family (5-19 October 2014)
XIV Ordinary Synod on the Family (4-25 October 2015)
XVI Ordinary Synod on Youth (3-18 October 2018)
Special Synod on the Amazon (October 2019)

Special Years
Year of Consecrated Life (29 November 2014–2 February 2016)
Extraordinary Holy Year of Mercy (8 December 2015–20 November 2016)

Special Months
Extraordinary Missionary month (October 2019)

World Days
World Day of fasting and prayer for Peace I: Syria (7 September 2013)
24 Hours for the Lord a Friday in Lent (inaugurated in 2014)
World day of prayer for creation: 1 September (inaugurated in 2015)
World day of the poor: 23rd Sunday of Ordinary Time (inaugurated in 2017)
Sunday of the Word: One Sunday during the Liturgical Year (inaugurated in 2017)
World Day of Migrants and Refugees: Second Sunday of September (inaugurated 14 January 2018)
World day of prayer and fasting for peace II: South Sudan, Congo and Syria (23 February 2018)

World Youth Days
28th World Day in Rio de Janeiro: 23-28 July 2013
31st World Day in Krakow: 26-31 July 2016
34th World Day in Panama: 22-27 January 2019

Consistories for the creation of Cardinals
Pope Francis has created a total of 61 cardinals. Of these, 49 are electors and 12 are non-electors (one of whom has subsequently died)
19 Cardinals created on 22 February 2014
20 Cardinals created on 14 February 2015
17 Cardinals created on 19 November 2016
5 Cardinals created on 28 June 2017

Pope Francis has canonized a total of 880 saints, 800 of whom are the Martyrs of Otranto
9 canonization ceremonies in the Vatican
3 canonizations ceremonies outside of the Vatican: United States, Sri Lanka, Portugal
5 canonizations equipollent



The SPC – Secretariat for Communications – this afternoon issued an unsigned communiqué concerning the letter that Pope Benedict wrote on February 7 to Msgr. Dario Vigano in response to Vigano’s January 12 invitation to the Pope emeritus asking if he would critique, “with a brief and dense theological page,” a collection of 11 small volumes about Pope Francis’ theology.

At the March 12 presentation of the collection, Msgr. Vigano, prefect of the SPC, read a few, but not all, of the paragraphs of Benedict XVI’s response. released a story about the book presentation, including a photo of Benedict XVI’s letter to Vigano with several lines intentionally blurred.

That photo, and what was deemed to be a missing part of the letter, caused quite a firestorm and the ensuing case has even been called ”Lettergate.”

A day later, vaticanista Sandro Magister published what he said was the entire letter, including a translation of the blurred lines, adding a heretofore unknown paragraph.

Here is today’s communiqué from the SPC:

“On the occasion of the March 12 presentation of the book collection, “The theology of Pope Francis,” edited by the Vatican Publishing House, a letter from Pope emeritus Benedict XVI was made public.

“Many polemics followed about an alleged manipulation for censorship purposes of the photograph distributed together with the collection.

“Because of the reserved nature of the letter, only those parts were read that were considered opportune and relative to the presentation and, in particular, what the Pope emeritus stated concerning the philosophical and theological formation of the current Pontiff and the interior union between the two pontificates, omitting notes about the contributors to the volumes.

“The choice was motivated by the reserved nature of the letter and not by any intent to censor. To dispel any doubt it has been decided to publish the letter in its entirety.”

And today, because they released the entire letter, we have yet another “heretofore unknown paragraph” AND a very different closing sentence by Pope emeritus Benedict!

Here is the missing paragraph:

“In the margin, I would like to note my surprise for the fact that among the authors there is professor Hunermann who, during my pontificate came to light for having led anti-papal initiatives. He participated in a relevant measure in the release of the “Kolner Erklarung” that, in relation to the encyclical “Veritatis splendor,” attacked in a virulent way the magisterial authority of the Pope, especially on questions of moral theology. And the “Europaische Theologengesellschaft” that he founded, was initially intended by him to be an organization in opposition to the papal Magisterium. Afterwards, the ecclesial feeling of many theologians prevented this orientation, making that organization a normal instrument of encounter among theologians.

I am certain you will understand my refusal, and I greet you cordially.
Benedict XVI

Thus, here is the now complete, unvarnished letter (my translation) sent by Pope emeritus Benedict XVI to Msgr. Vigano:

Benedict XVI
Pope Emeritus

Rev. Msgr. Dario Edoardo Vigano
Prefect of the Secretariat for Communication
Vatican City

7 February 2018

Most Rev. Monsignor,

I thank you for your courteous letter of January 12 and for the attached gift of the 11 small volumes edited by Robert Repole.

I applaud this initiative that wishes to contradict the foolish prejudice of those for whom Pope Francis would be a man lacking a particular theological and philosophical formation, while I would have been solely a theoretician of theology who understood little of the concrete lives of today’s Christian. These small volumes demonstrate, rightly so, that Pope Francis is a man of deep philosophical and theological formation and they help us therefore to see the interior continuity between the two pontificates, even with all the differences in style and temperament.”

In any case, I do not feel like writing about (these volumes) a brief or even dense theological page because, throughout my whole life, it has always been clear that I would have written or would have expressed myself only about books that I have truly read. Unfortunately, also for physical reasons, I am not able to read these eleven little volumes in the near future, and even more so because other commitments that I have already made await me.

“In the margin, I would like to note my surprise for the fact that among the authors there is professor Hunermann who, during my pontificate came to light for having led anti-papal initiatives. He participated in a relevant measure in the release of the “Kolner Erklarung” that, in relation to the encyclical “Veritatis splendor,” attacked in a virulent way the magisterial authority of the Pope, especially on questions of moral theology. And the “Europaische Theologengesellschaft” that he founded, was initially intended by him to be an organization in opposition to the papal Magisterium. Afterwards, the ecclesial feeling of many theologians prevented this orientation, making that organization a normal instrument of encounter among theologians.

I am certain you will understand my refusal, and I greet you cordially.
Benedict XVI


Once again, a very beautiful Friday morning, a day that now ends the work week and starts the weekend on a special note for EWTN personnel for whom Msgr. Anthony Figueiredo celebrates weekly Mass at the altar of Pope St. John XXIII in St. Peter’s Basilica.

EWTN’s German bureau chief, Martin Rothweiler is in Rome and he did the reading today from the Book of Wisdom. Here are a few photos:

After Mass, Msgr. Anthony and I met up with Ben Crockett (who is helping us with some very special projects) in the atrium of the basilica. As soon as I saw these workmen preparing the tapestry for Monday’s Episcopal ordinations by the Holy Father in the basilica, I knew I had to take some “behind the scenes” photos and do a Facebook Live.

I hope the start of your Friday and end of your workweek was as beautiful as ours!

By the way, Happy St. Patrick’s Day to all the Irish – and Irish wannabees! Special wishes and prayers to all the faithful of the new church for American and English-speaking Catholics in Rome – St. Patrick’s! Come see us Sunday on Via Boncompagni 31 and wear green!


My guest again this week on Vatican Insider is Chris Altieri, a former colleague at Vatican Radio. As I noted earlier, you are probably familiar with his name because you surely read Chris’ many stories on the webpages of (what was once) English Vatican Radio and heard his voice as he did wonderful commentaries for papal Masses and other events.

This weekend, in the second of two parts, we look at the reform of Vatican communications – what has happened so far, the low morale in the Vatican, what reform means for Vatican personnel in the communications area and what it means for people around the world who listen to a greatly changed Vatican radio – except we are not supposed to use that name anymore!

Don’t leave town just yet because at the end of next week you will hear the stunning conclusion to the odyssey of the reform of Vatican communications!

In the United States, you can listen to Vatican Insider (VI) on a Catholic radio station near you (there is a list of U.S. stations at or on channel 130 Sirius-XM satellite radio. Outside the U.S., you can listen to EWTN radio on our website home page by clicking on the right side where you see “LISTEN TO EWTN.” Vatican Insider airs Saturday mornings at 9:00am (ET). On the SKY satellite feed to the UK and parts of Europe, VI airs on audio channel 0147 at 11:30 am CET on Saturdays, and 5:30am and 10pm CET on Sundays. It’s also available on demand on the EWTN app and on the website. CHECK YOUR TIME ZONE. Here’s a link to download VI to your iTunes library: For VI archives:


An email I received today from the Sant’Egidio Community that Pope Francis visited last Sunday to mark its 50th anniversary, had a delightful surprise: It seems that on Tuesday, March 13, Pope Francis welcomed to the Santa Marta residence a group of refugees coming from the Horn of Africa and from Syria, arriving Italy through the Sant’Egidio Humanitarian Corridors. There were also some ill people who are being hosted by the community as well as community president, Marco Impagliazzo.

Pope Francis listened carefully to the different and sorrowful experiences refugees had to face before arriving safe in Italy, according to the email. Francis asked extensively about the operation mode of the Humanitarian Corridors. He remembered his personal intervention in aid of the refugees on the Greek island of Lesbos, and re-stated the urgency to develop this kind of corridor which has welcomed and integrated more than 1,000 in Italy and Europe.

During his recent visit to Santa Maria in Trastevere, Pope Francis said: “Today, more than ever, carry on audaciously on this path … Carry on opening new humanitarian corridors for the refugees of war and hunger. The poor are your treasure!”



The canonical trial in the matter of accusations, including accusations of sexual abuse of minors, brought against the Most Reverend Anthony Sablan APURON, O.F.M.Cap., Archbishop of Agaña, Guam, has been concluded.

The Apostolic Tribunal of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, composed of five judges, has issued its sentence of first instance, finding the accused guilty of certain of the accusations and imposing upon the accused the penalties of privation of office and prohibition of residence in the Archdiocese of Guam. The sentence remains subject to possible appeal. In the absence of an appeal, the sentence becomes final and effective. In the case of an appeal, the imposed penalties are suspended until final resolution.



About 10 days ago I saw the following announcement in the online edition of “Wanted in Rome” and it really piqued my curiosity: 15 March. The Gruppo Storico Romano stages an historical re-enactment of the dramatic events that occurred in Rome on the Ides of March, culminating in the assassination of Julius Caesar in 44 BC. The event is being staged at the Largo Argentina archaeological site on Thursday 15 March, at 14.00, followed by a funeral procession to the Temple of Divus Iulius in the Roman Forum. This unassuming site marks the spot where Caesar was cremated, and is located to the eastern side of the central Forum area. Each year people commemorate Caesar’s death by leaving flowers inside the temple. For details of the Ides of March events see the Gruppo Storico Romano website.

How could I miss such an occasion in the Eternal City! Rome offers so many “firsts” and that is why living here is so fascinating. I did learn, however, when I arrived that this is the 15th such re-enactment by this troupe!

When I got off the bus at the Largo Argentina ruins of the Roman Forum – where Caesar was killed in 44 BC – I could not see what I expected to see, that is, a big crowd gathering around the ancient ruins – they are below street level and there are metal barriers on all four sides of the Largo Argentina site.

I started walking around the perimeter and soon saw a crowd gathered around the southeast side of the ruins where there is a tower.

In fact, the full name of this square is Largo di Torre Argentina, The name of the square comes from the Torre or tower which, I learned from wikipedia, takes its name from the city of Strasbourg whose Latin name was Argentoratum. In 1503, the Papal Master of Ceremonies Johannes Burckardt, who came from Strasbourg and was known as “Argentinus,” built in the nearby via del Sudario a palace (now at number 44), called Casa del Burcardo, to which the tower is annexed.

Here are a few photos I took of the Largo Argentina ruins after the drama ended and the actors and onlookers processed to the Roman Forum to the site where Caesar was cremated. There are always a lot of cats who roam these ruins and there is, in fact, a cat hospital here, as you’ll see.


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I found a place about three people in from the rope barrier around the “stage” where the re-enactment would occur. It was not ideal for taking photos or doing a FB Live video because, while Italy is not known for the great height of its men, a number of Rome’s tallest stood right next to and in front of me! Eventually one of them, to whom I explained what I wanted to do, arranged for me to have a fair view of the stage area. He made sure, in fact, that my view was consistently fairly clear and allowed only two youngsters to move in front of us. God bless him!

Before the actual drama began, there were, of course, two political speeches (this IS Italy), one of which bemoaned the fact that Rome’s City Hall had denied permission to re-enact the death of Caesar actually inside the Roman ruins. They hope to have permission next year.

Not easy to take photos and video at same time but here goes….seems the photos appear twice and I do not have time to remedy

I posted a few videos, interrupting myself occasionally because the “finish video” button is located on the phone exactly where one’s fingers would normally be when you hold the phone up to video. And of course I hit that “finish” button two or three times.

Those videos, for better or worse, are on my facebook page (, as is a video I took afterwards of the ancient Roman Forum – I only wish I had explained how Largo Argentina got its name!

I did mid-identify Julius Caesar at one point as I tried to listen to the actors. Their script, by the way, was from Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar.”

As Shakespeare also wrote: All’s well that ends well! (Speaking of my day, not Caesar’s end)



Released on the 5th anniversary of his Pontificate, a new film entitled “Pope Francis – A Man of His Word” opens a unique window onto the Holy Father’s ideas and his encounters with people from all walks of life.

“Pope Francis – A Man of His Word”, written and directed by three-time Academy Award® nominee Wim Wenders, is intended to be a personal journey with Pope Francis, rather than a biographical documentary about him.

Msgr. Dario Edoardo Viganò, Prefect of the Vatican Secretariat for Communication, set the project rolling when he invited Mr. Wenders to make a film with the Holy Father. The result was a rare co-production between Focus Features and the Vatican.

Pope Francis’ ideas and message are central to the film, which presents his work of reform and his answers to today’s global questions regarding death, social justice, immigration, ecology, wealth inequality, materialism, and the role of the family.

The film’s direct-to-camera visual and narrative concepts place the audience face-to-face with the Pope, creating a dialogue between him and the world. Pope Francis responds to the questions of farmers and workers, refugees, children and the elderly, prison inmates, and those who live in favelas and migrant camps. All of these voices and faces are a cross section of humanity that join in a conversation with Pope Francis.

This “symphony of questions” provides the backbone for the film, which also shows the Holy Father on his many journeys around the world. It features footage of him speaking at the United Nations, addressing the Congress of the United States, and mourning with those gathered at Ground Zero and at Yad Vashem, the World Holocaust Remembrance Center in Jerusalem. He speaks to prisoners in correctional facilities and to refugees in Mediterranean camps.

Throughout the film, Pope Francis shares his vision of the Church and his deep concern for the poor, his involvement in environmental issues and social justice, and his call for peace in areas of conflict and between world religions. There is also a presence of Saint Francis in the film, connecting back to the Pope’s namesake, through accounts of legendary moments in the Saint’s own life as a reformer and ecologist.

In an era of deep distrust of politicians and people in power, Pope Francis – A Man of His Word shows us a person who lives what he preaches and who has gained the trust of people of all faith traditions and cultures across the world.

The film is produced by Mr. Wenders with Samanta Gandolfi Branca, Alessandro Lo Monaco (The World’s Smallest Army), Andrea Gambetta, and David Rosier (The Salt of the Earth). The film is a production of Célestes Images, Vatican Media, Solares Fondazione delle Arti, PTS Art’s Factory, Neue Road Movies, Fondazione Solares Suisse, and Decia Films. (

I contacted and was told the film will be released in the United States on March 18.