As is customary for EWTN employees, tomorrow, Thanksgiving Day, and Friday are holidays, so this column will take a rest – but not the author, as you will see!

Thanksgiving has always been for me, as it has for millions of Americans, one of my favorite holidays – a holiday from school or work, families traveling great distances to be together, the amazing aromas emanating from kitchens nationwide, parades and football games and, well, you know what I mean. I fully realize that football this year may be more of a divisive factor than one of unity! How very sad!

My favorite memory is when, at dinner, just before grace, each member of the family had to say what we were thankful for. The last time I celebrated Thanksgiving in America was in 2009! However Thanksgiving celebrations in Rome are truly memorable, very special days.

Mass is an integral part of the day. On occasion, as I will tomorrow, I have attended two Masses, one at the church for American Catholics in Rome – St. Patrick’s – and a second Mass at the Pontifical North American College, our seminary in the Eternal City. NAC, as the college is called, makes Thanksgiving a very special occasion by starting the day with a late morning Mass and then offering a traditional American turkey dinner to seminarians, faculty, staff and invited guests. There is always an additional Italian touch to this menu as we start with an antipasto and pasta! Fifth year students – ordained priests who have returned to Rome for a fifth year of studies – serve the meal. As pumpkins pies are paraded into the dining room, seminarians sing or recite “An Ode to Pumpkin Pie.”

One highlight of the day, at both St. Patrick’s and the North American College, is the reading of the Presidential Proclamation by an American Ambassador. This year, Ambassador-designate Callista Gingrich will read the proclamation at the end of Mass in St. Patrick’s and also at NAC during lunch. (By the by, the word ‘designate’ appears before her name until she presents her Credentials or Letters of Credence to Pope Francis. She will do that in December.)

It is amazing how many Americans do not know of the Presidential Proclamation! George Washington issued the first such proclamation on October 3, 1789. It began – and ended – with a reference to God… “Whereas it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor” The president then assigned a special day that year “to be devoted to thanking God for His beneficence.”


Dear Lord, how have you blessed me? Let me count the ways…..

My wonderful family, my beautiful faith, my ocean of friends, the friends throughout your great universe whom you have brought into my life.

Does a day pass that you do not bring some unique, new person into my life?

Does a day pass that I am not enriched ad blessed by some amazing event which you placed in my path as a learning moment, a time of prayer, a period of silent Thanksgiving?

You blessed me at my baptism when you brought me into your beautiful Catholic Church and a faith to which I have always tried to be faithful.

You have blessed me by enriching that faith over the years, allowing me to work for you every day, to bring your Word and your teachings and your Truth to so many.

My words, by comparison, are very insignificant but truly heartfelt. I am filled with both thanksgiving and joy as I write these words, as my mind’s eye overflows with images of each family member, of friends here in Rome and around the globe, of the magnificent events that daily fill my life.

I sign most emails and letters with “God bless,” and then on another line “Joan” – but I read it silently as “God bless Joan.”

And You have blessed me! Heartfelt THANKS!

For the beauty of the earth,
For the beauty of the skies,
For the love which from our birth
Over and around us lies,
Lord of all, to thee we raise
This our grateful hymn of praise.

For the beauty of each hour
Of the day and of the night,
Hill and vale, and tree and flower,
Sun and moon and stars of light,
Lord of all, to thee we raise
This our grateful hymn of praise.

For the joy of human love,
Brother, sister, parent, child,
Friends on earth, and friends above,
Pleasures pure and undefiled,
Lord of all, to thee we raise
This our grateful hymn of praise.
(Part of a Christian hymn composed by Folliott S. Pierpoint (1835-1917)






At today’s general audience in St. Peter’s Square, Pope Francis continued his new catechesis on the Eucharist, and said today, “we consider the Mass as the memorial of Christ’s passover from death to life. In the Bible, a “memorial” is more than a mere remembrance of a past event; it is the making present of that event, which enables us to share in its saving power. At every celebration of the Eucharist, Jesus pours out his mercy upon us, as he did on the cross, in order to renew our hearts, our lives and our entire world.

In the words of Vatican Council II, said the Holy Father, “as often as the sacrifice of the cross is celebrated on the altar, the work of our redemption is carried out.”

He noted that, “each Sunday, we enter into Christ’s victory over sin and death and, by the power of the Holy Spirit, we are given a share in his very life. By making present the Lord’s paschal mystery, the Eucharist strengthens us to bear witness, like the martyrs of old, to his triumph over death and to love others as he does, freely giving of ourselves for their good.”

Francis explained that, “When we enter the church for Mass, we should think to ourselves: “I enter Calvary, where Jesus gives his life for me,” We should respond to this “in silence, in weeping,” and also with joy, because we have been saved from death and sin.

“Imagine,” he exclaimed, “that you are actually at Calvary. In that moment, you would look up and know that the man upon the cross is Jesus. Would you allow yourself to make chit-chat or take pictures?”No, because Jesus (is there)!”

The Pope was clearly on his message of last week when he decried the use of phones during Mass to take pictures, saying our attention should be entirely on what is happening at Mass, on what the priest is doing and saying.


Pope Francis tomorrow, November 23 in St. Peter’s Basilica, will preside over a Prayer for Peace in South Sudan and in the Democratic Republic of Congo. This event is organized by “Solidarity with South Sudan” in association with the Justice and Peace office of religious organizations worldwide, and invites Christians across the world to join in prayer for peace in the world, and especially for South Sudan and the DRC, two conflict-ravaged nations in which millions of displaced people are suffering the effects of violence and terrible humanitarian crises.

Vatican Radio’s Linda Bordoni spoke to Michel Roy, secretary general of Caritas Internationalis, the Catholic Church’s aid organization, about the situation in the two African nations and asked him why it is important to raise awareness.

Michel Roy says it is hugely important to break through the indifference that surrounds so many ‘forgotten conflicts’ and situations of terrible social and economic injustice in various parts of the world.

“We have chosen South Sudan and DRC as two examples of peoples and countries that are suffering so much from conflicts that they have never wanted and of which they are the victims” he said.

Roy goes on to describe the political and economic interests that fuel the conflicts and continuing lack of security in both of those countries which have caused millions of people to be displaced and to suffer all the consequences displacement entails. There are also the interests of neighboring countries and, in many cases, multi-national organizations at stake: “To stop a war once it has started is really difficult,” he said.

The needs of the people are many, Roy explained, they are hungry, they need food and medical assistance, and while FAO has launched a humanitarian program it is only partially funded and far from sufficient.

Schools and churches have been destroyed, young people have been recruited into militia groups and the lack of international support means there is not hope in sight.

“The needs are humanitarian – also in places like the Central African Republic, Darfur and many other nations, there is urgent need for humanitarian response which the international community is not ready to give it seems” he said.

Roy speaks of the need to mobilize politicians at all levels and to put pressure on the international community “to find ways to come out of this tragedy”.

“Peace can be reached, it’s a question of will,” he said.


Yesterday, vaticanista Sandro Magister reported in his blog that Pope Francis has created a new section for the Vatican’s Secretariat of State in the ongoing reform of the Roman Curia, adding a Third Section to the First and Second Sections. He also cited some of what he called “the executive part” of the new papal instructions, noting that, “the resolution with which Pope Francis endows the Vatican secretariat of state with a third section on an equal level with the two already existing is in a letter that he wrote in mid-October to cardinal secretary of state Pietro Parolin.”

The Holy See Press Office statement on this new section was published today:


(Vatican Radio)  Pope Francis on Tuesday set up a new Section within the Vatican’s Secretariat of State to manifest his “the attention and closeness” of the Holy See’s diplomatic personnel.

This Third Section of the Vatican’s State office is to be called the Section for Diplomatic Staff of the Holy See and will reinforce the current office of the Delegate for Pontifical Representations.

A communique from the Holy See Press Office says the Section will be chaired by the Delegate for Pontifical Representations, currently Archbishop Jan Romeo Pawlowski.

“The Third Section will deal exclusively with matters relating to the staff who work in the diplomatic service of the Holy See or who prepare to do so – such as, for example, selection, initial and continuing formation, conditions of life and service, promotions, permits, etc.,” the statement reads.

The Third Section has been granted “the just autonomy”, it says, and “seek to establish close collaboration with the Section for General Affairs (which will continue to handle general matters of the Pontifical Representations), and with the Section for Relations with States (which will continue to deal with the political aspects of the work of the Pontifical Representations).”

In spelling out the Section’s tasks, the statement says the Delegate for the Pontifical Representations “will participate, along with His Excellency the Substitute for General Affairs and His Excellency the Secretary for Relations with States, in weekly coordination meetings chaired by the Secretary of State. Furthermore, he will convene and chair ad hoc meetings for the preparation of the appointments of Pontifical Representatives. Finally, he will be responsible, along with the President of the Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy, for the selection and formation of candidates.”


Vatican City, Nov 20, 2017 – CNA/EWTN News.- Pope Francis has established a third section, or department, of the Secretariat of State of the Holy See, which reportedly began its operations Nov. 9. The new section is named “Section for the Diplomatic Staff,” and is tasked with overseeing the Holy See’s diplomatic corps, stationed around the world.

Archbishop Jan Romeo Pawlowski has been appointed to helm the third section. Previously the apostolic nuncio to Gabon, in 2015 Archbishop Pawlowski was appointed head of the Office for Pontifical Representations, a sort of “human resources office” within the Secretariat of State.

That office has been now elevated into an independent department, alongside the two sections that already constitute the Vatican’s Secretariat of State.

The First Section of the Secretariat of State oversees the general affairs of the Roman Curia, and is led by the Secretariat’s “substitute,” currently Archbishop Giovanni Angelo Becciu.

The second section, the “Section for the Relations with States”, is entrusted with the diplomatic activity of the Holy See. At the helm of the office is the Secretary for Relations with States, often described as the Vatican “foreign minister.” Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher of Great Britain holds the post.

The Pope established the third section via a letter sent in October to Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican Secretary of State, and delivered to the Apostolic Nunciatures, the embassies of the Holy See, around over the world.

In his letter, the Pope expressed that he had “great care for those who assist the ministry of Rome,” both “those who work in the Holy See, and in the Vatican City State, and in the Apostolic See” and its related institutions.

The Pope recalled his address to the Roman Curia for the 2013 Christmas greeting, and said that “since the beginning” he proposed the criteria of “professionalism, service, and holiness of life” in order to be a good Vatican official.

Pope Francis also underscored that he expressed “vivid appreciation” for the work of “pontifical representatives,” an “important work that undergoes peculiar difficulties.”

He then explained that his decision was motivated by the need to provide “more human, priestly, spiritual and professional accompaniment” to those who are “in the diplomatic service of the Holy See,” whether they are head of mission or even students at the Ecclesiastical Academy, where young priests are trained for diplomatic service.

The letter says that “the Office of the Delegate for the Pontifical Representation is strengthened into a Third Section, with the name of Section for the Diplomatic Staff of the Holy See”; the office “will depend from the Secretary of State,” will be given “a proper number of officials” and will demonstrate “the Pope’s attention to the diplomatic staff.”

The Pope’s letter also says that the delegate “will be able to regularly visit pontifical representatives” and will oversee the “permanent selection” of staff as well of “career advancement” for diplomatic personnel.

According to a source within the Secretariat of State, this reform is just one step toward a general reorganization of the Secretariat of State.

The Council of Cardinals has discussed several times the importance of clarifying and supporting the role of nuncios and diplomatic staff.


I read Father Rutler’s column every week – it comes via email. I feel enriched by his thoughts and guidance on every topic he focuses on each week, many of which relate to the Sunday readings and Gospel, of course, while others touch on issues that people are discussing at the dinner table or so-called office water cooler. We might be puzzled, worried or confused, and so I find Father Rutler’s straightforward talk very refreshing and helpful.  The following is his November 19 column. Here is a link to St. Michael’s Church website:


“For if the trumpet give an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself to the battle?” (1 Corinthians 14:8) – by Fr. George Rutler

The Baptist church in Sutherland Springs, Texas has been made a shrine, for the massacre there has left it a hallowed place for mourners. A red rose marks where each of the victims died, and then there is one pink rose. That is for the unborn baby that died in the womb. To the frustration of some, Texas is one of 38 states that recognize an infant in utero as a victim when the mother is assaulted. Federal law also accords legal rights to the unborn in cases of federal and military crimes. A pink rose is at least a tacit acknowledgement that a human life existed before birth, and Catholics know that life is life, with no varying shades. This is one example of how truth prevails despite attempts to obscure it.

Confusion has also muddled marriage. When marriage is refashioned into an oxymoronic “same-sex marriage,” along with ambiguity about procreation and the permanence of natural marriage, the social order loses interest in it altogether. Even among self-professed Catholics, whose population has increased in the last 40 years, there has been a 60 percent decrease in weddings.

As the Religious life is a consecrated form of spiritual marriage, opaqueness about such commitment has caused the virtual evaporation of many communities. In the past five years alone, with the exception of communities solid in doctrine, there has been a loss of over seven percent among women religious, while orders of men declined somewhat less.

St. John Paul II spoke clearly about priestly charisms, and during his pontificate the number of seminarians worldwide increased from 63,882 to 114,439. The years of Pope Benedict XVI saw the numbers grow to 118, 257. Since then, in a time of confusion in the Church and society as a whole, there has been a consistent global decline. In our own vast archdiocese, of the small handful of recent ordinations, none was a native New Yorker.

Yet often where there is clarity of doctrine and high morale, the picture is bright. In 2015, the most recent year for statistics, there was a 25 percent increase nationally in ordinations. The archdiocese of St. Louis, with a Catholic population roughly less than a quarter the size of the archdiocese of New York, has considerably more seminarians, and the dioceses of Madison, Wisconsin and Lincoln, Nebraska, relatively small in population, each have about twice as many seminarians as we have in “the capital of the world.”

In the pro-life movement, on the federal level there are positive developments correcting the anti-life legislation of recent years. And where better instruction is provided, Catholic marriages are becoming more purposeful and stable. Then too, a new generation of young priests sound in doctrine and liturgy is appearing. There is strength in clarity. “For if the trumpet give an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself to the battle?” (1 Corinthians 14:8).


Papal tweets over the weekend and on Monday:

November 20: Let us work together to ensure that children continue to smile: their faces serene, filled with joy and hope. #WorldChildrensDay

November 19: On this day, I invite the entire Church to keep its gaze fixed on those who hold out their hands asking for our solidarity.

November 18: Without the support of the prayers of the faithful, the Successor of Peter cannot fulfill his mission in the world.…

A HEADS UP: Cardinal James Harvey, Fr. Greg Apparcel, rector of St. Patrick’s Church, Fr. Eric Andrews, president of the Paulists and three priests who have helped Fr. Greg out during the four years that we were exiled from our home of 95 years, Santa Susanna, yesterday celebrated a beautiful Mass to mark the official opening of the church for the Catholic American community. Ambassador-designate Callista Gingrich and her husband, Newt were in attendance as well. (She is called ambasador-designate until she presents her Letters of Credence to the Holy Father next month). EWTN filmed the Mass and portions of the morning will be featured in News Nightly tomorrow Tuesday, November 21.


The women of the WINE pilgrimage, with whom I spent last week in Assisi, Loreto, and Siena, arrived Rome Friday about noon and have been visiting all the mandatory sites since, especially the four papal basilicas and many other churches in between. The guide in Rome for churches and the history of art has been Liz Lev, and our spiritual advisor and celebrant at a number of Masses has been Msgr. Anthony Figueiredo.

I’ve not been on the Rome tours but I did join the women this morning, the final day of their pilgrimage for Mass with Msgr. Anthony in the very beautiful church of Santa Maria dell’Anima, just yards from the enchanting Piazza Navona. This is one my very favorite churches in Rome, not just for the breathtaking art work but for its interesting history as well.

I leave shortly to join everyone for the farewell dinner on the old Appian way. I just hope the computer decides to play along with me as I try to download and post some photos of this church which is, in itself, a gigantic work of art. In any case, here’s a bit of history and some photos I took today….


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Santa Maria dell’Anima was founded during the course of the 14th century by Dutch merchants, who at that time belonged to the Holy Roman Empire. In the course of the 15th century, it became the national church of the whole Holy Roman Empire in Rome and henceforth the national church of Germany and hospice of German-speaking people in Rome.

According to tradition, the church received its name, from the picture of Our Lady which forms its coat of arms (the Blessed Virgin between two souls).[1] Among the artworks housed inside is the Holy Family by Giulio Romano. It is the resting place of the Dutch Pope Adrian VI as well as of Cardinals William of Enckenvoirt and Andrew of Austria.

Santa Maria dell’Anima is one of the many medieval charity institutions built for pilgrims in Rome. The church found its origin in 1350, when Johannes (Jan) and Katharina Peters of Dordrecht bought three houses and turned it into a private hospice for pilgrims, at the occasion of the Jubilee of 1350.[2] Jan Peters may have been a Dutch merchant or papal soldier; Dordrecht belonged to a region which later became independent as the Netherlands. They named the hospice “Beatae Mariae Animarum” (“Saint Mary of the Souls”).[3] It was erected on its present site in 1386. In the 15th century Santa Maria dell’Anima expanded to be a hostel for visitors from the entire Holy Roman Empire, though initially the occupants were primarily from the Low Countries and (from the middle 15th century) the Rhineland.

The foundation of the hospice was confirmed by the bull of Pope Boniface IX on 9 November 1399, which granted it indulgences.[3]

Click here to read on:





It was a very special day at the Vatican Sunday as Pope Francis presided at Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica to mark the First World Day of the Poor. The Holy Father had announced the World Day of the Poor during the Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy, and entrusted its organization and promotion to the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization. It is to be marked annually, on the 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time.

In his homily Pope Francis said, “In the poor, Jesus knocks on the doors of our heart, thirsting for our love.…If in the eyes of the world they have little value, they are the ones who open to us the way to heaven. … “For us, it is an evangelical duty to care for them as our real riches, and to do so not only by giving them bread, but also by breaking with them the bread of God’s word, which is addressed first to them. To love the poor,a” said Francis, “means to combat all forms of poverty, spiritual and material.”

There were some 7,000 people at the Mass, of whom about 4000 were the needy and homeless, invited by the Vatican.

After Mass Pope Francis offered lunch in the Paul VI Hall. He spoke to them in off the cuff remarks, saying, “Welcome everyone! We pray that the Lord bless us, bless this meal, bless those who have prepared it, bless us all, bless our hearts, our families, our desires, our lives and give us health and strength.” The Holy Father went on to ask God’s blessing on all those eating and serving in soup kitchens throughout the city. Rome is full of charity and good will today.”

Photos from L’Osservatore Romano photographer:




Our pilgrimage began with a very early wakeup call this morning to attend 6:45am Mass offered by Msgr. Anthony Figueiredo, who had joined the women of WINE yesterday afternoon at the Hotel Cenacolo (the Cenacle). He celebrated his first Mass for us about 7:30 yesterday evening, immediately after our arrival from a full day on the road – driving to and then visiting Siena, followed by a mid-afternoon visit to the Banfi winery (hopefully you saw my Facebook Live videos – I did 5 yesterday – no time to write a colum so videos had to suffice).

After a very rapid breakfast (!), we departed for Rome at 7:45 for a special event Msgr. Anthony had prepared for the group this morning with the Sisters of St. Teresa of Calcutta, including the women being blessed by and prayed over with a relic of St. Teresa! I missed that as I had to go to Vatican radio to record my weekly program, “Joan Knows,” but I’ve been promised my own visit and blessing at their house.

I’ll try to post some of the photos I took in Tuscany in coming days. If you know this region of Italy, you know it is a special place in God’s beautiful universe!


Tune in this weekend to Vatican Insider for Part II of my conversation with Cardinal Soane Patita Mafi of Tonga. He was the guest of honor at the October Damien and Marianne Catholic Conference in Honolulu, Hawaii, which I also attended. Cardinal Mafi is the fourth Roman Catholic Bishop of Tonga. His first names, by the way, Soane Patita, mean John the Baptist. He was named a cardinal by Pope Francis on February 14, 2015.

Listen as he continues his story about life in Tonga, the Catholic Church in Tonga, his ministry as a bishop and now a cardinal – all that and much more. As I wrote last week, at times his words about the Church are like a beautiful homily – you won’t want to miss a minute!

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:


Pope Francis surpised not a few people Thursday afternoon when he arrived, unannounced, at a small “field hospital” set up in front of St. Peter’s Square to provide medical care for Rome’s poor. He greeted volunteers and poor people waiting to receive care ahead of the 1st World Day of the Poor on Sunday, November 19.

The field hospital was part of the initiatives linked to this world day of the poor, called for by Pope Francis at the end of the Jubilee Year of Mercy.

The Holy See Press Office noted Thursday that the tent hospital is run by the Italian Red Cross and offers free medical visits for the poor and needy throughout the week from 9:00 am to 4:00 pm.

In a recent story, Vatican Radio noted that on Sunday, parishes in Rome and around the world will mark the first World Day of the Poor, a fruit of the Jubilee of Mercy. The Pontifical Council for the Promotion for the New Evangelization has been tasked with the organization of the initiative called by Pope Francis.

Msgr. Geno Sylva, a council official, told the radio that, “The Holy Father announced this initiative, this occasion, this opportunity for grace during the Jubilee when he reached out to those who are socially marginalized and so this is an opportunity for the Church around the world to not only celebrate and assist and be with those who are poor, but also to change our attitudes about poverty.”

He pointed out that, “this World Day of the Poor is so beautiful because it’s nothing about power, it’s nothing about anything else but reciprocity, giving and receiving. …We are all poor in some way and everyone’s got something to offer, and this day can serve to open our minds and hearts, our attitudes towards the poverty that exists every day of the year.”

He explained that Pope Francis, “continues to focus the attention of the Church on how we respond to poverty institutionally, but also to people individually.”

The World Day of the Poor is being marked not only in Rome, the Pope’s diocese, but also in parishes around the world. For this reason, the Pontifical Council for the Promotion for the New Evangelization has published information on its website in six languages as a pastoral aid for dioceses and parishes worldwide who wish to take part in this initiative

Some of the events organized in Rome include a prayer vigil in the church of St. Lawrence Outside the Walls on Saturday.November 18 at 8pm. Pope Francis will celebrate a Mass Sunday morning, November 19, in which an estimated 4,000 needy people will take part, followed by a lunch in the Paul VI hall.