This morning the Holy Father had a number of private audiences and he also met with several groups, addressing members of the John Paul II Foundation as well as the participants in an international meeting of the pastoral ministry for vocations promoted by the Congregation for Clergy

Francis’ private audiences included a meeting with Cardinal George Pell, prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy and a separate one with Cardinal Domenico Calcagno, president of APSA, the Administration for the Patrimony of the Apostolic See.

While no communiqués are given about the content of these private meetings, Cardinal Calcagno’s office, APSA, which handles real estate holdings, has been under fire from seven fellow cardinals who live in a Vatican-owned building, part of which, according reports, will soon be leased out by the Vatican to McDonald’s for €30,000 a month. It seems that several of the cardinals have written to the Pope about the matter. In addition, there has been general consternation about this potential tenant in this much-trafficked neighborhood, filled with souvenir stores, coffee bars and restaurants.

Today, Friday we saw the start of the three-day Jubilee of Choirs and Liturgical Animators that has brought together liturgical directors, choir directors, musicians, choirs, organists, schools of sacred music, and musical bands that serve liturgy. They met today on the theme “Music in Liturgy for Evangelization.” Tomorrow there will be a celebration with Pope Francis in St. Peter’s Square, and later that afternoon a concert in the Paul VI Hall with the participation of all the choirs. Sunday participants will attend a Jubilee Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica that will be presided over by Abp. Rino Fisichella. That will be followed by the recitation of the Angelus by Pope Francis.


My special guest this weekend and next on Vatican Insider is Bishop Larry Silva of Honolulu. We met on my very first visit to the islands in 2008 and now have an almost annual reunion, usually including a meal, during my summer vacation stays in Honolulu. We also met in Rome in 2009 when Fr. Damien was canonized and again in 2012 when the Pope declared Blessed Marianne Cope a saint.



This time Bishop Larry and I talk about two big anniversaries coming up in the diocese in 2018 – the 100th anniversary of the death of St. Marianne Cope and the 175th anniversary of the cathedral. Our Lady of Peace Cathedral, in fact, is closely associated with the lives of Hawaii’s two saints – Fr. Damien and St. Marianne  – and also with Bishop Larry’s family! Our Lady of Peace needs a fair amount of restoration and updating and the bishop explains the plans to accomplish that by the 2018 anniversary. Renovations will include building a side chapel to enshrine the remains of St. Marianne and the relics of St. Damien.


By the way, we talk about a possible third saint for Hawaii – Brother Joseph Dutton!

I took the pictures shown here in Bishop Silva’s office. Next weekend, I’ll post some great photos of the cathedral that I took during an evening visit after dinner with the bishop and a visiting priest friend from the mainland.

Bishop Silva told me that this statue of Our Lady of Fatima is one of four that the Portuguese sculptor, Jose Ferreira Thedim, made: The well-known original is in the chapel at Fatima:


As you know, in the United States, you can listen to Vatican Insider on a Catholic radio station near you (there is a list of U.S. stations at or on channel 130 Sirius-XM satellite radio. If you live 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 9:00 am (Eastern time). 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 FOR YOUR TIME ZONE. Past shows are in VI archives:



A communiqué from the Governorate of Vatican City State announces that, “once again this year we announce a special project of solidarity: the fourth annual lottery on behalf of the Holy Father’s charities. The project coincides with the conclusion of the Jubilee Year of Mercy and with this year’s Christmas festivities, a time for gestures of solidarity and sharing. The Holy Father expressed his wish that the funds collected be used, in part, to assist those affected by the earthquakes that struck central Italy on August 24, in part, to aid the homeless, and to this end he personally donated some of the prizes. The lottery will open during the upcoming weeks and will close on February 2, 2017 with the winning tickets being drawn in the presence of a commission set up for this purpose in order to guarantee fairness. Tickets will be sold at €10 apiece in the Vatican, at the pharmacy, the post offices, the telephone services, the Annona or supermarket, the train station department store, the sales points of the philatelic and numismatic office and the bookshop at the Vatican Museums. New this year – thanks to the efforts of the directorate of communications – Vatican Internet service provider and the accounting directorate  – is the possibility of purchasing tickets online at

For further information, contact the events coordinator of the governorate of Vatican City State:


One fun story that has dominated some of the news here involves a new graffiti rendering of Pope Francis on the outside wall of a building on Borgo Pio, a small street not far from St. Peter’s Square that shows a Tic-tac-toe match between the pontiff and a Swiss Guard. As the Swiss Guard looks around the corner, the Pope, standing on a ladder, is beating him at the game by scoring three in a row with the peace symbol instead of the letter “O”.

This is by the same street artist Maupal who, over a year ago, on a similar Borgo Pio wall, depicted Francis as Super Pope, a “flying” Pope with a cape on his back.

This photo was taken by CNA’s Alan Holdren:


The previous depiction lasted several days but this drawing was taken down very soon after it was completed. As some of the media wrote here: It’s too bad people can’t be as quick to remove some of Rome’s ubiquitous and often offensive graffiti.



I tried once during my stay in the Washington, D.C. area to post a column about the beautiful wedding and once in a lifetime reception that I attended in Maryland over the weekend but was thwarted at every turn. I had opted to travel only with my iPad, not my computer, for my brief stay in the U.S., choosing to write my column on the WordPress app but this turned out to be not an act of love but rather one of technological trauma.

No need for details here, except to say that when I exited the app for a second to ask advice of a colleague, the entire column just disappeared.

I arrived in D.C. on Thursday, October 13 and was taken immediately to La Plata, Maryland where many guests would be housed in one of two hotels, adjacent to each other, and relatively close to all the wedding venues.

The parents of the bride, my friends Mike and Laura Sullivan, with all they had to do, offered to make the long trek to Dulles Airport to pick me up but, as it turned out, Fr, Robert Golas, a friend of the Sullivans in a nearby parish, was to pick up a new car Thursday just seven miles from the Dulles and he offered to get me at Dulles.

It was a serendipitous encounter for Fr. Golas and I discovered we had common friendships – and favorite restaurants! – in Rome and after five minutes it seemed like we’d been friends for a long time, The same with Tina Raymond, a parishioner who, with her husband owns an area funeral home, accompanied Father to the airport.

Dinner Thursday was with the Sullivan clan and Mark Posey, the groom. Friday was the rehearsal dinner at the magnificent country home of David and Dana Posey. I saw a number of people I knew and was overjoyed in particular to see two friends from Madrid, Beatriz  and Paris De L’Etraz, also close friends of the Sullivans.  They flew in Friday and left again for Spain on Sunday! It was a magical evening and I felt like I was living a dream, as you will see from the photos.






Lauren Sullivan and Mark Posey were married on October 15 at the very beautiful, intimate and historic Chapel of St. Francis de Sales located on the Potomac in Southern Maryland. This lovely chapel was built in 1908 specifically for a wedding and has been used for that purpose many times over the last 108 years, as well as for 8am Sunday morning Mass between Memorial Day and Labor Day. I’m still not sure how they did it but most of the 200 wedding guests made it into the chapel. I was able to take several photos of the Lauren and Mark and Cardinal McCarrick, the main celebrant, along with Fathers Ed Filardi and Robert Golas.







The Sullivans had arranged for a limo bus (the bus next to the bridal limo in the above photo) to transport the hotel guests to and from various venues over the two days of festivities. As you can see it was more like a mobile discoteque!



Our friends from Madrid, Beatriz and Paris –

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I’ll bring you pictures of the indescribably spectacular and over-the-top reception tomorrow so stay tuned.


I got back from the States several hours ago and, as is my wont after a trip, I immediately immersed myself in work. This is the first of two columns I’ll post today, with the second one dedicated to the beautiful wedding and magical reception I attended in Maryland over the weekend. The newlyweds are honeymooning in Italy. They arrived yesterday on their first stop, Rome and we hope to share dinner before they leave Friday morning to explore other parts of this beautiful nation.

That column will also explain why I did not post while in D.C.

In my absence, the two big news items were the canonization Sunday of seven new saints and – in a totally different direction! – plans by the Vatican real estate rental office to rent space in a Vatican-owned building within meters of St. Peter’s Square to McDonald’s restaurant. You cannot imagine the furor, especially comments by a number of cardinals who live in the building on whose ground floor McDonald’s is planned. (Full disclosure: I am totally on their side and will get into that when I look at this story in length: In the meantime, here’s a great piece by the Register’s Edward Pentin:

By the by, there is no link intended between the McDonald story and the title I gave to the story about the papal audience catechesis!


Continuing his new series of weekly audience catecheses on mercy that focus on the corporal and spiritual works of mercy, Pope Francis said at this morning’s audience, “in our catechesis for this Holy Year of Mercy, we have reflected on God’s mercy and our own responsibility, as followers of Jesus, to be ‘merciful like the Father’,” quoting the motto of this Jubilee Year. (photo


The Holy Father then noted that, “among the corporal works of mercy, the first is that of feeding the hungry,” underscoring that, “access to food and water is a basic human right, yet so many members of our human family, especially children, continue to suffer from hunger and thirst. While grateful for the generosity and solidarity shown in the case of many tragic situations worldwide, we must never forget that this work of mercy calls us to respond personally to concrete situations of need in our own lives.

“Saint James,” said Francis, “warns against ignoring the practical needs of our brothers and sisters, for faith without works is dead. In the miracle of the loaves and fishes, Jesus tells his disciples to provide food for the crowds, yet he shows them that, in sharing what they have, he will give it increase. Jesus himself is the bread of life, and he makes it clear that our relationship with the Father depends on the way we respond to the hunger and thirst of our brothers and sisters.

The Pope indicated that, to feed the hungry, we might donate time and/or money to charity but he said the real challenge to help the needy comes when we are asked to personally face poverty in the flesh. He said, ““poverty in the abstract doesn’t challenge us, it makes us think, lament, but when you see poverty in the flesh of a man, woman or child, yes, this challenges us.”

“To see our brothers and sisters in this state,” he said, questions “the attitude we have to run away, the attitude of running away from the needy and not drawing near to them.”

Expanding on St. James’ words “faith without works is dead,” he said when faith is dead, it is “incapable of doing works, of charity.” Francis observed that, “one of the consequences of so-called ‘well-being’ is to lead people to withdraw into themselves, making them insensitive to the needs of others.”

However, he explained, this way of thinking and acting makes us live as if our lives were “a fad to follow and change with every season.” Rather, we must deal with reality up close and personal and “meet urgent situations.”


I leave tomorrow morning for Washington, D.C. to attend the wedding in nearby Maryland of one of the daughters of some very close and dear friends of mine. I rarely get to attend weddings, First Communions and other family events in the U.S. but was able to take advantage of this occasion for a few days.

In the meantime, I’ve been preparing segments for “At Home with Jim and Joy” in my absence and have also been putting together “Vatican Insider” for this coming weekend. In fact, I have prepared a special on the College of Cardinals that I hope you will enjoy.

If time allows I’ll put an update and/or photos on “Joan’s Rome” or on Facebook ( while I am away. If not, “pazienza,” as the Italians say!

In the meantime, here are two links from announcements in Indianapolis and Chicago about two of the new U.S. cardinals announced Sunday by Pope Francis:

+Monday’s press conference from Indianapolis announcing Archbishop Joseph W. Tobin, CSsR as Cardinal:

Link to statement of Archbishop Blase Cupich on being named a Cardinal:


Today is a glorious day in Rome, following an overcast Tuesday and some torrential rain in the afternoon. That rain seemed to have cleared the delft-blue sky of clouds and the air of pollution as thousands of pilgrims joined Pope Francis for the weekly general audience in St. Peter’s Square.

Continuing his series of weekly catechesis on mercy, the Holy Father reflected on the reading from Saint Matthew’s Gospel in which the Lord tells us that we will be judged by the the mercy we show to others.


“Dear Brothers and Sisters,” began the Pope, to great applause. “During this Holy Year of Mercy, we have reflected on God’s mercy, revealed especially in the incarnation of his Son, and on our duty, as followers of Jesus, to be ‘merciful like the Father’.  In Saint Matthew’s Gospel, the Lord tells us that we will be judged by the mercy we show to him, present in the least of our brothers and sisters.

“His words,” explained Francis, “have inspired the seven traditional ‘corporal’ works of mercy – feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, clothing the naked, welcoming the stranger, healing the sick, visiting the imprisoned and burying the dead.”

He noted that “the Church’s tradition also adds seven ‘spiritual’ works of mercy – counseling the doubtful, instructing the ignorant, admonishing sinners, comforting the afflicted, forgiving offences, bearing patiently those who do us ill, and praying for the living and the dead.

“As expressions of living faith,” said the Pope, “these works are often carried out quietly and with simple gestures.  Yet, as Saints like Mother Teresa of Calcutta show us, they reveal the merciful face of Christ and can change the culture around us.  Let us keep them always in mind and strive to practice them daily.”


After the Wednesday general audience catechesis on mercy, Pope Francis once again appealed for peace in Syria, Pope Francis said, “I want to emphasize and reiterate my solidarity with all victims of inhuman conflict in Syria. It is with a sense of urgency that I renew my appeal, begging, with all my strength, those responsible, to take steps toward an immediate ceasefire, one imposed and respected at least for the time necessary to allow the evacuation of civilians, especially children, who are still trapped under cruel bombardment.”

News agencies report that, in the last 24 hours, Russian-led airstrikes have resumed, once again targeting the besieged city of Aleppo. At least 25 people are reported to have died, including children.




As you know, in a surprising but not totally unexpected move, Pope Francis on Sunday, after Mass in St. Peter’s Square for the Marian Jubilee and after praying the Angelus, announced he will create 17 new cardinals in a consistory to be held on November 19, the eve of the closing of the Jubilee of Mercy.

Thirteen of the new cardinals will be under 80 years of age and thus eligible to vote in a conclave.  There were 13 vacancies for electors as of yesterday morning but now the cardinal electors number 120, the ceiling set by Pope Paul VI on November 5, 1973. Francis has named 44 of those electors.


The men he named yesterday come from five continents, include the first cardinals ever from Bangladesh, the Central African Republic, Lesotho, Malaysia and Papua New Guinea. Three American Archbishops were named as well: Blase Cupich of Chicago, Kevin Farrell, emeritus of Dallas and now prefect of the newly created Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life, and Joseph Tobin of Indianapolis. In his previous two consistories of 2014 and 2015, Pope Francis had not named any American cardinals.

In the “Francis tradition,” the cardinals-designate hail from a number of far away places (far from Rome and Europe), places the Pope would call “peripheral,” as well as developing countries, thus giving countries in Africa, Asia and South America more representation than in the past, especially vis-à-vis Europe, which has long dominated the College of Cardinals.

Perhaps Sunday’s biggest surprise was the naming of an 87-year old Albanian priest, Fr. Ernest Simoni, to the College of Cardinals, a priest Pope Francis met two years ago during his trip to Albania who had spent 28 years in prison and undergone torture during the communist rule of his country.

What is fascinating about Pope Francis’ appointments – in this and his previous consistories – are his breaks from tradition. For example, in the past, many prelates were chosen for the red hat who had proved themselves, so to speak, while working in the Roman Curia, or they were archbishops who headed what were traditionally cardinalatial sees such as Los Angeles, Philadelphia and even Venice in Italy. Francis has not yet named a cardinal to these three archdioceses, although he has named one for Tonga, a group of Pacific islands.

Below are the initial statements of four of the new cardinals-designate named yesterday by Pope Francis – the three American archbishops and the papal nuncio to Syria. I will do some more research but I believe this is the first time that a papal nuncio (nuncios always have the rank of archbishop) has been named a cardinal while still active as a papal ambassador.


“For me it was an emotional moment… It was a surprise! I sincerely thank the Holy Father, because this scarlett (gown) is for Syria, for the victims of Syria, for all those who suffer because of this terrible war. It’s for these people, for the many children who are suffering, for the many poor people who are paying the consequences of this tremendous conflict,” he told Vatican Radio.


Abp. Zenari said Pope Francis sends very strong messages regarding the situation in Syria, adding, “in this case, by creating a cardinal who is a nuncio in the country, he is saying something very strong: “it is almost a warning.” He hopes this nomination by Pope Francis is received as a signal and “used as much as possible.”

The future cardinal has for many years committed himself to seeking peace for the ravaged nation, and describes himself as a simple and humble person. He says his commitment continues “encouraged and fortified” by the Pope’s support. “This sign of closeness on the part of the Pope will most certainly produce some benefits as I pursue my mission.”

CARDINAL DESIGNATE JOSEPH TOBIN OF INDIANAPOLIS: A statement was released immediately after the announcement on Sunday by the Archdiocese of Indianapolis.


“Early this morning I learned that Pope Francis had appointed me to the College of Cardinals. I will formally be installed in that service in a ceremony in Rome next month. I will continue as the Archbishop of Indianapolis. I have come to love deeply the people of the Catholic communities of central and southern Indiana and count as a precious blessing the numerous friendships I have with civic and religious leaders throughout the state. I ask all people of faith to pray for me. I hope this new responsibility will make me a better servant of all Hoosiers. I also offer my prayers and support to the other Cardinals-elect, especially Archbishop Blase Cupich of Chicago and Archbishop Kevin Farrell, of Dallas, who was recently appointed to a new position in Rome.”

CARDINAL DESIGNATE KEVIN FARRELL –  Immediately after learning the news of his appointment, Bishop Farrell said in a statement:


“I am humbled by the news this morning that our Holy Father Pope Francis has named me to the College of Cardinals. I ask all in the Diocese of Dallas to please pray for me that I may to the best of my ability fulfill this sacred duty to our Church.”

Bishop Brian Kelly, the Apostolic Administrator in the Diocese of Dallas, announced the news to the priests of the diocese saying, “It is with great joy that I share the news that Bishop Farrell will be made a cardinal in the next Vatican consistory on November 19, 2016.  Please pray for him during this important moment in his priesthood and let us once agai n thank God for his nine years of service here with us.”

CARDINAL DESIGNATE BLASE CUPICH OF CHICAGO: A statement released by the Archdiocese of Chicago immediately after the announcement has these words from the archbishop:


“The news this morning that Pope Francis has named me to the College of Cardinals is both humbling and encouraging. I offer my best wishes to the other Cardinals-elect, especially Kevin Farrell and Joseph Tobin, and I look forward to joining with them and the other cardinals as we work together with the Holy Father for the good of the Church.”

“When Pope Francis appointed me Archbishop of Chicago more than two years ago, the people of the archdiocese welcomed me as a friend and brother and I committed wholeheartedly to serve them. The role of Cardinal brings new responsibilities, but with your prayers and help, we will continue the task we have begun of renewing the Church in the archdiocese and preparing it to thrive in the decades ahead.”




One of the new cardinals created today by Pope Francis is Fr. Ernest Simoni, 86. You will hear more about him in coming days as his will be the most unique, the most touching, the most heroic of all the stories of the 17 new red hats. Here is a brief look at the future eminence – a story by staff writers of La Stampa newspaper who covered Pope Francis’ visit to Albania in September 2014.

Pope Francis welcomed Fr. Ernest Simoni – the Albanian priest who spent 28 years behind bars – by kissing his hands. A moved Pope had embraced him on September 21, 2014 in Tirana, after listening to the account of his persecution. “Fr. Ernest was subjected to 11,000 days of torture and forced labor,” says Mimmo Muolo, a journalist who writes for the Italian Catholic newspaper Avvenire. Muolo also authored a book on Fr. Ernest Simoni. From persecution to his meeting with the Pope. The priest handed a copy of the book to the Pope in person. He was accompanied by Sister Marisa, a representative of Edizioni Paoline which published the volume.


“My persecution,” Fr. Simoni said, “began on Christmas Eve in 1963 when I was arrested and put in solitary confinement, tortured and sentenced to death, simply because I was a priest.” His cellmate was told to record “the foreseeable rage” of the priest against the regime: but Fr. Ernest had nothing but prayers and words of forgiveness for his persecutors. And so his sentence was reduced to 25 years of forced labor in the mines and sewers of Scutari. “When I was in prison,” the priest recalled, “I celebrated mass in Latin by memory and I gave communion”.

Fr. Ernest was set free on September 5, 1990, after which he resumed his pastoral activities, which, he confides, he never actually stopped but simply “carried out in an unusual context”. The first thing he did was to confirm his forgiveness towards his persecutors: “I constantly invoke the Lord’s mercy on them,” he said. When asked how he managed to endure such persecution without giving up, Fr. Ernest smiled before revealing his secret: “I didn’t do anything extraordinary really, I always prayed to Jesus, I always talked to Jesus.”

A CNS story at the end of the 2014 Albania trip noted that, “two survivors of Albania’s communist crackdown against the Church brought Pope Francis to tears with their stories during a vespers service in Tirana’s cathedral September 21. “To hear a martyr talk about his own martyrdom is intense,” the pope told journalists on the papal plane back to Rome the same evening. “I think all of us there were moved, all of us.” Franciscan Father Ernest Simoni, then 84, talked about his life as a priest under a militant atheist regime that targeted people of every faith — Christian and Muslim — between 1944 and 1991. Despite the risks of torture, imprisonment and execution, people held onto their beliefs as best they could, praying and passing on their traditions underground.