I posted yesterday about the five new cardinals named by Pope Francis at the Regina Coeli so no need to review that today. However, I want to tell you about his other big moment of the day – a visit to a parish outside of Rome. I think you’ll really enjoy his dialogue with young childten so offer Vatican Radio’s transcript of that event.

This afternoon I was briefly in Pza. Pio XII, the small piazza just in front of and adjacent to St. Peter’s Square. The Vatican has been busy preparing for the president’s visit to Pope Francis and the Vatican Wednesday morning. Platforms are going up in Pza. Pio XII for the media, some streets already have parking restrictions and that will get a lot worse by tomorrow evening.

Stay tuned –


Sunday, after his surprise announcement at the Regina Coeli that he will create five new cardinals on June 28, Pope Francis went to the parish of San Pier Damiani ai Monti di San Paolo in Casal Bernocchi, Acilia, south of Rome. He was accompanied to a sports center where, as he usually does on parish visits, he met with children, young adults awaiting confirmation and youth who attend the center.

At about 4:15 pm he went directly to the parish where he greeted the sick, the Neocatechumenal community and the poor people assisted by the diocesan Caritas. Before celebrating Mass at 5:55 pm, the Pope confessed four penitents At Mass he delivered an off-the-cuff homily.

Following is the English transcript from Vatican Radio of the Q&A session the Pope had with children at the Sports Center :

Pope Francis, I would like to ask you what sport you practised at my age – I am 11. I would also like to know if you played football and, if so, in which position.

Pope Francis: When I was your age, I played soccer, but I wasn’t ‘bravo’ at playing soccer, and where I come from, they call you ‘pata dura,’ ‘stiff leg.’I was a ‘pata dura’ and that’s why I usually was the goalie, so I wouldn’t have to move around. It is not a curse, this, you can say it: pata dura , it is not a swear word.

Child: What can we do to help the world?

Pope Francis : It is a good question! You asked this: “What can we do to save, to help”. You said “to save the world”. But the world is large! Can a child – think, think carefully before answering – can a boy, a child, a girl, help in the salvation of the world? Can he or she do this, or not?

Children : He can’t…

Pope Francis : Can’t he do anything? Don’t you count at all? Can you or not?

Children : Yes, we can!

Pope Francis : Good! A bit louder, I can’t hear…

Children : [shouting] Yes, we can!
Pope Francis : And I would like to hear you, which of you is the best at answering this question. Think carefully: how can I help Jesus to save the world? How can I help Jesus to save the world? Raise your hands, those of you who want to answer. … Raise your hand if you want to answer. [Someone says: “With prayer”]. With prayer can we help Jesus to save the world? Can we, or not?

Children : We can!

Pope Francis : But what is happening? Are you all asleep?

Children : No! Pope Francis : Ah, the sun… the sun sends us to sleep. With prayer. Very good. Another thing. You…

Child : Respecting people.

Pope Francis : Respecting people. And people, should they be respected?

Children : Yes!

Pope Francis : Dad, mother, grandfather, grandmother: are they to be respected?

Children : Yes!

Pope Francis : And the people we do not know, are they to be respected?

Children : Yes!

Pope Francis : And the people who live on the street, the homeless, are they to be respected?

Children : Yes!

Pope Francis : Yes. Everyone, all people are to be respected. Shall we say it together?

Pope and children : All people are to be respected!

Pope Francis : And a person who isn’t good to me, must I respect him?

Children : Yes!

Pope Francis : Are you sure?

Children : Yes!

Pope Francis : But wouldn’t it be better just to give him a slap?

Children : No!

Pope Francis : Really?

Children : Yes.

Pope Francis : Good: even a person who is not good to me must be respected.

Pope and children : Even a person who is not good to me must be respected.

Pope Francis : And a person who has done me harm, think carefully about this: what must I do? If a person has done harm to me, can I do harm to him?

Children : No!

Pope Francis : No. It is not nice. Can I telephone the mafia to ask them to do something?

Children : No…

Pope Francis : You aren’t convinced… Can we do this?

Children : No!

Pope Francis : Can we make agreements with the mafia?

Children : No!

Pope Francis : No! Even those [who do harm] must be respected. You have answered well. You see in how many ways we can help Jesus save the world. And this is good, it is very good! And if I have done my homework and my mother lets me go out and play with my friends, or have a match, is this good?

Children : Yes!

Pope Francis : Playing – think hard – playing, playing well, does this help Jesus save the world?

Children : Yes…

Pope Francis : You are not convinced…

Children : Yes!
Pope Francis : Yes! Because joy helps Jesus save the world. Let us all say it together.

Children : Joy helps Jesus save the world

Pope Francis : Joy is something very beautiful, very beautiful. You, today, are you joyful?

Children : Yes!

Pope Francis : Yes? Are you joyful?

Children : Yes!

Pope Francis : And this is very good. And I think that with this I have answered to “what can I do to help Jesus save the world?”. And so think about it, later, always. Another question was: how did I become aware of my vocation. Every person has a place in life. Jesus wants one person to get married, to have a family; he wants another to be a priest, another to be a nun… But each one of us has a path in life. And for the majority it is for them to be like you, to be like everyone, to be like your parents: lay faithful who have a beautiful family, who raise their children, who make faith grow. … And I was in a family: we were five brothers and sisters and we were happy. Father went to work, and came home from work – in that time there was work – and we played. Once – this will make you laugh, but do not do what I am telling you! – we had a competition to play at being parachutists, and we took an umbrella and went onto the terrace, and one of my brothers was the first to jump off, down from the terrace. He survived, only just! These are dangerous games. But we were happy. Why? Because father and mother helped us to get along, at school, and they were also concerned with us. It is very good, very good. Listen well: it is very good in life to be married, it is very good. And it is very good to have a family, a father and a mother, to have grandparents, aunts and uncles. Do you understand? It is very good, it is a grace. And each one of you has parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, a family. And why don’t we greet them now? Let’s applaud them, all of them [applause]. Your parents make sacrifices for you, to let you grow, and this is a good thing, a beautiful vocation: having a family. But there is another vocation: being a nun, being a priest. And one day I felt – all of a sudden – I was sixteen and I felt that the Lord wanted me to be a priest. And here I am! I am a priest. This is the answer. You feel it in your heart: when a boy feels warmth in his heart, and then that warmth goes further, and he feels love for a girl, and then they get engaged and then they marry, that is what it is like in your heart when the Lord says to you: “You must go ahead on the path to become a priest”.  And that is what I felt. Just as we feel the good things in life. Because it is a beautiful thing! Do you understand? Good, you must be tired of staying here, the sun is strong.

Children : No!

Pope Francis : Now there is a bit of a breeze, but… I don’t remember: if someone is not good to me, must I give him a slap?

Children : No!

Pope Francis : Ah, I had forgotten. And must I pray for the people who hate me?

Children : Yes!

Pope Francis : Yes, yes: pray for those who are not good to me, for this… I must pray. And must I be obedient to my mother and father?

Children : Yes!

Pope Francis : I, or my neighbour?

Children : Everyone!

Pope Francis : Ah, everyone! Someone said “I”.

Children : I!

Pope Francis : I must obey my mother and father: everyone!

Children : I must obey my mother and father.

Pope Francis : It is very important, because they make sacrifices for us. Do you understand?

Children : Yes.

Pope Francis : Very good. And now, what shall we do?

Well, let us pray. In the first question we spoke about prayer. Now let us pray for each other. Everyone, hold hands. Like brothers, like friends. Hold each other by the hand. And let us pray to Our Lady, who is our Mother: Ave O Maria… And now I will give the blessing to all of you. In silence, each one of you, think of your parents, of your relatives, your friends; think also of your enemies, of the people who hate you or do not wish you well. And may this blessing descend upon them too, upon everyone. [Blessing] Thank you!


Before I go to the report about the five new cardinals named today by Pope Francis, I have another piece of news about a late cardinal known by many of us who worked in the Roman Curia when he headed a pontifical council: The mortal remains of Cardinal Alfonso Lopez Trujillo, former president of the Pontifical Council for the Family and archbishop emeritus of Medellín, Colombia, who died in Rome nine years ago, were transferred to Colombia, the country of his birth, at the request of Pope Francis to the Pontifical Commission for Latin America. The cardinal’s body arrived on Monday May 15, 2017. Archbishop Ricardo Tobon Restrepo of Medellín celebrated the liturgical ceremony of the reception of the body. The late cardinal was buried in the Crypt of the Archbishops in the metropolitan cathedral.


In a surprise announcement after praying the Regina Coeli this afternoon, Pope Francis said he would hold a consistory to create new cardinals on June 28, naming five bishops and archbishops from Mali, Laos, Sweden, Spain and El Salvador, once again going to the “periphery” as well as to lands where Catholics are a minority,

The future cardinals are Archbishop Jean Zerbo of Bamako, Mali; Archbishop Juan Jose Omella of Barcelona, Spain; Bishop Anders Arborelius of Stockholm, Sweden; Bishop Louis-Marie Ling Mangkhanekhoun, apostolic vicar of Pakse, Laos; and Auxiliary Bishop Gregorio Rosa Chavez in San Salvador, El Salvador.

With the five new cardinals, the College of Cardinals will total 227, 121 of whom are cardinal electors, that is, under the age of 80 and eligible to vote in a conclave.

A CNA/EWTN report by Elise Harris notes that, during his Regina Coeli address Sunday, Pope Francis announced to pilgrims that he will be holding a June 28 consistory to create 5 new cardinals he said represent the “catholicity” of the Church.

“Brothers and sisters, I wish to announce to you that Wednesday, June 28, I will hold a consistory for the nomination of 5 new cardinals,” the Pope said May 21, adding that “their origin from different parts of the world manifests the catholicity of the Church, spread throughout the earth.”

The day after the consistory, on the June 29 Solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul, the new cardinals will concelebrate Mass with Pope Francis in St. Peters Basilica alongside the new metropolitan archbishops named during the previous year, who traditionally receive the pallium from the Pope on that day.

The five new cardinals appointed by Pope Francis are: Archbishop Jean Zerbo, of Bamako, Mali; Archbishop Juan José Omella of Barcelona, Spain; Bishop Anders Arborelius of Stockholm, Sweden; Bishop José Gregorio Rosa Chávez, auxiliary bishop of San Salvador, El Salvador and Bishop Louis-Marie Ling Mangkhanekhoun, Apostolic Vicar of Pakse, Laos and Apostolic Administrator of Vientiane.

True to Francis’ style, the new appointments represent not only the weight key European dioceses such as Stockholm carry, but also the Pope’s acute attention to the peripheries.

A key example of this is the appointment of a cardinal to communist Laos. In 2015 Pope Francis advanced the causes of canonization of 12 potential saints, two of whom were martyred by communist revolutionaries in Laos in 1960.

The Pathet Lao defeated the royalist forces in 1975, and Laos has been a communist state ever since. Foreign missionaries were expelled or fled that year, and now fewer than two percent of Laotians are Christian.

Also noteworthy is his appointment of San Salvador’s auxiliary bishop, marking the first time he has tapped an auxiliary as cardinal. Bishop Chávez was chosen over his Archbishop, Jose Luis Escobar Alas, for the red hat, showing that Francis, as seen in his previous appointments, is willing to skip over “cardinal sees.”

San Salvador is also the diocese Bl. Oscar Romero led before being shot during Mass in 1980. He was recognized as a martyr and beatified in 2015. Chávez is known to have been a close collaborator of Romero before the archbishop’s death.

Rumors have been going around that Romero will be canonized sometime this year, however, so far there has been no confirmation.

All of the new cardinals are under 80, and therefore eligible to vote in the next conclave.


In case you are in or going to Greece before June 15:

I have always had a great fondness and admiration for St. Helena and featured her in my book “A Holy Year in Rome,” when describing the basilica of Holy Cross in Jerusalem that was built over her home (starts on page 112). At the venerable age of 80 (when most people did not live that long!) she went to the Holy Land with her son, Emperor Constantine, and brought back to Rome some relics of the passion, now in that basilica.

The relics of Empress St. Helena, mother of the Emperor Constantine, and relics of the True Cross left Italy for Greece on a pilgrimage that lasts until June 15, the first time they have left their home since the Crusades. St. Helena was responsible for her son promulgating the great Edict of Milan that granted freedom of worship to all citizens of the empire, and ended, for the time, the bloody persecution of Christians.  She is revered in both the Latin and Eastern Church.

An email from the chancellor of the Constantinian Order in the United States provided some of the details about this pilgrimage. St. Helena’s remains were escorted by military detachments from Rome to Athens.  She was welcomed in Greece with full military honors due a Head of State. The president of Greece and the archbishop of Athens were there to greet the relics.  Tens of thousands of Greeks lined the streets and waited for hours to pass by her relics to venerate them.


My guest this weekend in the interview segment of “Vatican Insider” is Dina Gorni, an archeologist with the Israeli Antiquities Authority with some fascinating stories and a wonderful discovery. Dina was in Rome for the opening several days ago of an exhibit at Rome’s Jewish Museum and the Vatican’s Charlemagne Wing called “The Menorah: Worship, History and Myth.”

Dina tells us about the exhibit, how it began and what it features, including one of the rarest works in archeology – that she discovered! – the celebrated Magdala Stone. The stone has been loaned to this exhibit on an exceptional basis by Israel.

I wrote about this on last Monday after I interviewed Dina, noting that the exhibit was a kind of world premiere as the Vatican, Rome’s Jewish community and the Israeli Antiquities Authority teamed up for the first-ever joint exhibit by their respective museums. The focus, as the title says, is the menorah, the seven-armed candelabrum described in the Jewish Torah and also depicted in both Jewish and Christian art over many centuries.

Dina relates how the Legionaries of Christ wanted to build a hotel for pilgrims on land in Magdala on the shores of Lake Tiberias but the IAA said that, since this was historic land, they’d want to do some excavations – and, as they say, the rest is history. The Magdala stone, in fact, depicts the oldest carved image of the Second Temple’s seven-branched menorah ever found. So tune in for sure!

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 www.ewtn.com) 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: http://www.ewtn.com/se/pg/DatService.svc/feed/~LE.xml   For VI archives: http://www.ewtn.com/vondemand/audio/file_index.asp?SeriesId=7096&pgnu=



I don’t know if you have been following the political situation in Venezuela these last many months hut it has created a humanitarian situation that has reached crisis levels, according to the communications office of Caritas Internationalis in Rome. Below is a report I received today from Caritas. There are many other cirses, not necessarily of a humanitarian nature – banking, access to money, inflation, and many other issues.


Pope Francis greeted newly accredited ambassadors to the Holy See on Thursday morning, telling them that dialogue and not the use of force, was the pathway to peace. The new ambassadors represent Kazakhstan, Mauritania, Nepal, Niger, Sudan and Trinidad and Tobago, The Pope said the international scene “at present is marked by great complexity,” nor is it free “of dark clouds.” (photo news.va)

The Holy Father said that this situation required “a greater awareness of the approaches and actions needed to pursue the path of peace and to lessen tensions.”  Among the factors aggravating problems, he said, is “an economic and financial system that, rather than being at the service of people, is set up principally to serve itself and to evade oversight by public authorities. … Those authorities are responsible for the common good, yet they lack the means necessary to moderate the disproportionate appetites of the few.”

Men and women, not money, the Pope stressed “must once more become the goal of the economy..

Francis noted how conflicts around the world, were being exacerbated by fundamentalism, “the abuse of religion to justify a thirst for power, the manipulation of God’s holy name to advance by any means possible one’s own plans to gain power,”

Pope Francis urged differences to be confronted “with the courageous patience of dialogue and diplomacy, with initiatives of encounter and peace, and not with shows of force and its hasty and ill-advised use….If we move decisively in this direction, the cause of peace and justice – the conditions of a balanced development for all – will make tangible progress.” (Vatican Radio)


Child malnutrition in parts of Venezuela is now at the level of a humanitarian crisis, warns a new report from the local Caritas agency. With the economy in freefall, shortages of food and medicine and soaring food prices, nearly half of children under five in areas monitored by Caritas are suffering from some degree of malnutrition or at imminent risk.

Caritas has been surveying child malnutrition across four states including the capital Caracas. The latest figures show that 11.4 percent of children under five are suffering either from moderate or severe acute malnutrition. The World Health Organisation’s crisis threshold for child malnutrition is 10 percent. (photo, venezuelaanalysis.com)

The Caritas figure rises to 48 per cent when under-fives at risk or already suffering lower levels of malnutrition are included. “We are extremely worried,” said Janeth Márquez, director of Caritas Venezuela, “which is why we are going public with this series of reports. We have been monitoring levels of malnutrition and providing assistance to under-fives since October across four states: Distrito Capital, Vargas, Miranda and Zulia.

“Our results clearly show that general levels of malnutrition are rising and acute malnutrition in children has crossed the crisis threshold. If we don’t respond soon, it will become very difficult for these children ever to get back onto their nutritional growth curve.”

For the most vulnerable children, Caritas distributes kits containing specialist food supplements, especially protein and minerals such as iron. Medicines are also offered to the most at-risk people, who have to be strictly prioritised given the difficulty of obtaining medical supplies.

Over eight in ten households across 31 parishes surveyed in the Caritas report are eating less than before, and nearly six out of ten say that some family members are going without food so that another person in the family can eat – typically mothers giving their own food to their children.

Caritas warns crisis is developing

“In some places we surveyed, the child malnutrition level was as high as 13 percent,” said Susana Raffalli, a humanitarian specialist in food emergencies working for Caritas in Venezuela. “If you think that four years ago the acute malnutrition rate was 3 percent, then it is shocking. In October it was 8 percent. It is progressing at a worryingly high rate”.

“You see the wasting and in some cases the edema – all the classic images of starving children. In the villages, it’s the children who are worst affected but also the adults are very wasted. You still see fancy restaurants and people living a normal life in the capital, but even in those areas, in the early morning, you see people going through trash bins looking for food.”

The Caritas report shows one in twelve households were eating “from the street” – scavenging for leftover food from restaurants and rubbish bins. With inflation running at 720 percent, the highest in the world, the basic food basket now costs 16 times the minimum wage.

“It’s a major crisis and needs national and international help to manage the scale of the disaster at the highest decision-making levels,” said Susana Rafalli. “Livelihoods have been degraded to such an extent, that the very poor have no means to cope – everything has broken down. Jobs, healthcare, the family, home – poor people have lost everything as they move about in search of a lifeline. The humanitarian community and the people of Venezuela need to begin a full-scale response now.”

Humanitarian response needed now

Venezuela’s healthcare system has collapsed. Hospitals have run out of medicines, healthcare provision, and mosquito-borne diseases including zika, dengue, malaria and chikungunya, as well as infant and maternal mortality rate are on the rise.

“We need in-kind aid from the outside,” says Susana Raffalli. “In hospitals, we don’t even have formula for babies. We need basic medicines.”

As part of the Caritas response, ‘sentinel sites’ where children are brought for regular checks have successfully been set up to monitor nutrition levels and provide nutritional supplements and basic medicines to affected children. House visits are also conducted, with the result that children at risk are now identified immediately and given medical and nutritional help.

“We are lucky to have a wonderful team of volunteer medics who are serving the community,” said Janeth Márquez. “In the parishes where Caritas is carrying out its programme, a number of children have stabilized and even recovered, despite the ongoing crisis.”

Alongside shortage of food, the other biggest risk to health is the lack of clean drinking water. Even in urban areas supplies can be cut off for days. “We are very worried about access to safe water,” said the Caritas director.

“Fresh water supplies failed a long time ago, as reservoirs have not been properly maintained, and there are no basic supplies for making water drinkable such as chlorine. In many areas the piped water is not safe to drink,” she said. “If a child who is already malnourished falls ill with a parasite, obviously the impact will be much worse. The economic situation is so bad that people can’t afford gas bottles, so they are not boiling their water.

“We are running workshops to show people how to protect themselves from water-borne parasites. We are also distributing hand-made fresh water filters that were developed for use in Africa, and training people to use them so that especially children, pregnant women and old people can drink better water.”

The Caritas report has been issued to urge the national and international community to intervene in the crisis, concluding that direct food relief including nutritional supplements is critical as is the restoring of adequate facilities for healthcare, clean water, and sanitation.

As Caritas concludes, “The response to the food crisis must be a social and economic priority, taking the politics out of protecting the most vulnerable people and facilitating the relief work of all those who, officially or unofficially, have direct contact with those most in need throughout the country.”




Pope Francis continued his series of catecheses on Christian hope at today’s general audience and highlighted “Mary Magdalene, Apostle of Hope.”

He centered his talk on the Gospel of St John (20:15-18) where Mary ran to the tomb, looking for Jesusì body: “Jesus said to her, Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for? She thought it was the gardener and said to him, Sir, if you carried him away, tell me where you laid him, and I will take him. Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni,” which means Teacher. Jesus said to her, “Stop holding on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am going to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’Mary of Magdala went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord,”

The Holy Father explained that “St. John tells us on Easter morning Mary had gone to the tomb of Jesus; she saw that it was empty, and returned to tell this news to Peter and the other disciples.  Returning to the tomb, yet still not understanding what had happened, Mary encounters the Risen Lord, but does not recognize him until he calls her by name.

“This first appearance of Jesus after rising from the dead,” said Francis, “is thus something intensely personal.  We know that just as he did with Mary Magdalen, so too Jesus calls each of us by name and fills us with joy at his presence.  Our encounter with him brings freedom and opens up new vistas of life; it transforms our world and brings undying hope.

Pope Francis noted that, “the risen Lord tells Mary not to cling to him, but to go and tell the good news of his resurrection to the others.  Mary Magdalen thus becomes the apostle of Christian hope.  By her prayers, may we be encounter anew the risen Lord, who calls us by name, turns our sorrow into joy, and sends us forth to proclaim by our lives that he is truly risen.”

After the audience catechesis, the Pope paid tribute to Polish military veterans who fought in the 1944 Battle of Montecassino because former soldiers from the Polish army’s Second Corps are in Rome for the anniversary of the Second World War battle and they attended today’s audience.

Francis praised the veterans who “fought for the freedom of your country and for other nations,” saying the “sacrifice of life” of their companions had helped bring peace to Europe and the whole world.

Well known here in Italy and a major event in history books, the Battle of Montecassino ivolved four allied assaults on German positions during a four month period and, as a result, tens of thousands died on both sides.

The Holy Father also greeted two orders of nuns as they celebrate their General Chapters in Rome, the Montfort Missionaries of the Company of Mary and the Perpetual Adorers of the Blessed Sacrament, urging both commnuties to renew their commitment to passing on the love of God to others and to “ renew their adherence to their respective charisms.”


Pope Francis tweeted today: Jesus asks to be looked in the eye, to be acknowledged, to be loved.


The Holy Father sent the following telegram to Emmanuel Macron, the newly-elected president of the French Republic. Elected on May 7, President Macron, 39, was sworn in last Sunday. (photo news.va)

“On the occasion of your investiture as president of the French Republic, I send you my very cordial wishes for the exercise of your high office in the service of all your compatriots. I pray that God support you so that your country, faithful to the rich diversity of its moral traditions and its spiritual heritage marked also by the christian tradition, may always endeavor to build a more just and fraternal society. With respect for difference and attention to those in situations of vulnerability and exclusion, may it contribute to the cooperation and solidarity between nations. May France continue to foster, in Europe and throughout the world, the search for peace and the common good, respect for life and the defense of the dignity of every person and of all peoples. I heartily invoke the Lord’s blessing upon you and all the inhabitants of France. Francis


Pope Francis Tuesday welcomed the players, coaches and staff of Italian football teams, Juventus and Lazio as they are about to meet in the final game of the national soccer championship, and told them they have a big responsibility towards their fans, especially the youngest.

As public fgures, you have a certain responsibility, said Francis, who is a big fan of the sport called soccer in the U.S, and football is most of the rest of the world. He explained that “champions are role models for many young fans,” and thus, in every game, he said, you must show discipline, balance and respect for rules and regulations. (photo news.va)

“He, who through his behavior, puts all of this into practice, provides a good example for his followers, and this is what I wish for each of you: to be witnesses of loyalty, honesty, harmony and humanity” he said. He did note that violence sometimes occurs in football stadiums, disrupting games and spoiling what should be enjoyable moments: for all.

He wished both teams a “great match” when they play Wednesday evening in Rome’s Olympic Stadium.


This morning at the Holy See Press Office, a press conference presented the 2016 Annual Report of the Vatican’s Financial Information Authority (Autorità di Informazione Finanziaria – AIF) on supervision and financial intelligence for the prevention and countering of money laundering and financing of terrorism as well as prudential supervision. Presenters included René Brülhart and Tommaso Di Ruzza, respectively president and director of AIF.

Following is the press release that reviews the activities and statistics of AIF for the year 2016. It includes a significant fostering of international cooperation of the Vatican competent authority with its foreign counterparts to fight illicit financial activities, and a consolidation of the reporting system as well as a further strengthening of the regulatory framework have been some of the key achievements in 2016.

“International cooperation is a precondition to fight financial crimes and the Vatican is fully committed to it,” said René Brülhart, AIF president. “In 2016, AIF has seen a significant increase of bilateral cooperation with competent authorities of other jurisdictions and will continue to be an active partner to combat illicit financial activities globally.”

“The number of suspicious activity reports (SARs) by different reporting subjects decreased in comparison to 2015 (207 in 2016, 544 in 2015). But the number of SARs was still higher than in previous years, indicating an ever-increasing and effective implementation of reporting requirements by supervised entities,” said Tommaso Di Ruzza, AIF director. “In parallel, SARs show an improvement in terms of quality with a positive impact on the reports AIF disseminated to the Vatican Promoter of Justice, which are leading to domestic prosecution, and on the international cooperation with foreign FIUs, registering a notable development.”

In 2016, 22 reports have been submitted for further investigation by Vatican judicial Authorities. The number of cases of bilateral cooperation between AIF and foreign FIUs has increased from 81 in 2013, to 113 in 2014, to 380 in 2015 and 837 in 2016.

Furthermore, the transitional period to implement the requirements established by the prudential regulatory framework expired in 2016 and the domestic system – based on Title III of Law n. XVIII dated 8th October 2013 and AIF Regulation on “Prudential supervision of entities carrying out financial activities on a professional basis” n. 1 dated 13th January 2015 –, has been further strengthened with the issuance of new Circulars on accounting standards and statistical reporting requirements.   About AIF The Financial Information Authority is the competent authority of the Holy See and Vatican City State for supervision and financial intelligence for the prevention and countering of money laundering and financing of terrorism as well as prudential supervision.

Established by Pope Benedict XVI with the Apostolic Letter in form of Motu Proprio of 30 December 2010, AIF carries out its institutional activities in accordance with its new Statute introduced by Pope Francis with Motu Proprio of 15 November 2013 and Law No. XVIII of 8 October 2013.

In 2016, AIF signed MOUs with supervisory Authorities and FIUs of Austria, Brazil, Canada, Italy, Panama, Poland and Russia. In previous years, AIF had already signed MOUs with Albania, Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Cuba, Cyprus, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Malta, Monaco, the Netherlands, Norway, Paraguay, Peru, Poland, Romania, San Marino Slovenia, Spain, Switzerland, United Kingdom and the United States of America.

AIF has been a member of the Egmont Group since 2013.



After two busy weekends of travel – to Cairo and Fatima – this week is projected to be a relatively quiet one for Pope Francis, it seems, with his principal public outings being the Wednesday general audience and the Sunday Regina Coeli. He did meet this morning with the Vatican’s nuncio to Malta and with Cardinal Juan Luis Cipriani Thorne, archbishop of Lima, and 40 prelates from Peru who are in Rome on their ad limina visit.  The Vatican also published the schedule for his day-long visit to Genoa, Italy on Saturday, May 27.


I had a fascinating morning that included a lovely meeting with Dina Gorni, an archeologist from the Israeli Antiquities Authority who has been in Rome as part of the team that has put together the exhibit on the Menorah that is running simltaneously in the Braccio di Carlo Magno (the Charlemagne wing), just off St. Peter’s Square and in Rome’s Jewish Museum next to the synagogue. Dina specializes in Lower Galilee and the Valleys District of the IAA.

I interviewed Dina for “Vatican Insider” and Vatican Radio and it was a look at a world premiere, I think you could say, because the Vatican and Rome’s Jewish community have teamed up for the first-ever joint exhibit by their respective museums. The centerpiece is, of course, the menorah, the seven-armed candelabrum that we read about in the Jewish Torah and literature and is also depicted in both Jewish and Christian art over many centuries.

This just-opened exhibit, entitled “The Menorah: Worship, History and Myth,” is on my agenda in coming days. Some of the pieces are from the Louvre and London’s National Gallery.

What so excited me in preparing this interview was the fact that Dina was one of three people present when the celebrated Magdala Stone was uncovered! You know Mary Magdalen – Mary of Magdala. If you’ve been to the Holy Land, you surely have been to Magdala. You’ll hear Dina talk about that discovery just about 20 inches below ground that had been walked on and built on and gardens planted over for two millennia without anyone knowing of the temple that lay just under their feet!

From the IAA website: A synagogue from the Second Temple period (50 BCE-100 CE) was exposed in archaeological excavations the Israel Antiquities Authority is conducting at a site slated for the construction of a hotel on Migdal beach, in an area owned by the Ark New Gate Company. In the middle of the synagogue is a stone that is engraved with a seven-branched menorah (candelabrum), the likes of which have never been seen. The excavations were directed by archaeologists Dina Avshalom-Gorni and Arfan Najar of the Israel Antiquities Authority.

Read more here: http://www.antiquities.org.il/article_eng.aspx?sec_id=25&subj_id=240&id=1601

Then there is the great mystery of the whereabouts of the famed Golden Menorah from the first Temple of Jerusalem that was taken to Rome by troops of the Roman emperor Titus who had destroyed the temple. You can see a depiction on the Arch of Titus, near the Colosseum, of the menorah being carried into Rome. All traces were lost when Vandals sacked Rome in the 5th century and apparently carried off that menorah.

Why have I found this all so exciting?

I have always loved libraries. When we were little, Mom frequently brought us to the Oak Park Public Library where we enjoyed the children’s section – small tables and chairs, colorful books, etc. When I was old enough to walk the 6 or 7 blocks to the library by myself I remember always looking for books that would bring new adventures into my life, especially travel.

Among the first books I took home were great reads for a young mind on ancient Egypt, Greece and Rome. Some were interesting historical accounts and others were novels – but both instilled in me the desire to travel and especially to know these countries and their history.

I became fascinated by these cultures, so very old, so very different from where I lived – different people and dress and unusual names and traditions. I read stories about people called archeologists who sought out and excavated and discovered ancient ruins and tombs and paved roads and baths and amphorea with preserved olive oil or wine or honey.

That was it for me! I’d become an archeologist and have similar adventures and discover sonething the world had never seen – like Dina did at Magdala.

Years changed things and, of course, I’m a writer and reporter and still have a lot of wonderful adventures – like meeting a real archeologist!

If you are in Rome, seriously think of going to this exhibit. Hopefully I’l have more later – photos, etc. And I’ll let you known when you can hear our interview.