( – Over the Christmas season the Umbrian town of Assisi will project images of Giotto’s Nativity frescoes onto the façade of the Basilica of S. Francesco, each evening from 6 December.

Titled Il Natale di Francesco (The Christmas of Francis), the project will beam Giotto’s Nativity scenes onto the exterior of the basilica dedicated to Italy’s patron saint, as well as on other landmarks around the pilgrimage town.

Italy: Assisi lights up Basilica with Giotto frescoes for Christmas

The video projections will also include the Cathedral of S. Rufino, the Basilica of S. Chiara, and the town’s two fortresses, Monte Frumentario and Torre Civica, reports online art newspaper Finestre sull’Arte.

In addition, a statue of a nurse will be placed in front of the Basilica di S. Francesco, in homage to Italy’s health workers for their heroic efforts during the covid-19 emergency, with video mapping and plays of light illuminating the streets of the ancient town.

Each evening, from 17.00 to 22.00, every 30 minutes Giotto’s Nativity will be switched off and in its place a video mapping show will offer views of the basilica’s interior.

Father Enzo Fortunato, press director of the Sacred Convent of Assisi, told Finestre sull’Arte that the project would offer “a special Christmas that will relive the Franciscan spirit precisely in the Nativity scene invented by the saint of Assisi.”



The weekly English language edition of L’Osservatore Romano:
ING_2020_049_0412.pdf (


You won’t want to miss this week’s interview segment and Part II of my conversation with Fr. Bernardo Cervellera, a longtime friend who is a PIME missionary priest – the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions – and journalist who heads AsiaNews agency. Last week in Part I, and again this week, we talk exclusively about China. Fr. Bernardo explains the difference between the so-called Patriotic Church Association and the “underground” Church, addresses the state of the Catholic Church in China, and talks about the 2018 provisional Vatican-China agreement that was renewed provisionally for two years October of 2020, and why the Vatican would sign – and resign – such an agreement when in fact Churches and some Catholic shrines are being destroyed, closed, crosses taken off buildings, etc. The ups and downs of the life of the Catholic Church in China.

Here’s a link to Part I which aired last weekend:

IN THE UNITED STATES, you can listen to Vatican Insider (VI) on a Catholic radio station near you (stations listed at or on channel 130 Sirius-XM satellite radio, or on 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.” VI airs at 5am and 9pm ET on Saturdays and 6am ET on Sundays. On the GB-IE feed (which is on SKY in the UK and Ireland), VI airs at 5:30am, 12 noon and 10pm CET on Sundays. Both of these feeds are also available on the EWTN app and on ALWAYS CHECK YOUR OWN TIME ZONE! For VI archives: (write Vatican Insider where it says Search Shows and Episodes)


Pope Francis addressed a group of non-resident ambassadors to the Holy See on Friday as they presented their Credentials, telling them that more than ever, the world needs sincere and respectful dialogue and cooperation capable of unity in confronting the grave threats facing the planet.

By Vatican News

The new non-resident Ambassadors to the Holy See whom Pope Francis received in the Vatican on Friday come from Jordan, Kazakhstan, Zambia, Mauritania, Uzbekistan, Madagascar, Estonia, Rwanda, Denmark and India.

They form part of a corps that represents some 183 States that currently have diplomatic relations with the Holy See.

Challenge of pandemic
In his discourse, Pope Francis told the new ambassadors they were beginning their mission at a time of “great challenge facing the entire human family.”

Even before the outbreak of COVID-19, he said, it was clear that 2020 was going to be a year “marked by urgent humanitarian needs, due to conflicts, violence and terrorism in different parts of our world.”

The Pope noted that “economic crises are causing hunger and mass migration, while climate change is increasing the risk of natural disasters, famine and drought.”

Quoting from the Extraordinary Moment of Prayer on 27 March of this year, he said, the crisis has made us realize “that we are in the same boat, all of us fragile and disoriented, but at the same time important and needed, all of us called to row together, each of us in need of comforting the other.”

Pope Francis also underlined that, “the pandemic is aggravating the inequalities already present in our societies; as the poor and the most vulnerable of our brothers and sisters risk being neglected, excluded and forgotten.”

Dialogue and cooperation
Today, perhaps more than ever, emphasised the Pope, “our increasingly globalized world urgently demands sincere and respectful dialogue and cooperation capable of uniting us in confronting the grave threats facing our planet and mortgaging the future of younger generations.”

And referring to his recent Encyclical Fratelli tutti, Pope Francis expressed the desire that “in this our time, by acknowledging the dignity of each human person, we can contribute to the rebirth of a universal aspiration to fraternity.”

Highlighting the presence of the Holy See in the international community, he said it stands “at the service of the global common good, by drawing attention to the anthropological, ethical and religious aspects of the various questions that affect the lives of individuals, peoples and entire nations.”

Pope Francis concluded by expressing the hope that the diplomat’s activity as representatives of their nations to the Holy See would “foster the ‘culture of encounter’ needed to transcend the differences and divisions that so often stand in the way of realizing the high ideals and goals proposed by the international community.”  Each of us, he said, “is invited, in fact, to work daily for the building of an ever more just, fraternal and united world.”



The Vatican today published Pope Francis’ Message marking the December 3 International Day of Persons with Disabilities, in which he highlights the importance of inclusion and active participation for those with disabilities, and denounces the throwaway culture that affects the most vulnerable.

The theme of the 2020 International Day of Persons with Disabilities is: “Building Back Better: Toward a Disability-inclusive, Accessible and Sustainable post-COVID-19 World.” (Vatican file photo)

The Pope said this World Day afforded him the opportunity to express his closeness to those “experiencing situations of particular difficulty during the crisis caused by the pandemic. …All of us are in the same boat in the midst of a turbulent sea that can frighten us. Yet in this same boat, some of us are struggling more; among them are persons with serious disabilities.”

As he has done in previous messages, letters and speeches, Francis highlighted what he called today’s “throwaway culture,” saying it is “widespread in our time like the rain, the winds and the rivers that threaten the house in the Gospel passage. …(it) affects especially the most vulnerable, among whom are persons with disabilities.”

Important progress has been made in past years on both civil and ecclesial levels, the Pope wrote, but he said that on the cultural level there are barriers. “We see it in attitudes of rejection, due also to a narcissistic and utilitarian mentality, that give rise to marginalization that ignores the inevitable fact that frailty is part of everyone’s life.”

Therefore, “it is important, on this Day, to promote a culture of life that constantly affirms the dignity of every person and works especially to defend men and women with disabilities, of all ages and social conditions.”

There must be inclusion, the “rock” on which to build programs and initiatives of civil and ecclesial institutions, meant to ensure that no one, especially those in greatest difficulty, is left behind.”

There must also be active involvement: “inclusion of the vulnerable must also entail efforts to promote their active participation.”

“Before all else,” emphasized Francis, “I strongly reaffirm the right of persons with disabilities to receive the sacraments, like all other members of the Church.… No one should be excluded from the grace of these sacraments.”

In addition, he said, “Our concern should be not only to care for them, but also to ensure their ‘active participation’ in the civil and ecclesial community. …, The active participation of people with disabilities in the work of catechesis can greatly enrich the life of the whole parish.”

The Holy Father closed his Message by saying, “I encourage all those who daily and often silently devote themselves to helping others in situations of fragility and disability.”


Pope Francis establishes the Worldwide Prayer Network as a papal institution with its headquarters in the Vatican.

By Vatican News staff writer

The Vatican announced on Thursday that Pope Francis has established the Worldwide Prayer Network Foundation as an entity with canonical and Vatican juridical identity.

Formerly known as the “Apostleship of Prayer,” the Worldwide Prayer Network  works “to coordinate and animate the vast spiritual movement, always very dear to the Pope, that receives and communicates the Pope’s monthly prayer intentions for the Church.”

On its international website, the Network describes its objective: “to encourage prayer and action for the challenges facing humanity and the mission of the Church, expressed in the Pope’s prayer intentions.”

The Worldwide Prayer Network’s new status was established in the chirograph – a papal decree with legal force circulated among the Roman Curia – dated 17 November 2020.

In the document, Pope Francis determined that the Network would continue to be entrusted to the Society of Jesus (the Jesuits), and would have its seat in Vatican City.

At the same time, the Holy Father named Jesuit Father Frederic Fornos as International Director of the Foundation. Father Fornos has served as International Director of the organization since 2016.


Better late than never: Here is a video of Pope emeritus Benedict XVI welcoming the 11 new cardinals present in Rome after they received the red hat from Pope Francis in the November 28 consistory. Hopefully you can get beyond the loud clicking of the cameras present. I (and many others, I am sure) have wondered for years how we could send men to the moon and yet not invent a professional camera that takes pictures quietly! EWTN Vatican on Instagram: “It is not part of the rite of the consistory, but by now the visit of the new cardinals to Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI has become a…”

As of today, the Vatican Publishing House is on Facebook and Twitter:




Vatican News, in a video message accompanying the monthly prayer intention, notes that Pope Francis “speaks about the power of prayer to change reality and our hearts, and prays that, through a life of prayer, we may nourish our relationship with Jesus Christ.”

For weeks now, the papal weekly general audiences, live-streamed from the Apostolic Palace, have focused on prayer. In his prayer intention for December 2020, the Pope says he hopes our lives might be marked by prayer as was Jesus’ life: “the secret of Jesus’ life, and the key for us to be able to enter into dialogue with the Father, is prayer.”

Following is the text of the December 2020 prayer intention:

The heart of the Church’s mission is prayer.

Prayer is the key for us to be able to enter into dialogue with the Father.

Every time we read a short passage from the Gospel we hear Jesus speaking to us.

We have a conversation with Jesus.

We listen to Jesus and we reply.

And this is prayer.

By praying, we change reality.

And we change our hearts.

Our heart changes when we pray.

We can do many things, but without prayer, it does not work.

We pray that our personal relationship with Jesus Christ be nourished by the Word of God and a life of prayer.

In silence, everyone, each one in heartfelt prayer.

Click here for video with English subtitles: Pope’s December prayer intention: For a life of prayer – Vatican News


Pope Francis this morning presided at the weekly general audience as it was live-streamed from the papal library of the Apostolic Palace, again focusing his reflections on prayer.

“Dear Brothers and Sisters,” he began, “in our continuing catechesis on Christian prayer, we now consider the importance of blessing as an essential dimension of prayer.”

He explained the meaning of the word “bless” by referring to the Italian word “benedire” which means ‘to speak well.”  Therefore, “there is a God who ‘speaks well’. God sees every work of His hands as good and beautiful, when He creates man and woman, His creation is complete and is ‘very good’.”

While God creates, He “continually blesses life,” such as the animals, man and woman, and the Sabbath. Even men and women give blessings, aware that blessing possesses a special power that accompanies the person who receives it throughout his or her entire life.  It opens up the person’s heart to allow God to change it.

Francis noted that, “God did not withhold his blessing even after we turned away in sin, rather He continues to desire our good. In the history of salvation, the greatest of God’s blessings is Jesus Christ himself. Saint Paul exhorts us to bless God, who has blessed us in Christ, and made us his beloved sons and daughters.”

“In response to God’s blessings,” said Pope Francis, “we in turn bless him, the source of all good, through our prayers of praise, adoration and thanksgiving. As the Catechism teaches: “The prayer of blessing is man’s response to God’s gifts” (No. 2626). May we always find joy in blessing the Father with gratitude for the infinite goodness he has shown us in giving us his Son.”

At the end of the audience catechesis, the Holy Father said, “I want to assure my prayers for Nigeria, where blood has unfortunately been spilled once more in a terrorist attack.”

He was referring to a massacre that took place on Saturday in the village of Zabarmari, in Borno State where over 100 farm workers were killed, with some witnesses saying many were beheaded. “May God welcome them in His peace and comfort their families, and convert the hearts of those who commit similar atrocities which gravely offend His name,” prayed Francis.

Vatican news reported that no one has claimed responsibility for the attack, but suspicions fell either on Boko Haram or a branch of the so-called Islamic State.

The Islamic insurgents have been responsible for at least 30,000 deaths over the past several years. The United Nations and Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari condemned Saturday’s killings, which mark the most violent attack on civilians in Nigeria this year.

CLICK HERE FOR VIDEO WITH ENGLISH COMMENTARY: Pope at Audience: God blesses us despite our sins – Vatican News


40 years after their death, Pope Francis recalls the brave missionary women who were brutally murdered in El Salvador as they worked to make the lives of those suffering the county’s civil war easier.

By Vatican News staff writer

It was December 2, 1980, ten months after the start of the civil war in El Salvador, and eight since the murder of Salvadorian Archbishop, now Saint Oscar Romero, when four American women were brutally murdered.

The four women, missionaries offering humanitarian aid to El Salvador and neighboring countries, were seen as a threat to the right wing government, and accused by the regime of fomenting political opposition.

Sister Ita Ford, 40, and Sister Maura Clarke, 49, were both Maryknoll Sisters from New York; Sister Dorothy Kazel, 40, an Ursuline Sister from Cleveland; and Jean Donovan, 27, a lay missionary who was engaged to be married, also from Cleveland. All four were raped and murdered by five members of the El Salvadorean National Guard.

For more: Pope prays for El Salvador Martyrs 40 years after their death – Vatican News


The Council of Cardinals gathered virtually on Tuesday afternoon for their regularly scheduled meeting.

By Vatican News

Due to the current health situation, the regularly scheduled meeting of the Council of Cardinals was held online on Tuesday afternoon. Cardinals Óscar A. Rodríguez Maradiaga, Reinhard Marx, Sean Patrick O’Malley, Oswald Gracias, and Fridolin Ambongo Besungu took part in the meeting from their respective countries, while Cardinals Pietro Parolin and Giuseppe Bertello and the Secretary of the Council, Bishop Marco Mellino, were connected from the Vatican. The Holy Father also participated in the meeting, connecting from Casa Santa Marta.

The Holy See Press Office announced the meeting in a statement Tuesday evening.

“After a brief greeting from Pope Francis,” the statement read, “the new member of the Council, Cardinal Ambongo Besungu, Metropolitan Archbishop of Kinshasa, was presented to the participants and some contributions were made on the life of the Church in the different continents, particularly in the present health situation.”

The statement continued, “The Secretary of the Council has summarized the steps taken in the drafting of the text of the new Apostolic Constitution, while in the meantime, the observations, amendments and proposals received from the Dicasteries consulted in recent months are being studied.”

Lastly, the statement noted that the next meeting of the Council of Cardinals is scheduled for the month of February.




The Prefecture of the Papal Household announced today that the meditations for Advent will be given by the Preacher of the Pontifical Household, Cardinal Raniero Cantalamessa O.F.M. Cap., on the theme “Teach us to count our days and we will reach the wisdom of the heart.” (Psalm 90, 12) They will take place in the Paul VI Hall in order to allow for the proper distance between the participants.

The Cardinals, Archbishops, Bishops, Prelates of the Pontifical Family, employees of the Roman Curia and the Vicariate of Rome, Superiors General or Procurators of the religious Orders belonging to the Pontifical Chapel are invited to the sermons.

The Advent sermons will take place on three consecutive Fridays, December 4, 11 and 18 at 9:00 am, in the presence of the Holy Father.


Pope Francis sent a video message to social justice judges of the American and African continents and urged them to base their material reshaping of social justice on six fundamental points.

By Vatican News staff writer

In his video message to social rights judges of Africa and America, Pope Francis notes that in order to build on and analyse the idea of social justice, we must first turn to the foundations on which it should be based. There are six, he says.

The first has to do with the dimension of reality, he began: “The ideas on which you will surely work, should not lose sight of the distressing picture in which a small part of humanity lives in opulence, while to an increasing number of people their dignity is unknown and their human rights are ignored and violated.”

Generating justice
The second foundation, the Pope continued, reminds us of how justice is generated.“ I am thinking of a collective work, an ensemble work, where everyone and all well-meaning people challenge utopia and admit that, like good and love, the just is a task that must be conquered every day, because imbalance is a temptation at every moment.” For this reason, he adds, “every day is a conquest.”

The third is that we should remember to “commit” to shaping and uniting this new social justice, says the Pope. We must recognise that “temptation is so frequent to disinterest in others, especially the weakest.” The unconditional commitment is to take on the pain of the other, and not to slip into a culture of indifference, he explains.

The fourth and “obligatory” foundation, continued the Pope, is “the idea of history as a guiding axis.” Add the perspective of the past to the approach, he says: “In the past there are all the roots of the experiences, even those of social justice that today we want to rethink, grow and strengthen.”

The fifth principle is people, continued Pope Francis. History leads us to the people. “Starting from the Gospel, what God asks of us believers is to be God’s people, not God’s elite. Because those who follow the path of ‘God’s elite’ end up in the well-known elitist clericalisms that work for the people, but do nothing with the people, do not feel like a people.”

And lastly, said Francis, is “Solidarity…. Fighting against the structural causes of poverty, inequality, lack of work, land and housing. Land, roof and work, ‘techo, tierra y trabajo’, the three ‘T’s’ that make us worthy.” Struggling, in short, against those who deny social and labour rights. Struggling against that culture that leads to use others, to enslave others and ends up taking away the dignity of others. Do not forget that solidarity, understood in its deepest sense, is a way of making history, says Pope Francis.

The Holy Father concluded his video message by noting that, “righteous are those who do justice. Righteous, knowing that, when resorting to law, we give the poor what is essential, we do not give them our belongings, nor those of third parties, but we give them back what is theirs.”

Finally, Pope Francis wished the judges an excellent day of reflection and prayed that all they build will be “more than a mere theory.”

Click here for video: Pope to social rights judges: justice is truly just when it makes people happy – Vatican News


In 2006 I covered the visit to Turkey by Benedict XVI and learned a great deal about Catholic-Orthodox relations, as well as those between the Catholic Church and Islam. Before this apostolic pilgrimage, I studied at length both aspects of the papal trip – the visit to the Orthodox patriarchate and the Church’s relations with Islam given that Pope Benedict made history with a much applauded visit to Istanbul’s Blue Mosque. Today I provide a capsule summary of what I learned and wrote about at the time.


Today is the feast of St. Andrew, patron of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople. The Holy See and the Patriarchate exchange regular annual visits and send delegations for the feast days of their respective patrons. The Vatican celebrates the June 29 feast of Sts. Peter and Paul, Apostles and the Orthodox patriarchate marks the November 30 feast of St. Andrew. Roman Catholics believe St. Peter was given the mandate by Christ to lead the church and was thus the first Pope. The Orthodox believe that mandate was given to his brother, Andrew.

Both Pope Benedict and Pope Francis have travelled to Turkey to celebrate this feast together with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I. I was in Turkey to cover Benedict’s trip in November 2006 but did not accompany Francis in 2014.

On both occasions a Divine Liturgy was celebrated in St. George Church, located in the Phanar neighborhood (also spelled Fanar) of Istanbul. The name is the Turkish transliteration of the original Greek word meaning a lighting lantern, a streetlight, a lightpost with a lantern. The name is also linked to the classical phanárion and the modern fanári meaning “lantern.”

The Phanar neighborhood became home to many Greeks as well as to the Patriarchate of Constantinople after the fall of Constantinople in 1453, 400 years after the Great Schism, the divide between Constantinople and Rome, between the Eastern and Western Churches.

Today Phanar houses the offices of the patriarchate and the residence of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I. Just as the term Vatican – Vatican City State – is used the describe the heart of the Catholic Church, the Holy See, Phanar is often shorthand for the Ecumenical Pariarchate.

In his talk on November 30, 2006, Pope Benedict said, “the divisions that exist among Christians are a scandal to the world and an obstacle to the proclamation of the Gospel.”

One of the principal reasons for the thousand-year old split between Catholics and Orthodox is the Petrine ministry – Petrine referring to St. Peter – and the Petrine ministry being the office of the Pope.

Benedict made reference to that as well in his talk. He said that Christ gave Peter and Andrew the task of being “fishers of men,” but entrusted that task to each in different ways. Peter, said the Pope, was called “the rock upon which the Church was to be built and entrusted him with the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven.” Peter traveled from Jerusalem to Antioch to Rome “so that in that city he might exercise a universal responsibility.”

“The issue of the universal service of Peter and his Successors,” said Benedict XVI, “has unfortunately given rise to our differences of opinion, which we hope to overcome.”

Some historical background on the East-West split:

What has come to be known as the East-West Schism occurred in 1054 when Patriarch Michael Cerularius of Constantinople, leader of the Eastern Christian Churches, and Pope Leo IX, leader of the Western Church, excommunicated each other. The mutual excommunications were lifted only in 1965 when both Pope Paul VI and Patriarch Athenagoras, following their history-making meeting in Jerusalem in 1964, held ceremonies that revoked the excommunication decrees.

Differences between the two Churches on matters of doctrine, theology, and language had been growing for years, with the most prominent issue being papal primacy. There were also issued over claims of jurisdiction. However, the two Churches have been seeking unity ever since.

The Petrine ministry – the primacy of the Pope – was specifically mentioned vis-a-vis the Orthodox Church in the document from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith entitled “Responses to Some Questions on Certain Aspects of the Doctrine of the Church,” dated June 29, 2007.

Pope Francis quoted this document – specifically the fourth question – in his talk during the Divine Liturgy in 2014. (This 1,200-word document, excluding footnotes, with five questions and five answers is eminently readable:

If you have time today, or want to save this for a later reading, here is the transcript of my lengthy interview for EWTN radio in Phanar with Archbishop Demetrios, the then primate of the Greek Orthodox Church in America, spiritual leader of some 1.5 million Greek Orthodox Christians, and exarch of the Ecumenical Patriarchate to the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. The interview came at the end of Pope Benedict’s visit to Ankara, Ephesus and Istanbul where he met with Muslims as well as with the Orthodox, with whom he celebrated their November 30th patronal feast day of St. Andrew. Though I did this in November 2006, much of what the archbishop explains as the realities of the Catholic-Orthodox dialogue and the differences between the Churches remain current. A CONVERSATION WITH ORTHODOX ARCHBISHOP DEMETRIOS: A PAPAL TRIP, CHRISTIANS IN TURKEY, CHRISTIAN UNITY | Joan’s Rome (


Pope Francis sent a message to his Holiness, Patriarch Bartholomew I, Archbishop of Constantinople, on the feast of the Apostle Andrew, patron saint of the Ecumenical Patriarchate.

Vatican News staff writer

In the message to Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, Pope Francis calls to mind “the charity, apostolic zeal and perseverance” of Saint Andrew, which he says “is a source of encouragement in these difficult and critical times.”

The Pope emphasizes, “Giving glory to God also strengthens our faith and hope in the one who welcomed into eternal life the holy martyr Andrew, whose faith endured in time of trial.”

This photo from Vatican news is from the October 20 prayer meeting for peace on Rome’s Capitoline Hill. Titled, “No One Is Saved Alone – Peace and Fraternity,” the meeting of the world’s religious leaders was promoted by the Sant’Egidio Community.

Pope Francis also recalls with great joy the presence of the Patriarch at the international meeting for peace that was in held in Rome on 20 October this year, along with other religious leaders.

Challenges in our world
“Together with the challenges posed by the current pandemic,” the Pope underlines, “war continues to afflict many parts of the world, while new armed conflicts emerge to steal the lives of countless men and women.”

He notes that, “all initiatives taken by national and international entities aimed at promoting peace are useful and necessary.” Yet, Pope Francis continues, “conflict and violence will never cease until all people reach a deeper awareness that they have a mutual responsibility as brothers and sisters.”

The example of Christian Churches
In light of this, the Pope points out that the Christian Churches, together with other religious traditions, “have a primary duty to offer an example of dialogue, mutual respect and practical cooperation.”

Expressing his gratitude to God, Pope says he himself has experienced “this fraternity at first hand.”

The path to full communion
In his message, Pope Francis acknowledges that the desire for ever greater closeness and understanding between Christians “was manifest in the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople before the Catholic Church and other Churches engaged themselves in dialogue.”

The Pope goes on to say that this can be seen clearly in the encyclical letter of the Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate addressed to the Churches worldwide exactly one hundred years ago, which, he remarks, “remains relevant today.”

“We can thank God that relations between the Catholic Church and the Ecumenical Patriarchate have grown much over the past century, even as we continue to yearn for the goal of the restoration of full communion expressed through participation at the same Eucharistic altar,” says Pope Francis.

Acknowledging that obstacles still remain on the road to unity, the Pope also says he is confident that by “walking together in mutual love and pursuing theological dialogue, we will reach that goal.”

Common faith in Jesus
This hope, he concludes, “is based on our common faith in Jesus Christ, sent by God the Father to gather all people into one body, and the cornerstone of the one and holy Church, God’s holy temple, in which all of us are living stones, each according to our own particular charism or ministry bestowed by the Holy Spirit.”



One of the highlights every year for the Catholic American community in Rome at St. Patrick’s church is our annual Christmas event for charity This faith community has been helping needy organizations in Rome almost from the first day the Paulist Fathers arrived almost 99 years ago to take charge of the new church in Rome – Santa Susanna – for the many American Catholics living here. Three years ago we moved to St. Patrick’s near the U.S. Embassy on Via Veneto.

I have been privileged to be a member of both Santa Susanna and now St. Patrick’s for 40 years and if there was one event I always looked forward to (and usually had some role in preparing or executing), it was our St. Nicholas Charity Serata (serata is the Italian word for evening, as in an evening out)

Until Covid came on the scene and changed lives and events and celebrations and festivities and gatherings for the global human race, the Sera was a magical, beautiful gala evening in an elegant setting – everyone dressed in Christmas finery, a scrumptious multi-course meal, music for dancing, and all this accompanying the silent and live auctions and the raffle drawing.

A highlight for the evening was the live auction. Our late parishioner Victor Rossi was a terrific auctioneer for many years and for the last several seratas, our rector, Fr.Greg Apparcel, made that happen, raising a lot of money for charity. Greg was the heart and soul of this whole evening for 16 years, along with the members of the SOC (Serata Organizing Committee). He now heads the Paulist seminary in Washington!

As I said earlier, due to Covid all of what I just described had to change and we are now hosting a virtual event, a Serata-thon for charity, that began yesterday and ends the night of what would have been our gala event, December 5.

It is the hope of the extraordinarily talented SOC members and all of our parishioners that we can do two things this year: honor Fr. Greg and, importantly, help the four charities to whom will go our proceeds. Many are suffering from Covid this year but perhaps none more than charitable organizations. They are lifelines to so many people, and we must help them continue be that lifeline.

To know about the parish: click here (scroll down for a few videos – you will see one familiar face from our live-streamed Mass yesterday – be sure to visit up when travel opens up again!): (20+) St. Patrick’s Catholic American Parish in Rome | Facebook

For the Serata, click here to see how, wherever you live on this planet, you can help us reach our goal, making a donation to honor Fr. Greg (or perhaps a loved one) or participating in the raffle for the top prize of an iPhone 12: St. Nicholas Serata | Rome | St. Patrick’s Catholic American Community

Photos of Seratas past:   SNS in the Past | stnicholasserata2020

Thanks for allowing me to share a bit of your time this holiday weekend!

P.S. The Fundraising Marathon will last until noon on Dec 5th with a Virtual Raffle Drawing that evening which will be Facebook-casted live. Donations for the charities will remain open until midnight, especially for our friends in other parts of the world, but noon Rome-time is the deadline to enter the Raffle.



Turkey lunch today was wonderful, of course (I even have leftovers!) but the highlight of the day was Mass this morning at St. Patrick’s when I was a lector. U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See Callista Gingrich and Newt were at Mass and she read President Trump’s Thanksgiving Proclamation. We spoke a bit after Mass as there are not as many occasions as we usually have for get-togethers, certainly not for dinners because restaurants now close at 6 pm!   Newt took these photos for our memory books! We forgot to turn the camera on him!


Thanksgiving and Friday are holidays for EWTN employees so these pages will either be dark or, if there is a bit of news, Joan’s Rome lite! Wishing all of you the Lord’s choicest blessings, most all the best of health!


Thanksgiving Day in Rome will be very different from past years as it will be for millions of Americans, wherever they live, be it overseas or in the United States. However, for me, as a Catholic and member of St. Patrick’s parish in Rome, the main ‘ingredient’ of this day, so to speak, will remain the same – our 10:30 am Mass of thanksgiving at which the American ambassador to the Holy See, Callista Gingrich, will read the 2020 Presidential Thanksgiving Proclamation

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.” (As I prepare this column, the 2020 Proclamation is not yet online.)

For many years now the turkey part of my day happened at the North American College. Thanksgiving is one of the more special days at NAC and it always begins, as Thanksgiving should, with Mass. After Mass, a full turkey meal, with Italian additions of antipasto and divine ravioli, is on the menu. Seminarians, priests and their guests gather at state tables, as you will also see in the following photos. The Illinois table, for example, would seat seminarians, seminary staff and guests from that state.

Fifth year students (ordained priests who have returned to Rome for a fifth year of studies) usually serve the meal. The U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See once again reads the Presidential Proclamation.

This year, according to a few seminarians, Thanksgiving will be an understated, in-house celebration. I know that cardinal-designate Wilton Gregory is quarantining in an apartment on the grounds and I feel certain he will be part of the celebrations.

Everything is very low key here in Rome – individual, small family celebrations, etc. I have not searched to see if hotels are offering turkey lunches – they have to close at 6pm so there will be no turkey dinners!  I will be joining people – a few at a time – for a turkey lunch prepared by Homebaked. The owner Jesse Smeal every year prepares about 5 or 6 turkeys with all the related dishes, including amazing pies, and these are on Homebaked’s menu for Thanksgiving Day.

Jesse has been taking orders for weeks for those who want to stop by and pick up dinner, be it for one person or 6. Some of those who have ordered turkey dinners are seminarians! He has also been working around the clock on baking the traditional Thanksgiving desserts.

While I will feel a certain sadness at not celebrating the traditional elements of Thanksgiving in Rome (except for Mass), I know I am not alone, that millions feel the same way. Tomorrow, in any case, can be a day for smiles, for thanking the Lord and for looking to the future with hope – to Thanksgiving 2021 when, Lord willing, we can thank Him that Covid is in the past!

How do I thank the Lord this year? Read on….


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? The newest member of my wonderful, large family? A friend from another country? Another wonderful seminarian or priest added to the many who have made my life and my faith so fulfilling? The list is so very long!

Does a day pass that I am not enriched and blessed by some amazing event that 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)



My special guest this week in the interview segment of Vatican Insider is a good friend, Fr. Bernardo Cervellera, a PIME missionary father and journalist who heads the AsiaNews agency. We first met in Rome in the 1990s. We also met in 1995 in Beijing, China during the United Nations International Conference on Women, a time when I learned a lot about the life of Christians in this ancient land.

We met again this week to talk about China. Fr. Bernardo explains the difference between the so-called Patriotic Church Association and the “underground” Church, addresses the state of the Catholic Church in China, and talks about the 2018 provisional Vatican-China agreement that was renewed provisionally for two years October of 2020, and why the Vatican would sign – and resign – such an agreement when in fact Churches and some Catholic shrines are being destroyed, closed, crosses taken off buildings, etc.

This week is Part I of our conversation. Next week in Part II we will look at many other Church-related issues, including the government mandate that asks – obliges – all priests and bishops to sign their adherence to the “Independent Church” document.

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The general audience was again live-streamed from the papal library in the Apostolic Palace as Pope Francis, joined by multi-lingual prelates from the Secretariat of State, continued his catechesis on prayer. He began by saying, “we now reflect on how constant prayer was the driving force of the missionary activity of the first Christians.”

“The Church’s first steps in the world were interspersed with prayer,” began the catechesis. “The apostolic writings and the great narration of the Acts of the Apostles give us the image of an active Church, a Church on the move which, gathered in prayer, finds the basis and impulse for missionary action.”

Francis highlighted that in the early Church, “We find here four essential characteristics of ecclesial life: listening to the apostles’ teaching, safeguarding of mutual communion; breaking of bread; and prayer.”

The Holy Father emphasized that, “the Church is not a market; the Church is not a group of businesspeople who go forward with a new business. The Church is the work of the Holy Spirit whom Jesus sent to us to gather us together. The Church is precisely the work of the Spirit in the Christian community, in the life of the community, in the Eucharist, in prayer… always. And everything that grows outside of these coordinates lacks a foundation, is like a house built upon sand.”

He went on to say that, “at times, I feel tremendous sadness when I see a community that has good will, but takes the wrong road because it thinks that the Church is built up in meetings, as if it were a political party. ‘But, the majority, the minority, what do they think about this, that and the other… And this is like a Synod, the synodal path that we must take…’ I ask myself: ‘But where is the Holy Spirit there? Where is prayer? Where is communitarian love? Where is the Eucharist?’ Without these four coordinates, the Church becomes a human society, a political party – majority, minority – changes are made as if it were a company, according to majority or minority…   If the Holy Spirit is lacking, who is the one who attracts [people] to Jesus, the Church is not there. There might be a beautiful friendship club, good, with good intentions, but not the Church, not synodality.”

“In this way,” Pope Francis concluded, “the life of the early Church had the rhythm of a continuous succession of celebrations, convocations, times of both communitarian and personal prayer. And it is the Spirit who granted strength to the preachers who set out on the journey, and who, for love of Jesus, sailed the seas, faced dangers, subjected themselves to humiliation.