(Colossians 2:7)

As I prepare this column on Thanksgiving eve, surely one of the most beautiful days that our nation marks, my heart overflows with the number of things for which I am grateful. I have so many reasons to be thankful that I don’t know where to start so let’s go to the top of a long list – my faith, my family, my friends, my countless friends all over the world who are, in many ways, my second family!!

I thank God countless times during each day for things big and small. I thank Him for my ministry (for that is how I see my work), for filling my life with faith and truth and for giving me the opportunity to share it with so many. I thank the Lord for my radio listeners, TV viewers and all of you who read this column.

I thank God for bringing truly amazing, unique, wonderful, spiritually tall people into my life – that list is SO long it brings tears to my eyes – as well as smiles of remembrance and joy!

As I look over the year since last Thanksgiving, I am especially grateful for a successful eye operation last December and for being well on the road now to recovery from phlebitis. I am again up and about – my first day out in two weeks was Mass on Sunday and the last two days I have been able to run some errands in the neighborhood. Deo gratias!

And now, on the vigil of this beautiful time of the year, I wish you and yours safe travels, a wonderful family gathering, great meals, many hours of laughter and an equal number of hours of story telling, of “do-you-remember-when” moments.

I will be celebrating tomorrow by attending Mass with the American community of the Santa Susanna parish at 10 and then a second Mass at NAC, the North American College, after which there will be an abundant Thanksgiving turkey dinner.

Thanksgiving and Friday are EWTN holidays. If I can post something (probably photos!), I will – if not, you’ll understand! And for that I am thankful!

Psalm 95:2 – Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise!

As I said, I am finally out and about and enjoying being able to run errands and grocery shop for myself, but have been enormously thankful these past two weeks for the help offered by friends, and especially by my neighbors Francesco and Federica.

Today I was coming home from a short errand and had taken a bus that drops me off across the street from my home. At the bus stop is a pizzeria that I’ve gone to a number of times at the end of a long day when I feel like a slice or two of fresh pizza. The gal who works there knocked on the window when she saw me and, as I peeked in the door to say hello, I saw a large group of people. She said they were Americans from Louisiana and wanted me to meet them!

It was just before noon and they had just come from Pope Francis’ weekly audience. As I stepped inside, one of the ladies recognized me, yet another recognized my voice and several started to exclaim, “It’s Joan of Rome!” and then, all of a sudden, I was surrounded by fans!

It was a group from the diocese of Alexandria in Louisiana and we had a great time chatting for about 15 minutes. All knew me from EWTN, several knew me from Catholic Connection with Teresa Tomeo, and several more had heard me on Catholic radio in Baton Rouge with Dan Borné. I met a priest (and only wish I had written down his name) and a deacon and 23 people from several parishes. Some of the pilgrims had been confirmed in recent months whereas several others were preparing for confirmation.  They took a ton of photos and I asked them to send them to me.


Join me on “Vatican Insider” this Thanksgiving weekend – if you are not travelling or out shopping for Christmas – for a wonderful pilgrimage to one of the premier Marian shrines in the world, to Loreto, on Italy’s Adriatic coast, for a visit to the shrine of the Holy House of Loreto. This Holy House, the house where the Bessed Virgin grew up, where the Angel Gabriel announced to Mary that she would be the Mother of God, where Mary and St. Joseph and Jesus lived and laughed and prayed and shared meals and stories and life’s daily adventures.

The photos are from the shrine’s website: http://www.santuarioloreto.it/default_eng.htm

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Join me on this pilgrimage by listening to Vatican Insider: As you know, in the United States, you can listen on a Catholic radio station near you (there is a list of U.S. stations at www.ewtn.com) or on 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 9:30 am (Eastern time) and re-airs Sundays at 4:30 pm (ET). Check for your time zone. Past shows are found in Vatican Insider archives:



On a gray, drizzly morning, Pope Francis greeted the faithful at the general audience in St. Peter’s Square, by noting that, “the weather s not so great, but you are courageous, let us pray together today in presenting the Church to the people of our time. He underscored the theme of his catechesis, namely, “the fundamental truth that we must never forget: the Church is not a static reality, an end in itself, but that she is continually journeying through history to the kingdom of heaven, of which the Church on earth is the seed and beginning.

Looking to the horizon of heaven, of life after death, the Pope said: “Some questions arise spontaneously in us: when will this final passage take place? What will the new dimension of the Church be like? What then will happen to humanity? And to the Creation that surrounds us? These questions are nothing new, the disciples at the time of Christ asked the same questions.  They are ancient, human questions.”

He further explained that, “We do not know the time for the consummation of the earth and of mankind, nor do we know how all things will be transformed. As deformed by sin, the shape of this world will pass away, but we are taught that God is preparing a new dwelling place and a new earth where justice will abide, and whose blessedness will answer and surpass all the longings for peace which spring up in the human heart.”

Francis said, “This is the goal toward which the Church projects itself: it  is the ‘new Jerusalem’, ‘Paradise.’ More than a place, it is a ‘state of being’ in which our deepest expectations will be fulfilled in abundance and our being as creatures and as children of God, will reach full maturity. We will finally be covered with the joy, peace and love of God in a complete way, without any limitations, and we will be face to face with Him! It’s lovely to think of this, to think we will all find ourselves up there! All of us in heaven.  It’s good, it gives strength to our soul.”

“In this perspective,” concluded the Pope, “it is nice to hear that there is a continuity and a communion between the Church in heaven and the Church still journeying on earth. Those who already live in the sight of God can indeed support us and intercede for us, pray for us from heaven. On the other hand, we are always invited to offer good deeds, prayer and the Eucharist itself to alleviate the suffering of souls who are still waiting for the bliss without end.”


At the end of the weekly catechesis, as is customary the Holy Father has greetings in several languages for the pilgrims present in St. Peter’s Square. He speaks in Italian and Spanish whereas monsignori from the Secretariat of State address the faithful in French, German, Portuguese, English, Polish and Arabic. Today Pope Francis had special words for the Arab-speaking faithful, in particular those from Iraq and the Middle East: “The violence, suffering and the seriousness of the sins committed must lead us to leave all to the justice of God, who will judge each one according to his works. Be strong and cling to the Church and to your faith, so as to purify the world with your confidence; transform with your hope and heal with your forgiveness, with the love and patience of your witness. May the Lord protect and support you.”

Speaking Italian, the Pope noted that he will leave Friday on his three-day apostolic trip to Turkey and, in a reference to his meeting in Istanbul with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, he invited those present to pray that “Peter’s visit to his brother Andrew may bring fruits of peace, sincere dialogue between religions and harmony in the Turkish nation.” November 30 marks the feast of St. Andrew, patron of the Orthodox Church.


(VIS) – During his return journey Tuesday from Strasbourg, France, where he addressed both the European Parliament and the Council of Europe, Pope Francis answered questions posed by the journalists who accompanied him on the flight. The questions and the Holy Father’s answers are published below. Each journalist asking a question represented a language group (a French journalist for the French media, etc.) although the last journalist represented several European languages.

Q: “Your Holiness addressed the European Parliament with pastoral words that may also be regarded as political words, and which may be linked, in my opinion, to a social-democratic stance – for example, when you say that we must ensure that the true expressive force of populations is not removed by multinational powers. Could we say that you are a social-democrat Pope?”

Pope Francis: “This would be reductive. It makes me feel as if I am part of a collection of insects: ‘This is a social-democratic insect …’. No, I would say not. I don’t know if I am a social-democrat Pope or not. I would not dare to define myself as belonging to one side or another. I dare say that this comes from the Gospel: this is the message of the Gospel, taken up by the social doctrine of the Church. In reality, in this and in other things – social and political – that I have said, I have not detached myself from the social doctrine of the Church. The social doctrine of the Church comes from the Gospel and from Christian tradition. What I said – the identity of the people – is a Gospel value, is it not? In this sense, I say it. But you have made me laugh, thank you!”

Q: “There was almost no-one on the streets of Strasbourg this morning. The people say they are disappointed. Do you regret not visiting the cathedral of Strasbourg that celebrates its millennium this year? When will you make your first trip to France, and where? Lisieux, perhaps?”

Pope Francis: “No, it is not yet planned, but one should certainly go to Paris. Then, there is a proposal to go to Lourdes. I have asked to visit a city where no Pope has yet been, to greet the citizens. But the plan has not yet been made. As for Strasbourg, a visit to the cathedral was considered but it would have meant already making a visit to France, and this was the problem.”

Q: During your address to the Council of Europe I was struck by the concept of transversality, especially with reference to your meetings with young politicians in various countries, and indeed you spoke of the need for a sort of pact between generations, an intergenerational agreement at the margins of this transversality. Also, if I may ask, is it true that you are devoted to St. Joseph, and have a statue of him in your room?”

Pope Francis: “Yes, it is true. Whenever I have asked something of St. Joseph, he has granted it to me. The fact of ‘transversality’ is important. I have seen in dialogue with young politicians in the Vatican, from different parties and nations, that they speak with a different music, that tends towards transversality, and this is valuable. They are not afraid of coming out of their own territory, without denying it, but coming out in order to engage in dialogue. They are courageous! I believe that we must imitate this, along with intergenerational dialogue. This tendency to come out to find people of other origins and to engage in dialogue: Europe needs this today”.

Q: “In your second speech, the one to the Council of Europe, you spoke about the sins of the sons of the Church. I would like to know if you have received the news on the events in Granada, Spain [alleged sexual abuse of minors by priests in the archdiocese, Ed.], that in a certain sense you brought to light…”

Pope Francis: “I received the news – it was sent to me, I read it, I called the person and I said, ‘Tomorrow you must go to the bishop’, and I wrote to the bishop asking him to begin work, to start the investigation and go ahead. How did I receive the news? With great pain, with very great sadness. But the truth is the truth, and we cannot hide it”.

Q: “In your addresses in Strasbourg, you spoke frequently of both the threat of terrorism and the threat of slavery: these are attitudes that are also typical of the Islamic State, which threatens much of the Mediterranean, which threatens Rome and also threatens you personally. Do you think it is possible to engage in dialogue with these extremists, or do you think this is a lost cause?”

Pope Francis: “I never give something up as a lost cause: never. Perhaps dialogue is not possible, but never close the door. It is difficult, one might say almost impossible, but the door is always open. You have used the word ‘threaten’ twice: it is true, terrorism is a threat. … But slavery is a real situation embedded in the today’s social fabric, and has been for some time. Slave labour, human trafficking, the trade in children … it is a crisis! We must not close our eyes to this. Slavery, today, is a reality, the exploitation of people … And then there is the threat of these terrorists. But there is another threat, and it is State terrorism. When the situation becomes critical, and each State believes it has the right to massacre the terrorists, many who are innocent fall prey alongside the terrorists. This is a form of high-level anarchy that is very dangerous. It is necessary to fight terrorism, but I repeat what I said during my previous trip: when it is necessary to stop an unjust aggressor, it must be done with international consensus.”

Q: “In your heart, when you travel to Strasbourg, do you travel as Peter’s Successor, as the bishop of Rome, or as the archbishop of Buenos Aires?”

Pope Francis: “As all three, I think. My memory is that of the archbishop of Buenos Aires, but I am no longer in this role. Now I am the bishop of Rome and Peter’s Successor, and I think that I travel with this memory but with these realities; I travel with all these things. Europe worries me at the moment; it is good for me to go ahead in order to help, as the bishop of Rome and Peter’s Successor; in this respect I am Roman”.



Just one big event today – Pope Francis’ one-day trip to Strasbourg, France to address the European Parliament and the Council of Europe. Below is a summary provided by Vatican Radio of the Holy Father’s remarks during the flight to Strasbourg and then his lengthy speech to the Parliament. Following that are links to the complete texts of each of those talks. Photos are from the news.va website.

As he does before every trip he takes, Pope Francis visited St. Mary Major Basilica last evening about 5:30, pausing in prayer before the image of Mary so beloved by Romans that is known as “Salus Populi Romani.” Brief note from the Holy See Press Office said the Pope remained about a half hour, praying to Mary for the success of his visit to the European Parliament and the Council of Europe. He offered a wreath with blue and yellow roses, the colors of Europe.

Pope Francis - Strasbourg - St MM


Aboard the papal plane this morning ,Pope Francis greeted journalists travelling with him on the flight to Strasbourg, Fr. Federico Lombardi, head of the Holy See Press Office, had remarked that there were fewer journalists than normal aboard the plane, as many of the news services had correspondents awaiting the Pope in Strasbourg. However, he said, “here we have about fifty of the ‘most faithful’ [journalists],” those who desire to see and hear everything the Pope does. This shows “a great affection for, and attention to” the Holy Father.

Pope Francis - Strasbourg - papal plane

Greeting the journalists, Pope Francis said he hoped that the early morning flight and the busy schedule would not be too tiring for them. “A short time, and so much to do!” he exclaimed. He told the journalists that he would have time to visit with them on the return flight to Rome, assuring them, “I am at your disposal, as usual.”

The Holy Father arrived in Strasbourg at approximately 10:30 local time, for a whirlwind visit to the European Parliament and the Council of Europe.

In his talk to members of the European parliament, Pope Francis called on a “tired” and “lonely” Europe to recover its role as a world protagonist, its identity as a defender of the transcendent dignity of man, the poor, the migrant, the persecuted, the old and the young, to recover its soul: Christianity.

Pope Francis - Strasbourg - flags 2

In a lengthy address– the first of two on his one-day visit to the heart of Europe – he told members of the European Parliament in Strasbourg that a two-thousand-year-old history links Europe and Christianity. It is “not free of conflicts or errors, but driven by the desire to work for the good of all.” This “is our present and our future.  It is our identity.”

The Pope also urged Europe’s 500 million citizens to see the Union’s problems – economic stagnation, unemployment, immigration, rising poverty levels and a growing polarization – as a “force for unity” to overcome fears and mutual mistrust. “Dignity,” he said was the pivotal concept in the process of rebuilding which followed the Second World War and led to the European project. Today it remains central to the commitment of the European Union. But, Pope Francis warned, often the concept of human rights is misunderstood and misused.

Pope Francis - Strasbourg

He pointed to a tendency to uphold the rights of the individual, “without regard for the fact that each human being is part of a social context wherein his or her rights and duties are bound up with those of others and with the common good of society itself.”       Transcendent human dignity – the Pope continued – means regarding human beings not as absolutes, but as beings in relation.

He spoke of a Europe rampant with the disease of loneliness as a direct result of the trend towards individualism. He said the economic crisis has worsened this pervasive loneliness and nourished a growing mistrust in people towards institutions considered aloof and bureaucratic.

The Pope spoke of the unsustainable opulence of selfish lifestyles amid indifference to the poorest of the poor, where technical and economic questions dominate political debate, to the detriment of genuine concern for human beings. This – the Pope noted –reduces human life to being a “cog in a machine” which, if no longer useful, can be “discarded with few qualms, as in the case of the terminally ill, the elderly who are abandoned and uncared for, and children who are killed in the womb.”

Then, quoting Benedict XVI, he said, “this is the great mistake made “when technology is allowed to take over” and the result is a confusion between ends and means.” The future of Europe – added Pope Francis – depends on the recovery of the vital connection between openness to God and the practical and concrete ability to confront situations and problems. The Pope said Christianity is not a threat to secular Europe but rather an enrichment. He said religions can help Europe counter “many forms of extremism” spreading today that are often “a result of the great vacuum of ideals which we are currently witnessing in the West.”

At this point, he decried the “shameful and complicit silence” of many while religious minorities are being “evicted from their homes and native lands, sold as slaves, killed, beheaded, crucified or burned alive.”

Pope Francis went on to observe that the motto of the European Union is “United in Diversity,” but noted that unity does not mean uniformity. Keeping democracy alive in Europe means avoiding the many globalizing tendencies to dilute reality. Keeping democracies alive is a challenge in the present historic moment, he continued, but it must not be allowed to collapse under the pressure of multinational interests which are not universal. It means nurturing the gifts of each man and woman; investing in families, the fundamental cell and most precious element of any society; in educational institutes; in young people today who are asking for a suitable and complete education to help them to look to the future with hope instead of disenchantment.

In areas such as ecology, Europe has always been in the vanguard, the Pope said, while noting that today “millions of people around the world are dying of hunger while tons of food are discarded each day from our tables.” He also spoke of the need to promote policies that create employment, but above all “restore dignity to labor by ensuring proper working conditions” while avoiding the exploitation of workers and ensuring “their ability to create a family and educate their children.”

On the issue of migration, Pope Francis called for a united response and decried the lack of a coordinated European Union-wide effort to adopt policies that assist migrants in their countries of origin and that promote a just and realistic integration: “We cannot allow the Mediterranean to become a vast cemetery!” he exclaimed to lengthy applause.

Pope Francis concluded: “The time has come for us to abandon the idea of a Europe that is fearful and self-absorbed, in order to revive and encourage a Europe of leadership, a repository of science, art, music, human values and faith as well.  A Europe that contemplates the heavens and pursues lofty ideals.  A Europe that cares for, defends and protects man, every man and woman.  A Europe that bestrides the earth surely and securely, a precious point of reference for all humanity!”

CLICK HERE FOR SPEECH TO EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT: http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/speeches/2014/november/documents/papa-francesco_20141125_strasburgo-parlamento-europeo.html

CLICK HERE FOR SPEECH TO COUNCIL OF EUROPE: http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/speeches/2014/november/documents/papa-francesco_20141125_strasburgo-consiglio-europa.html


A year ago yesterday, Sunday, was November 24, 2013, the feast of Christ the King and the end of the Year of Faith. That occasion was a very special moment in my life for a number of reasons but most especially because I received the Apostolic Exhortation “Evangelii gaudium” – the Joy of Faith” – from the hands of the author, Pope Francis!


Over the years I have met and spoken to a number of Popes but for me, just being in the presence of a Pope, the Successor of Peter, our Holy Father, fills me with a great sense of awe. In 1961 I attended an audience with Pope John XXIII and in the years since I have met and spoken to Paul VI, John Paul II, Benedict XVI, and Francis on a previous occasion when he met the Patrons of the Arts of the Vatican Museums on October 19, 2013.

Receiving the Exhortation personally from the Pope was naturally an immensely personal moment and highlight for each of us, the 36 faithful, lay and religious, to whom the Holy Father gave his work.

A year ago was also unique for another reason. As I wrote then:

“Sunday, November 24, 2013, Feast of Christ the King and final day of the Year of Faith, the Vatican, in a momentous, historical, first-time-in-two-millennia occasion, offered the world a glimpse of relics – bone fragments – of St. Peter! Had nothing else happened yeterday morning, just being in the presence of these relics would have been worth the hours spent in St. Peter’s Square under gray, threatening skies and very cold temperatures. We had had a week of rain, so no rain was one of the big blessings of the morning.”

NOTE: Tomorrow, Tuesday, November 25, Pope Francis travels to the French city of Strasbourg where he is scheduled to address the European Parliament and the Council of Europe. He returns to Rome tomorrow afternoon. The last Pope to visit was St. John Paul II on October 8, 1988.


SATURDAY: Over the weekend, I posted several stories on my Facebook page (www.facebook.com/joan.lewis.10420) about Pope Francis’ meeting Saturday in the Paul VI Hall with 7,000 participants in the 29th International Conference organized by the Pontifical Council for Health Workers. The conference was dedicated to autism and included persons affected by this disorder and their families. By all accounts of those present, it was an amazing meeting, especially for the parents of autistic children or relatives of adults living with autism. I was delighte by the responses to those postings.

I had a nephew who was diagnosed with an “autism-like” disability and was thus moved by this conference theme and by the Pope’s reaction to and embrace of – literally and figuratively – of autistic children. Christopher, my nephew, died November 30, 2001, of double pneumonia at the age of 20. He was a twin. His sister Andrea had no health problems and today is married with two little girls.

Pope Francis Saturday thanked the organizers of the conference for having chosen such a complex theme, “which appeals directly to the responsibility of governments and institutions, without forgetting, of course, Christian communities.” He also emphasized the need for common efforts to promote “acceptance, encounter and solidarity … to break through the isolation and, in many cases, the stigma that burdens people affected by autism spectrum disorders, and frequently also their families.”

The Holy Father “encouraged scholars and researchers in the arduous task of discovering therapies and support mechanisms in the treatment and above all the prevention of these disorders.” He concluded, “All this is to be done with the necessary attention to the rights of those affected, considering their needs and their potential, and always safeguarding the dignity of every person.”

Saturday afternoon, Pope Francis had an 80-minute private, previously unannounced meeting with Italian President Giorgio Napolitano that papal spokesman, Fr. Federico Lombardi, defined as “very cordial.”

SUNDAY, the feast of Christ the King, Pope Francis canonized four Italians – Amato Ronconi, Giovanni Antonio Farina, Nicola da Longobardi, and Ludovico da Casoria – and a priest and a nun from Kerala, India – Kuriakose Elias Chavara and Mother Eufrasia Eluvathingal – during Mass in St. Peter’s Square. About 5,000 pilgrims came from India to witness the canonization of the nation’s second and third saints and, according to the blog of one priest accompanying some pilgrims, many of whom arrived at St. Peter’s Square at 5 a.m, even though Vatican did not open security check until 8 a.m.

He said, “The starting point of salvation is not the confession of the sovereignty of Christ, but rather the imitation of Jesus’ works of mercy through which he brought about his kingdom.  The one who accomplishes these works shows that he has welcomed Christ’s sovereignty, because he has opened his heart to God’s charity.  In the twilight of life we will be judged on our love for, closeness to and tenderness towards our brothers and sisters.

“Today,” said Francis, “the Church places before us the example of these new saints.  Each in his or her own way served the kingdom of God, of which they became heirs, precisely through works of generous devotion to God and their brothers and sisters.  They responded with extraordinary creativity to the commandment of love of God and neighbour.  They dedicated themselves, without holding back, to serving the least and assisting the destitute, sick, elderly and pilgrims.  Their preference for the smallest and poorest was the reflection and measure of their unconditional love of God.  In fact, they sought and discovered love in a strong and personal relationship with God, from whence springs forth true love for one’s neighbour.  In the hour of judgement, therefore, they heard that tender invitation: ‘Come, O blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world’.”

MONDAY: At 9 this morning, the Holy Father met in St. Petetr’s Basilica with a group of faithful of the Syro-Malabar rite who had come to Rome for the canonization on Sunday of Kuriakose Elias Chavara of the Holy Family, and Euphrasia Eluvathingal of the Sacred Heart. He thanked the Church in India, and specifically in Kerala, for “all its apostolic strength and for the witness of faith you have. Continue in this way! Kerala is a land that is very fertile in religious and priestly vocations. Carry on working in this way, with your witness.”

The Pope noted that !Father Kuriakose Elias was a religious, both active and contemplative, who generously gave his life for the Syro-Malabar Church, putting into action the maxim ‘sanctification of oneself and the salvation of others’. For her part, Sister Euphrasia lived in profound union with God so much so that her life of holiness was an example and an encouragement to the people, who called her ‘Praying Mother’.”

At 9:30 Monday morning, Pope Francis presided at a three-hour meeting of the ranking officials of the Roman Curia, including the prefects of the 9 congregations and presidents of the 12 pontifical councils to further discuss proposals for reform of the Roman Curia.

The director of the Holy See Press Office, Father Federico Lombardi, reminded journalists that these meetings are routinely held about every six months or so.  He said that the secretary of the so-called “C9” Council of Cardinals examining the issue of reform, Bishop Marcello Semeraro gave a brief presentation of the subjects under consideration.  Those present were then given time to contribute their opinions which will be taken into account in future meetings of the C9. The next scheduled meeting is December 9-11. Two officials could not be present, Cardinals Antonio Vegliò and Zenon Grocholewski.

Though no statement was made on the appointment today by the Pope of Cardinal Robert Sarah as the new prefect of the Congregation of Divine Worship and the Discipline of Sacraments, it is believed that the council he led up to today, “Cor Unum” will possibly be merged with another pontifical council (most likely Justice and Peace) as part of the curia reform.

 Monday afternoon Pope Francis had two appointments: an audience with Abdel Fattah Al Sisi, president of the Arab Republic of Egypt and entourage and, at 3 pm in St. Peter’s Basilica, he gave the final commendation and farewell at the end of the funeral of Cardinal Fiorenzo Angelini who died Saturday at the age of 98. Cardinal Angelo Sodano, dean of the College og Cardinals, presided the funeral Mass. Cardinal Angelini was born in Rome in 1916 – the last native of the city to be made a cardinal – and served the Church under seven different Popes.


Tomorrow Pope Francis is scheduled to meet with the estimated 7,000 participants in the annual meeting of the Pontifical Council for the Health Care Pastoral as they focus on the theme, “The Person with Autism Spectrum Disorders: Animating Hope.”The three-day conference began November 20. I will post an update either in this column or on www.facebook.com/joan.lewis.10420

Today the Pope addressed participants in the Seventh World Congress for the Pastoral Care of Migrants that took place this week at the Pontifical Urban University (the university that trains men and women religious to be missionaries or work in missionary lands). Given the U.S. president’s announcement Thursday of an executive decision on migration policy in the United States, you might want to read Pope Francis’ speech (below) to those involved in the Church’s pastoral ministry to migrants.


Who are the Capuchins? Why did they build a cemetery in the center of Rome using the bones of nearly 4,000 friars? Tune in to “Vatican Insider” this weekend to get the answers to those questions! You may have seen the TV show, “Bones” – well, this is the real thing!

And here’s a preview of part of that cemetery (Via Veneto, 27):

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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 www.ewtn.com) or on 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 9:30 am (Eastern time) and re-airs Sundays at 4:30 pm (ET). Check for your time zone. Past shows are found in Vatican Insider archives: http://www.ewtn.com/vondemand/audio/file_index.asp?SeriesId=7096&pgnu=


Pope Francis this morning welcomed the participants in the Seventh World Congress for the Pastoral Care of Migrants that took place this week at the Pontifical Urban University, and told them of his “sincere appreciation for your commitment to and solicitude for the men and women who even today are undertaking the ‘journey of hope’ on the path of migration. The congress, sponsored by the Pontifical Council for Migrant and Itinerant Peoples, is focusing on the theme, “Cooperation and Development in the Pastoral Ministry of Migration.”

The Pope began by noting that, “Today, notwithstanding new developments and the emergence of situations which are at times painful and even tragic, migration is still an aspiration to hope. Above all in areas of the world in difficulty, where the lack of work prevents individuals and their families from achieving a dignified life, there is a strong drive to seek a better future wherever that may be, even at the risk of disappointment and failure. This is caused in great part by the economic crisis that, to different degrees, is affecting every country in the world.”

Francis then listed some of the factors that cause migration: “inequality, poverty, overpopulation, the growing need for employment in some sectors of the global job market, disasters caused by climate change, wars and persecution, and the desire of younger people to relocate as they seek new opportunities.” He spoke of the lights and shadows, the highs and lows, the hopes, joys and even disasters of migration for countries of origin and for those who receive migrants.

“In effect,” said the Holy Father, “receiving nations draw advantages from employing immigrants for production needs and national prosperity, not infrequently filling gaps created by the demographic crisis. In turn, the nations which migrants leave show a certain reduction in unemployment and, above all, benefit from earnings which are then sent back to meet the needs of families which remain in the country.”

He also noted that, “some problems also accompany these benefits.  We find in the countries of origin, among other things, an impoverishment due to the so-called “brain drain,” the effects on infants and young people who grow up without one or both parents, and the risk of marriages failing due to prolonged absences. In the receiving nations, we also see difficulties associated with migrants settling in urban neighborhoods that are already problematic, as well as their difficulties in integrating and learning to respect the social and cultural conventions that they find.  In this regard, pastoral workers play an important role through initiating dialogue, welcoming and assisting with legal issues, mediating with the local population. In the countries of origin, on the other hand, the closeness of pastoral workers to the families and children of migrant parents can lessen the negative repercussions of the parents’ absence.

The Pope stressed that, “the Christian community, in fact, is continuously engaged in welcoming migrants and sharing with them God’s gifts, in particular the gift of faith. The Church promotes pastoral plans for the evangelization and support of migrants throughout their journey from their country of origin, through countries of transit, to the receiving countries. She gives particular attention to meeting the spiritual needs of migrants through catechesis, liturgy and the celebration of the Sacraments.

Francis admitted that, “sadly, migrants often experience disappointment, distress and loneliness.  In effect, the migrant worker has to deal with the problem both of being uprooted and needing to integrate. Here the Church also seeks to be a source of hope: she develops programs of education and orientation; she raises her voice in defense of migrants’ rights; she offers assistance, including material assistance to everyone, without exception, so that all may be treated as children of God.”

He said people must be capable of “valuing a migrant’s potential rather than seeing them only as a problem to be confronted and resolved. … How much more necessary must this be in the case of the Christian community, where no one is a stranger and, therefore, everyone is worthy of being welcomed and supported.” The Holy Father quoted his 2014 Message for the World Day of Migrants and Refugees: “It is less the criteria of efficiency, productivity, social class, or ethnic or religious belonging which ground that personal dignity, so much as the fact of being created in God’s own image and likeness (cf. Gen 1:26-27) and, even more so, being children of God. Every human being is a child of God! He or she bears the image of Christ!”

“Migrants, therefore,” he concluded, “by virtue of their very humanity, even prior to their cultural values, widen the sense of human fraternity. At the same time, their presence is a reminder of the need to eradicate inequality, injustice and abuses.  In that way, migrants will be able to become partners in constructing a richer identity for the communities which provide them hospitality, as well as the people who welcome them, prompting the development of a society which is inclusive, creative and respectful of the dignity of all.”


(Vatican Radio) – Saying people, not money, create development, Pope Francis called on Thursday for courageous initiatives to rethink our economic system so that we do not become slaves of money. His remarks came in a video message delivered to participants attending a Festival of Social Doctrine in Verona, Italy, promoted by the local Church.

The Pope urged people not to become discouraged by the economic crisis but instead turn their energies towards ways of “rethinking our economic model and the world of work.”  He warned that “the great temptation” when faced with these difficulties is to concentrate “on tending our own wounds and use that as an excuse to not heed the cry of the poor” and all those who are suffering because they have lost their jobs and the dignity that goes with that. The risk, he went on, is that “this indifference makes us blind, deaf and dumb”, closed in to the outside world and only concerned with ourselves.

Pope Francis spoke instead of the need to move beyond and “abandon the stereotypes which are considered safe and guaranteed” in order to respond to the real needs of people. In the field of economics, he Said,, we urgently need to take the initiative because “the system tends to homogenize everything and money becomes its master.”  Taking the initiative in this field, he added, means having the courage not to allow ourselves to be imprisoned and subsequently enslaved by money.

The true problem explained the Pope “is not money as such but people.”  This is because “money by itself does not create development” but instead we need people who have the courage to take the initiative. Pope Francis stressed that taking the initiative in this way means overcoming a tendency to always ask the state or other bodies for assistance but instead use our creative talents to find new ways of earning a living. He concluded his address by expressing his concern over the high number of unemployed young people, saying we need to invest more in them and give them a great deal of confidence.


Interesting news from the Vatican’s Philatelic and Numismatic (stamps and coins) Office: Today they issued a philatelic set celebrating Pope’s Francis’ apostolic journeys in 2013. The proceeds from the sale of the €.85 stamp and the €3.40 philatelic booklet, both of which celebrate the visit of Pope Francis to Lampedusa in July 2013, will be donated to Pope Francis for charity works to support migrants. The website for the philatelic office is: http://www.vaticanstate.va/content/vaticanstate/en/servizi/ufficio-filatelico-e-numismatico.html

There are many other stamps available for purchase (the site tells you how) including the 450th anniversary of the death of Michelangelo and (amazing coincidence) the 450th anniversary of the birth of Shakespeare, the 85th anniversary of the founding of Vatican City State (February 11, 1929), the 50th anniversary of the visit of Paul VI in the Holy Land (commemorated last May by Pope Francis who recreated that 1964 Holy Land pilgrimage), Christmas 2014 and the series on 2013 papal trips.

The UFN (Italian acronym for this office) informs collectors that the stamps of the commemorative joint series of the II Year of Pontificate of Pope Francis issued by the Philippine Postal system can be requested at: Philatelic Division – Philippine Postal Corporation, Liwasang Bonifacio – 1000 Manila, Philippines: E-mail:   philpost[dot]stamps[at]gmail[dot]com – website: http://www.phlpost.gov.ph



Inexplicable technical problems have plagued my entire afternoon and early evening but I have been able to post a few news stories on my Facebook page (www.facebook.com/joan.lewis.10420). For this column, given the late hour, I chose one story – the Pope’s visit to FAO – the United Nations’s Rome-based Food and Agricultural Organization. I wrote an opening paragraph and then selected excerpts from the papal speech and presented those, putting in italics some of his choice words to this UN body.

I attempted to post the story on my blog but both the blog and this Word document disappeared. I will try again to post this important story but will limit myself to just excerpts – using italics to highlight


Pope Francis on November 20, 2014 to FAO: ”We live in a time in which the relations between nations are too often damaged by mutual suspicion, that at times turns into forms of military and economic aggression, undermining friendship between brothers and rejecting or discarding what is already excluded. He who lacks his daily bread or a decent job is well aware of this. … I hope that, in the formulation of these commitments, the States are inspired by the conviction that the right to food can only be ensured if we care about the actual subject, that is, the person who suffers the effects of hunger and malnutrition.” ”Nowadays there is much talk of rights, frequently neglecting duties; perhaps we have paid too little heed to those who are hungry. It is also painful to see that the struggle against hunger and malnutrition is hindered by “market priorities”, the “primacy of profit”, which have reduced foodstuffs to a commodity like any other, subject to speculation, also of a financial nature.

“Persons and peoples ask for justice to be put into practice: not only in a legal sense, but also in terms of contribution and distribution. Therefore, development plans and the work of international organisations must take into consideration the wish, so frequent among ordinary people, for respect for fundamental human rights and, in this case, the rights of the hungry.” ”Interest in the production, availability and accessibility of foodstuffs, climate change and agricultural trade should certainly inspire rules and technical measures, but the first concern must be the individual as a whole, who lacks daily nourishment and has given up thinking about life, family and social relationships, instead fighting for survival. St. John Paul II, in the inauguration in this hall of the First Conference on Nutrition in 1992, warned the international community against the risk of the ‘paradox of plenty’, in which there is food for everyone, but not everyone can eat, while waste, excessive consumption and the use of food for other purposes is visible before our very eyes. Unfortunately, this “paradox” remains relevant.”

”The second challenge to be faced is the lack of solidarity. Our societies are characterized by growing individualism and division: this ends up depriving the weakest of a decent life, and provokes revolts against institutions. When there is a lack of solidarity in a country, the effects are felt throughout the world.”

“Human beings, as they become aware of being partly responsible for the plan of creation, become capable of mutual respect, instead of fighting between themselves, damaging and impoverishing the planet. … A source of inspiration is natural law, inscribed in the human heart, that speaks a language that everyone can understand: love, justice, peace, elements that are inseparable from each other. Like people, States and international institutions are called to welcome and nurture these values, in a spirit of dialogue and mutual listening.

Every woman, man, child and elderly person everywhere should be able to count on these guarantees. It is the duty of every State that cares for the well-being of its citizens to subscribe to them unreservedly, and to take the necessary steps to ensure their implementation. This requires perseverance and support. The Catholic Church also offers her contribution in this field through constant attention to the life of the poor in all parts of the world” and “the Holy See is actively involved in international organizations and through numerous documents and statements” and “contributes to identifying and assuming the criteria to be met in order to develop an equitable international system.” If

“We believe in the principle of the unity of the human family, based on the common paternity of God the Creator, and in the fraternity of human beings. No form of political or economic pressure that exploits the availability of foodstuffs can be considered acceptable. But, above all, no system of discrimination, de facto or de jure, linked to the capacity of access to the market of foodstuffs, must be taken as a model for international efforts that aim to eliminate hunger.”



Here’s an interesting piece on surveys about religion that will make you think. For example, the next time you are asked online or in person at a shopping mall or over the phone to answer a survey, ask yourself: How is the question phrased?: http://www.cruxnow.com/life/2014/11/18/religion-survey-babble-confuses-103-of-readers-heres-why/?s_campaign=crux:email:daily

On another matter – totally:

The thrills of living overseas; I read the instruction booklet for my new washer (see yesterday’s blog) and guess what. The shortest program for a cold water, small load of not very dirty items, is 55 minutes! The average programs run from 2 to 3 hours!! And these are the energy savers! This is typical for Europe – and it is worse for dryers, which explains why so few homes have them and why you see clothes hanging from lines in Italy! So, if you live in the US and Canada, the next time you wash and dry a load of towels, thank your lucky stars for real energy savers!

You will love today’s general audience! And you will be comforted by Pope Francis’ words on how to be a saint and who is eligibile – we all are!!


Pope Francis, in his catechesis today at the general audience, focused on the universal call to holiness of all baptized, and stressed that, “every state of life leads to holiness, always” but we must be open to God’s gift of grace.”

Basically, said Pope Francis, becoming a saint, is up to us – IF we accept the Lord’s call to the vocation of holiness and IF we accept his grace to get there!

Photo from news.va

Nov 19 General Audience

A look at some of the world’s most well-known saints – Francis, Dominic, Padre Pio, John Paul II, John XXIII, Clare, Therese, Teresa, Catherine – tells us that most were men and women Religious and/or founders of religious orders, Popes, etc. This could easily discourage even the most faithful of Christians – most of whom are not consecrated Religious but, said Pope Francis, we must not be discouraged: “The call to holiness is not just for bishops, priests or religious … No. We are all called to become saints! So often, we are tempted to think that holiness is granted only to those who have the opportunity to break away from the ordinary tasks, to devote themselves to prayer. But it is not so!

“Some people,” he went on, “think that holiness is closing your eyes and putting on a pious face… No! That is not holiness! Holiness is something greater, more profound that God gifts us. Indeed, it is by living with love and offering Christian witness in our daily tasks that we are called to become saints. And everyone in the particular condition and state of life in which they find themselves.”

The Holy Father urged the faithful to examine their consciences, asking how they could respond to the Lord’s call to sanctity, and suggesting ways to respons as he mentioned various states of life. He explained that when the Lord calls us to be holy, he does not ask us to do something weighty or difficult or im possible or even sad, but rather offers us an invitation to share in his joy.

The Pope then asked questions about various states of life: Are you consecrated? Be holy living your gift and your ministry with joy. Are you married? Be holy and loving and take care of your husband or your wife, as Christ did with the Church. Are you a baptized person who is not married? Be holy by performing your work with honesty and competence and giving time to the service of others. “But, father, I work in a factory … I work as an accountant, always with the numbers, I cannot be a saint there…” “Yes, you can! There, where you work you can become a saint. God gives you the grace to become a saint. God communicates with you.” Always and everywhere you can become a saint, that is, by being receptive to the grace that is working in us and leads us to holiness.

“Are you a parent or grandparent?” asked the Pope. “Be holy by passionately teaching your children or grandchildren to know and follow Jesus. And this takes a lot of patience, to be a good parent, a good grandfather, a good mother, a good grandmother, it takes a lot of patience and this patience is the holiness exercising patience. Are you a catechist, educator or volunteer? Be holy by becoming a visible sign of God’s love and His presence beside us.

“This is it: every state of life leads to holiness, always! At home, on the streets, at work, at church, in the moment and with the state of life that you have, a door is opened on the road to sainthood. Do not be discouraged to travel this road. God gives you the grace to do so. And this is all that the Lord asks, that we be in communion with Him and serve others. Life lived in communion with the Lord and in the service of others.”

Francis noted that, “we do not walk the path of sanctity alone, each for himself, but rather together, in that single body that is the Church, loved and sanctified by the Lord Jesus Christ.”


At the end of the general audience today, Pope Francis made a heartfelt plea for peace in Jerusalem and throughout the Holy Land, in the wake of yesterday’s killing in a Jewish synagogue of four rabbis, including three Americans and one British. A fifth person, a policeman, was killed and many others wounded in the attempt

“I am following with concern,” said the Pope, “the alarming increase in tension in Jerusalem and other parts of the Holy Land, with unacceptable episodes of violence that do not spare even the places of worship.  I assure a special prayer for all the victims of this dramatic situation and for those who suffer most as a result. From the bottom of my heart, I make an appeal to the parties involved to put an end to the spiral of hatred and violence and to make courageous decisions for reconciliation and peace. Building peace is difficult, but living without peace is a torment!”


A pilgrimage group in the Holy Land for the November 20th annual International Walk for Peace, given the attack Monday in Jerusalem that killed five people, has modified its original schedule and now calls itself the pilgrimage of “A Heartfelt Prayer for Peace,” This annual event was organized by ORP, Opera Romana Pellegrinaggi.

Building on Pope Francis’ strong appeal for peace in Jerusalem and the Holy Land at the Wednesday general audience, tomorrow morning the pilgrims will meet at 7:45 at St. Catherine’s Church in Bethlehem where they will be given olive tree branches and pause for prayer with the Palestinian community. Afterwards, they will board busses for the 5-mile ride to Jerusalem. Instead of the walk from Bethlehem to Jerusalem, pilgrims will walk the Way of the Cross – the Via Dolorosa – from the convent of the scourging or flagellation to the basilica of the Holy Sepulchre.

Msgr. Liberio Andreatta, vice president of ORP who is in the Holy Land with the group, said in an ORP communique, “we wanted the walk to be transformed into the Way of the Cross, which is the heart of the Christian faith, the cross carried with love to overcome evil.” He is in Jerusalem to mark a diocesan and national pilgrimage that is celebrating the 80th anniversary of the founding of ORP, an office that is part of the vicariate of Rome.

Msgr. Andreatta said, “As we walk through Christ’s passion, we will experience the atrocious human suffering that these populations have gone through in these last hours, we will pray with them and for them so that hatred will not – cannot – have the final word. As Christians we are called to witness to Christ crucified, Who died and rose from the dead. This is the spirit that will animate our steps.”

After the Via Crucis, or Way of the Cross, pilgrims will gather at the Notre Dame Center to participate in the prayer for peace initiative, together with the Israeli community.


At a time when I am house bound, Mr. Murphy Law has paid a visit. You’ve heard of Murphy’s law – if something can go wrong, it will! My wash machine finally died and the fridge is on its way! I won’t even mention the smaller “bad  breaks.”

Normally, to purchase a new big ticket item, I would visit several stores that carry such items, price check, ask questions, do some research online and then make a purchase. I did go online, checking on reliable name brands, comnparing prices etc. It is amazing what machines offer today. The washers I saw seemed to do everything but dry and iron the wash load! I just need a few of the basics.

I had received an email a while back from the Vatican announcing that it had added the big ticket items such as refrigerators, washers, etc. to its stock. I called my neighbor Francesco last night (he works at the press office) whom I have known for years, along with his wife, and he said he’d look at some of the items today and call me from the store. He did just that, I listened to his advice and chose a great name brand washer and gave him the money as he came by on his way back to work and voilà, in about an hour, the washer will be delivered and installed!

I cannot remember a moment in my years in Italy whan anything so major has been achieved with such little fuss. Of course I did nothing except study items online – Francesco did the leg work. But it all means so much to me given that I have not been able to go out. I am sure that each of you, my readers, has also been blessed with good neighbors- there are so many ways of being Samaritans!

Now, in the near future, I must get a new fridge (that might be something I’d have to see in person)!

Before a look at a few news items, I want to share the account by ANSA (an Italian news agency) on Pope Francis’ homily at Mass this morning:

Vatican City, November 18 – Anyone can be touched by God and converted – even today’s corrupt and careless leaders, Pope Francis said Tuesday. During Mass at the Vatican’s St. Martha’s guesthouse, where he lives, the Pope described different calls to conversion in the Bible, including the story of Zacchaeus, a corrupt and despised tax collector who served the rich and dominant forces of the day.

“He was just like many leaders we know: corrupt,” Francis said. “Those who, instead of serving the people, exploit the people to serve themselves. There are some like this, in the world,” he added. “That changed after Zacchaeus became intensely curious about Jesus and wanted so much to see him that Zacchaeus made a fool of himself by climbing a tree in an effort to see Christ as He passed by,” said the Pope.

“The Holy Spirit is clever, eh! He sowed the seed of curiosity, and so in order to see him…(Zacchaeus) had to climb a tree to watch a procession. “Just think of it. How ridiculous!” said Francis. And from that moment, Zacchaeus converted to Christianity and was changed, the pope concluded. (http://popefrancisnewsapp.com/)


VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis is raffling off dozens of gifts he’s been given during his short papacy, including a new Fiat 4×4, some bikes and a fancy coffee maker, with the proceeds going to charity.

The Vatican City State administration this week put up posters around the Vatican advertising the 10 euro ($13) per ticket raffle. Tickets are on sale at the Vatican post office, pharmacy and other venues open to the public. Winners will be announced Jan. 8.

Francis, known for his simplicity, has overhauled the Vatican’s finances to make them more efficient and to devote more money to charity. The raffle is part of that effort, making sure gifts for which Francis has no use don’t just gather dust in storage but are used to help the needy.


The three-day colloquium in Vatican City, organized by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and the Pontifical Councils for the Family, for Inter-religious Dialogue, and for Promoting Christian Unity, on the subject of the Complementarity of Man and Woman in Marriage continues.  This global, inter-religious meeting featuring representatives from 14 religious traditions and 23 countries, was opened yesterday by Pope Francis.  Participants have been exchanging and sharing experiences from cultural, religious and societal points of view.OComplentarity conference

Chief Rabbi of the UK and the Commonwealth, Jonathan Sachs spoke Monday and said later in a radio interview that the result of the decline in stable, two parent families causes a rise among young people in eating disorders, drug and alcohol abuse, depression, suicide attempts and other stress-related symptoms. Three million children are living in an affluent society in this new form of poverty of the single parent family and it’s women who are bearing the brunt because they are the heads of 92% of those families.

He said that one million children will grow up never knowing or meeting their fathers, Rabbi Sachs says, and this is leading to an unprecedented divide between these disadvantaged kids and those growing up in stable, two parent families who will be advantaged in every way. This is a scandal, he says, and it needs someone to stand up for those children who are the victims of this widespread desertion of marriage.

Another speaker Monday was Sister Prudence Allen, a member of the chaplaincy team at Lancaster University in England and a newly appointed member of the International Theological Commission. She addressed the principles of complementarity and the rise of sex and gender ideologies that challenge the traditional vision of marriage and the family.

Summarizing her remarks with Vatican Radio she said that gender ideology was founded by John Money who thought the person was a collection of unconnected parts that from birth to the age of about two could be put together, almost like a Lego set, into different kinds of combinations. But Sister Prudence says this destroyed what we would call the centre of integration where we become an organised, integrated man or woman…..it is important to distinguish between the development of these ideologies, she says, and the reality of sex and gender identity.

Today, speakers included Johann Christoph Arnold, senior pastor of the Bruderhof, an international communal movement dedicated to a life of simplicity, service, sharing, and nonviolence. In thirty years as a family counselor, Arnold has advised thousands of couples and individuals, including the terminally ill, veterans, prison inmates, and teenagers. He topic was titled, ‘We Need to Become More Courageous Like the Early Church’ and he focussed on “Living Witness for Marriage: What God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.”

Helen Alvaré, communications liaison for the conference told Catholic News Agency that the colloquium hopes to offer “a greater understanding” of the relationship between man and woman within marriage. It also aims to provide support for those “who hope for marriage, but sometimes despair, and for people who are struggling with it if they have it.”

All videos shown and speeches delivered at the colloquium can be found here: http://humanum.it/en/videos/


Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem Fouad Twal told Fides news agency in a statement, “I extend my condolences to the relatives of the victims of the assault against the Synagogue of Jerusalem and all the violence that bloody the Holy Land. In our churches, convents and monasteries, we will pray more than ever that the Lord helps us and helps political leaders to take the right steps so that there is peace and security for all, all, all.”

Worshippers in the Jerusalem synagogue included the four rabbis who were killed, three of whom were Americans, according to news reports. Many others were injured.

Patriarch Twal, having just returned from abroad, told of a Jerusalem marked by a strengthening of security measures and roadblocks. He said, “this is a sign that the situation is anything but normal, and control measures cannot solve the seriousness of the problems. It is necessary to go to the roots, remove the causes of despair that breeds violence, stop the endless spiral of revenge. Otherwise we will always live in fear, without freedom or dignity. These are the thoughts that we have in our hearts, as we approach Christmas.”


(VIS) – This morning a press conference was held in the Holy See Press Office to present the 29th International Conference organised by the Pontifical Council for Health Care Workers, on the theme “The Person with Autism Spectrum Disorders: Animating Hope.”The three-day conference starts November 20.

Presenters included Archbishop Zygmunt Zimowski, president of the Pontifical Council for Health Care Workers (for Health Pastoral Care); Msgr. Jean-Marie Mate Musivi Mupendawatu and Fr. Augusto Chendi, M.I., respectively secretary and under-secretary of the same dicastery; and Stefano Vicari, head of the Department of Child Neuropsychiatry at the Bambino Gesu Paediatric Hospital, Rome.

Archbishop Zimowski explained that the term “autism” was first used by the Swiss psychiatrist Eugen Bleuler in 1911 to describe the introversion of schizophrenic patients. Subsequently, in 1943, his colleague Leo Kanner described the disorder for the first time, affirming that autistic children were born with a congenital incapacity to establish normal contact with other people. It is currently defined as a “neuro-behavioural disturbance (also known as Kanner’s Syndrome) of a pervasive type”, of multifactorial origin. In general, autism spectrum disorders manifest themselves before the age of three, and are life-long. The most recent statistics confirm that around 1% of children worldwide are affected.

“The many difficulties, including those of an ethical, moral and spiritual nature, faced by those with autism spectrum disorders and their carers have led us to choose such an important, difficult and delicate theme for this conference”, the prelate explained. “It will be a special occasion for observing the advances that have been made in research and treatment, as well as legal and political-administrative aspects; three valuable days for listening and exchanging experiences, and learning from the world’s most qualified specialists.”

The Conference will be attended by more than 650 people from 57 different countries, and will include an encounter with the Holy Father during the Wednesday general audience, as well as an exhibition of paintings by the Taiwanese autistic artist Leland Lee, a moment of prayer and testimonies from people affected by autism spectrum disorders, their families, and associations. Various famous Italian singers will offer a musical contribution.