Today was a very busy day for Pope Francis, and will only end when his 6 p.m. meeting with the Cursillos Movement (underway as I write) ends. A lot of news today so I offer the top stories in a more or less shortened form.

Tomorrow, May 1, feast of St. Joseph, is Labor Day in Italy and a huge holiday in both Italy and the Vatican. Pope Francis’ sole scheduled activity is a video link at noon with Expo Milan 2015 to participate in opening this 184-day long exposition on the theme: “Feeding the Planet, energy for life.” I’ll bring you that story and any other breakling news and will update you on this week’s “Vatican Insider.”

And now, on to the news:


POPE FRANCIS ON THURSDAY ADRESSED members of the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission – known as ARCIC – and told them the cause of unity is not an option undertaking. The 18 Anglican and Catholic members of the commission, known as ARCIC III, are holding their annual meeting this week outside Rome. ARCIC was founded after an historic meeting in 1966 between Pope Paul VI and Archbishop Michael Ramsey of Canterbury – the first since the Reformation and the Church of England’s breakaway from Rome. And thus the Anglican-Catholic dialogue was started. (photos:


The Pope said: “There is a strong bond that already unites us which goes beyond all divisions. It is the testimony of Christians from different Churches and traditions, victims of persecution and violence simply because of the faith they profess. And not only now, that there are many of them; I think also of the martyrs of Uganda, half Catholics and half Anglicans. The blood of these martyrs will nourish a new era of ecumenical commitment, a fervent desire to fulfil the last will and testament of the Lord: that all may be one. The witness by these our brothers and sisters demands that we live in harmony with the Gospel and that we strive with determination to fulfil the Lord’s will for his Church. Today the world urgently needs the common, joyful witness of Christians, from the defence of life and human dignity to the promotion of justice and peace.”

NEW COMMISSION INSTITUTED TO STUDY REFORM OF VATICAN COMMUNICATIONS (VIS) – During the April 13-15 meeting of the Council of Cardinals who assist the Holy Father in the governance of the universal Church and the reform of the Roman Curia, the final report of the committee charged with proposing a reform of Vatican communications, the so-called Vatican Media Committee (VMC), was examined. The C9 subsequently proposed to Pope Francis the institution of a commission to study this final report and to suggest feasible approaches to its implementation. The Pope accepted the proposal and, on April 23, instituted the commission and appointed its members. Commission chairman is Msgr. Dario Vigano, director of the Vatican Television Center.


Members are Paolo Nusiner, director general of “Avvenire” daily newspaper, Msgr. Lucio Adrian Ruiz, head of the Vatican Internet Service, Jesuit Fr. Antonio Spadaro, director of “La Civiltà Cattolica,” and Msgr. Paul Tighe, secretary of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications.

POPE FRANCIS SENT A TELEGRAM of condolences to Cardinal Agostino Vallini, vicar for Rome, upon learning of the death Thursday at the age of 97 of Cardinal Giovanni Canestri. He was archbishop of Genoa, Italy from 1987 to 1995. Originally from the diocese of Alessandria, the late cardinal belonged to the clergy of Rome and was at one point an auxiliary bishop there. Francis wrote, in part: “The passing of the venerated cardinal elicits in my heart profound emotion and sincere admiration for an esteemed man of the Church who lived with humility and devotion his long and fruitful priesthood and episcopate in the service of the Gospel and of the souls entrusted to him.”

THURSDAY MORNING POPE FRANCIS WELCOMED TWO CATHOLIC ASSOCIATIONS, the Community of Christian Life in Italy and the Missionary League for Italian Students.  He asked them – and Italian Catholics, through these organizations –  to spread a culture of justice and peace, support families in difficulties and show solidarity with the world’s poorest and most needy.  In fact, the two have come together to work on a joint project calling for greater support on the part of Europe in welcoming migrants from overseas and to help Christians in Syria.

THE POPE ALSO WELCOMED President James Alix Michel of the Republic of the Seychelles.


AT 6 P.M. THURSDAY IN THE PAUL VI HALL, the Pope met with members of the Cursillos in ChristianityCursillos de Cristiandad (meaning “short course in Christianity”). Cursillos is an apostolic movement founded in Majorca, Spain by a group of lay people in 1944 seeking to refine a technique to train pilgrimage Christian leaders. The Cursillo focuses on showing Christian lay people how to become effective Christian leaders over the course of a three-day weekend. The weekend includes fifteen talks – known as “rollos” – some given by priests and some by lay people. The major emphasis of the weekend is to ask participants to take what they have learned back into the world, on what is known as the “fourth day.” The method stresses personal spiritual development, as accelerated by weekly group reunion (after the weekend). Cursillos always operates within a diocese with the permission and blessing of the bishop.

VATICAN PRESS CONFERENCE (VIS) – This morning a press conference was held in the Holy See Press Office to present the concert organized to support the Pope’s charitable work. It will take place on May 14, solemnity of the Ascension, at 6 p.m. in the Paul VI Hall. The concert will be conducted by Maestro Daniel Oren and performed by the Philarmonic Orchestra of Salerno, Italy, together with the choir of the diocese of Rome led by Msgr. Marco Frisina. The event is sponsored by the Papal Almoner, the Pontifical Council for Culture, the Pontifical Council for Promoting New Evangelization, and the St. Matthew Foundation, in memory of Cardinal Van-Thuan, and unites culture with charitable concerns. For the occasion, the donations gathered will be entirely donated to the office of the Apostolic Almoner, the dicastery responsible for the Pope’s charity. The evening’s protagonists are the most needy, the poor and the sick, who will occupy the front rows and have been invited through charitable and voluntary associations: the Great Priory of Rome and the Order of Malta, the Circle of St. Peter, diocesan Caritas, the Sant’Egidio Community and the Centro Astalli, which assists migrants and refugees, the Daughters of Charity and other associations present in the diocese of Rome.


The technical problems related to security issues that arose when I was in Chicago have been overcome and I can finally post a blog. I was busy writing and tried to post while away but to no avail. I did, however, post my column on Facebook. In the future, if you do not see this column and I am not on vacation, always check here:

Mercy Sister Mary Ann Walsh, a quiet nun with a keen wit who led a very public life as a journalist and a longtime spokeswoman for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, died on Tuesday (April 28) after a tough battle with cancer. She was 67 and passed away in a hospice in Albany next to the regional convent of the religious order she entered as a 17-year-old novice in 1964. Walsh had moved to her native Albany from Washington last September after it was discovered that the cancer that had been in remission since 2010 had returned.

No journalist who covered the Vatican, the Catholic Church and the Holy Father in recent decades failed to cross paths with Sister Mary Ann at some point – in Rome, on a papal trip, in the U.S. and at the USCCB.  Our paths crossed relatively few times, here in Rome for big events such as conclaves and often in the US, including during the 1993 World Youth Day in Denver and the 2008 visit to the U.S. by Pope Benedict.  Sister Mary Ann was warm, welcoming and always happy to help, and often that help came in the form of letting journalists know when they got the facts wrong on a Vatican story!

Click here for full RNS story:

Rest in peace, Mary Ann!


I truly enjoyed Pope Francis’ catechesis on marriage and the family today and his many relevant comments about separations increasing, the number of children decreasing, the decreading number of marriages and the disparity in earning power between men and women.

Continuing his long series of general audience catecheses on the family, the Pope last week focused on God’s original plan for man and woman as a couple and this week spoke about marriage. He began by recalling that Jesus’ first miracle took place during the wedding at Cana when He transformed water into wine, thus ensuring that the celebrations could take place.

POPE FRANCIS - Audience on Marriage

“This fact reminds us of Genesis, when God completed His creation with his masterpiece: man and woman,” he said. “And Jesus began His miracles with this masterpiece, in marriage. … Thus Jesus teaches us that the masterpiece of society is the family: the man and the woman who love each other. … Since that time, many things have changed but that ‘sign’ of Christ contains a message that remains valid.”

Francis continued: “Nowadays it does not seem easy to describe marriage as a celebration that is renewed over time, in the different seasons in the entire life of spouses. It is a fact that fewer people marry. Instead, in many countries the number of separations is increasing, while the number of children is in decline. The difficulty of staying together – both as a couple and as a family – leads to bonds being broken with increasing frequency and rapidity. … In effect, many young people give up the plan of a permanent bond and a lasting family.” He then highlighted what he called “a kind of culture of the provisional: everything is temporary, and it seems that nothing is permanent.”

The Pope said we must ask ourselves why young people do not choose to get married, and seem to have little confidence in marriage and in the family. And he answered by saying, “the difficulties are not only of an economic nature, although these are very important.”

Then, extemporaneously, he said: “Many people believe that the changes of recent decades were caused by the emancipation of women. But this argument is not valid either. It is false, a kind of chauvinism that seeks to subjugate women. We risk behaving like Adam when God asked him, ‘Why did you eat the fruit of the tree?’ and Adam answered, ‘because the woman told me to’.” “Ah,” said Francis, “so it’s the woman’s fault! Poor woman!  We have to defend women!”

“In reality,” continued the Holy Father, “almost all men and women would prefer emotional security in the form of a solid marriage and a happy family … but, for fear of failure, many do not even want to think about it. … Perhaps it is precisely that fear of failure that is the greatest obstacle to receiving the word of Christ, Who promises His grace to the matrimonial union and to the family.” However, “marriage consecrated by God preserves that bond between man and woman that God has blessed ever since the creation of the world; and it is a source of peace and good for all married and family life.” He noted that, in the early times of Christianity, this great dignity of the marriage bond between man and woman overcame a then-popular abuse, the right of husbands to repudiate their wives, even for the most specious and humiliating reasons.”

Pope Francis stressed that, “the Christian seed of radical equality between spouses must bear new fruit today. … As Christians we must become more demanding in this respect. For example, in decisively supporting equal pay for equal work: Inequality is a scandal. Why is it taken for granted that women should earn less than men? No! They have the same rights. At the same time, the maternity of women and the paternity of men should be recognized as a richness that remains valid, especially for the benefit of children. Equally, the virtue of hospitality in Christian families today retains a crucial importance, especially in situations of poverty, degradation and domestic violence.”

“Do not be afraid of inviting Jesus to the wedding celebrations! And also His Mother Mary!” exclaimed Pope Francis. “When Christians marry ‘in the Lord’, they are transformed into an effective sign of God’s love. Christians do not marry only for themselves: they marry in the Lord in favor of all the community, of society as a whole.”


I leave very early tomorrow morning for Chicago to attend the farewell events for Cardinal Francis George, a very good friend of mine, as you known from these pages. I doubt I’ll be able to post tomorrow but always check in – you never know! I will do my best to post something while I am in Chicago. I’ll be downtown for three nights and then wil spend two nights with a cousin in Glenview before I return to Rome.

There’s always something big happening in Rome and today, April 21 is often the biggest day of the year for Romans and visitors. You see, April 21 is Rome’s birthday. The Eternal City is 2,768 years old – born in 753 BC!  There are endless events – cultural, musical, etc. – celebrated both on this day and during the weekend closest to this date. It is also a day of free entrance to monuments such as the Colosseum, etc.

Read on for two important stories: The first is dated today and concerns Bishop Finn’s resignation as shepherd of Kansas City-St. Joseph, and the second story is the papal message sent yesterday to the Patriarch of the Ethiopian Tewahedo Orthodox Church when the Holy Father learned of the killing of 28 Ethiopian Christians kidnapped in Libya by ISIS.


(CNA/EWTN News).- Bishop Robert W. Finn of Kansas City-St. Joseph has resigned, nearly two and a half years after being the first U.S. bishop convicted of a misdemeanor in failing to report suspected child abuse by a priest in his diocese.

The Vatican confirmed Pope Francis’ acceptance of Bishop Finn’s resignation according to Canon 104 Article 2 in the Code of Canon Law in an April 21 statement, released at noon local time. Article 2 of Canon 104, according to the Vatican’s website, refers to a situation when “a diocesan bishop who has become less able to fulfill his office because of ill health or some other grave cause is earnestly requested to present his resignation from office.”

Finn’s resignation will take effect immediately, and although he will still be a bishop, he will no longer lead a diocese. It is up to Pope Francis to choose his successor.

The brief Vatican statement gave no word as to what Bishop Finn will do following his resignation. Last September, two years after Bishop Finn’s trial and guilty verdict, an archbishop held a visitation on behalf of the Vatican and met with Bishop Finn. The reasons for the visitation were not revealed, however some reports indicate that the visitation was intended to evaluate the bishop’s leadership of his diocese.

In September 2012, Bishop Finn, now 62, was convicted on a misdemeanor count of failure to report suspected child abuse after he and his diocese failed to report that lewd images of children had been found on a laptop belonging to Fr. Shawn Ratigan, a priest of the diocese, in December 2010. The diocese’s vicar general had told Bishop Finn about one of the images, but the bishop did not see them himself.

Fr. Ratigan attempted suicide after the images were discovered and initially had not been expected to live. Diocesan officials told law enforcement officials about the images in May 2011, months after their discovery. A diocese-commissioned independent investigation said diocesan officials conducted “a limited and improperly conceived investigation” into whether a single image, which the vicar general did not see, constituted child pornography. The diocese’s legal counsel also said that that single image did not constitute child pornography.

Further investigation revealed that the photos had been taken in and around churches where the priest had worked. In 2012, Fr. Ratigan was sentenced to 50 years in federal prison on child pornography charges. Bishop Finn was sentenced to two years’ probation for failing to report suspected abuse.

The diocese settled two lawsuits from the parents of two girls photographed by Fr. Ratigan for a total of $1.8 million in February 2014. The Fr. Ratigan case has also triggered further legal action from an arbitrator who levied a $1.1 million penalty against the diocese, on the grounds that the diocese violated the terms of a 2008 abuse lawsuit settlement in which Bishop Finn and the diocese agreed to report suspected child abusers to law enforcement. The diocese objected to the arbitrator’s penalty, but it was upheld in court and the diocese paid the fine.


(VIS) – Yesterday afternoon Pope Francis sent a message to the Patriarch of the Ethiopian Tewahedo Orthodox Church, His Holiness Abuna Matthias, upon hearing of the slaughter of 28 Ethiopian Christians kidnapped in Libya by the group ISIS. (photo from


“With great distress and sadness I learn of the further shocking violence perpetrated against innocent Christians in Libya. I know that Your Holiness is suffering deeply in heart and mind at the sight of your faithful children being killed for the sole reason that they are followers of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. I reach out to you in heartfelt spiritual solidarity to assure you of my closeness in prayer at the continuing martyrdom being so cruelly inflicted on Christians in Africa, the Middle East and some parts of Asia.

“It makes no difference whether the victims are Catholic, Copt, Orthodox or Protestant. Their blood is one and the same in their confession of Christ! The blood of our Christian brothers and sisters is a testimony which cries out to be heard by everyone who can still distinguish between good and evil. All the more this cry must be heard by those who have the destiny of peoples in their hands.

“At this time we are filled with the Easter joy of the disciples to whom the women had brought the news that ‘Christ has risen from the dead’. This year, that joy – which never fades – is tinged with profound sorrow. Yet we know that the life we live in God’s merciful love is stronger than the pain all Christians feel, a pain shared by men and women of good will in all religious traditions.

“With heartfelt condolences I exchange with Your Holiness the embrace of peace in Christ Our Lord.”


It was a very busy weekend and Monday at the Vatican and also for yours truly as I attended a press conference today (see the Vatican Radio story and my photos below), had several appointments and spent time arranging for a trip to Chicago to participate in the farewell events for the archdiocese’s beloved Cardinal Francis George (and, as you know from these pages, a good friend of mine).  I leave Wednesday and will try to keep you updated, as far as time will allow.

Lots of news and interesting stories but just three highlights today….


I received an email today from Fr. Joshua Caswell – a priest in Chicago who was ordained by Cardinal George for the Canons Regular of St. John Cantius. We have not met but I have known Fr. Frank Phillips of St. John Cantius for many years.

Fr. Joshua included a wonderful link about what he said was the legacy that Cardinal George left behind—the “restoration of the Sacred.” The link was put together by the community, wrote Fr. Joshua, as a “tribute for our spiritual father.” He also quotes Fr. Phillips who says, “We are a living legacy of this shepherd of souls.” From the beginning of the Canons Regular, it was Cardinal George who envisioned that a small community of men founded at a run-down Chicago church would become a flourishing order dedicated to the “Restoration of the Sacred.”

A beautiful and worthy tribute – and marvelous photos! – to a man for whom the title “Eminence” was richly deserved!


(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has appealed to the international community to take swift and decisive action to avoid more tragedies of migrants seeking a better life.

His heartfelt cry to the world came following news of the sinking of yet another boat carrying migrants in the Mediterranean Sea in which it is feared 700 people may be dead.

The Pope was speaking on Sunday morning after the Regina Coeli prayer in St. Peter’s Square, where he told tens of thousands of people “They are men and women like us, our brothers seeking a better life, starving, persecuted, wounded, exploited, victims of war. They were looking for a better life”.

Faced with such a tragedy – Pope Francis continued – I express my most heartfelt pain and promise to remember the victims and their families in prayer.

“I make a heartfelt appeal to the international community to react decisively and quickly to see to it that such tragedies are not repeated,” he said, before asking the crowd to pray “for these brothers and sisters”.

The latest disaster happened when a boat carrying migrants capsized off the Libyan coast overnight, in one of the worst disasters seen in the Mediterranean migrant crisis.

Just Saturday Pope Francis joined Italian authorities in pressing the European Union to do more to help the country cope with rapidly mounting numbers of desperate people rescued in the Mediterranean during journeys on smugglers’ boats to flee war, persecution or poverty.

While hundreds of migrants took their first steps on land in Sicilian ports, dozens more were rescued at sea. Sicilian towns were running out of places to shelter the arrivals, including more than 10,000 in the week ending Saturday.

Since the start of 2014, nearly 200,000 people have been rescued at sea by Italy.

Italy says it will continue rescuing migrants but demands that the European Union increase assistance to shelter and rescue them. Since most of the migrants want to reach family or other members of their community in northern Europe, Italian governments have pushed for those countries to do more, particularly by taking in the migrants while their requests for asylum or refugee status are examined.


(Vatican Radio) The Holy See Press Office was the scene Monday morning for the presentation of a Day of Reflection on the life and legacy of Blessed Junípero Serra – soon to be St. Junípero Serra, after his canonization in Washington, DC, scheduled for September of this year. Capping the Day, which is to focus on the theme: Fra Junípero Serra: Apostle of California, and Witness to Sanctity, is to be the visit of Pope Francis to the Pontifical North American College, host of the event, for Mass in the College chapel.


“The highlight of the day, of course, for us, will be the end of the day, when [Pope Francis] comes to celebrate Mass with our community at 12 o’clock,” said the rector of the North American College, Msgr. James Checchio, in an exclusive interview with Vatican Radio ahead of the press conference on Monday. “It’s been quite a few years – thirty-five – since the Successor of Peter has been to the College, so it’s a great moment for us.” he added.


Msgr. Checchio also told Vatican Radio about the enduring importance of Bl. Junípero  Serra’s spirit of service and sacrifice for the Gospel. “He obviously showed great heroic [valor] and sacrificed himself in the name of evangelization and Jesus Christ,” he explained. “Certainly that’s something of which we need to do more: we need to give all we have,” Msgr. Checchio said.

The Day of Reflection is organized by the Pontifical Commission for Latin America, the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, and the Pontifical North American College. Featured speakers are to include: Card. Marc Ouellet, President of the Pontifical Commission for Latin America; Archbishop José H. Gómez of Los Angeles; and Vincenzo Criscuolo, OFM Cap., General Relator of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints.

For the complete story and calendar of events for the May 2 Day of Reflection and papal Mass at NAC, click here:



Since Cardinal George’s death Friday at the age of 78, I have spent hours reading tributes to this man who so blessed my life with his friendship and more hours looking through my photo archives for the many pictures I took over the years during his various visits to Rome.


There was one remaining visit to Rome on Cardinal George’s list of travels: he so wanted to spend some private, one-on-one time with Pope Francis. The cardinal, of course, was one of the electors in the 2013 conclave and had met the new Pope shortly after his election on March 13 when Francis greeted each member of the College of Cardinals. But they had not met since that day.

Cardinal George – whose funeral will be held on Thursday, April 23, the feast of St. George – was a guest ever so many times in my home in Rome and reciprocated whenever I was in Chicago by inviting me to the residence at North State Parkway for a meal.  Every time we broke break was memorable, as you can well imagine.

But there was one dinner in Rome we never had.

When the cardinal’s health did not permit him to travel to Rome, we never had the dinner during which I would have asked him about Pope Francis. Some of the questions I had in mind were almost identical to those asked last November by John Allen in an interview in CRUX:

To begin, (Cardinal) George said he’d like to ask Francis if he fully grasps that in some quarters, he’s created the impression Catholic doctrine is up for grabs. Does Francis realize, for example, “what has happened just by that phrase, ‘Who am I to judge?’ ”

Francis’ signature sound-bite, George said, “has been very misused … because he was talking about someone who has already asked for mercy and been given absolution, whom he knows well,” George said.

(Francis uttered the line in 2013, in response to a question about a Vatican cleric accused of gay relationships earlier in his career.)

“That’s entirely different than talking to somebody who demands acceptance rather than asking for forgiveness,” George said.

 “Does he not realize the repercussions? Perhaps he doesn’t,” George said. “I don’t know whether he’s conscious of all the consequences of some of the things he’s said and done that raise doubts in people’s minds.”

“The question is why he doesn’t he clarify” these ambiguous statements, George said. “Why is it necessary that apologists have to bear the burden of trying to put the best possible face on it?” He said he also wonders if Francis realizes how his rhetoric has created expectations “he can’t possibly meet.”

You never had to ask Cardinal George to clarify something. He meant what he said and said what he meant, clearly, to the point, and purposefully.

I called him every so often when it became apparent that our paths might not soon cross, either in Chicago or Rome. My intent was always to get an update on his health, to update him on happenings here and to perhaps interject a small dose of cheer and humor. Whatever his bill of health, whatever the pain and suffering he was enduring, I always came away from our conversations feeling that I was the one who had been uplifted!

Whenever Cardinal George was in Rome for more than 48 hours, I arranged to have dinner at my place, always telling him to invite whomever he wished. On many occasions, especially when he was vice-president and then president of the USCCB, the other guests were the other USCCB officials in Rome with him on a working visit to the Holy Father and officials of the Roman Curia.

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Many dinners included priest and bishop friends in Rome, either from the Roman Curia or the North American College. Often his longtime director of Communications, Colleen Dolan, was also present. Fr. Dan Flens, his secretary and all around right-hand man – and true blessing as a friend – was always at dinner and it was a joy to host him because, fortunately for me, he was as comfortable in the kitchen as he was at the dining table!

Each occasion was special and memorable and unique, just like Cardinal George.

One very memorable evening was when I invited Archbishops Amel Nona of Mosul, Iraq and Bashar Warda of Erbil, Kurdistan, northern Iraq, to join us. They were in Rome for the October 2010 Synod of Bishops on the Middle East, and the conversation was fascinating for countless reasons, one of which was that Cardinal George, as a missionary priest, Oblate of Mary Immaculate, had a keen interest in the Church around the world, having visited so many countries. With this missionary sense, he always asked the right questions and was able to brilliantly synthesize the answers to a question and analyze the whole picture.

Archbishop Nona had been appointed to Mosul by the Chaldean Synod in January 2010 to succeed Bishop Paulos Faraj Rahho who had been kidnapped and killed by extremists.

Aged 42, Abp. Nona (r) was the youngest reigning bishop in the Catholic Church at that time.

Archbishop Warda (l) was appointed to Erbil on May 24, 2010


A cheerleader for my first trip to Iraq in early 2010, Cardinal George had a keen interest in every detail I could recount about that trip during a separate dinner that took place before our evening with the Iraqi bishops.


What did we talk about over my many dinner parties? In general – no surprise! – we spoke about the Church in Rome and around the world and the Roman Curia and the need for reform, but we also looked at the hot topics in world or U.S. news, politics, even sports.

I’ve given scores and scores of dinner parties but never have I written about one, about what was said by whom around the dining table. That table, that space, my home, is sacred to me. My guests all know that, when we meet on the street or in a restaurant or even for an interview, I am a friend but also journalist, writer and vaticanista. However, as guests in my home, they know we are all friends who can enjoy good food and wine, scintillating conversation and lots of laughs, without anything appearing in print.

Needless to say, if something came up that was absolutely newsworthy, I’d ask about reporting it on the record.

Cardinal George was always willing to speak on the record and be interviewed for “Vatican Insider,” and we all learned a great deal from this extraordinarily erudite man, whether he spoke about a synod, an ad limina visit, a conclave (not divulging, however, the inside story of what actually happened inside the Sistine Chapel), the Jubilee Year 2000 or his time in Chicago.


It was always fun to learn something new about the cardinal. When I heard that he liked ice cream, especially chocolate, I made homemade chocolate ice cream for one dinner party. I learned early on that his preferred after-dinner liqueur was Fernet Branca and since that night there was always a bottle in my home with his name on it, so to speak. I also learned that some of my meals became his preferred foods!

One conversation I can write about: One night, we were all discussing cruises. Cardinal George said he had never been on a cruise ship nor was he drawn to the idea of being on a massive ship with thousands of passengers. However, he did offer the idea that, in retirement, he would like to take a freighter cruise where, on a large ship but with only a small number of guests, he could enjoy leisurely travel and visits to different ports and also spend quiet time reading and writing.

Even on a freighter ship, Cardinal George would have been a delightful guest – interesting, interested in others, an avid and brilliant conversationalist and a terrific listener as well.

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I will miss all of that. I will miss his towering intellect. I will miss listening to every single word he said because they all counted – not one was wasted. I will miss his brilliant analyses of just about everything – Church issues, political matters, books, people, you name it.  And I will really miss his laugh!

What I will miss, however, perhaps pales in comparison to how Cardinal George inspired me. His rock solid faith, his deeply-held convictions, his inspirational and passionate explanation and defense of the Magisterium were his gifts to me every time we met or broke bread together. His courage and humility, his humor and wit, his great empathy – all qualities to be emulated.

I have, of course, just touched the surface of my tales in this look back at the 17 years I shared a friendship with this saintly giant of a man.

All of this and more will be his legacy. Here is one report about his legacy (Chicago ABC Eyewitness news): In his last mass celebrated as Archbishop, Cardinal George spoke about what he hoped would be his legacy. “In short, you are my legacy,” he told those gathered in the pews of Holy Name Cathedral. “The people of the Archdiocese are what I will point to when the Lord asks me, ‘what have you done with my gift to you?'”



Vatican Insider will be a very special edition this weekend as I am devoting almost the entire program to a conversation I had about the Extraordinary Holy Year of Mercy with Fr. Geno Sylva, an official at the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization. There will be a few news headlines, not a long news summary, and no Q&A this week on VI.


The conversation is riveting –we talk all about the meaning of and the plans and preparations for one of the biggest forthcoming events on the Vatican calendar – – the Jubilee Year of Mercy whose plans were entrusted to this pontifical council by Pope Francis. The Holy Father only announced this a little over a month ago so the council is in the early stages of planning but working feverishly and with great enthusiasm so that all is ready by December 8 when the Holy Door will be opened at St. Peter’s Basilica.

I think I can safely say one thing: after listening to the final three minutes, you’ll sit back in silence and reflect!

As you know, in the United States, you can listen to Vatican Insider on a Catholic radio station near you (there is a list of U.S. stations at or on 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:


Very exciting news for the U.S. seminary in Rome.

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis is scheduled to visit the Pontifical North American College on May 2 to celebrate Mass during a Day of Reflection with the title “Fra Junípero Serra: Apostle of California, and Witness to Sanctity.”

Junipero Serra –


Pope Francis has announced he intends to canonize Blessed Junípero Serra during his visit to the United States in September.

The Pontifical North American College is the national seminary for the United States, and is located on the Janiculum Hill, which overlooks St. Peter’s Basilica.

The event is being organized by the College and the Pontifical Commission for Latin America, and more information will be released at a Press Conference on April 20, 2015, at the Holy See Press Office.


Friday, Pope Francis greeted members of U.S.-based Papal Foundation  who are in Rome on their annual spring pilgrimage. The Papal Foundation was founded in the United States in 1988 to establish an endowment to support the mission of the Holy Father. The endowment has grown to over $220 million.


As the Foundation website notes, nearly 130 Stewards, family members, cardinals and bishops from across the U.S. are in Rome as part of an annual pilgrimage that delivers millions of dollars to support the charitable work of the Holy Father during the coming year. “The Foundation’s annual pilgrimage to Rome is always a highlight,” reflects James Coffey, the Foundation’s Vice President for Advancement, “but this year we are especially grateful to be marking our 25th year of support for the Holy Father and his outreach to a world in need.”

Under the title, “Celebrating 25 Years of Giving,” the Foundation points out that it presented its first financial support to Pope (now Saint) John Paul II and the Holy See in April 1990. Since then, it has provided over $111 million in grants and scholarships to build the Church, educate and prepare leaders, and care for the most vulnerable people, young and old, around the world. The Foundation’s commitment is to walk in union with the Holy Father and the Magisterium of the Church, and to bring the love of Christ to a world in need.

In remarks this morning to the Papal Foundation the Pope noted that, “the wide variety of projects supported by the Foundation gives witness to the ceaseless efforts of the Church to promote the integral development of the human family, conscious as she is of the immense and ongoing needs of so many of our brothers and sisters.  Wisely does The Papal Foundation devote a sizeable percentage of its resources to the education and formation of young priests, religious and lay men and women, hastening the day when their local Churches may be self-supportive, and, indeed, pass on the fruits of such generosity to others.”

Expressing his gratitude for their work, the Holy Father spoke of the coming Jubilee of Mercy and said, “I ask our Lord Jesus Christ, ‘the face of the Father’s mercy’, to refresh and renew each one of you through his mercy, the greatest of his many gifts.”



(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis met on Friday with members of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious as the group released a report on the implementation of its doctrinal assessment by the Vatican’s Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith.

The LCWR is an association of the leaders of congregations of Catholic women religious in the United States and represents more than 80 percent of religious sisters in the US. The joint report was issued by the LCWR and Archbishop Peter Sartain of Seattle who led the three-year assessment process requested by the Vatican. The report marks the conclusion of the sensitive process, which the sisters say was carried out with a “spirit of cooperation among participants.”

Please find below the press release and joint report on the Leadership Conference of Women Religious

Press Release April 16

Officials of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), Archbishop Peter Sartain and officers of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) met April 16.  Archbishop Sartain and LCWR officers presented a joint report (attached) on the implementation of the CDF Doctrinal Assessment and Mandate of April 2012.  The joint report outlines the manner in which the implementation of the Mandate has been accomplished.  The Congregation accepted the joint report, marking the conclusion of the Doctrinal Assessment of LCWR.  Present for the April 16 meeting were His Eminence Gerhard Cardinal Müller, Archbishop Peter Sartain, Sr. Carol Zinn, SSJ, Sr. Marcia Allen, CSJ, Sr. Joan Marie Steadman, CSC, and Sr. Janet Mock, CSJ, and other officials of CDF.

During the meeting, Archbishop Sartain and LCWR officers outlined the process undertaken by the Bishop Delegates and LCWR over the past three years, noting the spirit of cooperation among participants throughout the sensitive process. Cardinal Müller offered his thoughts on the Doctrinal Assessment as well as the Mandate and its completion.  He expressed gratitude to those present for their willing participation in this important and delicate work and extended thanks to others who had participated, especially Archbishop Leonard P. Blair, Bishop Thomas J. Paprocki, and the past officers and Executive Directors of LCWR.

Following the meeting, Cardinal Müller said:  “At the conclusion of this process, the Congregation is confident that LCWR has made clear its mission to support its member Institutes by fostering a vision of religious life that is centered on the Person of Jesus Christ and is rooted in the Tradition of the Church.  It is this vision that makes religious women and men radical witnesses to the Gospel, and, therefore, is essential for the flourishing of religious life in the Church.”

Sr. Sharon Holland, IHM, President of LCWR, was unable to be present for the meeting but commented, “We are pleased at the completion of the Mandate, which involved long and challenging exchanges of our understandings of and perspectives on critical matters of Religious Life and its practice. Through these exchanges, conducted always in a spirit of prayer and mutual respect, we were brought to deeper understandings of one another’s experiences, roles, responsibilities, and hopes for the Church and the people it serves. We learned that what we hold in common is much greater than any of our differences.”

Archbishop Sartain added, “Over the past several years, I have had the honor of working with LCWR officers and meeting a large number of LCWR members through the implementation of the Mandate.  Our work included the revision of LCWR Statutes; review of LCWR publications, programs and speakers; and discussion of a wide range of issues raised by the Doctrinal Assessment, LCWR, and the Bishop Delegates. The assistance of CDF officials was essential to the great progress we made.  Our work together was undertaken in an atmosphere of love for the Church and profound respect for the critical place of religious life in the United States, and the very fact of such substantive dialogue between bishops and religious women has been mutually beneficial and a blessing from the Lord.  As we state in our joint final report, ‘The commitment of LCWR leadership to its crucial role in service to the mission and membership of the Conference will continue to guide and strengthen LCWR’s witness to the great vocation of Religious Life, to its sure foundation in Christ, and to ecclesial communion.’  The other two Bishop Delegates and I are grateful for the opportunity to be involved in such a fruitful dialogue.”

Joint Final Report

Following the publication of the Doctrinal Assessment of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (April 18, 2012), the officers of LCWR and the Bishop Delegates began working in close collaboration toward the implementation of the Mandate which accompanied that document. From the beginning, our extensive conversations were marked by a spirit of prayer, love for the Church, mutual respect, and cooperation. We found our conversations to be mutually beneficial.  In this Joint Final Report, we set forth the manner in which the implementation of the Mandate has been accomplished.

LCWR Statutes:  The Statutes of the Conference were definitively approved for the first time by the Sacred Congregation for Religious in 1962; a revised text was subsequently approved by the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life on June 29, 1989. LCWR had initiated a review of the Statutes prior to receiving the Mandate.   In response to the 2012 Mandate, a subcommittee representing LCWR and the Bishop Delegates reviewed that document, attentive to the Mandate’s request for greater clarity in expressing the mission and responsibilities of the LCWR as a Conference of Major Superiors under the ultimate direction of the Apostolic See.  Through a collaborative process of mutual learning and of refining several drafts, it was agreed that “the role of the Conference as a public juridic person centered on Jesus Christ and faithful to the teachings of the Church is to undertake through its membership and in collaboration with other sisters those services which develop the life and mission of women religious in responding to the Gospel in the contemporary world” (Statutes, Section 2).  At the conclusion of this drafting and refining process, the subcommittee’s work was considered ready to be submitted to the LCWR Assembly. The 2014 Assembly overwhelmingly approved the text, and it was forwarded to the Apostolic See.  Following a positive review by the CDF, the revised Statutes were approved on February 6, 2015 by Decree of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life.

Conference Publications and Programs:  The Mandate also called for a review of LCWR publications to ensure that the Conference’s mission would be fulfilled in accord with Church teaching.  The Conference’s mission is in service of its members and their positive role of collaboration in the Church’s mission.  At the same time, LCWR publications serve a larger audience in the Church. Many persons desiring spiritual growth have become readers of various publications. The nature of LCWR publications is intended to address spiritual matters rather than engage in formal theological inquiry.  Nevertheless, because of the vital link between spirituality and theology, and in order to inspire, help evaluate experience as Women Religious, and challenge to growth, publications need a sound doctrinal foundation.  To this end, measures are being taken to promote a scholarly rigor that will ensure theological accuracy and help avoid statements that are ambiguous with regard to Church doctrine or could be read as contrary to it.  This exercise of theological responsibility is for the sake of both Conference Members and other readers. At the same time, it serves to protect the credibility of the Conference itself as a long-standing canonical entity of the Church.  In addition, a publications Advisory Committee exists and manuscripts will be reviewed by competent theologians, as a means of safeguarding the theological integrity of the Conference.

The Mandate also addressed care in the selection of programs and speakers at General Assemblies and other LCWR-sponsored events.  The choice of topics and speakers appropriate to the Conference’s mission and service will be carried out in a prayerful, thoughtful and discerning manner.  As with written publications, LCWR expects speakers and presenters to speak with integrity and to further the aims and purposes of the Conference, which unfold within the wider context of the Church’s faith and mission.  When a topic explicitly addresses matters of faith, speakers are expected to employ the ecclesial language of faith.  When exploring contemporary issues, particularly those which, while not explicitly theological nevertheless touch upon faith and morals, LCWR expects speakers and presenters to have due regard for the Church’s faith and to pose questions for further reflection in a manner that suggests how faith might shed light on such issues. As with publications, this kind of professional integrity will serve the Members well.  Finally, a revised process for the selection of the Outstanding Leadership Award recipient has been articulated.

Other issues addressed by the Mandate:  Over the past three years, considerable time and attention were given to dialogue regarding other matters raised by the Mandate, including the importance of the celebration of the Eucharist; the place of the Liturgy of the Hours in religious communities; the centrality of a communal process of contemplative prayer practiced at LCWR Assemblies and other gatherings; the relationship between LCWR and other organizations; and the essential understanding of LCWR as an instrument of ecclesial communion.  These discussions had their origin in the Mandate and led to clarifying and fruitful conversation.

Conclusion:    Our work together in response to the Mandate has borne much fruit, for which we give thanks to God and the gentle guidance of the Holy Spirit.  The very fact of such substantive dialogue between bishops and religious has been a blessing to be appreciated and further encouraged. The Commitment of LCWR leadership to its crucial role in service to the mission and membership of the Conference will continue to guide and strengthen LCWR’s witness to the great vocation of Religious Life, to its sure foundation in Christ, and to ecclesial communion.

Most Rev. J. Peter Sartain, Archbishop of Seattle

Most Rev. Leonard Blair, Archbishop of Hartford

Most Rev. Thomas J. Paprocki, Bishop of Springfield in Illinois

Sr. Sharon Holland, IHM, LCWR President

Sr. Marcia Allen, CSJ, LCWR President-Elect

Sr. Carol Zinn, SSJ, LCWR Past President

Sr. Joan Marie Steadman,, CSC,  LCWR Executive Director




Once upon a time…

My paternal grandparents had two lovely summer homes on a large piece of property on Lake Michigan that were used alternately by my parents and my Dad’s sisters and one brother throughout June, July and August every summer.  The main home was called White Ledge and was a legend in the area for many reasons but mainly because it could accommodate about 30 guests on a weekend – many bedrooms, baths and, of course, a huge dining room and kitchen. My grandmother spent six months a year at this home and hosted many philanthropic and church events in the house or gardens.

One of my grandfather’s brothers – our great-Uncle Frank Lewis and great-Aunt Julia – had a rather large estate about a mile up the road from White Ledge. Because the Catholic populace grew so much when people came up for the summer, the small local church could not handle everyone, even with multiple Sunday morning Masses (no evening Masses in those years), and so my aunt and uncle obtained permission to have Mass outdoors on the grounds of their home on Sundays.

They were very much into philanthropy and the Church was the focus of their lives. It was quite common for them to invite some of their close friends – cardinals, bishops, priests and seminarians – to spend the weekend at their Michigan summer home. The main house was quite large and there were a number of almost equally big year-round homes on the property for their many children and extended families.

Every Saturday night, the caretaker Ignatz would set up the “pews” – the benches and kneelers – for perhaps two hundred people. And every Sunday morning, before the 10 a.m. Mass, big bunches of gladioli were cut and put into tall vases near the altar – which was at the top of some steps going up to my uncle’s main porch. My brothers and some of our young cousins served as altar boys in those years.

My Dad and uncles served as ushers and Sunday morning Mass at Aunt Julia and Uncle Frank’s was largely a family affair! I do remember Aunt Julia telling us once, years later that, for 30 summers, it never rained on a Sunday morning between 10 a.m. and 11 a.m.!  I know she had several relics she would bring out each Sunday and place on her pew.  Over the years, as a young child, I met many prelates, as you can imagine. I just wish I had thought then about keeping a diary!

One of the priests I remember seeing when I was fairly small was Fr. Toohey. I remember him as a delightful man who always wore a big smile and was very grandfatherly.

Years later, when I arrived home on vacation one summer, I noticed a beautiful chalice in my parents’ home and asked them about it.  Dad told me that his parents – my grandparents – had paid for a young man to attend seminary on Chicago and on his ordination day, gave him this chalice – Fr. Leo  Toohey.

When I received the chalice and was showing it to a younger brother, I noticed an inscription that said that Fr. Toohey was ordained on April 16, 1927!  The very day Pope Benedict was born!  And, of all the truly amazing things, the chalice was made in Germany!

I have been told  – and have to explore this further! – that several hieroglyphic-type markings on the bottom of the chalice indicate exactly where in Germany this was made and by whom.

The bottom of the chalice reads: “Presented to Rev. Leo Raphael Toohey by Mr. and Mrs. William H. Lewis on his ordination day – April 16 AD 1927


The chalice was purchased at Edward Koenig Company in Chicago. It was given to my grandfather when Fr. Toohey died at 53 on January 8, 1950, then passed to my Dad, and my parents eventually gave this chalice to me.  Fr. Toohey for years was pastor at St. Simon Church in Ludington, Michigan. I have found articles about him on the Internet.


I hope to set up a scholarship for a seminarian from Chicago at the Pontifical North American College in Rome and will arrange to have this chalice given to a seminarian from Chicago – so that, after many decades, the chalice makes a “round trip,” returning from whence it came.

My biggest dream is to have Pope emeritus Benedict XVI celebrate Mass with this chalice.

– – – – – – –

I wrote the above story on Pope Benedict’s 85th birthday, three years ago.

Since then, my dream has come true.

At 7:30 a.m. on the morning of October 19, 2013, I attended Mass in the chapel of the monastery where Pope emeritus Benedict XVI lives in retirement with Abp. Georg Gaenswein and four memores or consecrated women.

Benedict XVI said Mass with Fr. Toohey’s chalice, Abp. Gaenswein did the readings. It was beautiful and intimate and very moving for me. The Pope emeritus came from the sacristy after Mass and we spoke for about five minutes – it was as moving and wonderful as the Mass itself

Benedict XVI’s first words to me, said with a big smile, were: “What a beautiful story that chalice has.”

I had written the story down in English and one day gave it to my friend Michael Hesemann who knew I had hopes that Benedict would celebrate Mass with the chalice. He translated it into German and, during a trip to Regensburg, Germany, gave it to his friend, Msgr. Georg Ratzinger, the Pope’s brother who, two weeks later, gave it to Pope emeritus Benedict.

I received a phone call, telling me that Pope emeritus Benedict would be delighted to say Mass with this chalice – would I like to be present?!

Following Mass and our brief but ever so memorable conversation, Pope Em. Benedict gave me a rosary and two holy cards for the young man who will receive this chalice some day and he gave me – for myself – a rosary and two holy cards. Abp. Gaenswein handed me an envelope and inside was a note with his crest that stated that Pope Em. Benedict said Mass with this chalice on October 19, 2013.

I have yet to write the final line to this story – the name of the seminarian to whom the chalice will go.

Stay tuned!

P.S. Three hours later I met Pope Francis at a gathering of the Patrons of the Vatican Museums! The day of two Popes!

And now just a handful of the many photos I took over the years

Benedict XVI on his 2010 apostolic trip to the UK:

Benedict UK 2010 031

Benedict UK 2010 040

On his 2012 trip to Lebanon:


His final audience:


His final public Mass – Ash Wednesday, February 13, 2013, two days after announcing his resignation (as you can perhaps tell on the faces of his assistants)









As I said on my first post today, there was a lot of news about and from the Vatican so I’ll be posting two separate blogs. The first one, as you have possibly seen by now, was all about Pope Francis’ wonderful talk at today’s general audience as he continues a series of  catecheses on the family.

The second story was about the ninth meeting of the C9 – The Council of Cardinals who are papal advisors – and summarizes their work from three days of meeting with the Pope in the Santa Marta residence.

I also wrote about Cardinal Roberto Tucci who died last night at the age of 93.

And now, here are a few Vatican-related stories, one about the terrible tragedy of migrants drowning by the hundreds in attempst to reach Italy from Africa and a final story which is, as I say, “just for fun.”


(ANSA) April 14 – Pope Francis has no personal fear of Islamic State (ISIS) militants but is fearful for the brutal mass murder they are inflicting on Christians, the prefect of the Papal Household, Archbishop Georg Gaenswein, said in a TV interview that was aired Tuesday night.

“The Pope has no fear for himself (but) he does for the faithful and these threats must certainly be taken seriously,” Abp. Gaenswein told the Retequattro programme La Strada dei Miracoli (The Road of Miracles). “The pope has spoken of this problem of people being persecuted only because they are Christians; they are killed, burned alive and decapitated. …  That regards the faithful. For himself, I don’t think he has any fear of the fundamentalists.”


(Reuters) – An Apple iPad which belonged to Pope Francis fetched $30,500 at auction on Tuesday, with proceeds going to a school for the poor in Uruguay, the local auction house selling the item said. The Castells auction house in Montevideo said the winning bid was placed by telephone, but declined to disclose the buyer’s identity or nationality.

It is not the first time Pope Francis, who has often criticized orthodox market economics for fostering inequality, has donated a personal belonging. Last year, a Harley-Davidson motorbike he had received as a gift fetched 241,500 euros ($257,681).

“May you do something good with it,” Uruguayan priest, Fr. Gonzalo Aemilius recalled being told by the Argentina-born pope when he handed over the iPad. Aemilius in turn donated the tablet to the Francisco de Paysandu high school, located about 370 kilometers (230 miles)north of the capital, Montevideo. School officials said that after a string of failed attempts to sell the iPad through auction houses Christie’s and Sotheby’s they were offering the iPad through local auction house Castells.

The device carries the inscription “His Holiness Francisco. Servizio Internet Vatican, March 2013,” and has a certificate signed by the Pope’s personal secretary, Fabian Pedacchio Leaniz. Pope Francis has called the Internet a “gift from God,” but confesses to being a “disaster” with technology.


(ANSA) New York, April 15 – A Turkish hacker repeatedly attacked the Vatican website between Monday night and Tuesday morning following Pope Francis’ remarks denouncing ‘genocide’ of the Armenians in the First World War, US news reports said Wednesday. The hacker subsequently claimed responsibility for the attack and asked the Pope to withdraw his remarks, according to the website The Hill.  The hacker claimed responsibility via Twitter, calling himself THTHerakles and saying he would continue to attack the site “if the Holy See does not make official excuses,” the Washington Post said.


(ANSA) April 15 – Almost 10,000 migrants have been rescued in recent days, Coast Guard officials said Wednesday as new waves of people continued to arrive on Italian shores triggering concerns that this spring could set new deadly records for both migrant crossings and deaths. Some 1,511 people were rescued on Tuesday alone in 12 different operations coordinated by the national Coast Guard relief service. That came after 8,480 people were reported rescued in the Mediterranean between Friday and Monday.

The rescues continued amid growing fears that about 400 migrants may have drowned in the sea off Libya after the NGO Save the Children said witnesses had reported a boat capsizing off the Libyan coast. About 144 people were rescued by the Italian Coast Guard from that boat on Monday and nine bodies were recovered.

Among Wednesday’s arrivals were 236 migrants including eight children and many pregnant women brought to Messina in Sicily.


Rome may introduce 3D “augmented reality” glasses for the Roman Forum that would give visitors the possibility of experiencing the ancient Roman ruins with new verisimilitude to the days of Caesar, Trajan and Nerva, Rome Mayor Ignazio Marino said Tuesday. Rome is contemplating experimentation with the ‘immersive’, high definition, virtual reality glasses designed by two young Roman engineers. The first applications for the glasses have been at rock concerts in Rome.     “We are organizing a surprise for April 21 – Christmas in Rome,” said Marino. City sources said that a feasibility test of the project is now being launched. (ANSA)



Tons of news about and from the Vatican today so I’ll be posting two separate blogs. This first one is all about Pope Francis’ wonderful talk at today’s general audience as he continues a series of  catecheses on the family.

The second article from VIS is about the ninth meeting of the C9 – The Council of Cardinals who are papal advisors – and summarizes their work from three days of meeting with the Pope in the Santa Marta residence.

But first a sad note today in the Vatican:  Jesuit Cardinal Roberto Tucci died last night at the age of 93, just five days before what would have been his 94th birthday.

Born in Naples on April 19, 1921, Cardinal Tucci joined the Jesuits and was ordained a priest in 1950 at the age of 29 after having earned his Doctorate in Sacred Theology at the Jesuit-run Pontifical Gregorian University.  He took part in the drafting of some of the documents of the Second Vatican Council and served as director of La Civiltà Cattolica from 1959 to 1973.  His contribution was considered invaluable for the final edition of the Pastoral Constitution Gaudium et spes. (photo:


He served as director general of Vatican Radio from 1973 to 1985, and also served as the “advance man” and organizer of all Pope John Paul II’s papal visits. He was made a cardinal by Pope St. John Paul II on February 21, 2001.

When I worked at the Vatican Information Service, I interviewed then Father Tucci for an article I was going to write about the behind-the-scenes preparations for a papal trip. He was obviously filled with wonderful facts and tidbits and our conversation was immensely enjoyable. As I was about to leave with a mountain of information, I said, “Father, I never thought about it, but does Pope John Paul have special dietary requirements or needs?”  Without hesitation, he replied, “No ice, no spice.”

Father Tucci explained that if John Paul happened to be served a very cold beverage, he simply wrapped his hands around the glass a bit to warm it up, never inconveniencing any of his hosts.

He also told me that he had traveled so often to so many places for papal trips that when people saw him – even when he was someplace on vacation – they automatically assumed the Pope was coming!


(VIS) – Pope Francis continued his catechesis on the family by dedicating this morning’s general audience to the difference and complementarity between man and woman, recalling first of all that the Book of Genesis insists that both are in the image and likeness of God. “Not only man as such, not only woman as such, but rather man and woman, as a couple, are the image of God. The difference between them is not a question of contrast or subordination, but instead of communion and generation, always in the image and semblance of God”.


“Experience teaches us that for the human being to know him- or herself well and to grow harmoniously, there is a need for reciprocity between man and woman”, said the Pope to the thirty thousand faithful present in St. Peter’s Square. “When this does not happen, we see the consequences. We are made to listen to each other and to help each other. We can say that, without mutual enrichment in this relationship – in terms of thought and action, in personal relationships and in work, and also in faith – the two cannot even fully understand what it means to be a man and a woman”.

“Modern and contemporary culture has opened up new spaces, new freedoms and new depths for the enrichment and understanding of this difference. But it has also introduced many doubts and much scepticism. I wonder, for example, if so-called gender theory is not an expression of frustration and resignation, that aims to cancel out sexual difference as it is no longer able to face it. Yes, we run the risk of taking step backwards. Indeed, the removal of difference is the problem, not the solution. To solve their problems in relating to each other, men and women must instead speak more, listen more, know each other better, value each other more. They must treat each other with respect and cooperate in friendship. With these human bases, supported by God’s grace, it is possible to plan a lifelong matrimonial and family union. The marriage and family bond is a serious matter for all, not only for believers. I would like to encourage intellectuals not to ignore this theme, as if it were secondary to our efforts to promote a freer and more just society”.

“God has entrusted the earth to the alliance between man and woman; its failure makes our emotional life arid and obscures the heaven of hope. The signs are already worrying, and we can see them. I would like to indicate due points, among many, that I believe must concern us with greater urgency”.

“Undoubtedly we must do far more in favour of women, if we want to strengthen to the reciprocity between men and women. Indeed, it is necessary for a woman not only to be listened to, but also for her voice to carry real weight, recognised authority, in society and in the Church. The way in which Jesus Himself regarded women, in a context that was far less favourable than our own, casts a powerful light illuminating a road that takes us far, on which we have travelled only a short distance. It is a road we must travel with more creativity and boldness”.

He added, “a second point relates to the theme of man and woman created in God’s image. I wonder if the crisis of collective trust in God, that is so harmful to us, that causes us to ail with resignation to incredulity and cynicism, is not also connected to the crisis in the alliance between man and woman. In effect, the biblical account, with the great symbolic fresco of earthly paradise and original sin, tells us precisely that communion with God is reflected in the communion of the human couple, and the loss of trust in the heavenly Father generates division and conflict between man and woman”.

“This leads to the great responsibility of the Church, of all believers, and above all of Christian families, to rediscover the beauty of the Creator’s plan that inscribes the image of God also in the alliance between man and woman. The earth is filled with harmony and trust when the alliance between man and woman is lived well. And if men and women seek this together between them and with God, without doubt they will find it. Jesus explicitly encourages us to bear witness to this beauty, which is the image of God”, concluded the Pontiff.


On September 30, 2013,  the Vatican published a Chirograph written by Pope Francis in which he institutes a Council of Cardinals to assist him in the governance of the universal Church and to draw up a project for the revision of the Apostolic Constitution “Pastor bonus” on the Roman Curia.

A chirograph is a papal document or decree that, unlike an apostolic constitution or encyclical, regards some or all parts of the Roman Curia. The papal document begins: “Among the suggestions that emerged from the General Congregations of Cardinals prior to the Conclave, mention was made of the expediency of instituting a limited group of Members of the Episcopate, from various parts of the world, with whom the Holy Father could consult, individually or collectively, on specific matters. Once elected to the See of Rome, I have had the opportunity to reflect on this issue on a number of occasions, and consider that such an initiative would be of significant use in fulfilling the pastoral ministry of Peter’s Successor entrusted to me by my brother cardinals. “For this reason, on April 13 I announced the constitution of the aforementioned group, at the same time indicating the names of those who had been called to participate. Now, following reflection, I consider it opportune that such a group, by means of the present Chirograph, be instituted as a ‘Council of Cardinals’ with the task of assisting me in the governance of the Universal Church and drawing up a project for the revision of the Apostolic Constitution ‘Pastor bonus’ on the Roman Curia.

It will be composed of the same persons previously nominated, who may be called upon, both in Council and singly, on matters that I will from time to time consider worthy of attention. The aforementioned Council that I will compose in the most appropriate way, with regard to the number of members, will constitute a further expression of Episcopal communion and of the aid to the ‘munus petrinum’ that the Episcopate, disseminated throughout the world, may offer.”

The chirograph is dated September 28, 2013, the first year of Francis’ pontificate.


(VIS) – The ninth meeting of the Council of Cardinals (C9), which began on 13 April, was brought to a close this afternoon, according to a briefing by the director of the Holy See Press Office, Fr. Federico Lombardi, S.J. (ANSA file photo)

C9 Cardinals - ANSA

The Council of Cardinals dedicated the majority its work regarding reform of the Roman Curia to two aspects: reflections on the methodologies to be followed for work during 2015 and 2016 in order to be able to effectively accomplish the task of preparing the new Constitution, and a rereading of the interventions by the Cardinals in relation to reform of the Curia made during the recent Consistory (there were over sixty interventions on this theme with useful indications and cues, both for the prologue of the constitution and for specific aspects of reform).

The orientation towards the constitution of two dicasteries – one competent in fields of charity, justice and peace, the other regarding the laity, families and life – would appear to be confirmed.

The Council also focused on the issue of the reorganisation of Vatican media, following the submission of the final report of the Commission presided over by Lord Chris Patten.

It is expected that the Pope will constitute a Commission to consider how the recommendations of the report can be put into practice. This body will also include members of the Patten Commission, to ensure continuity.

Finally, Cardinal O’Malley, president of the new Commission for the Protection of Minors, under the auspices of the same Commission, has proposed that the Pope and the Council consider the theme of “accountability” with regard to the protection of minors, in order to establish appropriate procedures and methods for evaluating and judging cases of “abuse of office” in this area, especially on the part of persons holding responsibility within the Church.

Further meetings of the Council of Cardinals are scheduled to take place from June 8-10, September 14-16 and December 10-12,  2015