Just a very brief “Joan’s Rome” today and a line to introduce you to this week’s guest on “Vatican Insider.” My special guest on the interveiw segment is a friend from the Middle East!  No Q&A this week but stay tuned after the news for my conversation in Rome with Dana Shahin, head of communications of Caritas Jordan. Dana is one dedicated and amazing young woman and we spoke during the recent Caritas International General Assembly. She’ll tell you about the general assembly in Rome, about Caritas’ specific work in Jordan and about Jordan’s King Abdullah.  You won’t want to miss a minute of this conversation, especially given the situation in the Middle East where Jordan is one of America’s best allies.

Dana Shahin

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:


LOOKING AHEAD: On Saturday, May 30, Vatican City’s train station will welcome the Children’s Train, a special convoy bearing 200 children, sons and daughters of men and women in prison, from Bari in southern Italy to the Vatican to meet Pope Francis. The trip was organized by the Courtyard of the Gentiles, an initiative of the Pontifical Council for Culture, and by the Italian State Railway. Council president, Cardinal Gianfanco Ravasi will be present and will be joined by Michele Mario Elia, CEO of the Italian railways.


In his briefing this morning on Pope Francis’ one-day apostolic trip to Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina on June 6, Fr. Federico Lombardi, head of the Holy See Press Office, said, “we should not expect Pope Francis to speak of the apparitions of Medjugorje during his visit to Sarajevo. The Pope is free to say what he wishes and it is not up to me to say what he must do. I don’t expect any references to Medjugorje.”

Father Lombardi explained that, “the international commission investigating Medjugorje, led by Cardinal Camillo Ruini, has finished its work and has given a contribution to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith which is now continuing its study and considerations (of the matter). Normally some conclusion would reach the plenary session of the congregation. At the moment I have no idea of a time frame or the specific manner in which this could be done.”


(Vatican Radio) Details of Pope Francis’ forthcoming visit to Sarajevo on Saturday June 6 were released by the Vatican press office on Thursday. The one day visit, focused on the themes of peace and reconciliation, comes 18 years after Pope John Paul II visited the capital of Bosnia-Herzegovina that had recently emerged from the longest siege in the history of modern warfare.

“Peace be with you” is the motto for this 8th pastoral visit of Pope Francis, encapsulated in the logo depicting a dove with an olive branch in its beak, reports Philippa Hitchens. It’s a poignant theme for the people of Bosnia-Herzegovina, still trying to recover from the devastating three year war which followed the break-up of the former Yugoslavia in the early 1990s.

The country of just under four million people is divided into the majority Bosnian Muslim community, or Bosniaks, who number about 40 percent. They’re followed by a sizeable Serbian, mainly Orthodox, population and a smaller group of largely Catholic Croats, comprising about 15 percent of the nation’s inhabitants.

Around two million people, or half the population, fled from their homes during the war that was brought to an end by a peace deal, signed in Dayton, Ohio. That agreement set up a Bosniak-Croat Federation and a separate Bosnian Serb Republic, under a central government with rotating presidency. Overseeing the fragile peace is an international administration that was backed first by NATO forces and later by a European Union-led peacekeeping force.

On June 6th, the Croat member of the three-man presidency will welcome Pope Francis at the airport in Sarajevo at 9am and accompany him to the presidential palace for a private meeting. After that he will give an address to the civil authorities and diplomatic corps before travelling to the city’s Olympic stadium to celebrate Mass.

After a private lunch with the six bishops of Bosnia-Herzegovina, the Pope will meet with local priests, religious and seminarians in the Catholic cathedral, before travelling to a nearby Franciscan student center for an ecumenical and interfaith encounter with leaders of the local Muslim, Jewish and Orthodox communities.

Pope Francis’ final stop in Sarajevo will be at a youth centre dedicated to Pope St. John Paul II, where he’ll hear firsthand about the many challenges facing young people in the country which has one of the highest unemployment rates in Europe today. The papal place is scheduled to leave Sarajevo at 8pm and arrive back in Rome at around 9.20 on Saturday evening.


Pope Francis Thursday welcomed the bishop of the Dominican Republic who are in Rome on their mandatory, quinquennal “ad limina” visit. The topics he focused on in the written speech that he handed to the bishops included fraternity with nearby Haiti, attention to marriage and the family, the battle against drug trafficking and the exploitation of minors, the continuing formation of priests and the laity, and the defense of the environment.

The Pope greets each bishop individually but his common message is in the written discourse that each prelate receives.

Francis began by noting that marriage and the family are experiencing a “serious cultural crisis,” and he urged the prelates to pay special attention during the upcoming Jubilee of Mercy to matrimonial and family reconciliation as keys to peaceful coexistence. He stressed that “greater pastoral attention needs to be paid to the role of men as husbands and fathers, as well as the responsibility they share with their wives with respect to marriage, the family and the upbringing of children.”

Anothjer urgent tropics addressed by the Pope was that of “pastoral and charitable attention to immigrants, especially those from neighbouring Haiti, who seek better conditions of life in the Dominican territory.” He said there cannot be “indifference on the part of pastors of the Church. .. It is necessary to continue to collaborate with the civil authorities to find fraternal solutions to the problems of those who are without documents or deprived of their basic rights. It is inexcusable to fail to promote initiatives of fraternity and peace between the two nations that form this beautiful Caribbean island. It is important to know how to integrate immigrants into society and to welcome them into the ecclesial community.” Francis thanked “ those who are close to them and to all who suffer as a gesture of loving care towards the brother who feels alone and helpless, with whom Christ identified.”

The Holy Father assured the bishops he knows of their efforts and concerns in appropriately facing “the serious problems that affect your people, such as trafficking in drugs and persons, corruption, domestic violence, abuse and exploitation of minors and social insecurity. The intimate connection between evangelization and human development means that every action of Mother Church must be directed towards the care of the most disadvantaged.”

The Pope also counselled the bishops to be close to their priests, to men and women religious and to the laity, noting its important presence in works of evangelization.

The papal message closed with words about protection of the environment. The Pope, considered “the beauty and the colorful landscapes of the Dominican Republic,” and urged the prelates to “renew commitment to the conservation and care of the environment. Man’s relationship with nature must not be governed by greed, manipulation or unfettered exploitation, but should instead conserve the divine harmony between creatures and creation to place it at the service.”


(Vatican Radio) “Good communication is always a human rather than a technical achievement.” That was at the heart of an address given by the Secretary of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, Monsignor Paul Tighe, on Wednesday to the World Summit on the Information Society, during their 2015 session for High-Level Policy Statements, which is currently underway in Geneva, Switzerland. The summit ends today.

Speaking to Vatican Radio following his speech, Monsignor Tighe said he wanted to stress that, it was important to avoid the presumption that “just because the technologies are there we are going to have a better sense of the unity of the human family or that solidarity and development are automatically going to happen.” He said that what he wanted to underline was the view taken by Pope Francis that, “ultimately, at heart is good communications and good communications is always a human rather than a technical achievement.”

Msgr. Tighe was asked by Vatican Radio whether he thought that people should be thinking in terms of “responsible communications.” He said the term was appropriate and added: “I would be nervous if people thought that technology alone could achieve the goods that we want to achieve. It’s going to require responsible determination and choices by individuals.”

Looking to the future and addressing how the Vatican media and its multimedia platform can be at the forefront of “good communications,” the council secretary said, “we need to make sure that we’re able to present our teachings our ideas, our perspectives in ways that are going to properly be present in a very different kind of environment. So, I think the challenge for us is always about trying to find ways of being able to speak about our core values…”

He also said that, “we are lucky in the Vatican to have so many very strong well prepared very highly motivated professional communicators and technicians. … to ensure that we can find a way that we can all work together to be ever more powerfully the voice and the presence of the Church in the emerging digital arenas.”



Speaking at his weekly general audience in St. Peter’s Square, Pope Francis continued his series of catecheses on the family and marriage and focused on the period known as engagement.  (photo:


Engagement, he said, has to do with trust and reliability. It is beautiful that two people who are engaged to be married undertake a path together during which they learn from each other, sharing and participating in this profound commitment. “It is love itself that demands deep reflection and an approach that is fully aware of what it means to enter into marriage.”

Francis stressed that “the alliance of love between a man and a woman is an alliance for life. It cannot be improvised, it is not something you do from one day to the next.” He also said, “there is no quick-fix marriage, one has to work on love, one has to walk, the alliance of love between man and woman is learned, refined.”

In an off-the-cuff remark, the Pope said, “Allow me to say that making a single life out of two lives is a home-made alliance, and also perhaps a miracle, a miracle of freedom and of the heart entrusted to faith.”

He also urged Italians to read and perhaps re-read the Italian classic romantic novel “I Promessi Sposi” (The Bethrothed) by Alessandro Manzoni. “You Italians in your literature have a masterpiece on engagement, and youngsters should be familiar with it. Read it, it’s a masterpiece that tells the story of fiancés who have undergone difficulties and walked a road to marriage. Don’t overlook this masterpiece on engagement in Italian literature, go on and read it and you will see the beauty.”

Speaking on the idea of nuturing love – “it is very hard work,” he said to great applause –  Francis noted that “whoever wants everything immediately will give up everything immediately at the first difficulty or opportunity.”

The Holy Father also mentioned how today’s society and culture are increasingly indifferent to marriage and do not help young people in this delicate moment of their lives. He then encouraged engaged couples to follow courses of marriage preparation which he described as a precious aid as they help them reflect together on their love, their future and on the importance of faith and prayer in the life they are about to share. “You might wonder if this is important or will help you, or wonder if you have time to attend these sessions, but they will help and you’ll discover new things,” he said.

“Engagement is a time when couples come to know one another better in planning for the beautiful yet demanding enterprise of marriage. Love itself demands this preparation, which makes possible a free, generous and sober decision to enter into a life-long covenant of love. For this reason the Church stresses the importance of the period of engagement by offering courses of marriage preparation.”


Vatican Secretary of State Pietro Parolin said Tuesday that last weekend’s referendum in which Irish people voted to legalize gay marriage was “not just a defeat of Christian principles but a defeat for humanity.”   He was speaking at an award ceremony Tuesday evening for the Social Doctrine of the Church sponsored by the Centesimus Annus Foundation.

He said: “The result left me deeply saddened. Certainly, as the archbishop of Dublin said, the Church must take into account this reality (same sex marriage), but must also take into account that, in my opinion, she must strengthen her commitment and make an effort to evangelize our culture as well.  I believe this (vote) was not just a defeat of Christian principles but also a defeat for humanity.” The secretary of State added that, “The family remains at the center and we have to do everything to defend it and promote it. Striking it would be like taking the foundations away from the building of the future.”

The family, founded on the union of two people of different sexes, must always be cared for. In any case, the Church believes the result of the Irish referendum must be taken into account. (Translated from Vatican Radio – Italian section)


I am sure you know about the vote in Ireland last Friday that said ‘yes’ to legalizing same sex “marriage.”  I’ll not make a long commentary here today, except to say I now have another country and another people to add to my prayer list.

However, I have wondered for ever so long why there need to be special laws passed, why people have to vote on same sex “marriage,” why do judges and courts have to get involved, why do people “come out of the closet,” why do there have to be campaigns and marches, etc. to try to place same sex unions on the same level as traditional marriage if indeed, these unions were a normal part of the Lord’s plan for creation and procreation.

For the moment, here is a link to an interview a good friend of mine, Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin, gave to La Stampa paper:


(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Tuesday met with Franciscans taking part in the General Chapter of the Order of Friars Minor.

In his address to the friars, the Holy Father focused on two “essential elements” of Franciscan identity: “minority” (It: minorità), a spirit of littleness; and “fraternity.” (photo: – L’Osservatore Romano)


The spirit of being a “minor,” he said, “calls one to be and to feel that one is little before God, entrusting oneself totally to His infinite mercy.” The recognition of one’s littleness and sinfulness allows a person to receive salvation. Those on the other hand, who do not feel needy cannot receive the mercy and salvation God offers them. “Minority,” the Pope continued, also means going out of oneself, beyond structures, attitudes, and feelings of security, in order to bear concrete witness of God’s mercy to the poor and needy “in an authentic attitude of sharing and service.”

Fraternity, or brotherhood, was the other aspect of being a Franciscan highlighted by Pope Francis. The Pope noted the witness of Christians in the early church, whose fraternal communion was “an eloquent and attractive sign of unity and charity.” Franciscans, he said, are called “to express this concrete fraternity, by means of a recovery of reciprocal confidence in interpersonal relationships, so that the world might see and believe” recognizing that Christ’s love can heal our wounds and make us one.

Recalling a story of the early days of the Order, Pope Francis noted that the early Franciscans recognized the whole world as their cloister, the space for their evangelical witness. “How important it is to live a Christian and religious existence without losing oneself in disputes and chattering, cultivating a serene dialogue with all, with meekness, mildness, and humility, with poor means, proclaiming peace and living soberly, content with what is offered to you.” Alluding gently to some difficulties the Franciscans have faced in recent years, the Pope said Franciscans must be committed to their vocation of poverty and littleness.

Pope Francis reminded the friars that it is the Holy Spirit who animates the religious life. “When consecrated persons live, allowing themselves to be illuminated and guide by the Spirit, they discover in this supernatural vision the secret of their fraternity, the inspiration of their service to the brethren, the strength of their prophetic presence in the Church and in the world.” The “light and strength” of the Holy Spirit, he said, will also help Franciscans confront the challenges posed by a decline in numbers and vocations, and by an aging congregation.

Brother Michael Perry of the United States was elected last Thursday to a six-year term as minister general of the Order of Friars Minor, a post he has held for the past two years.


I am back in Rome, as you know, but I’m still receiving daily updates from the media office for the Shroud of Turin. A really interesting piece of news arrived yesterday afternoon about the Comunità Cenacolo, an organization I know from its three campuses in and near Jacksonville, Florida and another one near the monastery and shrine in Hanceville, Alabama.

Comunità Cenacolo is very close to Birmingham Bishop Robert Baker’s heart and he has been instrumental in setting up the U.S. communities. Shortly after it opened, I visited the one in Hanceville on a day when Bishop Baker said Mass there and the young men prepared a wonderful lunch for their guests.  I spent half a day and learned a great deal about the life and daily routine of these 12 young men recovering from addiction.

Here is a link to the Comunità website:

And here is my translation of the May 25 communiqué from Turin:

500 Young People from the Comunità Cenacolo Before the Shroud

“Dress yourselves with peace and love to re-embrace life!” These were the words sung by 500 young people, priests and sisters of the Comunità Cenacolo as they processed toward the cathedral to see the Shroud. This community, founded in 1983 by Sr. Elvira Petrozzi in Saluzzo (northern Italy), welcomes young people who have gone through the tunnel of drugs, drug dependency and prostitution. Today Comunità Cenacolo has 62 houses welcoming people in 18 countries (22 houses just in Italy).

The group, led by Fr. Stefano Aragno, was composed of young people from the motherhouse in Saluzzo where 6 priests and 30 nuns work, and also youth from the communities in Croatia, Slovakia, Poland, Brazil, Argentina, the United States and throughout Italy.  Also present in Turin were several sisters who have recently returned from missions in Liberia, Brazil and Peru, as well as some parents who are living a path of faith in order to re-build their families parallel to those of their own children.

Fr. Aragno said, “In the wounds of the Man of the Shroud we see the suffering that our young people bear inside. The Shroud is a witness for us of the grace of God that passed through those wounds, from which we can receive a path of light, hope and resurrection. Our community is one of the witnesses that the greatest Love is capable of defeating sin and death to give us a new life.”

“Sister Elvira and the community,” he said, “have always had a particular devotion for the Shroud. In the Saluzzo house, in fact, in the chapel, there is a small copy of the Linen before which we pray every day.”

Sister Veronica, who has just returned from a mission in Liberia, shared these thoughts. “In front of the Shroud, I’ve brought the wounded faces of the abandoned children I took care of in the mission in this Africa country, devastated by wars and by Ebola.”


I get frequent requests from people asking how they can obtain a papal blessing for a specific person or couple or family on a specific occasion (birthday, anniversary, etc.) To be honest, if you go to Google and type “papal blessing,” before you even finish the word blessing, you will be brought to this site – all the info you need on how to order, what occasions may be used for a blessings, how to pay, etc.  Help me to help others by passing this info on to people you know who want papal blessings, and be sure to put it on your own web page or Facebook page!

I am also asked – even more frequently! – for help in planning trips. I just can’t plan your trip for you but I can give suggestions on how to visit the Vatican as you can see by the link below (it is always on my blog page). Visiting Rome is a whole other category and I simply do not have the time to assist in planning itineraries, churches to visit, etc. The Internet has very valuable information and I’m sure that some surfing will yield wonderful results. In any case, one of the real fun parts of any trip is discovering places and monuments and churches and restaurants on your own! CLICK HERE FOR PRACTICAL INFORMATION ON VISITING THE VATICAN

Today is officially an EWTN holiday and a day off  but I have some work to attend to, including posting some news. There was a plethora of news and events in the Vatican this weekend – Pentecost Sunday and the birth of our beloved Church being at the top of that list! I am sure you are busy on Memorial Day – and I hope it is a day of rest and families being together and celebrating the reason for this important American holiday. Hopefully you’ll be so busy with family and friends that you won’t have a lot of time for reading but you can pick and choose what stories you want to follow by visiting:

The biggest Vatican story of the day is the one that follows about the Vatican bank!  Very heady stuff, as you will see!

Just one favor today: I ask that you keep my twin cousins, Dotty and Debby, in your prayers. Deb wrote me while I was in Turin that Dot was admitted to the hospital a week ago with pneumonia and some complications arose (not pneumonia related) and she is going down hill very rapidly. They are three months younger than me and we have always been very close. And no one can imagine (unless you are a twin) what that very special bond is like! Deb and her other sister Diane and I are in daily touch and I’ll keep you posted.


The IOR, the Institute for Works of Religion, known more informally as the Vatican bank, released its Annual Report for 2014 on Monday. The year 2014 was an eminently positive year for the IOR, as it showed a net profit of 69.3 million Euros, a substantial increase from the 2.9 million reported in 2013. (JFL: as of today, May 25, 2015, $1 = 0.9116 Euro).(photo: Salt and Light)
IOR - 2 salt and light

Below are excerpts from that report, presented in Italian and English.

About the Istituto per le Opere di Religione (IOR):

The “Istituto per le Opere di Religione” (IOR) is an institute founded on 27 June 1942 by Papal Decree. Its origins date back to the “Commissione ad Pias Causas” established in 1887 by Pope Leo XIII. The mission of the IOR is to serve the global mission of the Catholic Church by providing for the custody and administration of its customers’ assets, and rendering dedicated worldwide payment services to its customers. The Institute’s mission was confirmed by the Holy Father, Pope Francis, on 7 April 2014. The IOR operates from a single location – its headquarters in the Vatican City State – and is regulated by the “Autorità di Informazione Finanziaria” (AIF), the financial supervisory body for the Vatican City State.

IOR releases Annual Report 2014

  • Transformation of IOR on track, including reorganization and adjustment to Vatican regulatory standard with regard to transparency, supervision and financial information
  • Strategic, long-term plan for the Institute far advanced
  • 2014 results show positive effect of financial market developments on securities portfolio

Further strengthening of compliance, risk and control monitoring systems and audit functions well advanced under supervision of Vatican regulator AIF

As of December 31, 2014, the IOR’s equity was EUR 695m (2013: EUR 720m).

The total value of assets entrusted by customers to the IOR rose marginally to EUR 6bn in 2014 (2013: 5.9bn). (JFL: the client base approved by the bank’s board include religious orders, Catholic institutions, clergy, employees or former employees of the Vatican, and embassies and diplomats accredited to the Holy See.)

On December 31, 2014, the IOR served 15,181 customers. From May 2013 through December 2014 the IOR closed 4,614 accounts with its customers, of which 2,600 were “dormant” or inactive or small balance accounts. Another 554 accounts were closed which did not fit in the categories of authorized client accounts and a further 1,460 were terminated for natural attrition. Another 274 accounts are in the process of termination. (CNA photo)

IOR - 1

Past Abuses Reported. Cases, where the IOR was subjected to abuse in the past, have been reported to the competent Vatican authorities.

Strategic, long-term plan for the Institute far advanced.

“The long-term, strategic plan of the Institute revolves around two key objectives: putting the interests of the clients first by offering appropriate and improved services and by de-risking the activities of the Institute”, said Jean-Baptiste de Franssu, President of the Board of Superintendence since July 2014. He added “all this is done within the strong regulatory framework now in place in the Vatican and in close cooperation with AIF, the Holy See regulator.”

The strategic plan builds on the work of the Pontifical Referring Commission to the IOR (CRIOR), and the Pontifical Commission for Reference on the Organization of the Economic- Administrative Structure of the Holy See (COSEA).


(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis says that being with people does him good.

In a long and very personal interview with Juan Beretta, a reporter from the Argentinean newspaper “La Voz Del Pueblo”, the Pope speaks of his feelings of when he was elected Pope, of how he misses walking the streets, using public transport and sitting down for a pizza, of how he feels moved and sad when he meets sick children, prison inmates and people who’ve had no opportunities in life, of how he would like to be remembered “as someone who did some good”.

The interview, conducted in the privacy of his residence at Casa Santa Marta, offers some insights into the everyday life of Francis who says that never would he have expected to be elected as the Successor of Peter, but of how the life of a religious, “a Jesuit, undergoes change according to necessity.”




Just a quick announcement as I continue my visit to Turin and the celebrated Shroud of Turin. I return to Rome tomorrow afternoon but want to take this occasion to remind you to listen to “Vatican Insider” this weekend with my guests Ray McKenna, president of Catholic Athletes for Christ and Linda Del Rio, wife of NFL coach, Jack Del Rio (head coach of the Oakland Raiders). They attended and spoke at a recent international seminar in the Vatican organized by the Sports Desk of the council for the Laity on the theme, “Coaches: Educating People.”

In the fall of 2013, when she was in Rome for a sports conference, Linda gave Pope Francis a football (‘American football’, as they call it in Italy) that had been autographed by her husband and players of the Denver Broncos (Jack was then defensive coordinator). It is said that the Pope, a very big soccer fan (the real football according to the rest of the world) turned to an aide and asked, “how does one kick an oval ball?”


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:



 UPDATE: Better late than never! This morning I was finally able to post the photos to yesterday’s column about Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati, Turin, and the Shroud. I cannot, however, explain why some images are smaller than others!

As you know, I am in Turin in northern Italy, a beautiful and historic town that is set in the foothills of the Alps and is surrounded by stunning scenery. My original plans were to be here to see the Shroud of Turin during its first exposition since 2010 and to meet up with Teresa Tomeo and her group as they stop off here to see the Shroud on their Italian pilgrimage.

I added to those plans when my friend, Wanda Gawronska called to tell me there would be a candlelit procession in Turin and a Mass at the cathedral on Wednesday evening to mark the 25th anniversary of the beatification of Pier Giorgio Frassati. Wanda is the niece of Pier Giorgio – her mother Luciana was Pier Giorgio’s sister – and she and her brother Jas were on the same train as I was yesterday and we met for a bit in the restaurant car to chat over coffee. They are two of the six children of Luciana Frassati and Polish diplomat Jan Gawronska. (To be honest, if you want to do some fascinating reading, just google their names and you will be riveted by their wonderful stories – not just as a niece and nephew of a Blessed but very active in both their native and adopted countries!)

Priests gather for Mass with the Shroud as a backdrop:

Mass - Turin

The train arrived a little after 6 in Turin where it was pouring rain and the temp was considerably cooler than it has been in the morning in Rome. I took a taxi to the apartment I had rented for three nights near the cathedral and went out for an early dinner, hoping to get to the Consolata church by 9 pm for the procession to the cathedral for the Mass with Cardinal Poletto, retired archbishop of Turin. I did not have an adequate wardrobe for the cold so decided to meet Jas and Wanda at the cathedral, which was only a five-minute walk from my place.

Wanda Gawronska and her brother Jas listen as Cardinal Severino Poletto speaks at the start of Mass about their uncle, Blessed Pier Giorgio.

Mass-Turin Wanda

The long and late evening is the reason thee was no column yesterday.

An icon near the altar:


Mass was very beautiful, exceptional, in fact, given that we had the Shroud of Turin as backdrop to the altar. Thirteen priests concelebrated with Cardinal Poletto who gave a magnificent, heartfelt sermon about Pier Giorgio without a single note. I discovered he was famous for giving sermons without any notes. I was able to meet him after Mass to tell him how special his word were about a Blessed who was such a holy model for his time  – and for all times, really – and for the young and the young at heart.


The cardinal, by the way, did walk in the rain from the Consolata to the cathedral! If I had not been so cold, I’d have been mortified by my absence.

A young man does a reading – the youth choir was impeccable:


Turin  MAss choir

The very first article I every published after I moved to Rome was on the Shroud, called The Man of the Shroud. I had spent six months researching, reading as many books as I could, attending conferences on the Shroud, interviewing experts and authors – whatever I could do to learn more. It became a passion and has been my passion for years, and I believe, with all my heart, that this is the linen cloth that wrapped Jesus’ body when he was placed in the tomb.

After Mass, Cardinal Poletto, the priests, Wanda and Jas and  the faithful gathered around the tomb of Pier Giorgio.

Card-Pier Giorgio Blessed PG-Card Blessed PG Wanda

Thus, last night was special beyond telling: To attend Mass, the most wonderful and holy moment of our lives, in the presence of both Christ’s burial cloth and the incorrupt body of a blessed (two miracles for his canonization are being examined)!

As the faithful enter the cathedral and walk down the left aisle to visit the Shroud, they will walk by Blessed Pier Giorgio’s tomb:

Tomb 3 Tomb 2

After a prayerful tribute to Pier Giorgio and moments of silence, we processed to the front of  St. John Cathedral to venerate the Shroud. We remained some time in prayer and I have to say I had my breath taken away as I viewed the linen cloth that wrapped the body of Our Lord in the tomb and at the moment of His Resurrection.

turin - shroud Turin - shroud close

20150520_232538 Turin - guard

Wanda and I at Blessed Pier Giorgio’s tomb:


Below is a biography of Blessed Pier Giorgio from a wonderful wesbite:  WYD Krakow has asked that his relics be brought to Krakow for the next World Youth Day in 2016 – a reasonable demand given his Polish family!


Pier Giorgio Michelangelo Frassati was born in Turin, Italy on April 6, 1901. His mother, Adelaide Ametis, was a painter. His father Alfredo, was the founder and director of the newspaper, “La Stampa,” and was influential in Italian politics, holding positions as an Italian Senator and Ambassador to Germany.

It is a well-known fact that Pier Giorgio’s father, Alfredo, was an agnostic. He was a highly successful, influential man: founder and director of the newspaper La Stampa, Italian Senator and Ambassador to Germany. Despite his lack of faith, he had strong convictions and believed in the values that made a man great such as honesty, a sense of duty, respect for the Church and sensibility for social problems.  He had a great love for his country. In 1922, he received one of the highest orders of knighthood in the kingdom of Italy.

It is a lesser known fact that Alfredo Frassati was actually a cradle Catholic. At some point after Pier Giorgio’s death, Alfredo Frassati returned to the Sacraments. It cannot be said that he became as ardent in the practice of his faith as was his son; however, no one but God can know what was in the depth of his soul. He died in 1961 at the age of 92 years old.

At an early age, Pier Giorgio joined the Marian Sodality and the Apostleship of Prayer, and obtained permission to receive daily Communion (which was rare at that time).

He developed a deep spiritual life which he never hesitated to share with his friends The Holy Eucharist and the Blessed Virgin were the two poles of his world of prayer. At the age of 17, he joined the St. Vincent de Paul Society and dedicated much of his spare time to serving the sick and the needy, caring for orphans, and assisting the demobilized servicemen returning from World War I.

He decided to become a mining engineer, studying at the Royal Polytechnic University of Turin, so he could “serve Christ better among the miners,” as he told a friend.

Although he considered his studies his first duty, they did not keep him from social and political activism. In 1919, he joined the Catholic Student Foundation and the organization known as Catholic Action. He became a very active member of the People’s Party, which promoted the Catholic Church’s social teaching based on the principles of Pope Leo XIII’s encyclical letter, Rerum Novarum.

What little he did have, Pier Giorgio gave to help the poor, even using his bus fare for charity and then running home to be on time for meals. The poor and the suffering were his masters, and he was literally their servant, which he considered a privilege. His charity did not simply involve giving something to others, but giving completely of himself. This was fed by daily communion with Christ in the Holy Eucharist and by frequent nocturnal adoration, by meditation on St. Paul’s “Hymn of Charity” (I Corinthians 13), and by the writings of St. Catherine of Siena. He often sacrificed vacations at the Frassati summer home in Pollone (outside of Turin) because, as he said, “If everybody leaves Turin, who will take care of the poor?”

In 1921, he was a central figure in Ravenna, enthusiastically helping to organize the first convention of Pax Romana, an association which had as its purpose the unification of all Catholic students throughout the world for the purpose of working together for universal peace.

Mountain climbing was one of his favorite sports. Outings in the mountains, which he organized with his friends, also served as opportunities for his apostolic work. He never lost the chance to lead his friends to Mass, to the reading of Scripture, and to praying the rosary.

He often went to the theater, to the opera, and to museums. He loved art and music, and could quote whole passages of the poet Dante.

Fondness for the epistles of St. Paul sparked his zeal for fraternal charity, and the fiery sermons of the Renaissance preacher and reformer Girolamo Savonarola and the writings of St. Catherine impelled him in 1922 to join the Lay Dominicans (Third Order of St. Dominic). He chose the name Girolamo after his personal hero, Savonarola. “I am a fervent admirer of this friar, who died as a saint at the stake,” he wrote to a friend.

Like his father, he was strongly anti-Fascist and did nothing to hide his political views. He physically defended the faith at times involved in fights, first with anticlerical Communists and later with Fascists. Participating in a Church-organized demonstration in Rome on one occasion, he stood up to police violence and rallied the other young people by grabbing the group’s banner, which the royal guards had knocked out of another student’s hands. Pier Giorgio held it even higher, while using the banner’s pole to fend off the blows of the guards.

Just before receiving his university degree, Pier Giorgio contracted poliomyelitis, which doctors later speculated he caught from the sick whom he tended. Neglecting his own health because his grandmother was dying, after six days of terrible suffering Pier Giorgio died at the age of 24 on July 4, 1925.

His last preoccupation was for the poor. On the eve of his death, with a paralyzed hand he scribbled a message to a friend, asking him to take the medicine needed for injections to be given to Converso, a poor sick man he had been visiting.

Pier Giorgio’s funeral was a triumph – there was a multitude of mourners who were unknown to his family — the poor and the needy whom he had served so unselfishly for seven years. Many of these people, in turn, were surprised to learn that the saintly young man they knew had actually been the heir of the influential Frassati family.

Pope John Paul II, after visiting his original tomb in the family plot in Pollone, said in 1989: “I wanted to pay homage to a young man who was able to witness to Christ with singular effectiveness in this century of ours. When I was a young man, I, too, felt the beneficial influence of his example and, as a student, I was impressed by the force of his testimony.”

On May 20, 1990, in St. Peter’s Square which was filled with thousands of people, the Pope beatified Pier Giorgio Frassati, calling him the “Man of the Eight Beatitudes.”

His mortal remains, found completely intact and incorrupt upon their exhumation on March 31, 1981, were transferred from the family tomb in Pollone to the cathedral in Turin. Many pilgrims, especially students and the young, come to the tomb of Blessed Frassati to seek favors and the courage to follow his example.