How do I say thank you? Let me count the ways…..

I am speechless at the hundreds of emails and Facebok postings I have received in just a few hours wishing me a Happy Birthday! The messages have been long and short, wise and witty, marked by love, affection and friendship and glowing tributes to my work. I have heard from every corner of the earth, it seems, from longtime friends and from Facebook people I only know through correspondence – or perhaps not at all!  I have “received” cakes and cupcakes, virtual flowers and cards, musical tributes and several videos.

And I have received real flowers!

Birthday flowers 4 Birthday flowers 3

I am moved and humbled by all of this!  When people say “God bless!” to me, I usually respond, “He really has!”  And He has blessed me – abundantly, in every way, with faith, family and friends.

Birthday flowers 2 Birthday flowers - 1

Please know that I’d love to respond to each and each person who has written so far (30 more best wishes have arrived since I start writing minutes ago!) but you are all in my hearts and prayers. May the Lord bless each of you as well!

I will raise a glass of prosecco tonight at my birthday dinner hosted by Linda and Jack Del Rio and will salute each and every one of you!

POPE FRANCIS’ JUNE 30 TWEET: How wonderful it is to proclaim to everyone the love of God which saves us and gives meaning to our lives!


This morning, around 10 am, Pope Francis went to the Mater Ecclesiae monastery in the Vatican gardens where Pope emeritus Benedict XVI resides in retirement to greet the former pontiff and wish him a pleasant stay at Castlegandofo. The two met for about a half hour. Benedict XVI left shortly afterward for the papal residence in the Alban Hills and will stay there for two weeks, returning to Vatican City on July 14. Since becoming Pope in March 2013, Francis has invited Benedict several times to stay at Castelgandolfo, knowing how very much he enjoys this residence and feels at home there.

(See previous post with ZENIT pho


Pope Francis will spend most of July in Rome, although he will travel to three Latin American nations from July 5 to 12. When he is back in Rome he will be working on speeches and homilies for his September pilgrimage to Cuba and the U.S. where he will address the United Nations, the U.S. Congress and preside at the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia.

In July, the Wednesday general audiences will be suspended but will resume in August in the Paul VI Hall. One exception is the previously planned audience the afternoon of July 3 with the Movement of Renewal in the Spirit in St. Peter’s Square.

The Holy Father will continue to recite the Angelus on Sundays.

The morning Mass at Santa Marta is also suspended during July and August. It will resume in early September.


Pope emeritus Benedict XVI today celebrates the 64th anniversary of his priestly ordination! What a beautiful milestone! I would like to express my congratulations as well as my affection, esteem and many prayers.  The same for his brother, Msgr. Georg Ratzinger who was ordained the same day.


Lots of important news over the weekend and today, given the Pope’s beautiful homily at the Mass for the solemnity of St. Peter and Paul.


Today, solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul, Apostles and patrons of Rome, Pope Francis blessed 46 palliums that he handed to 46 metropolitan archbishops as a sign of their union with the Successor of Peter, with their brother bishops  as well as a sign of their authority in the archdiocese where they are shepherds.


The Pope began his homily by commenting on the passage from the Acts of the Apostles, that “speaks to us of the first Christian community besieged by persecution. A community harshly persecuted by Herod who “laid violent hands upon some who belonged to the Church… proceeded to arrest Peter also… and when he had seized him he put him in prison.”

“However,” said Francis, “I do not wish to dwell on these atrocious, inhuman and incomprehensible persecutions, sadly still present in many parts of the world today, often under the silent gaze of all.  I would like instead to pay homage today to the courage of the Apostles and that of the first Christian community.  This courage carried forward the work of evangelization, free of fear of death and martyrdom, within the social context of a pagan empire; their Christian life is for us, the Christians of today, a powerful call to prayer, to faith and to witness.”

The Holy Father noted that, “the first community was a Church at prayer. …And if we think of Rome, the catacombs were not places to escape to from persecution but rather, they were places of prayer, for sanctifying the Lord’s day and for raising up, from the heart of the earth, adoration to God who never forgets his sons and daughters.”

He also noted how the first reading of the day tells us that, “Sentries before the door were guarding the prison; and behold, an angel of the Lord appeared, and a light shone in the cell; and he struck Peter on the side… And the chains fell off his hands,”

“Let us think about how many times the Lord has heard our prayer and sent us an angel,” said Francis. “An angel who unexpectedly comes to pull us out of a difficult situation?  Who comes to snatch us from the hands of death and from the evil one; who points out the wrong path; who rekindles in us the flame of hope; who gives us tender comfort; who consoles our broken hearts; who awakens us from our slumber to the world; or who simply tells us, ‘You are not alone’.

“How many angels he places on our path, and yet when we are overwhelmed by fear, unbelief or even euphoria, we leave them outside the door, just as happened to Peter when he knocked on the door of the house and the “maid named Rhoda came to answer.  Recognizing Peter’s voice, in her joy she did not open the door” (12:13-14).

Highlighting the importance of prayer, the Pope said, “No Christian community can go forward without being supported by persistent prayer! Prayer is the encounter with God, with God who never lets us down; with God who is faithful to his word; with God who does not abandon his children.”

Speaking on the call to faith, the Holy Father said,God does not take his children out of the world or away from evil but he does grant them strength to prevail.  Only the one who believes can truly say: ‘The Lord is my shepherd, there is nothing I shall want’.”

He asked, “How many forces in the course of history have tried, and still do, to destroy the Church, from without as well as within, but they themselves are destroyed and the Church remains alive and fruitful! She remains inexplicably solid, so that, as Saint Paul says, she may acclaim: ‘To him be glory for ever and ever’.

“Everything passes, only God remains.  Indeed, kingdoms, peoples, cultures, nations, ideologies, powers have passed, but the Church, founded on Christ, notwithstanding the many storms and our many sins, remains ever faithful to the deposit of faith shown in service; for the Church does not belong to Popes, bishops, priests, nor the lay faithful; the Church in every moment belongs solely to Christ.  Only the one who lives in Christ promotes and defends the Church by holiness of life, after the example of Peter and Paul.

Francis then highlighted his third point, a call to witness:”A Church or a Christian who does not give witness is sterile; like a dead person who thinks they are alive; like a dried up tree that produces no fruit; an empty well that offers no water!  The Church has overcome evil thanks to the courageous, concrete and humble witness of her children.  She has conquered evil thanks to proclaiming with conviction: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God’.”

The Pope then addressed the archbishops who today receive the pallium; “It is a sign which represents the sheep that the shepherd carries on his shoulders as Christ the Good Shepherd does, and it is therefore a symbol of your pastoral mission.  …Today, by these palliums, I wish to entrust you with this call to prayer, to faith and to witness.

“The Church wants you to be men of prayer, masters of prayer; that you may teach the people entrusted to your care that liberation from all forms of imprisonment is uniquely God’s work and the fruit of prayer; that God sends his angel at the opportune time in order to save us from the many forms of slavery and countless chains of worldliness.  For those most in need, may you also be angels and messengers of charity!

“The Church desires you to be men of faith, masters of faith, who can teach the faithful to not be frightened of the many Herods who inflict on them persecution with every kind of cross.  No Herod is able to banish the light of hope, of faith, or of charity in the one who believes in Christ!

“The Church wants you to be men of witness. Saint Francis used to tell his brothers: ‘Preach the Gospel always, and if necessary, use words!’ There is no witness without a coherent lifestyle!  Today there is no great need for masters, but for courageous witnesses, who are convinced and convincing; witnesses who are not ashamed of the Name of Christ and of His Cross; not before the roaring lions, nor before the powers of this world.”

“This is not so straightforward,” concluded Francis, “because the most effective and authentic witness is one that does not contradict, by behaviour and lifestyle, what is preached with the word and taught to others!

Teach prayer by praying, announce the faith by believing; offer witness by living!”

After Mass this morning, Pope Francis went to his study in the apostolic palace and , speaking from the window, he prayed the Angelus with the faithful inSt. Peter’s Square. He asked for prayers for his July 5 to 12 pilgrimage to Ecuador, Bolivia, and Paraguay: “I ask you all to accompany me with prayer, that the Lord will bless my journey on the continent of Latin America so dear to me, as you can imagine. I express to the dear peoples of Ecuador, Bolivia, Paraguay my joy at being in their homelands, and I ask you, in a particular way, to pray for me and for this trip, that the Virgin Mary might give us the gift of accompanying all of us with her maternal protection.”


This entire story will be very interesting to follow. Having worked for many years at the Vatican Information Service (VIS), I am familiar with all the communications offices that the Pope refers to in this document. However, I did not see VIS mentioned by name in the Motu proprio which notes. “the following Organizations will be incorporated: Pontifical Council for Social Communications, the Holy See Press Office, Vatican Internet Service, Vatican Radio, the Vatican Televisi… Radio, the Vatican Television Center (CTV), the Osservatore Romano, Vatican Typography, Photograph Service, and the Vatican Publishing House (Libreria Editrice Vaticana). VIS was considered an office within the Holy See Press Office so perhaps that is the answer to my observation.

No mention was made of the future of the men who now lead CTV, the radio, the council for social communications, etc, though several are near retirement age.

,At the end of the Motu, Pope Francis notes: The new Department, in agreement with the Secretary of State, will assume the institutional website of the Holy See: www.vatican.va and the Twitter account of the Supreme Pontiff: @pontifex The Secretariat for Communications will begin its duties on June 29, 2015, having as a provisional headquarters Palazzo Pio, Piazza Pia, 3, 00120 Vatican City.

(Vatican Radio)  Pope Francis promulgated on Saturday, 27 June 2015, a Motu Proprio instituting the Secretariat for Communications and nominating Rev. Msgr. Dario Edoardo Viganò as Prefect of the new Secretariat.

The Motu Proprio establishes that all communications offices will be incorporated under the direction of the new Secretariat for Communications, including the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, the Holy See Press Office, Vatican Internet Service, Vatican Radio, the Vatican Television Center (CTV), the Osservatore Romano, Vatican Typography, Photograph Service, and the Vatican Publishing House (Libreria Editrice Vaticana).

The new Dicastery will also work in union with the Secretariat of State for the direction of the institutional website of the Holy See, http://www.vatican.va and the Twitter account of the Holy Father:  @pontifex

Please find below a Vatican Radio translation of the Motu Proprio: “The current communicative context”


Establishment of the Secretariat for Communications

The current communication context, characterized by the presence and the development of digital media, by the factors of convergence and interactivity, requires a rethinking of the information system of the Holy See and dedication to a reorganization which, recognizing the history of internal development of the asset of communications of the Apostolic See, must proceed decisively towards integration and a unified management.

For these reasons, I desire that all organizations which, thus far have dealt with communications in different ways, be brought together in a new Dicastery of the Roman Curia, to be called the Secretariat for Communications. Thus, the communication system of the Holy See will respond in an ever more efficacious manner to the needs of the mission of the Church.

Therefore, after reviewing reports and studies, and recently having received the study on feasibility and having heard the unanimous opinion of the Council of Cardinals, I institute the Secretariat for Communications and establish the following:

Art. 1

Into the Dicastery, as presented by the Commission of Vatican Media, instituted on April 30, 2015, the following Organizations will be incorporated: Pontifical Council for Social Communications, the Holy See Press Office, Vatican Internet Service, Vatican Radio, the Vatican Television Center (CTV), the Osservatore Romano, Vatican Typography, Photograph Service, and the Vatican Publishing House (Libreria Editrice Vaticana).

Art. 2

These organizations, from the date of publication of this Motu Proprio, must continue their own activities, in accordance, however, with the indications given by the Secretariat for Communications.

Art. 3

The new Department, in agreement with the Secretary of State, will assume the institutional website of the Holy See: http://www.vatican.va and the Twitter account of the Supreme Pontiff: @pontifex

Art. 4

The Secretariat for Communications will begin its duties on June 29, 2015, having as a provisional headquarters Palazzo Pio, Piazza Pia, 3, 00120 Vatican City.

Everything which I have deliberated with this Apostolic Letter issued under the form of Motu Proprio, I prescribe it to be observed in all its parts, notwithstanding anything to the contrary, even if worthy of special mention, and I establish that it be promulgated by publication in the newspaper L ‘ Osservatore Romano and, subsequently, in the Acta Apostolicae Sedis.

Given in Rome, at Saint Peter’s, on June 27 of the year 2015, the third of my Pontificate.

Francesco P.P.


Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin on Saturday sent telegrams of condolences in the Holy Father’s name to France, Kuwait and Tunisia for the victims of the terror attacks in those countries on Friday. The Pope expressed solidarity, saying he was united in prayer with the relatives of the victims, and praying for the souls of those who perished in the attacks. Pope Francis offered his condolences to those who were wounded and to their families.

In each of the messages, Pope Francis condemned yet again “the violence that causes so much suffering” and prayed that God “might grant the gift of peace.”


Saturday, during an Ordinary Consistory in the apostolic palace, it was announced that the Holy Father has approved  the decrees allowing for the canonization of Louis and Zelie Martin, the parents of St. Therese of the Child Jesus of Lisieux. They will be the first to be canonized together as husband and wife




Contrary to headlines in the news and to pundits on television who gleefully announced that last Wednesday “Pope Francis stunned the world when he opened the doors to divorce in the Church,” POPE FRANCIS DID NOT USE THE WORD DIVORCE in his weekly audience talk on the wounds that harm families.

He used the word SEPARATION.

Here is the original paragraph in Italian from his June 24 catechesis that is being twisted by the media:

“E’ vero, d’altra parte, che ci sono casi in cui la separazione è inevitabile. A volte può diventare persino moralmente necessaria, quando appunto si tratta di sottrarre il coniuge più debole, o i figli piccoli, alle ferite più gravi causate dalla prepotenza e dalla violenza, dall’avvilimento e dallo sfruttamento, dall’estraneità e dall’indifferenza.”

Here is the English translation:

“It is true that there are cases in which separation is inevitable. Sometimes it can become even morally necessary, precisely when it comes to subtracting the weaker spouse, or small children, from more serious injuries caused by arrogance and violence, by humiliation and exploitation, by extraneousness (non-involvement) and by indifference.”

After the Pope delivers his weekly catechesis in Italian at a general audience, that talk is summarized and translated into 7 other languages. At no time, in any language, did Pope Francis use the word “divorce.” He spoke solely of “separation.”

Here is the entire official English language summary from Wednesday’s audience:

Dear Brothers and Sisters: We know well that every family on occasion suffers moments when one family member offends another. Through our words, actions, or omissions, instead of expressing love for our spouse or children, we can sometimes diminish or demean that love. Hiding these hurts only deepens such wounds, leading to anger and friction between loved ones. If these wounds are particularly deep, they can even lead a spouse to search for understanding elsewhere, to the detriment of the family, especially children. Being one flesh, any wounds that spouses suffer are shared by their children, born of their flesh. When we remember how Jesus warned adults not to scandalize little ones (cf. Mt 18:6), we better understand the vital responsibility to maintain and protect the bond of marriage which is the foundation of the human family. We thank God that although these wounds may lead some to separation, even then many men and women remain true to their conjugal bond, sustained by faith and by love for their children. For those who enter into so-called irregular situations, we must reflect on how best to help and accompany them in their lives. Let us ask the Lord for a strong faith to see with his eyes the reality of family life, and for a deep love to approach all families with his merciful heart.

French: Ce sont les enfants qui souffrent profondément de ces séparations.

Italian: E’ vero, d’altra parte, che ci sono casi in cui la separazione è inevitabile.

German: Freilich gibt es auch Fälle, wo eine Trennung der Ehepartner zum Schutz des schwächeren…

Spanish:  En algunos casos, la separación es inevitable, precisamente para proteger al cónyuge más débil o a los hijos pequeños.

From Arabic into Italian: ‎Preghiamo per tutte le famiglie separate…

So, I ask: Could anything be clearer? So let’s stop putting words in the Pope’s mouth. And, folks, if you read that the Pope said something and it doesn’t sound right, go to the source. Go to the Vatican’s www.news.va and you’ll find what the Holy Father really said, not what the media wishes he had said!


Instead of writing this column, I’d actually like to cross the street and go into St. Peter’s Basilica for some quiet prayer. I’d like to spend some time at the Altar of St. Joseph, that saintly, humble man who was the head of the Holy Family and putative father of Jesus. I’d then cross to the right aisle of the basilica to spend some time in meditation before Michelangelo’s Pieta, the magnificent statue that depicts a sorrowful Mary holding the body of her crucified Son.

After talking to Mary, I’d move on down the right aisle just a few feet to the Chapel of St. Sebastian and kneel in prayer before the tomb of St. John Paul, the pontiff who wrote so magnificently about the family, about marriage, about “Love and Responsibility,” and who instituted the World Meetings of Families.

And how could I not spend time in prayer at the tomb of the first Pope I ever saw, St. John XXIII! He wrote so lovingly and beautiful about the family and marriage – and it is the question of marriage – the utter, total redefining of marriage –  that is tearing my heart apart today.

This is why I want to pray so badly – pray for our nation where the Supreme Court has just decided that same sex marriage must be allowed in all 50 U.S. states.

I cannot write a reasonable and well-thought-out column on this subject today.  I have seen television commentary and I have downloaded Chief Justice Roberts’ dissent and have started to read that 6,033 word document.  I not only have fears about traditional marriage, I have fears about religious freedom, fears that Chief Justice Roberts expresses in his dissent.

For now, here are Chief Justice Roberts’ final words in his dissent:

“If you are among the many Americans—of whatever sexual orientation—who favor     expanding same-sex mar­riage, by all means celebrate today’s decision. Celebrate the achievement of a desired goal. Celebrate the oppor­tunity for a new expression of commitment to a partner. Celebrate the availability of new benefits. But do not celebrate the Constitution. It had nothing to do with it. I respectfully dissent.”

On June 29, 1959, St. John XXIII’s Encyclical “Ad Petri cathedram” was published. In that beautiful document, which should be read and re-read as it addresses truth, unity, the moral life and peace in what has been called “a fatherly message … addressing (these) issues with warmth and concern.”

In that document, St. John wrote:All the evils that poison men and nations and trouble so many hearts have a single cause and a single source: ignorance of the truth—and at times even more than ignorance, a contempt for truth and a reckless rejection of it.”

Ora pro nobis!


Pope Francis on Monday, June 29, the solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul, Apostles, in St. Peter’s Basilica will give the pallium to the 46 new metropolitan archbishops whom he has named since July 1, 2014.  June 29 is a holiday in Rome as well as the Vatican.

Earlier this year Francis changed the traditional ceremony in which the prelates receive the pallium, deciding that the public ceremony of investiture of the pallium on metropolitan archbishops will henceforth take place in their home dioceses and not in the Vatican as has been the case under recent pontiffs. The Holy Father will concelebrate Mass with the archbishops on June 29 and afterwards will give each metropolitan the pallium “in a private manner,” not placing it on their shoulders as seen here.

POPE- Pallium

Guido Marini, Master of Liturgical Ceremonies of the Supreme Pontiff, broke the news in a January 12 letter to nuncios in countries where metropolitan archbishops had been named to receive the pallium from the Pope in the Vatican on June 29.

Msgr. Marini, in an interview with Vatican Radio, said: “Pope Francis believes that this new custom can serve to advance that journey of synodality in the Catholic Church which, from the beginning of his pontificate, he has constantly emphasized as particularly urgent and precious at this time in the history of the Church.”

The pallium will be blessed during the Mass on the feast of Saints Peter and Paul in the Vatican, but placed on the metropolitan archbishop in his own diocese by the papal representative, the apostolic nuncio, in the country. The ceremony is to be determined individually with each new metropolitan.

The pallium, which is placed on the shoulders of each archbishop and worn at all liturgical ceremonies in his own archdiocese, is a band of white wool with two hanging pieces, front and back, that is decorated with six black crosses and represents the authority of a metropolitan archbishop and unity with the Holy Father.  The Pope also wears a pallium. The wool used in weaving the palliums comes from baby lambs  – lambs under one year of age – that are blessed each year in the basilica of St. Agnes in Rome on her January 21 feast day and then brought to the apostolic palace to the Holy Father.


Pope emeritus Benedict XVI explained “the symbolism of the pallium” in a very concrete way in his homily when he inaugurated his Petrine ministry on April 24, 2005 and said, “the lamb’s wool is meant to represent the lost, the sick or weak sheep which the shepherd places on his shoulders to carry to the waters of life.”

Click here to see the names of those who will reeive the pallium:  http://www.news.va/en/news/metropolitan-archbishops-to-receive-the-pallium


On Friday, June 26, 2015 at the Vatican Apostolic Palace, Archbishop Paul Gallagher, Secretary for Relations with States, and Dr. Riad Al-Malki, minister of Foreign Affairs, of the State of Palestine, signed a Comprehensive Agreement between the Holy See and the State of Palestine.

-Sala dei Trattati-Firma Accordo tra la Santa Sede e la Palestina   26-06-2015  - (Copyright L'OSSERVATORE ROMANO - Servizio Fotografico - photo@ossrom.va)

-Sala dei Trattati-Firma Accordo tra la Santa Sede e la Palestina 26-06-2015
– (Copyright L’OSSERVATORE ROMANO – Servizio Fotografico – photo@ossrom.va)

The accord follows on the Basic Agreement that was signed between the Holy See and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) on February 15, 2000 and is the result of the negotiations undertaken by a bilateral working commission over the past number of years.

Others who took part in the ceremony include, for the Holy See: Archbishop Giuseppe Lazzarotto, Apostolic Delegate to Jerusalem and Palestine; Archbishop Antonio Franco, Apostolic Nuncio, and Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem Fouad Twal; Msgr. Antoine Camilleri, Under-Secretary for Relations with States; Fr. Lorenzo Lorusso, O.P., Under-Secretary of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches; Msgr. Alberto Ortega, Official of the Section for Relations with States of the Secretariat of State; Msgr. Paolo Borgia, Official of the Section for General Affairs of the Secretariat of State; and Fr. Oscar Marzo, O.F.M., member of the Custody of the Holy Land and Official of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches.

For the State of Palestine: His Excellency Dr. Ramzi Khoury, Advisor to the President, Deputy Head of the Presidential Higher Committee on Church Affairs in Palestine; Ambassador Issa Kassissieh, Representative of the State of Palestine to the Holy See; Ambassador Rawan Sulaiman, Assistant Foreign Minister for Multilateral Affairs; Mrs. Vera Baboun, Mayor of Bethlehem; Mr. Moussa Abu Hadeed, Mayor of Ramallah; Mr. Ammar Hijazi, Deputy Assistant Foreign Minister for Multilateral Affairs; Mr. Azem Bishara, Legal Advisor of the PLO; Mr. Ammar Nisnas, Counselor of the Diplomatic Representation of the State of Palestine to the Holy See.

The Agreement is comprised of a Preamble and 32 Articles distributed in 8 Chapters. It deals with essential aspects of the life and activity of the Catholic Church in the State of Palestine, while reaffirming support for a negotiated and peaceful resolution of the situation in the region.

The Agreement shall come into force when both Parties have notified each other in writing that the constitutional or internal requirements for the coming into force of the Agreement have been met.

Archbishop Gallagher, welcomed the delegations, saying the Agreement “marks an important step on the path of good relations which for some time have happily existed between the Parties.”

He noted that, in contrast with the February 2000 Agreement, “the present one is being signed by the Holy See and the State of Palestine; this is indicative of the progress made by the Palestinian Authority in recent years, and above all of the level of international support, which culminated in the Resolution of the General Assembly of the United Nations of 29 November 2012, which recognized Palestine as a non-member Observer State at the United Nations.

“In this context,” said the archbishop, “it is my hope that the present Agreement may in some way be a stimulus to bringing a definitive end to the long-standing Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which continues to cause suffering for both Parties. I also hope that the much desired two-State solution may become a reality as soon as possible. The peace process can move forward only if it is directly negotiated between the Parties, with the support of the international community. This certainly requires courageous decisions, but it will also offer a major contribution to peace and stability in the region. “

Archbishop Gallagher went on to note that, “the Comprehensive Agreement, while constituting an understanding between two subjects of international law, basically concerns the life and activity of the Church in Palestine. In this respect, I am pleased that juridical recognition is clearly established and that guarantees have been given for the work of the Catholic Church and her institutions. Catholics do not seek any privilege other than continued cooperation with their fellow-citizens for the good of society. I am also pleased to say that the local Church, which has been actively involved in the negotiations, is satisfied with the goal attained and is happy to see the strengthening of its good relations with the civil Authorities.

“In the complex reality of the Middle East, where in some countries Christians have even suffered persecution, this Agreement offers a good example of dialogue and cooperation, and I earnestly hope that this may serve as a model for other Arab and Muslim majority countries. With this in mind, I would like to emphasize the importance of the chapter dedicated to freedom of religion and freedom of conscience. (source: news.va)




Pope Francis Thursday addressed members of the Pontifical Eccesiastical Academy, the Church institution responsible for preparing priests for the diplomatic service of the Holy See, telling them, “Your whole life is at the service of the Gospel and of the Church. Never forget it!”

The Academy, formerly called the Pontifical Academy of Ecclesiastical Nobility, was founded by Pope Clement XI in 1701 with the scope of preparing, through special studies, young ecclesiastics to the Holy See’s diplomatic service. Candidates must be nominated by their bishops. Holy See ambassadors, called apostolic nuncios, are always archbishops (if not so when they are named, they are ordained to the episcopacy).

pontifical ecclesiastical academy

The Cardinal Protector of the Academy is always the Secretary of State, today Cardinal Pietro Parolin.

The future diplomats spend four years at the Academy; two years earning a licentiate in canon law, a JCL, from a Roman university, followed by two years of studies for a doctorate in canon law (JCD). If the students that have been recruited already have a J.C.D. then their time is shortened to two years. Courses include studies in diplomatic history, languages and diplomatic writing and are considered not to be academic, but rather focus on the practical skills needed to serve as a diplomat.

It has happened that a small number of diplomats represent the Holy See who have not been through the formal academic and practical training of the Academy.

The Holy See has diplomatic relations with 180 States, with the European Union and the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, and relations of a special nature with the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO)

In his talk to the diplomats-in-training, Pope Francis said it is only the charity of Christ that makes the Church of Rome “universal and credible” to human beings and to the world. This “is the heart of its truth, which does not build walls of division and exclusion, but makes bridges that build communion and recall the whole human race to unity; this is its secret power, which nourishes its unshakable hope, invincible despite momentary defeats.”

Your service, he said, will be to defend the liberty of the Apostolic See, “in order not to betray its mission before God and for the true good of men.” It must not get caught up in factions or “allow itself to be colonized by the popular thoughts of the day, or by the illusory hegemony of the ‘mainstream’.”

Don’t expect “the ground to be ready,” said Francis. Be prepared to “plow it with your hands… in order to prepare it for the seed” in hopeful expectation of a harvest which they, perhaps, may never see. Don’t “fish in aquariums or fish farms,” rather have the courage to go to the margins, to cast “nets and fishing poles” in lesser known areas, without getting used to “eating fish that others have prepared.”

In particular the Holy Father reminded them that their mission will take them all over the world: “To Europe, needing to be awakened; to Africa, thirsty for reconciliation; to Latin America starving for nourishment and interiority; to North America, intent upon rediscovering the roots of an identity that does not define itself in terms of exclusion; in Asia and Oceania, challenged by the capacity of fermenting in diaspora and dialogue with the vastness of ancestral culture.”


This morning in the Holy See Press Office a press conference was held to present the Eighth World Meeting of Families to be held in Philadelphia, U.S.A., from September 22 to 27 on the theme “Love is our mission. The family fully alive.”

World Meerting of Families

Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, president of the Pontifical Council for the Family, emphasised that the Meeting is a valuable opportunity to place the family at the center of the Church and of civil society. “The family builds the Church and sustains society. … During the days of the conference, we will present the results of some international research that has scientifically studied this positive influence. The family constantly asks for help and support in the entire ecclesial community – and in the next few days I will write to all the monasteries of the world to ask them to accompany these very important days with their prayers – and from civil society as a whole, which cannot remain indifferent to such beauty and goodness that is so effective and so viable.”

He stressed that “The family is the heritage of all humanity, at every latitude, in every culture; it is blessed by all religions. That is why we wanted a significant presence of other Christian denominations and of major world religious traditions. … We are working so that delegations from around the globe and especially from the world’s poorest local Churches will be present.”

This universality will be enshrined in the final gesture of the meeting, according to Archbishop Paglia who explained that, at the end of Mass on Sunday, September 27, Pope Francis will give the Gospel of Luke, “the Good News of God’s mercy, which is Jesus, to families from big cities on the five continents: Kinshasa, Africa; Havana, America; Hanoi, Asia; Sydney, Australia; and Marseilles, Europe. This is a symbolic gesture that will announce the sending of a million copies of this book to the five cities involved. We want the Gospel of Mercy to be announced in the great cities of the world so that they may build bonds of love between them, in the Church and in society.”

Presenters today also included Bishop John J. McIntyre and Jerry and Lucille Francesco, a couple from the archdiocese, married for fifty years.

Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia noted that more than a million people are expected to attend, adding that representatives of more than a hundred nations have registered. So far 6,100 volunteers have offered assistance of various types and the event organisers intend to make more than 5,000 buses available. More than 1,600 people have signed up to the “Host a Family” program.

For more information on the events linked to the meeting, visit: http://www.worldmeeting2015.org/

(Vatican Radio) During the course of the conference this morning, journalists learned that the week of festivities will include ecumenical, interreligious, and multicultural celebrations of the family involving an expected 15,000 participants from more than a dozen countries around the globe. For the Holy Father’s public engagements on September 26 and 27, between 1 and 2 million people are expected to take part.

In an exclusive interview with Vatican Radio following the press conference, the Archbishop of Philadelphia, Charles J. Chaput, OFM Cap. spoke of the irreplacable contribution the Church has to make to the ongoing discussion of the place of the family in society. “The only unique thing that the Church brings to a discussion of family life is the teaching of Jesus Christ,” he said, “and so it seems to me that the most important contribution we make, is to make that teaching very clear, announcing it in a joyful and positive way.”

Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter told Vatican Radio his city and its people are ready to welcome Pope Francis.

“It is a tremendous honor to be the host city for the World Meeting of Families,” said Nutter, “and of course, for the visit of Pope Francis.” The mayor went on to say, “Our plans are basically in place: to anticipate over a million people, perhaps as many as 1.5 million,” adding, “the logistics, the security, the transportation,” are all going very well. “We’re very excited,” said Mayor Nutter, “we’re ready.”



I returned yesterday afternoon from New Orleans (also known as NOLA, New Orleans LA), flying United from NOLA to Houston and then Lufthansa to Frankfurt and Rome. My luggage was tagged all the way through and arrived safely in Rome – kudos to Lufthansa. I now have a number of remarks about flights, airlines and planes.

I’ll start with good news. I flew roundtrip Frankfurt-Houston on Lufthansa’s Airbus 380-800, the double-decker plane whose photos you might have seen on my Facebook page, though I did not totally capture its mammoth size.  Lufthansa is one of my top three favorite airlines, perhaps the top one, and I’d willingly go again on the Airbus 380 with one caveat – I would not book Economy.

I paid a bit more to fly Premium Economy (a few airlines have introduced this new class) and it is wonderful – this was my second experience of PM. You have more seat and leg room, you have leg rests (a real bonus, as far as I am concerned – the main reason I’d buy Premium Economy on a long haul flight), receive a bit of an upgrade in food and you even get a small amenities kit. PM and Economy are on the “lower” level of the plane whereas Business and First Class are on the upper level.

As far as I know there were 500 passengers on yesterday’s flight!  I was among the final four to board as the staff started booking from the back of Economy – a smart decision but had I known in advance, I’d have remained seated at the gate and continued to read my book. PM is in the front of the plane, thus the last class to board and boarding, though smoothly done, took 35 minutes. Business and First Class enter through a different door and that was, needless to say, very smooth as there are fewer passengers in those classes.

I try to walk around the plane a number of times on long flights and I nearly stopped in my tracks when I saw Economy – 10 across in row after row – I could not even see the back of the plane from my front frow seat!  Maybe I have travelled for too many years, but I just don’t think I could make myself do that. I said a silent “ave” for the Economy passengers!

Now the bad news story.

I arrived Houston from Frankfurt last Thursday on time and had a couple of hours to kill before my 5:48 Spirit Airlines flight to New Orleans.  I went to a snack area and sat down with my iPad to check email, see news of the papal encyclical, etc. At the proper time I walked the short distance to Gate 26 for my flight, and heard an announcement that it was delayed until 7:30. I milled around with passengers and then we heard the delay was until 8 pm. It was 5:15 at this point and decided I’d better go to the restaurant and have some kind of dinner.

The patio area was now filled with Spirit passengers. Those flights that had not been cancelled were averaging 6-hour delays! A couple seated at one of the high bar tables in the patio recognized me from earlier and asked about my flight – theirs was delayed also. I joined them and we had a delightful conversation and dinner and got back to the gate area about 7 pm and learned that departure time was now 10:30!

Only the Holy Spirit could have helped at this point. I saw on my iPad that United had a 9:25 flight so I asked if my luggage could be taken off the plane and I’d reserve on UAL.

I also researched the Airline Passenger Bill of Rights so that I, and others, would know what our rights are and what obligations the airline has. To make a long story and a very long evening short, I will only say I was told 3 times in 3 hours that my luggage had been  “dropped,” that is, taken, off the plane, went three times to the luggage carousel and returned to the gate so many times through security that we were almost on a first name basis.

Never got my luggage, got a full refund from Spirit (bill of rights), reserved on United but had to go to a hotel. I did get a call Friday morning in my hotel that my luggage was now in NOLA – never had been taken off the plane! So there was some good news.

I heard a lot of negative stories about Spirit over the hours and will never consider flying with that company but I absolutely must say that the staff at the check-in counter should all be given medals for bravery. They were absolutely amazing in the face of angry customers, raised voices, misplaced luggage and a million other snafus. Each person, including staff who came to the airport on their day off, kept a smile on their face, a cool and even tone in their voice and a calm demeanor.

The perils of travel behind me, I enjoyed every secon d in New Orleans and can’t wait to go back. Will post some pix soon.

In the meantime, here are some very important words from Pope Francis. If you are a parent, you will absolutely want to read this!


Speaking under overcast skies in St. Peter’s Square at the weekly general audience, Pope Francis reflected on St. Matthew’s Gospel in which Jesus tells his disciples, “unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.” He also highlighted Christ’s warning: “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.”

Francis noted that, “through our words, actions, or omissions, instead of expressing love for our spouse or children, we can sometimes diminish or demean that love.  Hiding these hurts only deepens such wounds, leading to anger and friction between loved ones.  If these wounds are particularly deep, they can even lead a spouse to search for understanding elsewhere, to the detriment of the family, especially children.

When conjugal loves diminishes or disappears, resentment grows and spreads and when a family falls apart, it is like a “landslide” that buries the children. Have we not perhaps become “anesthetized” to the psychological trauma that children suffer, Francis asked, even though we have access to the most “refined psychological analysis.” Giving them gifts and snacks just desensitizes us to the deep pain that children suffer. “We speak often of behavioral disorders, psychological health, the well-being of the child, of the anxiety of parents and children… But do we know yet what is a wounded spirit?”

The Holy Father, in an emotional tone, said, “We feel the weight of the mountain that crushes the spirit of a child. … When adults lose their heads, when everyone thinks about him/herself, when the father and mother hurt each other, … it is the children who suffer the most.”

Everything is tied together in the family, he said, and when one part is injured, the whole becomes infected.

Pope Francis did admit that, “there are cases in which separation is inevitable. Sometimes it can become even morally necessary, precisely when it comes to subtracting the weaker spouse, or small children, from more serious injuries caused by arrogance and violence, by humiliation and exploitation, by non-involvement and  indifference.”

He thanked God for those couples who “sustained by faith and love for their children, give witness in their loyalty to a relationship in which they believed, even though it appears impossible to revive it..”

Francis concluded the catechesis noting that today some families live in so-called “irregular” situations. He said “I do not like that word,” adding we must reflect on how to help and accompany them, especially so that the children do not become “hostages of the father or the mother.”



As I write these words, it is Wednesday and I leave tomorrow morning for a wedding in New Orleans – will be back here on Tuesday. I will not have news for you today about the Pope’s encyclical “Laudato si” as it goes on the Vatican website this evening at 6 under embargo for journalists accredited to the Holy See Press Office. The official presentation is Thursday morning so you will learn the content, the real, final content, of this encyclical quite soon.

I know you’d have to perform a super-human feat to try and forget what you’ve read online in past days of the excerpts fron the leaked, early draft of the encyclical, but try anyway. The final, complete, official version is the one coming out tomorrow. I hope very much that you will seek out trustworthy news sources (EWTN news, CNA, CNS, National Catholic Register, news.va, www.vatican.va, etc – there is a long list of orthodox sites).

The problem for those who read and reported on the draft version is that, if they are doing their job well and thoroughly, they will have to read the final copy of “Laudato si” as well and will have to, of necessity, compare the two side by side to know what the Pope really said!  Quite a task! I’ve heard the document is 191 pages long (in English).

The embargoed copy will be online in a few hours here in Rome for access for those of us accredited to the Holy See Press Office. I mistakenly wrote yesterday that it would go online last night. I’ve been so busy, I was a day ahead of myself. I’ll try to read it on the plane.


My two guests this week on the interview segment are from the North American College – Deacon George Elliott, to be ordained a priest later this month, and soon-to-be-ordained a deacon, Greg Gerhart – both from Texas. They are the co-founders of CATHOLIC BYTES, a new Catholic podcast that launches June 29th and will offer short – 5 to 10 minutes – dynamic talks about the faith. A truly fascinating conversation with two special men. (Greg Gerhart L and Deacon George Elliott R)


A press release about Catholic Bytes notes that each episode offers listeners a variety of themes ranging from faith fundamentals, Scripture, dogma, morals, liturgy, spirituality, saints, Church history, and personal testimonies. They offer listeners the expertise and experience of faith-filled priests, seminarians, and laity from across the world who are currently studying at various pontifical universities throughout Rome.

GREG GERHART - Catholic Bytes

All podcasts will be offered for free and can be accessed through the website: www.catholicbytespodcast.com. The website will launch with a ‘pre-release’ that can be accessed from June 15, 2015 until June 26, 2015. More information can also be accessed on Facebook (www.facebook.com/CatholicBytes) and Twitter (https://twitter.com/catholicbytes) starting on June 15, 2015.

So tune in this weekend and, at the end of the program, say a prayer for our future priest and deacon!

As you know, in the United States, you can listen to Vatican Insider on a Catholic radio station near you (there is a list of U.S. stations at www.ewtn.com) or on Sirius-XM satellite radio. If you live outside the U.S., you can listen to EWTN radio on our website home page by clicking on the right side where you see “LISTEN TO EWTN.” Vatican Insider airs Saturday mornings at 9:30 am (Eastern time) and re-airs Sundays at 4:30 pm (ET). Check for your time zone. Past shows are found in Vatican Insider archives: http://www.ewtn.com/vondemand/audio/file_index.asp?SeriesId=7096&pgnu=


Pope Francis held his weekly general audience on Wednesday in a sun-splashed St. Peter’s Square where he continued his series of catechetical reflections on the family. He devoted this week’s meditation to the theme of loss in the family: the pain and suffering that the passing of a family member can bring, and the duty we have to comfort and console those who mourn.

“In our ongoing catechesis on the family,” began the Pope, “I wish to reflect on one of the more dramatic and painful events that every person, without exception, has to deal with, namely, the death of a family member.  Jesus has compassion on those who mourn, as today’s Scripture reading reminds us, because the death of a loved one is never without pain for families; this is especially true of parents who lose a child.”

The Holy Father observed that, “Jesus’ presence with the widow at Na’in assures us that He is with us in our darkest moments and that He is with us in our loss and mourning. Through faith in Him, in His Resurrection and His abiding presence, we can face our loss, ‘the sting of death’, as Saint Paul calls it, make sense of it, and have confidence that death does not have the last word.”

Pope Francis urged the faithful to, “with Christ-like tenderness and compassion, know how to be close and offer consolation to families suffering the loss of a loved one. Above all, may we always be witnesses to the love which Christ revealed through his cross and resurrection, a love stronger than death. Let us also be grateful for our faith in him, which is the only adequate response to our deepest needs in the face of the death of a loved one.”

After the catechesis, the Pope renewed his call on the international community to take effective action on behalf of refugees. “We pray for the many brothers and sisters who seek refuge far from their native lands, who seek a home where they can live without fear: that they might always be respected in their dignity.” His appeal was made ahead of the UN-sponsored World Refugee Day, which is marked each year on June 20th.




For those of you interested in what appears to be the most awaited papal document in decades, namely, Pope Francis’ “Laudato si” encyclical on the environment, the wait will be over Thursday morning at 12 noon.

A leaked version, an early draft, appeared on the website of an Italian news magazine and the journalist associated with that magazine, who made it available on his webpage and emailed it to his followers, has had his credentials suspended by the Vatican for breaking the embargo – namely, tomorrow morning at 12 at the press conference that accompanies the publication.

The journalist, Sandro Magister, said it was his superior who received and published the document and he was merely re-transmitting it.

Personally, as a journalist accredited to the Holy See, I understand the embargo as meaning I cannot publish the item in question before the embargo day and hour, no matter how I got the document – licitly via the Vatican’s embargoed web site, using my name and password, or in another manner.

Holy See Press Office director, Fr. Lombardi, said in a statement: “An Italian text of a draft of the Pope’s Encyclical ‘Laudato Si’ has been published. Please note that it is not the final text, and that the rules of the Embargo remain in place. We ask journalists to respect professional standards, which call for waiting for the official publication of the final text.”

The Vatican released the following on its news sites:

Accredited journalists have been informed that on Thursday, June 18, 2015 at 11 am in the New Synod Hall in Vatican City, a press conference will be held for the presentation of His Holiness Pope Francis’ Encyclical “- On the Care of our Common Home.”

The speakers will be: – Cardinal Peter Kodwo Appiah Turkson , President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace; – His Eminence Metropolitan John ( Zizioulas ) of Pergamon, representing the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the Orthodox Church; – Prof. John Schellnhuber , Founding Director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research; – Dr. Carolyn Woo , CEO and President of Catholic Relief Services and former dean of the Mendoza College of Business, University of Notre Dame, U.S.A.

A simultaneous translation service will be available in Italian, French, English, Spanish and from German. Following the presentations by the Speakers, a limited time will be available for questions from journalists.

The Vatican Television Centre will produce images live from the Press Conference. Additionally, the press conference may be followed via live audio-video streaming on the site: http://player.rv.va/ (Vatican Player of the Vatican Radio), where it will subsequently remain available on demand  – or on the CTV YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/user/ctvaticano , which offers only direct streaming during the event. Direct links to the same addresses are provided on the official site: vatican.va

The Encyclical is to be considered under full embargo until noon on Thursday, 18 June 2015.

Accredited journalists will find the text of the Encyclical in PDF format in the Reserved Area of the Holy See Press Office Bulletin web page from 6 p.m. Wednesday 17 June in Italian, French, English, German, Spanish, Portuguese, Polish and Arabic. In addition, an extensive summary of the Encyclical will be available on the site, in the same languages.

The paper copy of the Encyclical – in Italian, English and Spanish, at least – will be available to accredited journalists at the Press Office from 9 a.m. Thursday 18 June.

Note regarding access to the Synod Hall for journalists: Interested journalists, cameramen and photographers can request accreditation by email at accreditamenti@pressva.va . Those who are already accredited at the Press Office are invited to indicate their participation at the Accreditations Office, no later than Tuesday 16 June . Access to the Synod Hall is via Piazzale del Petriano. Cameramen are required to arrive 30 minutes in advance, photographers 15 minutes. Journalists are invited to take their seats in the Hall ten minutes before the beginning of the Press Conference.

What I find interesting:

–         This is the first time in my memory and experience that I am aware of a papal document being presented some place other than the press office.

–         The press conference starts at 11 but this Vatican statement refers to the embargo as being 12 noon.


I have had to schedule even my bedtime these past few days as they have been super-filled with events – interviews, dinners, speeches and committee meetings – and friends in town. And they have also been super happy days.

This morning was quite special as I accompanied 9 members of the USA Water Polo Team for a three-hour visit of Vatican City and the gardens and then St. Peter’s Basilica. We took tons of photos and one of the guys has a GoPro camera and video – an awesone piece of techology – I just may have to get one!

Our guide was Santiago Perez who heads the Vatican’s Sports Desk at the Council for the Laity.  He was super and the whole morning meant a lot to all of us. I think the team was delightfully surprised to learn the Vatican had a Sports Desk – founded by our most athletic recent Pope, St. John Paul in 1994. I told them to do some PR for this office – let people know!

Here is just one photo from the morning – we are at the replica of the Grotto of Lourdes in the gardens:


I have been preparibg some scripts for “At Home” and for an interview I have tomorrow moring for “Vatican Insider” so have had little time to dedicate to this column. However, in view of the publication on Thursday of the Pope’s encyclical on the environment, “Laudatio si,” I thought the Pope’s  brief words at the Angelus and an editorial from Civilta Cattolica, a highly respected, very authoriative Jesuit fortnightly  – might be helpful as a prelude to the document.


Pope Francis has invited everyone to pay attention to environmental issues.

Speaking after the Sunday Angelus in St. Peter’s Square, Pope Francis said his first encyclical will be published on Thursday, and he said: “This encyclical is aimed at everyone”

Calling on everyone to accompany this event with renewed attention to environmental degradation, and the need to act to salvage one’s territory, the Pope said of his encyclical: “Let us pray that everyone can receive its message and grow in responsibility toward the common home that God has entrusted to us.”

The document entitled “Laudato Si’, On the Care of Our Common Home” will be launched at a Vatican news conference this week.

The Pope’s appeal followed a reflection on the Gospel reading of the day that speaks of the seed that sprouts and grows and of the mustard seed which is the smallest of all seeds but becomes the largest of plants.

Francis said that through these images Jesus speaks to us of strength of God’s life-giving Word, and of how Christ’s love transforms that what is small and modest into something that makes the whole world and all of history ferment.

And reminding those present to always carry a pocket-sized copy of the Gospel, and to read a passage every day, the Pope said in the Gospel is the strength that makes the Kingdom of God germinate and sprout within us.

Above all – he said – the two parables teach us something important: the Kingdom of God is a gift of the Lord, but it requires our collaboration.

He said that although our contribution may appear meagre before the complexity of problems in the world, thanks to God’s love each seed of goodness will sprout and grow, and this – Pope Francis said – gives life to hope; notwithstanding the injustice and pain we may come across, the seed of charity and peace will yield its fruits thanks to the mysterious love of God.


A service that the Bishop of Rome is called to carry out

Pope Francis’ Encyclical on ecology will be published soon. With its publication, the Church’s Magisterium takes the environmental issue to the heart of its social doctrine. The Editorial summarizes the ecological path which the Popes have indicated in the last 50 years until today. In fact, at the beginning of his pontificate, Pope Francis said that «to guard the entire Creation» is «a service which the Bishop of Rome is called to do». Pope Francis has always strived for the harmony between all living beings: he has an anthropological, but not anthropocentric view. His commitment leads us towards an ecological spirituality which is a spiritual and sacramental life that is not alienated from the fact that we inhabit the created world as our «home». The editorial is an excellent background to the long awaited encyclical letter of Pope Francis on ecology that will be released this coming Thursday at the Vatican.




Today is the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Here is a special prayer:

O most holy heart of Jesus, fountain of every blessing, I adore you, I love you, and with lively sorrow for my sins I offer you this poor heart of mine. Make me humble, patient, pure and wholly obedient to your will. Grant, Good Jesus, that I may live in you and for you. Protect me in the midst of danger. Comfort me in my afflictions. Give me health of body, assistance in my temporal needs, your blessing on all that I do, and the grace of a holy death. Amen.

I returned yesterday from the States and, although I did not write a column, I did post some things on Facebook and also did some work preparing this week’s edition of “Vatican Insider,” as you will see below.

It was quite an exciting trip back to Rome as the USA Water Polo team was on the plane and one of players, Bret Bonanni, was seated right next to me. As I had done, he “upgraded,” so to speak, to Economy Plus seats on our United flight as these seats give you a bit more leg room. If you’ve ever watched water polo, you know the players are tall, broad-shouldered and long-legged so more room is a must, when possible, on flights.

The team competes in Rome (first game underway as I write), then spends five days in Croatia, followed by matches in Milan and then home to California.

Bret and I had some great time to talk and I learned a great deal about him, the team and water polo. Before yesterday I could have written what I know about this sport on the proverbial head of a pin. His family is Italian, as you can see from the name, and his folks attend every match possible. In fact, they are in Rome and will go to Croatia and they have invited me to dinner on Monday. Bret asked how to attend Mass in St. Peter’s and how the team could see some of the Vatican on their free day next Monday so I am working on that.

Some of the crew – believe it or not! – recognized me from EWTN and we had nice chats about Rome, the Vatican, etc. Years ago, the father of one of the flight attendants arranged, through a fiend, for her to attend a Wednesday general audience and, to her amazement, she was in a special seat and got to meet St. John Paul.  Before the flight was over, several attendants took pix of us with their cell phones.

That’s one way to make a long flight short!


Tune in this week to “Vatican Insider” for the interview segment where I highlight the plight of Christians in Iraq as I talk to my friend, Chaldean Archbishop Bashar Warda of Erbil, the capital of the Kurdistan region in norther Iraq. Abp. Warda talks about the effects of terrorism, especially ISIS, on the country and on Christians in particular, and the plight of refugees as they flee to Kurdistan for safety.

We spoke in Rome at the Pontifical Oriental Institute after a Chaldean priest defended his doctoral thesis. Just a heads up because we had our conversation in the Insitute’s garden and you’ll hear a bit of background conversation as guests gather for a reception.

Here are some photos I took that evening:  Listening to the defense:


Addressing the future doctoral candidate and panel of judges:



After our interview in the garden:


In the U. S., you can listen to Vatican Insider on a Catholic radio station near you (U.S. stations listed at www.ewtn.com) or on Sirius-XM satellite radio. If you live outside the U.S., you can listen to EWTN radio on our website home page by clicking on the right side where you see “LISTEN TO EWTN.” Vatican Insider airs Saturday mornings at 9:30 am (Eastern time) and re-airs Sundays at 4:30 pm (ET). Check for your time zone. Past shows are found in Vatican Insider archives: http://www.ewtn.com/vondemand/audio/file_index.asp?SeriesId=7096&pgnu=


Probably because I just returned from a trip to Chicago and spent sone time in airports, I was delighted by Pope Francis’ talk today to chaplains at the 16th World Seminar of Catholic Civil Aviation Chaplains and Chaplaincy Members. Meetings such as this one, now underway in Rome, are promoted by the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People, The theme this year was: “Evangelii Gaudium: What Support for the Pastoral Care of Airport Chaplaincy?”


The Pope told his guests that the airport chaplaincy is called to be a place of unity in diversity for all categories of people. Airports seem like cities within cities, he said, “where multiple realities intertwine and overlap. As a big city, the airport is cosmopolitan, multi-ethnic and multi-religious and you, chaplains and chaplaincy members, are immersed in the life of this unique community.”

Fr. Mike Zaniolo at interfaith chapel at O’Hare airport:


The Pope said he knows airports are a meeting place for many people who travel for business, tourism or other reasons. He underscored how special care and attention should be shown to transiting migrants and refugees, children and the elderly. Francis also underlined the importance of chaplains in times of tragic situations such as accidents or hijackings when they are called on to provide support, comfort and encouragement.

Even at airports, he noted, “Christ the Good Shepherd wants to take care of his sheep through the sacraments of Reconciliation and the Eucharist.” He urged chaplains “to work to ensure that airports are places where there is room for love and dialogue, which promotes solidarity between people and preserves a peaceful social climate.”

I discovered a fascinating website for travelers who want a chapel: http://www.airportchapels.org/


In the event you are a soccer fan and have been following the FIFA corruption story, and if you also follow Vatican news and Pope Francis’ establishment of Scholas Occurrentes, here is – in part – an interesting story from Bloomberg:

The Vatican suspended an agreement to receive a donation from the Copa America soccer tournament after FIFA was hit by a corruption investigation that implicated organizers of the event.

Scholas Occurrentes, an educational organization created by Pope Francis in 2013 to promote social integration through sports, put on hold an accord it reached in April with South American soccer’s regional body Conmebol, it said in a e-mailed statement. As per the agreement, Scholas would get $10,000 per goal and saved penalty shot during this year’s edition of South America’s top soccer competition, which Conmebol organizes.

“Scholas will abstain from receiving any funds until the ongoing judicial investigation comes to a conclusion,” the organization said. “We believe the current investigations are important to protect the integrity of the institutions and soccer.”

Conmebol didn’t immediately reply to an e-mail seeking comment on the decision. The Pope is from Argentina, which is a 7-4 favorite to win the tournament at U.K.-based William Hill.

Venezuelan Rafael Esquivel, a member of FIFA’s disciplinary committee, was among the nine officials of soccer’s governing body and five corporate executives indicted on May 27 and arrested at the hotel Baur au Lac in Zurich. He was in the Conmebol delegation that signed the per-goal donation agreement on April 21 at the Vatican, according to a Scholas news release at the time.


I posted this on facebook as well – a story fron Vatican Radio:

Abu Dhabi – A new Catholic church dedicated to Saint Paul was inaugurated today, Friday, June 12, in Mussaffah, in the presence of Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of State.


The day before, the initial opening ceremony was also attended by the Minister for Culture Nahyan bin Mubarak, who in his speech stressed that the opening of a new church highlights the “religious tolerance” of national leaders, while Cardinal Parolin noticed how the consecration and dedication of a new church also represents “a sign of vitality” of the local church community, and Bishop Paul Hinder, OFM, apostolic Vicar for South Arabia, expressed gratitude “for the stability and the peace that we enjoy in this Country”.

The UAE  – United Arab Emirates – is home to about 900,000 Catholics: the community is made up of immigrant workers who mostly come from other Asian countries, in particular the Philippines and India.

The new Catholic church, the second built in the country – where today Cardinal Parolin celebrated the first Mass, with the rites of consecration and dedication, before thousands of faithful – will offer its pastoral service primarily to the more than 60,000 Catholics residing in the region that includes the towns of Mussaffah, Mohammed bin Zayed City and Khalifa City. The church will celebrate Masses in English, Arabic, Malayalam and Tagalog.

During Mass – concelebrated by Bishops Hinder and Camillo Ballin MCCJ, Apostolic Vicar of North Arabia – Cardinal Parolin also recalled “the good will of past and present rulers, for their generosity in providing the land for the construction of new churches in the country.”

The permission granted by local authorities for the construction of new places of worship – said the Vatican secretary of State – is “a concrete sign of hospitality that the Emirates has now shown towards Christians,” and testifies to their commitment in favor of “a society based on coexistence and mutual respect.” The church was built on land granted by the municipality of Abu Dhabi, on the orders of local authorities.

“The Christians who live in this country – said Cardinal Parolin on Thursday – need opportunities to grow in their faith and witness it. My message to the Christian community is that may they be supported in their desire to grow in faith and to be charitable to others.”