“Vatican Insider” this weekend welcomes Kishore Jayabalan, director of the Rome office of the Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty to talk about Pope Francis’ social encyclical “Laudato si.” So much has been written about this papal document – months before its publication and in the six weeks since its June 18 publication – and now we have a chance to better understand this lengthy document that Pope Francis himself has called a “social encyclical.” (photo. Acton website)

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The Acton website describes the institute this way: “The Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty is named after the great English historian, Lord John Acton (1834-1902). He is best known for his famous remark: “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” Inspired by his work on the relation between liberty and morality, the Acton Institute seeks to articulate a vision of society that is both free and virtuous, the end of which is human flourishing. To clarify this relationship, the Institute holds seminars and publishes various books, monographs, periodicals, and articles.”

Kishore’s impressive background includes a number of years at the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace as an analyst for environmental and disarmament issues and desk officer for English-speaking countries. He earned a B.A. in political science and economics from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor where he was executive editor of The Michigan Review and an economic policy intern for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Kishore also worked as an international economist for the Bureau of Labor Statistics in Washington, D.C. and then graduated with an M.A. in political science from the University of Toronto.

Most impressive (for me!) is the fact that Kishore, during his graduate studies, was baptized and received into the Catholic Church by Pope John Paul II in Rome in 1996.

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:


Just a note today about how Pope Francis has been spending his so-called vacation. There were no weekly general audiences in July – they resume this coming Wednesday, August 5 – but he did have an event-filled trip to Latin America. Recited the Angelus on the Sundays he was in Rome and spoke to a handful of groups, including mayors from around the world.

Msgr. Guillermo Karcher, one of his assistants who is also a master of papal liturgical ceremonies spoke about the papal time off to Vatican Radio. The radio asked about the Pope’s summer holiday. He replied: “Summer holiday? What summer holiday? Despite his age, Pope Francis, 78, continues to work and study even during periods traditionally allocated to relax and rest.”

After the intense week he spent in Latin America, said Msgr. Karcher, Francis has “set to work on some important engagements that are coming up, starting with his visit to Cuba and the US.” “He is calm and content. Every morning when I look at him he seems happy. He is always busy working as I see he is always holding something, letters, correspondence: he always likes to reply himself.”

“He is spending this time keeping in touch with friends, the people he cares about. He is making the most of his free time, devoting it to this as well as to reading documents and upcoming projects.”

Msgr. Karcher said the Pope “does miss” the freedom of being able to go for a stroll among the people. “He was really used to taking walks and being with people. I am thinking of the Argentinian summer, of the month of January, which can be likened to this hot and muggy July: he spent his days visiting the slums of Buenos Aires, sharing the experience of this difficult and hot period of sacrifices with people. But he offers it to God and sees it as a moment to give to God. As Pope he is close in heart to those who suffer as a result of the heat which makes life impossible: just think of those shacks without fans…”

(JFL: By the way, Pope Francis has said on a number of occasions that he sympathizes with those who cannot go on vacation because of illness, lack of money, having to care for a relative, or other reasons.)


PRELATES URGE FAIR AND JUST WAGES : The chairman of the Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, joined by the president of Catholic Charities USA, called upon members of Congress to “advance legislation and policies that would ensure fair and just wages for all workers.” Noting that, “a full-year, full-time worker earning the federal minimum wage does not make enough to raise a child free from poverty,” Archbishop Thomas Wenski of Miami and Sister Donna Markham said that Congress can promote the common good by “ensuring the federal minimum wage promotes family formation and stability.” Quoting St. John Paul II’s encyclical letter on the 100th anniversary of Rerum Novarum, they added that, “society and the State must ensure wage levels adequate for the maintenance of the worker and his family, including a certain amount for savings.”

PRAY FOR CHRISTIANS ON AUGUST 7: Chaldean Catholic Patriarch Louis Raphael I Sako has asked “all Christians all over the world to join us in praying for peace and stability in Iraq in the first anniversary of the conquest by ISIS of the Christian villages of the Nineveh Plain on August 7.” The patriarch, who leads the Chaldean Catholic Church, published a prayer for the occasion. It begins: “Lord Jesus Christ, you taught us to pray to the Father in your name, and you assured us that whatever we asked for, we would receive. Therefore, we come to you with complete confidence, asking you to give us the strength to stand fast in this violent storm, to reach peace and security before it is too late.


Another great papal tweet on marriage today: The most powerful witness to marriage is the exemplary lives of Christian spouses.

The official Jubilee of Mercy site today published the calendar of events for this special year called by Pope Francis that will start December 8, 2015. Click here to see events so that you can plan your pilgrimage to Rome – and don’t forget to explore the other parts of this site:

If by chance you will be flying into Rome in a day or two – or perhaps even next week – you should know that Rome’s Fiumicino Airport is in the throes of yet another crisis as a blackout that lasted about 20 minutes Thursday struck the main terminal. The good news is that the outage did not affect the air-traffic control towers so flights were able to land and takeoff, officials told ANSA news agency. The power outage lasted about 20 minutes but control towers have a particular system supported by the ENAV civil aviation authority that allowed operations to continue, officials added.

ANSA said the cause of the power outage, reported shortly before noon, was not immediately known. This marked the latest crisis at the airport, which was forced to temporarily close its runways on Wednesday by smoke blown in from pine-forest fires nearby. Delays and disruptions because of the smoke-blocked runways continued Thursday morning, with delays of up to three hours for some domestic and European flights.

And all this on top of damages caused by a fire in Terminal 3 in early May that has caused major disruptions since then.


Cardinal Seán O’Malley, OFM Cap., archbishop of Boston and chairman of the Committee on Pro-Life Activities of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), responded on Wednesday to recent videos showing leaders from Planned Parenthood discussing the provision of fetal organs, tissues, and body parts from their abortion clinics.


Below is the full text of Cardinal O’Malley’s statement:

Pope Francis has called abortion the product of a “widespread mentality of profit, the throwaway culture, which has today enslaved the hearts and minds of so many.” The recent news stories concerning Planned Parenthood direct our attention to two larger issues involving many institutions in our society. The first is abortion itself: a direct attack on human life in its most vulnerable condition. The second is the now standard practice of obtaining fetal organs and tissues through abortion. Both actions fail to respect the humanity and dignity of human life. This fact should be the center of attention in the present public controversy.

If the Planned Parenthood news coverage has caused anyone to experience revived trauma from their own involvement in abortion, be assured that any and all persons will be welcomed with compassion and assistance through the Church’s post-abortion healing ministry, Project Rachel. If you or someone you know would like confidential, nonjudgmental help, please visit (Source: USCCB)


In an article entitled, “Courageous decision,” L’Osservatore Romano highlighted the anti-discrimination law recently enacted in the United Arab Emirates that advances religious liberty.

“Under the new law, all forms of discrimination based on religion, caste, creed, doctrine, race, colour or ethnic origin’ are outlawed. This means that in the UAE, discrimination based on Islam is banned. The Sunni-Shia divide has been a fault-line around which many wars have been fought in the Arab world. With the new law, equality will be guaranteed among people, largely inspired by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This is a step forward.”

The above statement was made by the noted Islamic scholar. Jesuit Fr. Samir Khalil Samir, who spoke to AsiaNews about the new law against discrimination recently passed in the United Arab Emirates.

Fr. Samir explained that this act goes against the current, especially in comparison to other countries in the region, which are locked in Islamic totalitarianism. There are 24 churches in the region, which were built by the people themselves. Christians are treated with respect and it is not uncommon to see believers living in Saudi Arabia move to Abu Dhabi to celebrate Christmas or Easter.

“It is important to note,” Fr Samir continues, “that another positive element is the fact that the law’s anti-discrimination provisions will also cover written communication, broadcasting (TV) and social medial. UAE leaders are well aware of the ubiquitous presence of such media; hence, they have decided to deem ‘a criminal act’ all forms of discrimination in them or hate spread by them. With the new law, calling someone else ‘infidels’ (takfir) is punishable. Why? Because under Islamic law, someone who is an ‘infidel’ or an ‘unbeliever’ (kafir) could be put to death.

“Although the same law prohibits the killing of Christians and Jews because they are ‘dhimmi,’ or protected, “ continues Fr. Samir, “this does not apply to pagans, atheists or members of other religions. Under Islamic rule, infidels enjoy no protection. He or she can either convert to Islam or be killed. The Islamic State group has used this principle, and used it to kill Christians (even if it is against Islamic law).”.

Another new step, the Jesuit explains, is the fact that provoking religious hatred is also banned. “In the past, hate crimes were not banned under the law. Now this is the case, and this is something of a daring step to take. And we in the West might have a thing or two to learn. Consider all the contempt people have for migrants in Europe, or blacks in the United States. In your countries, hate is mostly racial in nature. In our region, in the Middle East, hate is always about religion.” The law also“outlaws support for violent foreign groups, especially by making monetary donations.”




Just a few miles down the hill from Assisi, within the magnificent basilica of Santa Maria degli Angeli, is the famous Porziuncola, the very small church where St. Francis perceived his vocation in 1209. At the time, of course, only this little chapel, Porziuncola – meaning “little piece of land” – existed.

A side view of the Porziuncola.

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The basilica of Holy Mary of the Angels was built between 1569 and 1679 according to instructions of Pope St. Pius V who wanted the chapel of the Porziuncola, the Rose Garden, and the Chapel of the Passing where Francis died to be available to the faithful under one roof, one magnificent roof, that of Santa Maria degli Angeli.

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August 2 is one of the most important days of the year for the Porziuncola as it commemorates the famous Pardon of Assisi, also known as the Indulgence of Porziuncola that Francis received from Our Lord.

There is a three-day preparatory period of prayer that starts July 29.

But let’s first look back at the history of this miniature church. Legend says that hermits from the Valley of Josaphat in the Holy Land brought relics from the grave of the Blessed Virgin to Pope Liberius in the 4th century who then had this chapel erected to hold those relics. We are also told that this chapel became the property of St. Benedict in 516 and was called Our Lady of the Valley of Josaphat or of the Angels.

The chapel, after time, fell into disuse but eventually Francis restored it, having misunderstood the Lord when He spoke to him from the celebrated Cross of St. Damian and told him to “repair my Church.” Francis soon learned that the Lord meant to repair the Church from within, not physically restore it.

The Porziuncula – external and internal.

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Having prayed and meditated and discovered his vocation here in 1209, St. Francis founded the Friars Minor and eventually obtained the chapel from the Benedictines as a gift to be the center of his new Order.

Here, on March 28, 1211, Clare, the daughter of one Favarone di Offreduccio received the habit of the Poor Clares from Francis, thus instituting that Order.

And now we come to 1216 when St.Francis, in a vision, obtained what is know as the Pardon of Assisi or Indulgence of the Porziuncola (also written Portiuncula), approved by Pope Honorius III. This special day runs from Vespers on August 1 to sundown of August 2.

According to the official Porziuncola website, one night in 1216 Francis was immersed in prayer when suddenly the chapel was filled with a powerful light, and he saw Christ and His Holy Mother above the altar, surrounded by a multitude of angels.

They asked him what he wanted to be able to save souls and Francis’ answer was immediate: “I ask that all those who, having repented and confessed, will come to visit this church will obtain full and generous pardon with a complete remission of guilt.”

The Lord then said to Francis: “What you ask, Brother Francis, is great but you are worthy of greater things and greater things you will have. I thus accept your prayer, but on the understanding that you ask my vicar on earth, in my name, for this indulgence.”

Francis immediately went to Pope Honorius who listened attentively and gave his approval. To the question, “Francis, for how many years do you wish this indulgence?” the saint replied: “Holy Father, I do not ask for years, but for souls.”

And thus, on August 2, 1216, together with the bishops of Umbria, he announced to the people gathered at the Porziuncula: “My brothers, I want to send all of you to Heaven.”

Francis gathered his brother Franciscans here every year in a general chapter to discuss the Rule of the Order, to be renewed in their work and to awaken in themselves a new fervor in bringing the Gospel to the world.

Click here and you will see whatever the current live video is at Santa Maria degli Angeli or the basilica of St. Francis. Commentary and prayers in Italian:–4-1.html



Do you want to welcome Pope Francis to New York when he travels to the U.S. in September? You have almost two months of time to prepare – alone or with friends – a personalized video greeting for the Holy Father. And here’s how…

Catholic Charities of New York has created a special website for the papal visit – – that provides “a platform for everyone, regardless of place of origin or religion, to welcome him and share a message of charity.” Catholic Charities invites people to “send us your short video, photo or text welcome message. We’ll post it here. A collection of the videos will be shared with Pope Francis during his visit to New York City.”

In the video, in addition to their personal greetings, people are asked to recite these universal words of charity taken from the Gospel of Matthew (25:31): “For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me…”


(VIS)  “A Blessing to One Another: Pope John Paul II and the Jewish People” is the title of an exhibit opening today in the Vatican (Charlemagne Wing, July 29-September 17), previously displayed in a number of state capitals in the U.S.A., where it received more than a million visitors. (Photo


The exhibit, prepared as a gift to John Paul II for his 85th birthday, was inaugurated at Xavier University of Cincinnati, Ohio, on May 18, 2005, just a month after the Pope’s death. It then arrived in Rome and, while in Europe, its organizers wanted to bring it to Krakow, the Polish city where Karol Wojtyla was archbishop.

“A Blessing to One Another” describes the steps the pontiff took to improve the relationship between the Catholic Church and the Jewish people, and reflects the continuing relevance of the conciliar declaration “Nostra Aetate,” issued fifty years ago, in which the Catholic Church expresses her appreciation for other religions and reaffirms the principals of universal fraternity, love and non-discrimination.

Funded by various universities and private individuals and organizations who see inter-religious dialogue as a source of progress for humanity, the exhibition narrates John Paul II’s relations with those whom he defined during his historic visit to the synagogue of Rome on April 13, 1986 as “our elder brothers.” It is divided into four sections and consists of photographs, videos, recordings and other interactive sources.

The first section illustrates Karol Wojtyla’s early years in his birthplace Wadowice, what would become a lifelong friendship with the young Jew Jerzy Kluger, and the relations between Catholics and Jews in Poland during the decade 1920 to 1930. The second section is dedicated to the Pope’s university years in Krakow, and his work not far from his friends in the Ghetto who knew the horrors of the Shoah. The third describes his priestly and episcopal life, Vatican Council II and the change of direction it represented in relations between Jews and Christians, and the close link between the cardinal archbishop of Krakow and the Jewish community in his archdiocese.

The final section considers the figure of Wojtyla as the Successor of Peter, his visit to the Synagogue of Rome, and his trip to Israel in the year 2000 when he left a prayer in the Western Wall asking for divine forgiveness for the treatment that Jews had received in the past and reaffirming the Church’s commitment to a path of fraternal continuity with the People of the Covenant.

Visitors to “A Blessing to One Another” are invited to write a prayer to be placed in a reproduction of the Wall. They will be gathered and deposited in the Western Wall without being read.


Pope Francis tweeted today, July 28, 2015: Dear young friends, do not be afraid of marriage: Christ accompanies with his grace all spouses who remain united to him.

I posted this tweet on my Facebook page this morning and want to thank the great number of you who wrote about your beautiful, happy and often long marriages! Congratulations! Here is one letter, typical of many: Been through it all, knowing our marriage is about the three of us has made it last. My husband , myself and Christ! We are accountable to him.

I must add one very important detail to what I wrote yesterday about the late Cardinal William Baum: After he visited me in the eye hospital and during our Christmas Day together in his home with six other guests, I learned that it was the cardinal’s charism to visit sick people in the hospital. He’d keep in touch with the North American College, with Vatican offices and Santa Susanna parish, for example and when he learned someone was ill, he’d visit.


In several days, the Vatican will have a new health services director and Pope Francis will have a new personal physician as his current doctor, Patrizio Polisca retires at the end of the month and the end of his five-year mandate. Dr. Polisca will, however, remain as personal physician to Pope emeritus Benedict XVI and will continue to reside in the Vatican.

Fr. Federico Lombardi, head of the Holy See Press Office, told journalists this morning: “Regarding the speculations in the Italian press this morning, I would like to clarify that Patrizio Polisca’s five-year term of service as director of the Vatican Health Services has ended. A rotation (of directors) is to be considered normal, based on regulations for directorial lay personnel in the Holy See and Vatican City. He will continue his invaluable service as Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI’s personal physician and will continue to reside in the Vatican.”

Journalists had speculated that Dr. Polisca had been “ousted” from the Vatican when he allegedly learned in May that his service would end at the end of July. A new director is expected to be named soon. According to Fr. Lombardi, “We shall wait and see which doctor will accompany the Pope on his trip to Cuba and the United States in September.”


From L’Osservatore Romano: Less than 24 hours after registration opened for next year’s World Youth Day (WYD), 45,000 people had already signed up. The first to register was Pope Francis himself who had previously announced that the theme of the meeting would revolve around mercy. According to the website’s managers, thus far there are 250 “macrogroups” and 300 volunteers signed up. The countdown to the event is already surrounded by great enthusiasm. In exactly one year — from 26 to 31 July 2016 — young people will meet in Krakow for the 31st WYD.

Twenty five years after its start, WYD will return to Poland, the land of the Pontiff who created it. Even if Pope Wojtyła loved to say that “it was the young people themselves who invented WYD”. In 1991 in Częstochowa, a strong wind of faith was announced to the young people and from them the faith blew beyond the iron curtain. The young Christians of eastern and western Europe experienced the first large-scale encounter after the fall of the Berlin Wall. Pope Wojtyła returned to his homeland for WYD which saw the participation of more than one million people.

A true jubilee of young people will be celebrated on a global level. Pope Francis recalled this at the Angelus and Cardinal Stanisław Ryłko, President of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, also underlined it in a message published on the dicastery’s website. The theme of WYD is “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy” is part of the extraordinary holy year which will begin on 8 December. WYD in Krakow will complete a three part series of themes dedicated to the Beatitudes. The theme in Rio in 2014 was “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven”. This year’s theme for the 30th WYD on the diocesan level is “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God”.


You know how it is when you have a specific agenda planned for the day and then all sorts of extra events and commitments and people insert themselves and voilà, it is late in the day and many things are still on that well-planned agenda! Such was my day today, so my only stories involve the death of a great American cardinal and Pope Francis registering as a participant for the 2016 World Youth Day on a tablet!


Cardinal William Baum, 88, died on Thursday, July 23, after a long illness. As a column by CNS notes, “he was a cardinal for 39 years — the longest such tenure in U.S. church history. Cardinal Baum witnessed history from the Second Vatican Council through the election of the first Latin American Pope, and he made history himself.”

He was archbishop of Washington, prefect of a Vatican congregation and penitentiary major. I knew the cardinal for the first half of his ten years as prefect of the Congregation for Catholic Education (1980 to 1990), and we met many times over the years that he lived in Rome.


The cardinal suffered serious eye problems for many years and I learned one day that we shared the same eye doctor and surgeon.

I had a detached retina in my left eye in December 2001 and was in a Rome eye hospital for nine days, undergoing several corrective surgeries, including laser surgery on my right eye to hopefully prevent a similar occurrence. December 23, to my great surprise, the nurse announced that I had a visitor and that visitor was Cardinal Baum, along with Sr. Lucy, a Sister of Mercy of Alma, Michigan, who was a nurse.

We had a lovely visit, and I learned later that quite a number of the patients wondered who I was to have such an important visitor!

Later that afternoon, I received a call from Sister Lucy who, in a conversation with the cardinal, remarked to him that I probably had no plans for Christmas Day – two days later – as I would only be released from the hospital on December 24th. She asked if I had plans, telling me that Cardinal Baum would be delighted if I would join him for Mass and lunch in his apartment on Christmas Day!

Moved to tears, I told sister I would be there for 10 am Mass. The surgeon had instructed me to remain in a prone position, on my right side, for 22 hours a day for at least two weeks but he did give me special permission to be up and around Christmas Day, knowing I had cancelled plans to be with family in the U.S. because of the surgery.

I took a taxi to his residence – a wonderful apartment on the top floor of the same building that houses the Holy See Press Office. The sisters had previously been to Mass and were busy in the kitchen preparing our turkey dinner. There were only three of us at Mass and it was intimate and beautiful, a very different and wonderful Christmas morning. After Mass we gathered in a small study just off the amazing terrace overlooking Via della Conciliazione and St. Peter’s Square. The sisters had decorated a Christmas tree and all the gifts beneath the tree were from the cardinal for his guests – several of whom were at Pope John Paul’s “Urbi et Orbi” blessings.

When all the guests had arrived, we drank a Christmas toast and the cardinal distributed his gifts. One of the presents he gave me consisted of two audio books! He knew I’d not be able to read for weeks – he had had the same issue a number of times . and these proved to be very welcomed gifts!

Dinner was so special – the turkey and all the stuffings were divine! – and afterwards all the sisters came into the living room and we sang Christmas songs. Truly, a day to remember, unique in so many ways . a very happy and Merry Christmas indeed!

I have other wonderful stories to tell about Cardinal Baum, but not today. He was an extraordinary gentle and saintly person, so kind and wise and a great listener – always interested in his guests, and interesting for his guests!

Pope Francis sent a telegram to Cardinal Donald Wuerl, archbishop of Washington, expressing his sadness over the death of Wuerl’s predecessor:

“I was saddened to learn of the death of Cardinal William Wakefield Baum, Archbishop Emeritus of Washington, and I offer my heartfelt condolences, together with the assurance of my prayers, to you and to all the faithful of the Archdiocese.  With gratitude for the late Cardinal’s years of episcopal service in Springfield-Cape Girardeau and in Washington, and for his long service to the Apostolic See as Prefect of the Congregation for Catholic Education and subsequently Major Penitentiary of the Apostolic Penitentiary, I join you in commending the late Cardinal’s soul to God the Father of mercies.  To all present at the Mass of Christian Burial and to all who mourn Cardinal Baum in the hope of the Resurrection, I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing as a pledge of strength and consolation in the Lord.”

To read the CNS story about Cardinal Baum’s long and wonderful years of service to the Church, click here:


In post-Angelus reflections on Sunday, Pope Francis remembered the people of Syria as they live through terrorist attacks and an internal conflict that has lasted for years, and he issued an urgent and heartfelt appeal for the release of Fr. Paolo Dall’Oglio, an Italian Jesuit who was kidnapped in that country two years ago.

The Holy Father also named the Greek and Syriac Orthodox archbishops of Aleppo, Boulos Yazigi and Gregorios Yohanna Ibrahim, who were kidnapped Syria’s border with Turkey in 2013. Francis said he hoped that, with the commitment of international and local authorities, these prelates would be released immediately.

Then, with two young people joining him at his study window overlooking St. Peter’s Square, Pope Francis held a tablet and, with the touch of a button, he registered as the first participant for the 2016 World Youth Day that will be held in Krakow, Poland. In remarks to the faithful, he said that WYD 2016 will be celebrated during the Year of Mercy, saying, “in a sense, a jubilee of youth, called to reflect on the theme ‘Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy’.” (photo


He invited the youth of the world to live this pilgrimage to Krakow as “a moment of grace in their communities.”

Vatican Radio reported on a Message for WYD 2016 released by Polish Cardinal Stanislaw Rylko, president of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, the council that organizes Youth Days.

Taking place in the context of the Jubilee Year of Mercy which begins on December 8th this year, the Krakow event follows on from the last World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro where Pope Francis told young people to read the Beatitudes because, he said, it “will do you good”. In his message Cardinal Rylko notes that the Pope has made the theme of mercy a priority of his pontificate and that the Krakow meeting will mark an international Jubilee of Young People dedicated to this theme.

It’s the second time that World Youth Day has been held in Poland – the first such event took place in 1991 at the Marian shrine of Czestochowa with Pope John Paul II. The Polish pontiff will also be spiritually present at the 2016 event as young participants visit the tomb of St Faustina Kowalska at the Divine Mercy shrine, inaugurated by Pope John Paul during his last visit to his homeland in 2002. There, they will be able to take part in a programme of meditations and recitation of the Divine Mercy chapelet.

Numerous confessionals will also be set up and Pope Francis himself is likely to offer the sacrament of reconciliation to a number of young men and women attending the celebration. A symbolic Holy Door will also be built at the shrine, through which the Pope will process at the start of the prayer vigil and Eucharistic Adoration on Saturday July 30th. Following the final Mass on Sunday 31st, Pope Francis will give lighted lamps to five young couples from the five continents to symbolically send all the participants out as missionaries of God’s mercy throughout the world.



Stay tuned after the news segment on “Vatican Insider” to listen to my interview with Birmingham, Alabama Mayor William Bell who was in Rome for several days attending a Vatican-sponsored workship for mayors from around the world entitled “Modern Slavery and Climate Change.” The conference, at which Mayor Bell spoke, was organized by the Pontifical Academies of Sciences and Social Sciences, and by the chancellor of the academies, Bishop Marcelo Sanchez Sorondo.


We have a fascinating conversation and you’ll hear Mayor Bell, a very articulate speaker, tell of his own experience of working against human trafficking, of his participation in the workshop and what he learned from other mayors from around the world. Just one technical note. I welcomed Mayor Bell to Vatican Insider and he responded in a most friendly manner and we had a brief conversation but my recorder had stopped so his initial words were lost – but I did not realize that until I got home and was editing the piece. Apologies for losing part of a delightful conversatione!

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:


(Vatican Radio)  The Chaldean Patriarch of Baghdad, Louis Sako, says he is personally “very worried” about his nation’s future and warns that the so-called Islamic State, ISIS, “is growing” in strength and influence each day and nowadays the militant group is “like a real state.”

We first met when he was the Chaldean archbishop of Kirkuk.

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In a recent gesture of solidarity, the Iraqi Patriarch donated food and medical supplies to displaced Muslims living in a refugee camp near the city of Ramadi. Accompanied by other members of the Church and representatives of Caritas Iraq, Patriarch Sako personally brought the relief supplies to 250 Muslim families living in the refugee camp. His action came during the recent Muslim feast of Eid al Fitr marking the end of the holy month of Ramadan. Patriarch Sako spoke to Susy Hodges about his visit to the Muslim refugees and his views about Iraq’s future.

Serving lunch at his residence in Kirkuk

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The displaced Iraqi Muslim families are currently being housed in tents in the desert near the city of Ramadi in very “critical conditions” said Patriarch Sako. He described their visit by car to the refugees to bring them food and other relief supplies as “a sign of solidarity” to show them that as a Church they are reaching out to all Iraqis in need, regardless of their religion.  He told the refugees, “we are close to you, we understand your suffering.”  Patriarch Sako described the gratitude of the refugees who begged them “not to forget them.” He said their situation was “a tragedy” with their plight going largely unnoticed because of the nation’s conflicts.

At the residence

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Asked for his views on Iraq’s future, Patriarch Sako said he was personally “very worried” given the ongoing conflicts in Iraq and elsewhere although he said there are “some signs of hope.” He said there was an urgent need for the Muslim nations in the region to resolve the sectarian conflict between Sunnis and Shiites. The Patriarch also called for serious action to be taken against ISIS (the so-called Islamic State) and other fundamentalist groups.  He said ISIS “is growing” with each day that passes and that nowadays the militant group is “like a real state.”


Do you know C-Fam?

The Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute, known as C-Fam, is a non-partisan, non-profit research institute that monitors and affects the social policy debate at the United Nations. I get the Friday Fax updates from Austin Ruse at the U.N. and read his reports with great interest as he always is current with the behind.the-scenes machinations at this international body – deliberations, meetings (sometimes secret) and bargains that often do not see the light of day. Some are downright frightening. (You can subscribe to Friday Fax at

Today’s Friday Fax, for example, carries an article by Stefano Gennarini entitled “Will Obama Re-define the Family for the World?” Here it is, in all its scary implications:

NEW YORK, July 24 (C-Fam) The Obama administration’s placement of LGBT rights at the forefront of U.S. foreign policy has caused backlash against LGBT rights in many parts of the world. But after repeated failures to re-define the family to include homosexuality, something may be about to change at UN headquarters.

Obama’s multi-year campaign to discard the Universal Declaration of Human Rights’ longstanding description of the family as the “natural and fundamental group unit of society” may pay off as the United Nations celebrates the 70th anniversary of its founding in September this year, and a new UN agreement on development is adopted by world leaders.

UN delegates are deep into the final two weeks of negotiations for a massive new UN development scheme to tackle poverty and promote economic and social development that is environmentally friendly. The subjects up for negotiation are legion, but in the back of everyone’s mind is also the fate of the family.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other binding and non-binding UN agreements recognize the family as resulting from the union of a man and a woman who freely marry. International law and policy make provision for children born in irregular situations or out of wedlock not to be discriminated against, and special protections for single mothers, but do not recognize same-sex relations as capable of constituting a family.

In recent years UN member states have rejected the phrase “various forms of family” in UN agreements, because North American and European countries see it as recognizing same-sex “families,” and it does not appear that such language could make it in a UN agreement anytime soon.

Delegates from around the world have told C-Fam, publisher of the Friday Fax, that U.S. diplomats at the highest levels have been pressuring capitals and missions to ask countries to soften their posture on family language in UN resolutions. Delegations that are unable to support LGBT rights are usually asked to abstain and not show up for voting on resolutions. In this case they have been asked to refrain from proposing language from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Even staunch opponents of LGBT rights appear ready to jettison settled language declaring the family as the “natural and fundamental group unit of society.” An exception is the strong statements from African countries.

A delegate from Cameroon told the General Assembly his delegation wanted to see “family” and “culture” recognized in the final agreement.

Ambassador Usman Sarki of Nigeria was also adamant about seeing the natural family reflected in the final outcome and not “various forms of the family.”

Sarki’s said, “There is no possible rational justification for member states to sit in conclave on issues that will not be implementable at the national level.” In a reference to the pressure for LGBT rights, he said, “Abortion for instance, or reconfiguration of the family, or endorsing behavior that goes against the grain of traditionally accepted practices.”

Recognition of same-sex “families” may be a long way off, but if the Obama administration has its way and gets UN member states to forsake the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, it may pave the way for future recognition of homosexual relationships as family in international law and policy.