July is traditionally one of the two hottest months here and one of two months, August being the other, when a fair number of Vatican employees take their vacation. The normal work load occupies many offices, is reduced for some but continues to be quite heavy in the Secretariat of State where staffers work on proof-reading and translating papal speeches and homilies for both his July 5 to 12 trip to Latin America, and his September 19 to 28 apostolic trip to Cuba and the United States.

I was hoping for a quiet Wednesday as there was no general audience this morning but a number of tasks – regular and special – filled my agenda, including taping some segments for “At Home with Jim and Joy.”  As is usual on a Wednesday, I was to join Teresa Tomeo on “Catholic Connection” but it seems there was an avalanche of calls about a segment and that ate up our time.

I’m now working on this short post-birthday column, preparing my weekly show on Vatican Radio, “Joan Knows” and trying to finish both early enough to attend the U.S. Embassy to the Holy See’s annual July 4th party tonight.

My birthday celebration last night was one of the loveliest nights of my life – filled with friends and love and joy and laughter and terrific food and beautiful decorations and a cake that took our collective breath away!

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Friends took photos and videos and I’ll post a few of those as they arrive. My home looks like a florist shop  – in fact, I am sure that some florist shops do not have the selection I have of floral arrangements, bouquets, plants, etc.  I had to leave some flowers at La Vittoria as, even with all the help I had bringing flowers and gifts home after the party, our arms could not carry everything. I’ll get those later today.

My friend Claudio and his wife Palmerina and their staff (including a son, Leonardo, who is a budding chef!) pulled out all the stops. The restaurant was decorated in white and yellow – Vatican colors – flowers and balloons and banners proclaiming “Happy Birthday Joan.”

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A magnificent, unforgettable time spent with very special people – the wonderful friends that God has brought into my life over the years. I made a few remarks and said that, as I looked around the room and saw friends from the Vatican, from Santa Susanna, from NAC, from Chicago, I saw in each face memories of the good times we have also shared in the past – meals, laughter, great conversation, trips, Masses and other spiritual moments.

Chicago and Milwaukee friends:


There were seven of us at the head table and Claudio arranged all the seats so that no one sat with their back to the head table. I was joined by Bishop Baker of Birmingham, Msgr. Keith Newton, ordinary of the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham, Jack and Linda Del Rio and Julie and Joe Helow. (More photos later as they arrive from the guests.)

As the old song goes, “Thanks for the memories….!!”


(VIS) – The Holy Father’s universal prayer intention for July is: “That political responsibility may be lived at all levels as a high form of charity.”

His intention for evangelization is: “That, amid social inequalities, Latin American Christians may bear witness to love for the poor and contribute to a more fraternal society.”


(Vatican Radio) For the second time since his election on March 13, 2013 Pope Francis is returning to the continent of his birth – Latin America – on a journey which will see him interact and communicate in his own language – Spanish.  The Pope was in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil for World Youth Day.

The journey to Ecuador, Bolivia and Paraguay, which is scheduled to last from July 5 to 13, was presented Tuesday at the Vatican Press Office by Father Federico Lombardi.

The underlying theme of the journey to all three counties, ravaged by conquest, exploitation and conflict in years not so long gone by is that of reconciliation and renewal.

Linda Bordoni reports: Pointing out that this is the first time Pope Francis will visit three different nations during a single journey, Fr. Lombardi also noted that, just as he did in Europe by choosing Albania and Bosnia and Herzegovina as the first nations to reach out to at the beginning of his pontificate, here too he is starting with the “peripheries” as far as the Latin American and global scenarios are concerned.

It will also be the first journey – F. Lombardi observed – in which Spanish – the Pope’s mother-tongue – is spoken throughout, giving him plenty of occasions to set aside prepared texts (including 22 official discourses) and to talk and converse freely with his audiences.

Lombardi also said that in just seven days Pope Francis will be experiencing enormous changes in temperature and in altitude: from 3 degrees to 40 degrees centigrade, from sea level to over 4,100 meters above sea level as he travels from the Atlantic to the Andes and in between.

A swift glance at the Pope’s schedule highlights the fact that the journey will be intense for other reasons as well!

All in all, Pope Francis is to spend 48 hours in each country, and each time he will be involved in a number of “common” events such as an audience with each President; a “sit-down” with the bishops, an encounter with civil society (representatives of business, indigenous people, the world of education, culture); a meeting with consecrated people.

Of course in each country he will also be involved in other events and situations as he is scheduled to visit a home for the aged run by the Sisters of Mother Teresa in Ecuador, a prison (one of the largest in Latin America) and a meeting with members of the World Meeting of Popular Movements in Bolivia; a children’s hospital and a slum area in Paraguay.

Another important feature of the journey will be a Marian one as Pope Francis will gather in prayer before the “Virgen Dolorosa” in Quito and before Our Lady of Caacupé 40 km from Asuncion.

One important characteristic of the whole journey – Father Lombardi pointed out – has to do with the wealth of traditions, cultures and languages that are present on the territory. The Pope’s respect for the diversity and value of each of these is also reflected in all of the liturgies and celebrations.

The Holy See Press Office director recalled that Pope Saint John Paul II travelled to all three nations: Ecuador in 1985, Bolivia and Paraguay in 1988 where he had a memorable meeting with minors, canonized Rocco Gonzales and was witness to the last days of General Alfredo Stroessner’s cruel dictatorship.

Fr. Lombardi concluded a detailed account of the Pope’s day-to-day schedule, pointing out that this journey is Francis’ “homecoming” in the sense that it is the second time he will be back in his own continent since travelling to Rome for the conclave in 2013, and that he will finally be speaking his own language. “All this – he said – should make for a particularly intense occasion for communication


Fr. Lombard said today, “The news from Greece regarding the economic and social situation of the country is worrying. The Holy Father wishes to convey his closeness to all the Greek people, with a special thought for the many families gravely beset by such a complex and keenly felt human and social crisis. The dignity of the human person must remain at the center of any political and technical debate, as well as in the taking of responsible decisions. Pope Francis invites all the faithful to unite in prayer for the good of the beloved Greek people.”