“I cannot not deny the meeting took place but I have no comments to add,” Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi said Wednesday in reaction to media reports that Pope Francis had met with Kim Davis, the Kentucky county clerk who spent six days in jail for refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, in Washington, D.C. She has said her Christian belief in marriage as ordained by God between one man and one woman would not allow her to issue licenses to same-sex couples.

Fr. Lombardi said he had nothing further to add to that statement.

Davis spoke with several media outlets in recent days. It appears the meeting took place at the Vatican nunciature in Washington last Thursday, the day that Pope Francis addressed Congress. NPR reported that Davis was in Washington for another purpose: She received a Cost of Discipleship award at the Family Research Council’s Values Voter Summit on Friday night.


Pope Francis dedicated the catechesis of the Wednesday general audience in St. Peter’s Square to his just-conclued apostolic trip to Cuba and the United States, visiting both nations for the first time. His trip was occasioned by the Eighth World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia that took place from September 22 to 27.

AG - Sept 30

Before starting the weekly catechesis the Pope met with over 400 disabled and sick pilgrims in the Paul VI Hall.

While in the U.S. the Pope visited Washington, D.C., New York and Philaelphia. He thanked president Raul Castro of Cuba, the first country he visited, as well as U.S. president Barack Obama and United Nations secretary general Ban Ki-Moon, for their respective welcomes.

Francis said he went to Cuba, “a land rich in natural beauty, culture and faith” as a “Missionary of Mercy. … God’s mercy is greater than any affliction, any conflict, any ideology; and with this gaze of mercy I was able to embrace the entire Cuban population, at home and abroad, looking beyond any division. The symbol of this deep unity is Our Lady of Charity of El Cobre, … Patroness of Cuba, … Mother of Hope … who guides us on the path of justice, peace, freedom and reconciliation. … I was able to share with the Cuban people the hope of fulfilling the prophecy of St. John Paul II: that Cuba will open up to the world, and the world will open up to Cuba. No more closure, no more exploitation of the poor, but instead freedom and dignity. It is the path that draws strength from the Christian roots of the people, who have suffered greatly.”

The Holy Father then spoke of the next leg of his trip, saying that travelling to the U.S. after Cuba, was “a symbolic step, a bridge that, thanks be to God, is being rebuilt. … God always wants to build bridges; we are the ones who build walls. But walls always fall down.”

In Washington D.C. note the Pope, he met not only with the political authorities, but also the clergy, the poor and the marginalised. The greatest wealth of the country and her people is her “spiritual and ethical heritage. And so, I wanted to encourage to continuation of social construction faithful to the United States’ fundamental principle, that all men are created by God, equal and endowed with inalienable rights, such as life, liberty an the pursuit of happiness. These values, that may be shared by all, find their fulfilment in the Gospel, as was clearly shown by the canonisation of the Franciscan Fr. Junipero Serra, the great evangelizer of California. St. Junipero shows us the way to joy: going forth and sharing Christ’s love with others. This is the way of Christians, but also of any person who has known love: not to keep it to oneself but to share it with others. The United States of America have grown on this religious and moral base, and on this base they can continue to be a land of freedom, welcome and cooperation for a more just and fraternal world”.

Speaking of his time in New York Francis mentioned his address to the General Assembly of the United Nations as this organization marks its 70th anniversary. The Pope renewed the Catholic Church’s commitment to support the U.N. and “its role in the promotion of development and peace, especially with regard to the need for joint and active commitment to care for creation.” He stressed his appeal “to stop and prevent violence against ethnic and religious minorities and against civil populations.”

And the Holy Father described how he had prayed at Ground Zero for peace and fraternity, accompanied by representatives of various religions and families of victims of the September 11, 2001 attacks, and later celebrated Mass for peace and justice in Madison Square Garden.

“In both Washington D.C. and New York I was able to meet various charitable and educational bodies, emblematic of the enormous service that the Catholic community – priests, man and women religious, and laypeople – offer in these fields.”

Pope Francis then travelled to the focus of his nine-day journey – the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia, “where the horizon extends to all the world through the ‘prism’ of the family.”

He underscored that “the family is the answer to the great challenge of our world, which is a dual challenge: fragmentation and solidification, two extremes which co-exist, support each other and together support the consumerist economic model. The family is the answer as it is the cell of a society that balances the personal and community dimensions, and at the same time the model for a sustainable management of the goods and resources of creation. The family is the protagonist of an integral ecology, as it is the primary social subject which contains within itself the two basic principals of human civilisation on earth: the principles of communion and fruitfulness. Biblical humanism presents us with this icon: the human couple, united and fruitful, placed by God in the garden of the world to cultivate it and protect it”.

The Holy Father’s final words were for Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia, saying his great love for the family was made manifest in the organization of the event. “It is not by chance, but rather providential that … the witness of the World Meeting of Families came at this moment from the United States of America – that is, the country that during the last century reached the highest level of economic and technological development without renouncing its religious roots. Now these same roots are asking to be replanted in the family, to rethink and change the model of development, for the good of the entire human family.”


PAPAL SPEECHES + MUSIC = NEW CD (Vatican Radio) – A new CD combining the speeches of Pope Francis with different styles of music will be released on 27 November. The album is called Wake Up!, and will bring together excerpts of speeches in different languages with music ranging from Gregorian chant to rock-n-roll. Rolling Stone magazine’s website premiered the first track “Wake Up! Go! Go! Forward!”, which uses a speech Pope Francis gave in South Korea, and the album can currently be pre-ordered on iTunes. The Pope speaks in Italian, English, Spanish and Portuguese on the album, which has 11 tracks.


VATICAN HOSTS NEW DIGITAL LIBRARY (Vatican Radio) – At a press conference in the Vatican on Wednesday, a new online digital library was launched, offering access to over a thousand papal documents on communications from the first to the twenty-first century. The initiative, known as the Baragli Project, features papal teachings on communication, translated into different languages, and is geared especially to those working in Catholic education and training centers. The Project is named after Jesuit Father Enrico Baragli, who died in 2001 and was in the forefront of research into the way the Catholic Church has communicated its message over the centuries. It is being promoted by the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, together with the Faculty of Social Communication at the Pontifical Salesian University, the Vatican Publishing House and website. The digital library features a “navigator” that helps explore available online sources. The archive will be continuously expanded to include new documents, as well as other material from individual Church leaders, from bishops conferences and from other Christian churches and communities. It offers a platform for reading and personal study, as well as an open environment for collaboration with other users. The beta version in Italian went live on September 30th and can be found at




The Vatican daily, L’Osservatore Romano, in its September 29th edition published some of the comments made by the international media at the end of Pope Francis’ September 19 to 27 trip to Cuba and the United States:

Pope Francis showed his “deft touch” in navigating the divisions in the U.S. The assessment was published in the 29 September edition of the “International New York Times”, which reveals that, despite the gruelling schedule on U.S. soil, the Pontiff took on the various commitments with remarkable ease.

-S.S. Francesco - Viaggio Apostolico negli Stati Uniti - Santa Messa  a conclusione dell'VIII Incontro  mondiale delle famiglie  27-09-2015  - (Copyright L'OSSERVATORE ROMANO - Servizio Fotografico -

-S.S. Francesco – Viaggio Apostolico negli Stati Uniti – Santa Messa a conclusione dell’VIII Incontro mondiale delle famiglie 27-09-2015
– (Copyright L’OSSERVATORE ROMANO – Servizio Fotografico –

The article by Jim Yardley and Laurie Goodstein at the end of his visit, points out that he “seemed to have had fun”. The daily newspaper states that Francis had landed for the first time in “a country that he did not know and that did not know him”, but now the situation has changed. The United States now truly knows who the Pope is, and its people know what lessons to assimilate after his visit. The U.S. landscape is “a minefield of political and religious divisions”, yet the Pontiff “demonstrated a nuanced political dexterity”, with a message based on dialogue and constructive debate: and the nation, at this moment, needs exactly this.

The visit, Yardley and Goodstein indicate, was a gift for the United States which, on many levels, is in a delicate phase of transition, and needed the presence in its own home of someone who truly embodies moral leadership. The visit was likewise a success for the Pope who, after winning the nation’s heart, has returned to the Vatican bolstered by the manner in which he managed to defend the Church’s position on particularly delicate issues.

Also on Tuesday, 29 September, “The Wall Street Journal” highlighted the Pope’s defence of religious freedom, which was a common theme at various stops during the pilgrimage on American soil. In this regard, the edition referred to Francis’ words to President Obama at the White House ceremony, “that Americans should be ‘vigilant’ to ‘preserve and defend [religious] freedom from everything that would threaten or compromise it’”. The words used by the Pope during his U.S. visit were “masterful”, said Paul Vallely in “The Guardian”, again in an article on Tuesday, 29. Even his actions are worthy of high praise, for they were always wisely balanced. The Pope, the British daily continues, was able to move adroitly whether on “the grand stage” such as the White House, Congress, and the U.N. Yet at the same time he embraced the poor, immigrants, detainees: all with his characteristic simplicity and humility. “The Guardian” also noted the Pope’s call that bishops be less severe and divisive. In this regard, Paul Vallely pointed out the Pontiff’s agility in telling the bishops that he had not come to judge them nor to lecture them, however, the journalist writes, he did just that. Thus his softer style, seeking to encourage greater tolerance and more inclusivity, was even more effective, Vallely concludes.

In the 29 September issue of “USA Today”, Rick Hampson writes that Pope Francis is unique in his ability to be “plainspoken, pointed and provocative ”. And these traits find fertile ground in today’s world, where key words are immigration, economic disparity and environmental protection. Indeed, these extremely important, complex and delicate topics need to be dealt with without mincing words and without evasive language. It is in this precise landscape that Francis stands out and with him his style which make immediacy and transparency his tool of choice to get to the heart of every issue. Then, Hampson adds, with Francis every journalist feels particularly at ease: his addresses are so practical and direct that one never has trouble finding a title or the lead. Instead, it can be difficult to choose just one.

“Before concluding his six-day visit in the United States with an open-air Mass” — writes Stéphanie Le Bars in “Le Monde” on 29 September — “Pope Francis addressed the hundreds of bishops from around the world gathered in Philadelphia for the World Meeting of Families, giving them some instructions as to how help the Catholic Church live in a world that has become ‘a large supermarket’”. Running “the risk” — the journalist continues — “of clashing with the most conservative trends of the Church, Francis has above all recalled that Christians are not immune to the changes of their time”. Placing himself far away, Le Bars writes, from party positions in the United States, for a cultural war between the Church and the contemporary world, the Pope urges the bishops to invest their energy in the young, inviting them to be brave and willing to choose family and marriage. There is indeed an obvious link, the French daily states, between the conclusion of the historic overseas journey and the imminent Synod on the Family, which opens on 5 October.

In his blog on the web site of the daily “la Croix”, Dominique Greiner takes stock of the days in the States. On the occasion of the speeches to the U.S. Congress on 24 September and to the UN General Assembly the following day, “Francis’ message lost absolutely none of its force”. On these occasions in particular, the Pontiff outlined a sort of portrait of good government, whether national or international: it must follow the path of law and legislation to contain and regulate human presumptions; politicians must always remember that before them are men and women of flesh and blood, who live and fight and suffer, and thus they need practical concrete, effective and practical decisions in order to face the needs of the times; political action must be guided by courage and by intelligence, avoiding simplistic and reductive readings of the social and political landscape. Only thus does the common good truly follow.

In an editorial in “Avvenire” on 29 September, Mimmo Muolo underscores that “the Latin American Pope has managed to build bridges where until recently stood barriers of hatred and a lack of communication. Thus reconciliation among states, governments and peoples, in the first place. And this visit, he adds, “will stand in history also because Francis was able to extend the appeal to reconciliation beyond the area of international relations. In Cuba he preached reconciliation among the needs of governments and those of the governed. In Washington he joined liberty — the trademark of the United States — with justice, especially social”.


POPE FRANCIS TWEETED ON MONDAY: With my heartfelt thanks. May the love of Christ always guide the American people! #GodBlessAmerica

You know, of course, that the Holy Father is back in Rome, having arrived yesterday morning in the Eternal City and going, as is his wont, to St. Mary Major Basilica to thank Our Lady, in the image of Salus Populi Romani, for a successful trip.


By the way, here is one of my favorite stories from the Pope’s time in the U.S., and I’m guessing you may have read it somewhere as it went viral:

Before returning to Rome, Pope Francis on Sunday met with an Argentinian family who, in a Vokswagen bus, traveled for 200 days through 13 countries in the Americas to be in Philadelphia for the papal visit to the World Meeting of Families. The Walker family – Mom, Dad and four children aged 3 to 12 – met Francis on his last morning in the U.S. at the St. Charles Borromeo seminary which had been his home in Philadelphia. (photo Ap –


Catire Walker told journalists Pope Francis greeted them by saying “Are you the family who traveled from Buenos Aires? You’re crazy!” He said the meeting was “casual,” and he told the Pope thousands of families were praying for him.

Papal spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi said, “The Pope told me explicitly to say [that he had met with the family] because for him it was a very interesting moment, and the experience of this family has touched him very much.” The family said the meeting was the “best gift of all” after their long journey.


I did post several blogs on Sunday with updates on the papal trip but did not, for many reasons beyond my control, get this piece of news out about the papal press conference on the plane returing to Rome. I was able, however, to post it on Facebook as soon as the full translation of the papal press conference became available.

This is truly worth reading – every word. In addition, it will probably answer a few questions you may have had – the same as some asked by the journalists.

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis is back in the Vatican after his 10th apostolic journey abroad which took him to Cuba, to the United States and to the United Nations in New York.

During the flight that brought him back to Rome he spoke to journalists aboard the Papal plane, touching on many issues including his just concluded visit, the sex abuse scandal in the Church, the right to be a conscientious objector, a peace accord in Colombia, migration and the upcoming Synod on the Family. Following is the Vatican Radio report: (photo:


To the questions put to him by 11 journalists in different languages, Pope Francis’ answers ranged from the political to the personal. Describing his welcome to the United States as warm, exuberant and expressive, in one word: wonderful, Pope Francis said the greatest challenge for the US Church is to stay close to the people and accompany them in good and bad times.

Going on to repeat his condemnation of priests who sexually abused children, he point out that sexual abuse is not confined to the Church but that it is worse when committed by men of religion who betray their vocation.

He elaborated on questions regarding the upcoming Synod on the Family pointing out that there is no such thing as a “Catholic divorce” and that the Church has the responsibility of preparing couples much better for their life-long commitment to marriage.  He talked of “conscientious objection” which, he said, “must enter into every juridical structure because it is a right.”

And asked about barriers being but up in Europe to stop the influx of migrants, the Pope  said: “All walls collapse sooner or later”. The solution, he said, must be found through dialogue. With barriers – he continued – the problem remains – and with it, more hatred.

Finally, noting that he has become a “star” in the United States a reporter asked Pope Francis whether this was good for the Church.

“The media uses this term – he answered –  but a Pope is the servant of the servants of God. “How many stars have we seen that go out and fall?” he remarked, “On the other hand, being servant of the servants of God is something that doesn’t pass.

Here is Vatican Radio’s transcript of the entire press conference:

Pope Francis:  Good evening to all and thank you for the work because you went about from one place to the other and I was in a car but you… thank you very much.

Elizabeth Dias, Time Magazine: Thank you so much Holy Father Elizabeth Dias from TIME magazine. We are all so curious…this was your first visit to the US. What surprised you about the US and what was different to what you might have expected?

Pope Francis:  It was my first visit. I’d never been here before. What surprised me was the warmth, the warmth of the people, so lovable. It was a beautiful thing and also different: in Washington the welcome was warm but more formal; New York was a bit exuberant. Philadelphia very expressive. Three different kinds of welcome. I was very struck by this kindness and welcome but also by the religious ceremonies and also by the piety, the religiosity of the people… you could see the people pray and this struck me a lot. Beautiful.

Elizabeth Dias, Time Magazine: Was there some sort of challenge that you didn’t expect in the United States?

Pope Francis:  No, thank God no…everything was good. No challenge. No provocation. Everyone was polite. No insults and nothing bad.

Elizabeth Dias, Time Magazine: Well, what is the challenge?

Pope Francis:  We must continue to work with the faithful like we have always done, until now. Accompanying people in their growth – through the good times but also through the difficult ones – accompanying people in their joy and in their bad moments, in their difficulties when there is no work, ill health. The challenge of the Church… now I understand: the Church’s challenge is staying close to the people. Close to the United States… not being a Church which is detached from the people but close to them, close, close and this is something that the Church in America has understood, and understood well.

David O’Reilly, Philadelphia Inquirer:  Holy Father: Philadelphia, as you know, has had a very difficult time with sex abuse. It’s still an open wound in Philadelphia. So I know many people in Philadelphia were surprised that you offered bishops comfort and consolation and I think many in Philadelphia would ask you why did you feel the need to offer compassion to the bishops?

Pope Francis:  In Washington I spoke to all the US bishops… they were all there no? I felt the need to express compassion because something really terrible happened. And many of them suffered who did not know of this. I used words from the bible from Apocalypse: You are coming from a large tribulation. What happened was a great tribulation. But also the suffering (emotional). What I said today to the victims of abuse. I wouldn’t say an apotheosis but almost a sacrilege. We know abuses are everywhere: in families, in neighborhoods, in schools, in gyms. But when a priest abuses it is very serious because the vocation of the priest is to make that boy, that girl, grow towards the love of God, toward maturity, and towards good. Instead this is squashed and this is nearly a sacrilege and he betrayed his vocation, the calling of the Lord. For this reason the Church is strong on this and one must not cover these things up. Those who covered this up are guilty. Even some bishops who covered this up, It is a terrible thing and the words of comfort were not to say: ”Don’t worry that was nothing… no, no, no even some bishops who covered this up, It’s a terrible thing and the words of comfort were not to say “don’t worry that was nothing…no, no , no, but it was so bad that I imagine that you cried hard”… that was the sense of what I meant and today I spoke strongly.

Maria Antonieta Collins, Univision: You have spoken a lot about forgiveness, that God forgives us and that we often ask for forgiveness. I would like to ask you, after you were at the seminary today. There are many priests that have committed sexual abuses to minors and have not asked for forgiveness for their victims. Do you forgive them? And on the other hand, do you understand the victims or their relatives who can’t or don’t want to forgive?

Pope Francis:  If a person has done wrong, is conscious of what he has done and does not say sorry, I ask God to take him into account. I forgive him, but he does not receive that forgiveness, he is closed to forgiveness. We must forgive, because we were all forgiven. It is another thing to receive that forgiveness. If that priest is closed to forgiveness, he won’t receive it, because he locked the door from the inside. And what remains is to pray for the Lord to open that door. To forgive you must be willing. But not everyone can receive or know how to receive it, or are just not willing to receive it. What I’m saying is hard. And that is how you explain how there are people who finish their life hardened, badly, without receiving the tenderness of God.

Maria Antonieta Collins, Univision: Regarding victims or relatives who don’t forgive  – do you understand them?

Pope Francis:  Yes, I do. I pray for them. And I don’t judge them. Once, in one of these meetings, I met several people and I met a woman who told me “When my mother found out that I had been abused, she became blasphemous, she lost her faith and she died an atheist.” I understand that woman. I understand here. And God who is even better than me, understands her. And I’m sure that that woman has been received by God. Because what was abused,  destroyed, was her own flesh, the flesh of her daughter. I understand her. I don’t judge someone who can’t forgive. I pray and I ask God… God is a champion in finding paths of solutions. I ask him to fix it.

Andres Beltramo, Notimex: Thanks, first of all for this moment. We’ve all heard you speak so much about the peace process in Colombia between the FARC and the government. Now, there’s an historic agreement. Do you feel involved in this agreement and you’ve said that you wished to go to Colombia when this agreement was made, right? Now there are a lot of Colombians awaiting you.

Pope Francis:  When I heard the news that in March the accord will be signed I said to the Lord, ‘Lord, help us reach March.’  The willingness is there on both sides. It is there, even in the small group, everyone is in agreement. We have to reach March, for the definitive accord, which is the point of international justice. I was very happy and I felt like I was a a part of it because I’ve always wanted this. I spoke to president Santos twice about this problem. Not only myself, but also the Holy See. The Holy See was always willing to help and do what it could.      Thomas Jansen, CIC: Holy Father, I wanted to ask something about the migrant crisis in Europe. Many countries are building new barriers out of barbed wire. What do you think of this development?

Pope Francis: You used a word, crisis. It’s become a state of crisis after a long process. For years, this process has exploded because wars for which those people leave and flee are wars waged for years. Hunger. It’s hunger for years. When I think of Africa… this is a bit simplistic. But I see it as an example. It comes to me to think about Africa, “the exploited continent.” They went to pick up the slaves there, then its great resources. It’s the exploited continent. And, now the wars, tribal or not. But they have economic interests behind them. And, I think that instead of exploiting a continent or a nation, make investments there instead so the people are able to work and this crisis would have been avoided. It’s true, as I said at Congress, it’s a refugee crisis not seen since World War II. It’s the biggest. You asked me about barriers. You know what happens to all walls. All of them. All walls fall. Today, tomorrow or in 100 years, they will fall. It’s not a solution. The Wall isn’t a solution. In this moment, Europe is in difficulty, it’s true. We have to be intelligent. We must find solutions. We must encourage dialogue between different nations, to find them. Walls are never solutions. But bridges are, always, always. I don’t know. What I think is that walls can last a little time or a long time. The problem remains but it also remains with more hatred. That’s what I think.

Jean Marie Guenois, Le Figaro: Holy Father, you obviously cannot anticipate the debate of the synod fathers, we know that well. But we want to know just before the Synod, in your heart as a pastor, if you really want a solution for the divorced and remarried. We want to also know if your ‘motu proprio’ on the speeding-up of annulments has closed this debate. Finally, how do you respond to those who fear that with this reform, there is a de-facto creation of a so-called ‘Catholic divorce.’ Thank you.

Pope Francis:  I’ll start with the last one. In the reform of the procedure and the way, I closed the door to the administrative path, which was the path through which divorce could have entered. You could say that those who think this is ‘Catholic divorce’ are wrong because this last document has closed the door to divorce by which it could have entered. It would have been easier with the administrative path. There will always be the judicial path. Continuing with the third (question): the document…. I don’t remember the third but you correct me.

Jean Marie Guenois, Le Figaro: The question was on the notion of Catholic divorce, if the motu proprio has closed the debate before the synod on this theme?

Pope Francis: This was called for by the majority of the Synod fathers in the synod last year: streamline the process because there are cases that last 10-15 years, no? There’s one sentence, then another sentence, and after there’s an appeal, there’s the appeal then another appeal. It never ends.  The double sentence, when it was valid that there was an appeal, was introduced by Papa Lambertini, Benedict XIV, because in central Europe, I won’t say which country, there were some abuses, and to stop it he introduced this but it’s not something essential to the process. The procedure changes, jurisprudence changes, it gets better. At that time it was urgent to do this, then Pius X wanted to streamline and made some changes but he didn’t have the time or the possibility to do it. The Synod fathers asked for it, the speeding up of the annulment processes. And I stop there. This document, this ‘motu proprio’ facilitates the processes and the timing, but it is not divorce because marriage is indissoluble when it is a sacrament. And this the Church cannot change. It’s doctrine. It’s an indissoluble sacrament. The legal trial is to prove that what seemed to be a sacrament wasn’t a sacrament, for lack of freedom for example, or for lack of maturity, or for mental illness. There are so many reasons that bring about (an annulment), after a study, an investigation. That there was no sacrament. For example, that the person wasn’t free.  Another example: now it’s not so common but in some sectors of common society at least in Buenos Aires, there were weddings when the woman got pregnant: ‘you have to get married.’ In Buenos Aires, I counselled my priests, strongly, I almost prohibited them to celebrate weddings in these conditions. We called them “speedy weddings”, eh? (They were) to cover up appearances. And the babies are born, and some work out but there’s no freedom and then things go wrong little by little they separate (and say) ‘I was forced to get married because we had to cover up this situation” and this is a reason for nullity. So many of them.  Cases of nullity, you have, you can find them (the reasons) on the internet there all there are many, eh? Then, the issue of the second weddings, the divorcees, who make a new union. You read what, you have the “instrumentum laboris.” what is put in discussion seems a bit simplistic to me to say that the Synod is the solution for these people and that they can have communion. That’s not the only solution. No, what the “Instrumentum laboris” proposes is a lot more, and also the problem of the new unions of divorcees isn’t the only problem. In the “Instrumentum laboris” there are many. For example, young people don’t get married. They don’t want to get married. It’s a pastoral problem for the Church. Another problem: the affective maturity for a marriage. Another problem: faith. ‘Do I believe that this is for ever? Yes, yes, yes, I believe.’ ‘But do you believe it?’ the preparation for a wedding: I think so often that to become a priest there’s a preparation for 8 years, and then, its not definite, the Church can take the clerical state away from you. But, for something lifelong, they do four courses! 4 times… Something isn’t right. It’s something the Synod has to deal with: how to do preparation for marriage. It’s one of the most difficult things. There are many problems, they’re all are listed in the “Instrumentum laboris.” But, I like that you asked the question about ‘Catholic divorce.’ That doesn’t exist. Either it wasn’t a marriage, and this is nullity — it didn’t exist. And if it did, it’s indissoluble. This is clear. Thank you.

Terry Moran, ABC News: Holy Father, thank you, thank you very much and thank you to the Vatican staff as well. Holy Father, you visited the Little Sisters of the Poor and we were told that you wanted to show your support for them and their case in the courts. And, Holy Father, do you also support those individuals, including government officials, who say they cannot in good conscience, their own personal conscience, abide by some laws or discharge their duties as government officials, for example in issuing marriage licenses to same sex couples. Do you support those kinds of claims of religious liberty?      Pope Francis: I can’t have in mind all cases that can exist about conscience objection. But, yes, I can say the conscientious objection is a right that is a part of every human right. It is a right. And if a person does not allow others to be a conscientious objector, he denies a right.Conscientious objection must enter into every juridical structure because it is a right, a human right. Otherwise we would end up in a situation where we select what is a right, saying ‘this right that has merit, this one does not.’ It (conscientious objection) is a human right. It always moved me when I read, and I read it many times, when I read the “Chanson de Roland” when the people were all in line and before them was the baptismal font and they had to choose between the baptismal font or the sword. They had to choose. They weren’t permitted conscientious objection. It is a right and if we want to make peace we have to respect all rights.

Terry Moran, ABC News: Would that include government officials as well?      Pope Francis:  It is a human right and if a government official is a human person, he has that right. It is a human right.

Stefano Maria Paci, Sky News: Holiness, you used very strong words at the UN to denounce the world’s silence on the persecution of Christians, who are deprived of their homes, thrown out, deprived of their possessions, enslaved and brutally killed. Yesterday, President Hollande announced the beginning of a bombing campaign by France on ISIS bases in Syria. What do you think of this military action?   Also, the mayor of Rome, city of the Jubilee, declared that he came to the World Meeting of Families because you invited him.  Can you tell us how it went?

Pope Francis: I will start with your second question.  I did not invite Mayor Marino. Is that clear?  I didn’t do it and I asked the organizers and they didn’t invite him either. He came. He professes to be a Catholic and he came spontaneously. That’s the first thing. But it is clear, heh? And now about bombardments. Truly, I heard the news the day before yesterday, and I haven’t read about it. I don’t know much about the situation. I heard that Russia took one position and it wasn’t clear yet about the United States.  I truly don’t know what to say because I haven’t fully understood the situation. But, when I hear the word bombing, death, blood… I repeat what I said in Congress and at the UN, to avoid these things. But, I don’t know, I can’t judge the political situation because I don’t know enough about it.

Miriam Schmidt, German DPA Agency: Holy Father, I wanted to ask a question about the relationship of the Holy See with China and the situation in this country which is also quite difficult for the Catholic Church. What do you think about this?

Pope Francis: China is a great nation that offers the world a great culture, so many good things. I said once on the plane when were flying over China when we were coming back from Korea that I would very much like so much to go to China. I love the Chinese people and I hope there is possibility of having good relations, good relations. We’re in contact, we talk, we are moving forward but for me, having a friend of a great country like China, which has so much culture and has so much opportunity to do good, would be a joy.

Maria Sagrarios Ruiz de Apodaca, RNE: Thank you. Good evening, Holy Father. You have visited the U.S. for the first time, you had never been there before. You spoke to Congress, you spoke to the United Nations. You drew multitudes. Do you feel more powerful? And another question, we heard you draw attention to the role of religious women, of the women in the Church in the United States. Will we one day see women priests in the Catholic church as some groups in the U.S. ask, and some other Christian churches have?

Pope Francis: He’s telling me not to answer in Spanish (referring to Fr. Federico Lombardi.) The sisters in the United States have done marvels in the field of education, in the field of health. The people of the United States love the sisters. I don’t know how much they love the priests, (laughs) but they love the sisters, they love them so much. They are great, they are great, great, great women. Then, one follows her congregation, their rules, there are differences. But are they great. And for that reason I felt the obligation to say thank you for what they have done. An important person of the government of the United States told me in the last few days: “The education I have, I owe above all to the sisters.” The sisters have schools in all neighborhoods, rich and poor. They work with the poor and in the hospitals. This was the first. The second? The first I remember, the second?

Maria Sagrarios Ruiz de Apodaca, RNE If you feel powerful after having been in the United States with your schedule and having been successful?

Pope Francis: I don’t know if I had success, no. But I am afraid of myself. Why am I afraid of myself? I feel always – I don’t know – weak in the sense of not having power and also power is a fleeting thing, here today, gone tomorrow. It’s important if you can do good with power. And Jesus defined power, the true power is to serve, to do service, to do the most humble services, and I must still make progress on this path of service because I feel that I don’t do everything I should do. That’s the sense I have of power.

Third, on women priests, that cannot be done. Pope St. John Paul II after long, long intense discussions, long reflection said so clearly. Not because women don’t have the capacity. Look, in the Church women are more important than men, because the church is a woman. It is “la” church, not “il” church. The Church is the bride of Jesus Christ. And the Madonna is more important than popes and bishops and priests. I must admit we are a bit late in an elaboration of the theology of women. We have to move ahead with that theology. Yes, that’s true.

Mathilde Imberty, Radio France Holy Father, you have become a star in the United States. Is it good for the Church if the Pope is a star?

Pope Francis: The Pope must… Do you know what the title was of the Pope that ought to be used? Servant of the servants of God. It’s a little different from the stars. Stars are beautiful to look at. I like to look at them in the summer when the sky is clear. But the Pope must be, must be the servant of the servants of God. Yes, in the media this is happening but there’s another truth. How many stars have we seen that go out and fall. It is a fleeting thing. On the other hand, being servant of the servants of God is something that doesn’t pass.


WORLD COMMUNICATIONS DAY 2016 – (VIS) “Communication and mercy: a fruitful encounter” is the theme chosen by the Holy Father for World Communications Day. The choice was clearly determined by the Celebration of the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy, and the Holy Father desired that World Communications Day would provide the appropriate occasion to reflect on the deep synergy between communication and mercy. World Communications Day, the only annual worldwide event called for by the Second Vatican Council, is celebrated in most countries, on the recommendation of the bishops of the world, on the Sunday before Pentecost (in 2016, May 8th). The Holy Father’s message for World Communications Day is traditionally published on January 24, the feast of St. Francis de Sales, patron of journalists.

CANTATE DOMINO: THE SISTINE CHAPEL AND MUSIC OF THE POPES – VIS/Vatican Radio)  For the first time ever, the Vatican has opened the doors of the iconic Sistine Chapel for a studio recording with the Sistine Chapel Choir – the world’s oldest choir. The new album, “Cantate Domino. The Sistine Chapel and the music of Popes,” captures the sounds of the extraordinary acoustics of the Sistine Chapel, with music performed by the Pope’s own choir.  The album was released on Deutsche Grammophon on September 25, and a presentation given Tuesday in the Holy See Press Office. Presenting the CD were Archbishop Georg Gaenswein, Prefect of the Papal Household; Msgr. Massimo Palombella, S.D.B., director of the Pontifical Sistine Chapel Choir; Mark Wilkinson, president of Deutsche Grammophon; and Mirko Gratton, director of the classical music section of Universal Italia. “The Pontifical Musical Choir, also known as the Sistine Chapel Choir, is among the oldest choral institutions in the world and has the unique characteristic of being the Pope’s choir,” explained Archbishop Gaenswein.

PAPAL MESSAGE FOR 2016 WORLD YOUTH DAY – (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis’ message for the 31st World Youth Day was released on Monday and focuses on the theme from the Beatitudes, ‘Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy’. (Mt 5:7). The next meeting of young people from across the globe will take place in the Polish city of Krakow in July 2016. In the message Pope Francis notes that the forthcoming World Youth Day takes place within the context of the Jubilee Year of Mercy. For that reason he says, it’s providential that the gathering will take place in the city associated with both Saint John Paul II and Saint Faustina Kowalska, the two great “apostles of mercy of our times.”



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Just before leaving New York for Philadelphia on Saturday morning, Pope Francis flew over the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, where millions of immigrants first set foot on American soil.

In a briefing for journalists in Philadelphia, Fr Federico Lombardi said the Pope travelled by helicopter from Downtown Manhattan to JFK airport, accompanied by the Archbishop of New York, Cardinal Timothy Dolan who pointed out the famous landmarks. The small island in the bay of New York, was the gateway for immigrants from all over the world who passed through the nation’s busiest immigrant inspection station from 1892 until 1954. (photo:


News reports quote Cardinal Dolan, who was on the papal helicopter, as saying that Pope Francis requested the detour, asking to see the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, the gateway for millions of immigrants to the U.S. – and the busiest port of entry for immigrants – from 1892 until 1954. The cardinal said the Pope appeared very “commosso” – very “moved” by the sight. The Pope’s family, in fact, was an immigrant family, migrating to Argentina from their native Italy. Migration and immigrants have been important themws for the Holy Father in his papacy.

Fr. Lombardi also told journalists the Pope went into the cockpit of the plane headed for Philadelphia to watch the pilots coming into land on the last leg of his week-long U.S. visit.

The director of the Holy See press office said at times Pope Francis finds the action-packed schedule for the visit tiring, exacerbated by the pain in his legs, for which he receives regular physiotherapy.

Looking ahead to the key events that will mark the conclusion of the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia, Fr Lombardi said the focus on the family has been a primary goal of the 10-day journey. He noted the Pope has spoken about the subject in Santiago de Cuba, at the White House, to the American bishops, to Congress and to the United Nations. (sources: Vatican Radio, AP).



News reports say that while security was massive in Washington, DC and New York City, people in both cities were still fairly able to move around. However, there seemed to be a notable build up of security in Philadelphia:


AP reports that “heightened security for Pope Francis’ weekend visit remade downtown Philadelphia into a fortified and largely deserted pedestrian mall Friday, with the usual bustle of commuters giving way to anxious anticipation. Concrete barriers, steel fencing and rows of portable toilets lined streets in the vehicle-free zone that went up overnight around the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, where Francis will participate in a festival Saturday and celebrate Mass on Sunday.

Walking to some areas required passing through airport-style metal detectors, where agents were flagging banned items, such as pocket knives and shaving cream canisters, or walking several blocks out of the way to avoid the security zone. Packs of pilgrims in colorful shirts dotted the sidewalks. On an empty Market Street, downtown’s primary thoroughfare, a man threw a football to friends and people posed for selfies. In some places, law enforcement outnumbered civilians.

Channel 6 Actio News reports: Security continues to get tighter in Center City ahead of the pope’s arrival in Philadelphia. Deadlines are looming for road, highway and bridge closures in Philadelphia and parts of the surrounding area.

“It’s necessary, so that’s what we have to do,” said Claire Martini of West Chester, Pa. Homeland Security is using an underground garage as a staging area across the street from the cathedral. It’s just one of the many signs that security is the primary consideration here. The fencing that’s going up seemingly everywhere is the most visible reminder that it’s anything but business as usual. Eventually, eight-foot tall fencing will close in the event perimeter along the Parkway and beyond. Concrete barriers for the secure vehicle perimeter were out as well. Starting at 6 a.m. Friday, metal detectors will be in place and only residents and business owners will be allowed in. Longtime residents like Tim McLaughlin appreciate the need for security, but he thinks it’s overkill. “I’ve never seen the city closed down the way it has been,” he said. “I think it’s good for security and stuff like that but I think enough is enough.” Security experts say it is necessary post in this post 9/11 world. Mark Camillo has been a high ranking Secret Service and Homeland Security agent. He says crowd size dictates the extraordinary security measures. “The crowd size is probably what’s at the top of the list of concerns. It’s about protecting the crowd from the crowd,” Camillo said. Some reports note that many faithful, including numbers of priests, have been turned away, even though they had proper identification and tickets for the papal events. In many cases, the public simply had no way of knowing that numerous access points would close at designated hours.

Fr. Frank Pavone, head of Priests for Life, wrote the following in an email entitled, “No one saw this coming”: Without warning, the Secret Service decided to ‘update the security plan’ for Pope Francis’ visit to Philadelphia and they shut down all the exhibit booths that were set up in the Marketplace area of the World Meeting of Families … including our Priests for Life booth. You see, the arrival of the Pope to Philadelphia has been preceded by a four-day conference filled with liturgy, praise, teaching, and hundreds of exhibitors from the best Catholic apostolates in the world. Like everyone else, we were blindsided by the announcement that the exhibitors had to pack up their booths a day early.”

Father then referred to the costs involved in a booth and the money that would be lost by the main apostolates involved. Each booth, for example, cost $1,500 for the entire period of the World Meeting of Families – September 22-27 – and there is no sign that that money, or a portion thereof, would be refunded. Exhibitors such as makers of religious items, publishers of Catholic books and spiritual reading, (such as EWTN) etc. also faced costs to have their merchandise delivered to Philadelphia.




(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis participated in a great gathering of families on Saturday evening in Philadelphia, host city of the World Meeting of Families, for a vigil of prayer and a celebration of the family. The following is Chris Altieri’s report for Vatican Radio from Philadelphia:

Hosted by actor Mark Wahlberg, and with a rundown that numbered several A-list personalities and legendary performers including vocalist Aretha Franklin and tenor Andrea Bocelli, the event was punctuated by the testimony of six couples representing various ages and conditions of family life:

An engaged couple from Australia, Camillus O’Kane and Kelly Walsh, whose faith gives them inspiration, courage and direction as they prepare for married life in a cultural context that is not always friendly to the idea of lifelong, selfless commitment.

A Ukrainian immigrant woman and her two sons, one of whom has special needs, and who have struggled to make a life for themselves here in the United States, and whose faith sustains them in their trials.

Nidal Mousa and Nida Joseph, a Christian family from Jordan with their two daughters, Faten and Dema, who minister to people in serious poverty, religious persecution, immigration, and war.

Ifeyinwa and Chidi, a couple from Nigeria with four children, whao are about to celebrate 24 years of marriage and who shared their experience of injury, healing and forgiveness.

Leona and Rudy Gonzales from New York, grandparents and great-grandparents of 12, who offered their witness to the indispensable role of extended family in family life.

Mario and Rosa from Argentina: married 60 years, they spoke of the need for families to rest in God’s providence.

In his own remarks to the participants, Pope Francis put aside his prepared speech, and spoke of the family as God’s great gift, and the most beautiful part of God’s creation. The family is the channel and reflection of God’s own beauty, truth, and goodness. “The family,” founded on the marital love of a man and a woman that alone can generate and nurture life according to God’s own plan, “is like a factory of hope.”

Though there are no perfect families, and though in every family there are tensions, difficulties, conflicts, challenges, there is in the family also the abiding love by which all these can be overcome. “Families have their difficulties, in families we quarrel,” he said. “Sometimes plates can fly and children bring headaches and I won’t speak about mothers-in-law! But in the family there is always light because the love of God, the Son of God opened also that door of love. But just as there are problems in families we must remember there is the light of the Resurrection.”

“Only love is able to overcome,” said Pope Francis, who went on to discuss also the intergenerational nature of the family, calling all present to remember and to care for children and elderly family members. “Children, younger and older are the future, the strength that moves us forward. Grandparents are the living memory of the family, they passed on the faith to us – to look after grandparents and children is the expression of love.”

The stakes are high – indeed they could be no higher. “A People that is not able to look after their children and grandparents is a people that has no future, because it doesn’t have strength or the memory to go forward.”

“God bless you and give you hope,” concluded Pope Francis. “God give you the strength to go forward: lets protect the family – and please pray for me.”


What was it actually like to be at the Prayer Meeting for the Festival of Families in Philadelphia on Saturday night? Vatican Radio’s correspondent Seán Patrick Lovett was there and got a bird’s eye view of the Pope, the performers and the people in the Benjamin Franklin Parkway. He reports:

The noise is always the same. It starts as a “whoop” and ends as a “yell” – thousands of vocal chords vibrating in unison. And it always means the same thing: he’s arrived.

When Pope Francis arrived on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway in Philadelphia on Saturday night for the Festival of Families, all I could think was: don’t his arms ever get tired? I mean, the Parkway is nearly ten kilometers long and, driving in the popemobile through the immense crowds lining the route since early afternoon, the Pope never stopped waving and blessing to left and right the entire way. My own arms were aching just watching him.

When the papal motorcade drew up beside the massive podium it was in a blaze of flashing police lights, screaming sirens, and roaring security vehicles. I counted 21 motor bikes and 25 bullet-proof behemoths that dwarfed the car they were there to protect. No stopping to drink a cup of maté here, no tossing soccer scarves at the Pope, or even getting closer than a hundred yards to him. Americans, who are used to this kind of thing, are saying they have never seen security like this. Neither have I. Over the past five days I have been searched by the Secret Service, frisked by the FBI, prodded by police, sniffed by bomb squad dogs, and passed through more metal detectors than they have at Heathrow.

But I was talking about Pope Francis and the Family Fest in Philadelphia.

How to describe it? I suppose it was something between a music concert, a variety show, a folk festival, and a multimedia presentation – with the occasional testimony by families thrown in to remind us why we were really there. It was a star-studded evening too: actor/producer, Mark Wahlberg, was master of ceremonies, and singing legend, Aretha Franklin, belted out her very own version of “Amazing Grace”.

Then Pope Francis spoke. Instead of following his prepared speech, he chatted to the gathering about “God’s overflowing love” that resulted in the creation of the world and how the culmination of that creative love is the family.

Thousands of families came from far and wide for the event and didn’t appear in the least deterred – either by the length of the program or by the chill autumn wind that swept down the Parkway. They continued to applaud right to the end. But then, they were making a night of it. For them, the most important event would be the closing Mass on Sunday morning and they weren’t moving. I wish I could say I was as brave




Pope Francis held a private meeting with victims of clerical sex abuse in Philadelphia on Sunday (27th September) and told bishops afterwards that such crimes “must no longer be held in secret” and promised on behalf of the Church “the accountability of all.” He met with three women and two men who had been sexually abused as children. The Pope said he remained “overwhelmed with shame that men entrusted with the tender care of children violated these little ones and caused grievous harm.  I am profoundly sorry. God weeps.”  He thanked the bishops for all they have down to “shine the light of Christ” on the “evil” of the sexual abuse of children. The Pope’s remarks came during an address with bishops attending the World Meeting of Families on the final day of his pastoral visit to the U.S.  (photo: – afp)


The half hour meeting – between 8 and 9 am Sunday – took place at the St Charles Borromeo seminary in Philadelphia on the last day of the Pope’s visit to the United States. The abuse survivors were accompanied by the Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston, head of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, as well as the Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia and by Bishop Fitzgerald who heads the local diocesan office for child protection.

In a statement the head of the Holy See press office, Fr. Federico Lombardi, said the Pope spoke with each survivor, listening to their stories and praying together with them. Fr. Lombardi said the Holy Father expressed his “participation in their suffering” as well as his pain and sense of shame for those who had been abused by members of the clergy. The statement said some of the five victims had also been abused by their teachers or members of their own families. Pope Francis renewed his personal commitment, and that of the whole Church, to ensure that survivors are “listened to and treated with justice”,  that those responsible are punished, and that such crimes are effectively combatted and prevented in the Church and in society. He also thanked the survivors for their “essential contribution” in establishing the truth and embarking on a “path of healing.” (Vatican Radio)


As I write, an inter-religious prayer service is taking place at the Ground Zero Memorial in New York. The Pope placed flowers at the site and met with 20 family members of first responders killed in the September 11, 2001 attacks. The Pope and Cardinal Timothy Dolan, archbishop of New York, will visit the Memorial Museum.

Just before 4 pm local time today, the Holy Father will visit Our Lady Queen of Angels school in Brooklyn, an elementary school for students from low income families, most of whom receive scholarships to attend this school. Pope Francis will meet children and families of immigrants. At 6 pm Friday he celebrates Mass at Madison Square Garden.

Saturday and Sunday, Pope Francis will be in Philadelphia for the long-awaited World Meeting of Families under the leadership of Abp. Charles Chaput of Philadelphia. The weekend includes Mass with bishops, clergy and religious of Pennsylvania and, at Independence National Historical Park, an encounter for religious freedom with the Hispanic community and other immigrants. Afterwards the Pope transfers to Benjamin Franklin Parkway for the Festival of Families and prayer vigil for the World Meeting of Families.

Sunday the Pope meets with bishops, visits a correctional facility and, at 4 pm, celebrates Mass for the 8th World Meeting of Families. His plane for Rome departs Philadelphia at 8 pm Sunday.


I urge you this week not to miss “Vatican Insider” and my fascinating conversation with Juliana Biondo, creator of the app called PATRUM for the Patrons of the Arts in the Vatican. A native of Baltimore, Juliana is a young, enthusiastic, dedicated member of the Patrons team with a great love for art and also for modern technology. You will not want to miss a minute of this conversation! It truly would be your loss!

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It is such fun to be around young people today! The ones I know – and now I add Juliana to that list! – seem to be ultra-talented, intelligent, exuberant youths, far-sighted young people with a passion for life and all the newness it brings every day – and technology is certainly a part of that! And you will see this when Juliana explains PATRUM and how the idea for this app came about and what she anticipates bringing to it on a daily basis. It is available now only for Apple products but the Android app is under development.

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:


In a highly anticipated speech to the United Nations General Assembly, Pope Francis Friday afternoon spoke of the protection of the environment, the protection of man, in particular, the poor, marginalized, excluded and victims of war and violence, today’s “culture of waste,” and the effects of a globalized economy that runs rampant, which too often leads to social exclusion with, “its baneful consequences: human trafficking, the marketing of human organs and tissues, the sexual exploitation of boys and girls, slave labour, including prostitution, the drug and weapons trade, terrorism and international organized crime.”

The Holy Father’s Spanish-language talk was 3,700 words in length. Translations were on the Vatican website, and simultaneous interpretation was offered at U.N. headquarters.

His entire address in English can be found here:

Following are some of the salient paragraphs:

“…the experience of the past seventy years has made it clear that reform and adaptation to the times is always necessary in the pursuit of the ultimate goal of granting all countries, without exception, a share in, and a genuine and equitable influence on, decision-making processes. The need for greater equity is especially true in the case of those bodies with effective executive capability, such as the Security Council, the Financial Agencies and the groups or mechanisms specifically created to deal with economic crises. This will help limit every kind of abuse or usury, especially where developing countries are concerned. The International Financial Agencies are should care for the sustainable development of countries and should ensure that they are not subjected to oppressive lending systems which, far from promoting progress, subject people to mechanisms which generate greater poverty, exclusion and dependence.”

“The work of the United Nations, according to the principles set forth in the Preamble and the first Articles of its founding Charter, can be seen as the development and promotion of the rule of law, based on the realization that justice is an essential condition for achieving the ideal of universal fraternity. In this context, it is helpful to recall that the limitation of power is an idea implicit in the concept of law itself. To give to each his own, to cite the classic definition of justice, means that no human individual or group can consider itself absolute, permitted to bypass the dignity and the rights of other individuals or their social groupings. The effective distribution of power (political, economic, defense-related, technological, etc.) among a plurality of subjects, and the creation of a juridical system for regulating claims and interests, are one concrete way of limiting power.”

“First, it must be stated that a true ‘right of the environment’ does exist, for two reasons. First, because we human beings are part of the environment. We live in communion with it, since the environment itself entails ethical limits which human activity must acknowledge and respect. … Second, because every creature, particularly a living creature, has an intrinsic value, in its existence, its life, its beauty and its interdependence with other creatures. We Christians, together with the other monotheistic religions, believe that the universe is the fruit of a loving decision by the Creator, who permits man respectfully to use creation for the good of his fellow men and for the glory of the Creator; he is not authorized to abuse it, much less to destroy it. In all religions, the environment is a fundamental good (cf. ibid.).

“The misuse and destruction of the environment are also accompanied by a relentless process of exclusion. In effect, a selfish and boundless thirst for power and material prosperity leads both to the misuse of available natural resources and to the exclusion of the weak and disadvantaged, either because they are differently abled (handicapped), or because they lack adequate information and technical expertise, or are incapable of decisive political action. Economic and social exclusion is a complete denial of human fraternity and a grave offense against human rights and the environment. The poorest are those who suffer most from such offenses, for three serious reasons: they are cast off by society, forced to live off what is discarded and suffer unjustly from the abuse of the environment. They are part of today’s widespread and quietly growing “culture of waste.”

“…The classic definition of justice which I mentioned earlier contains as one of its essential elements a constant and perpetual will: Iustitia est constans et perpetua voluntas ius sum cuique tribuendi. Our world demands of all government leaders a will which is effective, practical and constant, concrete steps and immediate measures for preserving and improving the natural environment and thus putting an end as quickly as possible to the phenomenon of social and economic exclusion, with its baneful consequences: human trafficking, the marketing of human organs and tissues, the sexual exploitation of boys and girls, slave labour, including prostitution, the drug and weapons trade, terrorism and international organized crime. Such is the magnitude of these situations and their toll in innocent lives, that we must avoid every temptation to fall into a declarationist nominalism which would assuage our consciences. We need to ensure that our institutions are truly effective in the struggle against all these scourges.”

“… It must never be forgotten that political and economic activity is only effective when it is understood as a prudential activity, guided by a perennial concept of justice and constantly conscious of the fact that, above and beyond our plans and programmes, we are dealing with real men and women who live, struggle and suffer, and are often forced to live in great poverty, deprived of all rights.

“To enable these real men and women to escape from extreme poverty, we must allow them to be dignified agents of their own destiny. Integral human development and the full exercise of human dignity cannot be imposed. They must be built up and allowed to unfold for each individual, for every family, in communion with others, and in a right relationship with all those areas in which human social life develops – friends, communities, towns and cities, schools, businesses and unions, provinces, nations, etc. This presupposes and requires the right to education – also for girls (excluded in certain places) – which is ensured first and foremost by respecting and reinforcing the primary right of the family to educate its children, as well as the right of churches and social groups to support and assist families in the education of their children. Education conceived in this way is the basis for the implementation of the 2030 Agenda and for reclaiming the environment.

“At the same time, government leaders must do everything possible to ensure that all can have the minimum spiritual and material means needed to live in dignity and to create and support a family, which is the primary cell of any social development. In practical terms, this absolute minimum has three names: lodging, labour, and land; and one spiritual name: spiritual freedom, which includes religious freedom, the right to education and other civil rights.”

“Without the recognition of certain incontestable natural ethical limits and without the immediate implementation of those pillars of integral human development, the ideal of “saving succeeding generations from the scourge of war” (Charter of the United Nations, Preamble), and “promoting social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom” (ibid.), risks becoming an unattainable illusion, or, even worse, idle chatter which serves as a cover for all kinds of abuse and corruption, or for carrying out an ideological colonization by the imposition of anomalous models and lifestyles which are alien to people’s identity and, in the end, irresponsible.

“War is the negation of all rights and a dramatic assault on the environment. If we want true integral human development for all, we must work tirelessly to avoid war between nations and between peoples.

To this end, there is a need to ensure the uncontested rule of law and tireless recourse to negotiation, mediation and arbitration, as proposed by the Charter of the United Nations, which constitutes truly a fundamental juridical norm….”

“ … Strongly opposed to such statements, and in practice denying them, is the constant tendency to the proliferation of arms, especially weapons of mass distraction, such as nuclear weapons. An ethics and a law based on the threat of mutual destruction – and possibly the destruction of all mankind – are self-contradictory and an affront to the entire framework of the United Nations, which would end up as “nations united by fear and distrust.

“The recent agreement reached on the nuclear question in a sensitive region of Asia and the Middle East is proof of the potential of political good will and of law, exercised with sincerity, patience and constancy. I express my hope that this agreement will be lasting and efficacious, and bring forth the desired fruits with the cooperation of all the parties involved.

“… While regretting to have to do so, I must renew my repeated appeals regarding to the painful situation of the entire Middle East, North Africa and other African countries, where Christians, together with other cultural or ethnic groups, and even members of the majority religion who have no desire to be caught up in hatred and folly, have been forced to witness the destruction of their places of worship, their cultural and religious heritage, their houses and property, and have faced the alternative either of fleeing or of paying for their adhesion to good and to peace by their own lives, or by enslavement.

“These realities should serve as a grave summons to an examination of conscience on the part of those charged with the conduct of international affairs. Not only in cases of religious or cultural persecution, but in every situation of conflict, as in Ukraine, Syria, Iraq, Libya, South Sudan and the Great Lakes region, real human beings take precedence over partisan interests, however legitimate the latter may be. In wars and conflicts there are individual persons, our brothers and sisters, men and women, young and old, boys and girls who weep, suffer and die. Human beings who are easily discarded when our only response is to draw up lists of problems, strategies and disagreements.”

“Along the same lines I would mention another kind of conflict which is not always so open, yet is silently killing millions of people. Another kind of war experienced by many of our societies as a result of the narcotics trade. A war which is taken for granted and poorly fought. Drug trafficking is by its very nature accompanied by trafficking in persons, money laundering, the arms trade, child exploitation and other forms of corruption.”

“The common home of all men and women must continue to rise on the foundations of a right understanding of universal fraternity and respect for the sacredness of every human life, of every man and every woman, the poor, the elderly, children, the infirm, the unborn, the unemployed, the abandoned, those considered disposable because they are only considered as part of a statistic. This common home of all men and women must also be built on the understanding of a certain sacredness of created nature.

“Such understanding and respect call for a higher degree of wisdom, one which accepts transcendence, rejects the creation of an all-powerful élite, and recognizes that the full meaning of individual and collective life is found in selfless service to others and in the sage and respectful use of creation for the common good.”


Internationally known portrait artist, Igor Babailov, officially unveiled his portrait of Pope Francis yesterday afternoon at the apostolic nunciature, the Vatican embassy, in Washington. The painting commemorates the historic visit of the Holy Father to the United States. Babailov has painted the official portraits of some of the most important leaders in our century including presidents, prime ministers, royalty and celebrities and three Popes.

In a press release about the unveiling, Babailov says, “My painting of Pope Francis which I called ‘The Holy Cross,’ is more than a portrait in the traditional sense. It is a story of the Pope told through symbols with the Pontiff’s figure in the center. It tells of His Holiness’s mission of love, faith and devotion to help the needy and bring people of the world together. During the unveiling of the painting, the Holy Father said to me ‘It is inspirational, it touches me!’”

In this photo, Igor is explaining the symbolism to Pope Francis: They are joined by Msgr. Mark Miles, who has been the papal translator throughout the trip so far and Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, the apostolic nuncio. Behind Igor is Alberto Gasbarri, the papal trip advance man.


His portrait of St. John Paul II hangs in the Vatican in Castelgandolfo and his portrait of Pope Benedict XVI hangs in the Vatican in Rome. Pope emeritus Benedict XVI personally selected Babailov’s portrait to represent his papacy in the Vatican Splendor’s museum tour in the US, where more than 200 artifacts that had never left the Vatican Museums, were displayed. Igor Babailov was the only living artist to exhibit alongside Michelangelo.

Pope Francis’ portrait –

Igor 1

I have known Mary and Igor for many years and we get together each time they come to Rome. The last time Mary and Igor were in Rome, as a matter of fact, Igor sat close to Pope Francis during a Wednesday general audience so he could capture the Pope’s expressions, movements, etc.

Igor has told me he relies on his hand drawings, on sketches done in the presence of the person whose portrait he will do. He said he cannot work from photographs because he feels he cannot capture the essence the spirit, the soul of his subject through a photo, And yet, one of his most famous portraits, such as that of George Washington, have been done based on previous paintings. (Here is his website:

Mary said in an email to me with the two photos, “Words cannot communicate yesterday, only love could.”