Tune in this weekend for Part II of my conversation with Jesuit Father Christopher Corbally when we met in August in the Hawaii Convention Center during week two of the general assembly of the International Astronomical Union. Fr. Corbally is an astronomer with the Vatican Observatory Research Group in Tucson, home to the famous VATT, Vatican Advanced Technology Telescope. Among other things, he is a member of the Royal Astronomical Society, the American Astronomical Society, and a member of the Institute on Religion in an Age of Science.

20150812_044522 20150812_042951

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:


(VIS) – This morning in the Clementine Hall the Holy Father met with 300 participants in the meeting promoted by the Foundation for Sustainable Development on “Environmental Justice and Climate Change,” which was attended by major representatives of religion, politics, economic activity and scientific research in various sectors, international organizations and those involved in the fight against poverty. “We must not forget the grave social consequences of climate change,” affirmed the Pope in his address. “It is the poorest who suffer the worst consequences. Therefore … the issue of climate change is a a matter of justice; it is also a question of solidarity, that must never be separated from justice. … Science and technology place an unprecedented power in our hands: it is our duty to humanity as a whole, and in particular the poorest and future generations, to use it for the common good.”

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis met on Friday with President Tomislav Nikolic of the Serbian Republic to discuss common interests, including the current refugee crisis, as well as relations between the Catholic and Orthodox Churches in the Balkan country. A statement from the Vatican press office after the private meeting said the two leaders also discussed Serbia’s progress towards integration into the European Union and the Catholic Church’s contribution to the common good of Serbian society. (photo:


(VIS) – “Called to evangelise: witnesses and messengers of the joy of the Gospel”, was the theme of the General Chapter of the Congregation of Missionaries, Sons of the Immaculate Heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Claretians) whom Pope Francis received this morning in audience in the Consistory Hall. Francis thanked the members of the Congregation for their missionary life and work, also asking them to greet all their brethren on his behalf, “especially those who, due to illness or advanced age, collaborate through prayer and witness to the mission of the congregation.” “St. Anthony Mary Claret, your founder, gave your congregation a beautiful name: Sons of the Immaculate Heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary,” said the Pope. “Let all the dimensions of your lives be profoundly marked by this ‘intimacy’, that inspired in Mary the beautiful hymn of the Magnificat; and express the maternity of the Church, merciful mother, who never ceases to hope, to accompany and to forgive.”


(Vatican Radio) “[Pope Francis] is a man of humility and humanity, and he is a man of moral voice, and purpose.” Those were the words the UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, used to describe the Holy Father in an exclusive interview with Vatican Radio ahead of the Pope’s visit to the United Nations in New York at the end of September. “We are looking forward with great excitement [to] His Holiness, Pope Francis’ visit to the United Nations,” said Ban, adding, “I’m grateful for his compassionate leadership for peace and humanity.”

In a broad-ranging conversation with Paolo Mastrolilli, long-time US correspondent for Vatican Radio’s Italian-language news service, Ban addressed the ongoing refugee crisis in the Mediterranean basin and at the borders of Europe, persecution of minorities, climate change, sustainable development, and international political and security issues ranging from poverty reduction to the recently-reached nuclear agreement between the so-called P5+1 nations including the United States, and Iran.

Ban called on European leaders to increase their efforts to help and welcome migrants and refugees, saying, “I commend the leadership and global solidarity the European leaders are showing, but at the same time, in view of the gravity and the scale of this crisis, I would naturally expect that European leaders should do more.”

On the closely related issue of ongoing war in Syria and persecution of religious and ethnic minorities – especially Christians – throughout the whole Mideast region and beyond, Ban said, “There should be no such discrimination – against anybody – on the basis of any criteria of religion or ethnicity – and it is totally unacceptable to persecute, to discriminate [against] people on the basis of their beliefs – on the basis of who you love, what you believe.” Ban went on to say, “Migrants and refugees should be treated humanely, responsibly, under the international refugee convention, international humanitarian laws, and international human rights laws.” The UN Secretary-General went on to renew his call on European nations, especially, to show enlightened and humane leadership. “Therefore, I am urging European leaders – again – that they should open borders and provide necessary, life-saving humanitarian assistance: we have to show the compassion to these people,” Ban said.

Discussing Iran, Ban reiterated his support for the agreement, his confidence in its ability to keep Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, and his hope that all parties will ratify. He also renewed his assurances that the United Nations stands ready to help guarantee the terms of the agreement are respected. “The United Nations [remains ready] to assist in the implementation of this process in monitoring and verification by the International Atomic Energy Agency,” said Ban.

Click here to read UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s extended conversation with Paolo Mastrolilli in exclusive for Vatican Radio:




Days after the 9-11 attacks on New York and Washington, and the downing of the plane over Pennsylvania, I wrote an email to everyone in my address book at that time, family and friends alike. Today, as we commemorate the 14th anniversary of those attacks, I thought about that letter and how I described my feelings, the reactions here in Rome and in Europe, and how people marked September 11th, one of the blackest days in American history.

It was fascinating to re-read that email – which I entitled “Forever Changed” – at a distance of 14 years and I’d like to share it with you (I have shared this before if you have a sense of deja vu). As I read it, I could only think, “plus ça change, plus ça reste le meme” (the more things change, the more they stay the same).

At the time, I was working for the Vatican Information Service.

The horror of terrorism is with us still, perhaps even stronger today than on 9-11 especially with the killing claws of ISIS.

Here is that September 2001 letter.

Dear Family and friends,

I had all the best intentions of writing to you last week, following the horrific, unspeakable events in our nation, but too many things got in the way and time just ran out each day. I had just returned to Rome from the States so there was some jet lag, but mainly a great deal of work as soon as I came back. And then our days became filled with and dominated by nonstop CNN coverage of doubtless the most incredible week in our nation’s history. I am not sure the magnitude of that terrorist attack is truly implanted in my brain yet.

Please sit down and have a second cup of coffee for this will be a long letter. Today I wanted to share with you not only my feelings, but life in Rome as of 2:46 p.m. (local time) on Black Tuesday.

On September 11, just before 3 p.m. Rome time (9 a.m. in NYC), my colleague Alfonso called from his office next to mine and told me to turn on CNN – the only American channel we had on our office TV at the time – to see something horrendous. I did so and thought for about one minute that I was looking at a horrible plane accident. And then I saw – right there on my screen, bigger than life – a second plane directly hit the other Twin Tower – and I knew it was terrorism. I was riveted to the screen, my brain not yet totally processing what my eyes had seen – and then the news that the Pentagon was burning! And then that a fourth plane, with terrorist commandos, had crashed in the Pennsylvania countryside.

Real became surreal.

The impossible became possible.

I watched TV in the office for a few hours and then went home. Since my satellite dish has not been working since July, I watched a bit of Italian news and then took a nap, trying to shake off jet lag, and later joined American friends for dinner that night at their house where we watch FoxNews. These were times when one craved the company and comfort of friends, especially American friends.

The next hours and days the TV became like another limb on my body – I could not get through the days without it – especially because we were cut off from America. For a day or two it was tough or impossible to reach New York and Washington via phone and for a number of days there was no physical way to get to the United States from Rome – or anywhere else in the world. You’ll never understand that feeling – although some of you to whom I’m writing live in Rome or abroad so you DO understand.

I know all of you have been watching TV and I am sure you are fully aware of the support for the U.S. around the world – the candlelight vigils and processions, the myriad church services, the flying of flags at half mast, the countless bouquets of flowers laid near embassies or consulates, the Europeans who stopped their American friends – or even strangers – to pat their arms, express their condolences, give them a hug, buy them a meal or ask if they needed someone to be near them. The three young children of an American colleague of mine in the press office all asked Joy if they could donate blood to help the wounded Americans. My friends at a restaurant I frequent(ed) in Rome helped some of the Americans stranded here last week by offering them their meals. I am sure such stories were repeated throughout Italy – and the world.

I am also sure you saw the extraordinarily moving images of how Europe mourned last Friday when everyone and everything stopped for 3 minutes at noon and stores kept their doors closed for 10 minutes starting at noon.

Whoever they were – simple citizens, government leaders, tourists, salespeople, business men and women – alone, in twos, groups of 10, 100 and 100,000 – and wherever they were at noon – at outdoor markets, in churches, touring, eating lunch in a fancy restaurant or a fast food place, at work in factories, offices and stores – they simply stopped, frozen in their tracks, silent in prayer and reflection for 3 minutes. It was like the biblical story of Lot’s wife being turned into a pillar of salt. To see the images on the Italian news that afternoon and evening was remarkable, moving and unforgettable. One station played “Amazing Grace” for 3 minutes and simply showed images of how Europeans stopped, put their lives on hold for 3 minutes and mourned. >

Here in the Vatican the staff members of each office in the Roman Curia prayed the angelus at noon and sang the requiem. I sincerely hope you all saw the unforgettable pictures of an anguished Pope John Paul praying in his private chapel at Castelgandolfo. And, in a first in the history of weekly general audiences, the Holy Father dedicated his weekly catechesis during the September 12 audience in St. Peter’s Square, not to a religious or spiritual theme, but entirely to the attack in the United States. And that is what my show on Vatican Radio that Wednesday was dedicated to – as were many program in many languages.

Italians have called and written me (and just about every American living in this great country) to express their condolences, horror, indignation, disbelief, anger and support for our country. They have also expressed in recent days their fears that the U.S. will retaliate in such a way that they will stoop to the level of the terrorists and ending up killing innocent people. Europeans, to a man, woman and child, have said they are all Americans now. Every Italian who has spoken to me has said how well they know that their country, that Europe, would not be what it is today had it not been for America during and after World War II – especially the Marshall Plan. “For once in our lives, we can now help America,” is what they tell me.

As the hours, then the days, then the first week passed, feelings have changed very little. If anything they are more profound. The mourning will be lengthy, the anger deep, the revulsion everlasting. All of us STILL want to wake up – because we know this was all just a terrible nightmare and things will be right when dawn comes and the sun rises and warms us and dissipates the darkness that surrounds us.

We have, like it or not, awakened – only to discover that this has not been a dream or a nightmare but rather our worst nightmare come true. And the full impact will come in small ways and large: a greater police presence at monuments, embassies, government buildings, military bases and “symbols” such as the Eiffel Tower, the Colosseum, St. Peter’s, etc. There will be more requests for IDs as we move about, and also a terrific impact on the world of travel – passengers, airline employees, travel agents, airport employees and so on.

I’d like to interject two personal notes here: 1. I don’t mind if some of my rights are abbreviated if the new measures being enacted will help to eradicate terrorism in the world; 2. I do not agree with the media who feel that the public “has a right” to know everything that is going on. We do not have a right – nor do we need to know what the government is planning. I don’t want America to cease being an open society – but we don’t have to know what the CIA, FBI, etc., etc., are doing to entrap and/or capture terrorists, to infiltrate their organizations, to destroy their economic base.

This past Sunday at 10:30 at the church of Santa Susanna here in Rome, the parish for Americans that has been run by the Paulist Fathers since 1922, there was an extraordinarily touching and beautiful Mass for the victims and families and friends of the victims of this attack. American Cardinal Edmund Szoka presided, about 50 priests (one of whom lost a relative) concelebrated and I was honored to be one of the three lectors. There were so many people that they flowed out of the church and onto the adjacent piazza. The new ambassador to the Holy See, Jim Nicholson was there with his wife Suzanne, as well as former Ambassador Thomas Melady and his wife, Margaret. A surprise guest, who found himself stranded in Rome after the attacks, was Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia and his wife.

Father Paul Robichaud, our rector, gave a beautiful homily and tried to answer the questions “Where was God?” and “Why did God allow this to happen?” Half of Sunday’s collection will be sent to New York to help the families of the victims.

At the end of Mass Cardinal Szoka offered some stirring reflections in both English and Italian and then Ambassador Nicholson spoke. He had paper in front of him but rarely looked at it – the words came straight from his heart. As we processed out of church, we three lectors were last and Richard Zaccaroli carried the U.S. flag – which received an enormous round of applause. We stood outside the church and sang patriotic songs, reluctant to leave each other.

I know that what we did here in Rome was repeated thousands of time, in tens of thousands of churches, all around the world. Our fears, our hurt and anger, our pride, our solidarity, our patriotism, our hopes, our prayers – the entire spectrum of emotions – you felt and lived these and so did we.

Well, dear family and friends, I think that is it for now. I’m sure I will think of things I missed, but thanks for hanging in there

A closing note before I leave you: I have a colorful sign on my desk that I’d like to share with you: “Don’t just live the length of your life, Live the width of it as well.”

God bless you one and all! May He protect you and yours – and may He give you an extra big hug today!