I leave tomorrow to spend Christmas and New Year’s in the States with family and friends, the first Christmas at home in a few years. There is little news today from the Vatican (more time to pack!) so my sole offering is a Christmas reflection called “One Solitary Life” – I know you will be moved beyond telling.

I have prepared a Christmas special for “Vatican Insider” this coming weekend. and be sure to also tune in to “At Home with Jim and Joy” when I bring some news and specials from Rome.

Before I forget, abundant and heartfelt thanks for the avalanche of beautiful messages and emails about my investiture as a Lady of the Order of the Holy Sepulchre. More than anything, I wish I could have responded individually but you are in my heart and my prayers!

May your Christmas be beautiful and blessed! May you find new meaning in the birth of Our Lord and Savior and His eternal presence among us, and may the New Year enrich the gifts of Faith, Hope and Love and, especially this Jubilee Year, mercy! May God sit on your shoulder now and throughout the New Year!

I took the photo you see in “One Solitary Life” at a church in Beit Sahour, a small Palestinian town east of Bethlehem, at what is known as Shepherd’s Field – where an Angel appeared to the Shepherds to announce the birth of Christ. When I was on a pilgrimage here, we had Mass in what is known as the shepherds cave. The Franciscans acquired a shrine there in 1347. Here are two other photos from the Shepherds Field church.

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These pictures were taken in the grotto of the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem. The last two show an area beneath an altar: the star you see is placed above the spot where tradition says Baby Jesus was born and laid in the manger.

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This powerful Christmas column by late columnist Jimmy Bishop will surely leave you speechless for its beauty, simplicity and yet depth of understanding. I heard this for the first time a number of years ago when Andy Williams recited this in one of his Christmas albums:

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“He was born in an obscure village, the Child of a peasant teen who knew not man. He grew up in another obscure village, where He worked in a carpenter shop until He was thirty. Then for three years He was an itinerant preacher. He never married or owned a home. He never held a job, yet paid taxes. He never set foot inside a metropolis. He never traveled two hundred miles from the place He was born. He never wrote a book, or held an office. He did none of the things that usually accompany greatness. He received no awards, no medals, no prizes from His peers.

“While He was still a young man, the tide of popular opinion turned against Him. His friends deserted Him. He was turned over to His enemies, and went through the mockery of a trial. He had no lawyers, no friendly juries, no fair hearing. He was nailed to a cross between two thieves. While He was dying, His executioners gambled for the only piece of property He had – His cloak. After He died, He was taken down and laid in a borrowed grave. Those who stood watch could not explain His disappearance.

“And yet two thousand years have come and gone, and today He is still the central figure for much of the human race. All the armies that ever marched and al the navies that ever sailed and all the parliaments that ever sat and all the kings that ever reigned, put together, have not affected the life of man upon this earth as powerfully as this ‘One Solitary Life’.”



This past weekend was one of the most remarkable of my entire life as I became a Dama, a Lady of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem.

Friday at St. Mary Major Basilica, I joined seven women and 37 men who would be received into the Order the following day right before Mass at St. John Lateran. On Friday there was a prayer vigil and the Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament, Liturgy of the Word, a reading by all of us, future Ladies and Knights, of promises to the Order and the blessings of our capes and decorations.

Saturday, at St. John Lateran, the actual rite of investiture took place during which we received our decorations, had our capes placed on our shoulders and the women had their veils placed on their head.

Every moment of each day was extraordinary. By the end of Mass Saturday I truly felt like I had just taken religious vows and, in a way, that is what happens when you are received into this Order. The Order of the Holy Sepulchre and the Order of Malta are the only two chivalric Orders under the protection of the Holy See. Women in the Order of the Holy Sepulchre are called “Ladies,” whereas in Malta they are called Dames.

EWTN covered the entire ceremony Saturday and one of my colleagues took some photos afterwards. The Vatican’s photographer from the L’Osservatore Romano was the official photographer for each ceremony but those photos are not yet ready. When they are ready, I will post a few and give a more detailed explanation of both the ceremonies and what my mind and heart felt those days.

Here are a few photos from my CNA colleague:



Today was an important day for the communications offices of the Holy See and a big day for the Number One communicator, Pope Francis!

The Vatican published some nominations over the weekend, two of which are especially important for English-speaking personnel of the Roman Curia: Bishop-elect Paul Tighe and Greg Burke. The third nomination was a promotion of an Italian within the CTV, The Vatican television Center:

Msgr. Paul Tighe, secretary of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, was named adjunct secretary of the Pontifical Council for Culture and elevated to the dignity of bishop. Gregory Burke, currently communications adviser at the Secretariat of State, was appointed deputy director of the Holy See Press Office, effective February 1, 2016. and Stefano D’Agostini, Italy, technical head of the Vatican Television (CTV), as director of the CTV. (Here’s a great story from L’Osservatore Romano about Greg:

As for Pope Francis, he delivered a lengthy address this morning during his annual exchange of Christmas wishes with ranking officials of the Roman Curia and then, in the Paul VI Hall, welcomed employees of the Roman Curia and Vatican City, along with family members.


Pope Francis greeted the ranking members of the Roman Curia in the Clementine Hall this morning before delivering his annual Christmas remarks and asked them to forgive him for sitting down to speak: “I am not feeling that well, I think I have a touch of the flu,” he said.

In reality, Francis gave no sign of feeling poorly, speaking with feeling and with gestures. And after his talk he went around the room to individually greet the assembled prelates.


Following are some of the highlights of that Christmas talk:

The Pope began by saying, “I am pleased to offer heartfelt good wishes for a blessed Christmas and a happy New Year to you and your co-workers, to the Papal Representatives, and in particular to those who in the past year have completed their service and retired.

He noted that in his 2013 talk, “I wanted to stress two important and inseparable aspects of the work of the Curia: professionalism and service. Last year, as a preparation for the sacrament of Reconciliation, we spoke of certain temptations or “maladies” – the “catalogue of curial diseases” – which could affect any Christian, curia, community, congregation, parish or ecclesial movement.”

Francis said, “Some of these diseases became evident in the course of the past year, causing no small pain to the entire body and harming many soul,” an allusion to the Vatileaks 2 scandal.

The Pope stated, vis-à-vis-the Curia, that, “the reform will move forward with determination, clarity and firm resolve, since Ecclesia semper reformanda.

“Nonetheless,” he went on, “diseases and even scandals cannot obscure the efficiency of the services rendered to the Pope and to the entire Church by the Roman Curia, with great effort, responsibility, commitment and dedication, and this is a real source of consolation.”

“It would be a grave injustice not to express heartfelt gratitude and needed encouragement to all those good and honest men and women in the Curia who work with dedication, devotion, fidelity and professionalism, offering to the Church and the Successor of Peter the assurance of their solidarity and obedience, as well as their constant prayers.”

Pope Francis highlighted the need “to return to the essentials, which means being ever more conscious of ourselves, of God and our neighbours, of the sensus Ecclesiae and the sensus fidei.  It is about this return to essentials that I wish to speak today, just a few days after the Church’s inauguration of the pilgrimage of the Holy Year of Mercy.”

The Pope said he wanted “to present a practical aid for fruitfully experiencing this season of grace.  It is by no means an exhaustive catalogue of needed virtues for those who serve in the Curia and for all those who would like to make their consecration or service to the Church more fruitful.” Francis said he hoped the following list of 12 virtues would “serve as our guide and beacon.” (I have abbreviated his remarks on each virtue)

1.        Missionary and pastoral spirit: missionary spirit is what makes the Curia evidently fertile and fruitful; it is proof of the effectiveness, efficiency and authenticity of our activity.

2.        Idoneity and sagacity: idoneity, or suitability, entails personal effort aimed at acquiring the necessary requisites for exercising as best we can our tasks and duties with intelligence and insight.  It does not countenance “recommendations” and payoffs.  Sagacity is the readiness to grasp and confront situations with shrewdness and creativity.”

3.        Spirituality and humanity: spirituality is the backbone of all service in the Church and in the Christian life.  It is what nourishes all our activity, sustaining and protecting it from human frailty and daily temptation.  Humanity is what embodies the truthfulness of our faith; those who renounce their humanity renounce everything.”

4.        Example and fidelity: Blessed Paul VI reminded the Curia of “its calling to set an example.” An example of avoiding scandals which harm souls and impair the credibility of our witness.  Fidelity to our consecration, to our vocation, always mindful of the words of Christ, “Whoever is faithful in a very little is faithful also in much;”

5.        Rationality and gentleness: rationality helps avoid emotional excesses, while gentleness helps avoid an excess of bureaucracy, programmes and planning. These qualities are necessary for a balanced personality.”

6.        Innocuousness and determination: innocuousness makes us cautious in our judgments and capable of refraining from impulsive and hasty actions.  It is the ability to bring out the best in ourselves, in others and in all kinds of situations by acting carefully and attentively. … Determination is acting with a resolute will, clear vision, obedience to God and solely for the supreme law of the salus animarum.”

7.        Charity and truth: two inseparable virtues of the Christian life, “speaking the truth in charity and practising charity in truth.”

8.        Honesty and maturity: honesty is rectitude, consistency and absolute sincerity with regard both to ourselves and to God. … Maturity is the quest to achieve balance and harmony in our physical, mental and spiritual gifts.  It is the goal and outcome of a never-ending process of development which has nothing to do with age.”

9.        Respectfulness and humility: respectfulness is an endowment of those noble and tactful souls who always try to show genuine respect for others, for their own work, for their superiors and subordinates, for dossiers and papers, for confidentiality and privacy, who can listen carefully and speak politely. Humility is the virtue of the saints and those godly persons who become all the more important as they come to realize that they are nothing, and can do nothing, apart from God’s grace.

10.    Diligence and attentiveness: the more we trust in God and His providence, the more we grow in diligence and readiness to give of ourselves, in the knowledge that the more we give the more we receive. ,.. Attentiveness is concern for the little things, for doing our best and never yielding to our vices and failings.”

11.    Intrepidness and alertness: being intrepid means fearlessness in the face of troubles, like Daniel in the den of lions, or David before Goliath. … Alertness, on the other hand, is the ability to act freely and easily, without being attached to fleeting material things.”

12.    Trustworthiness and sobriety: trustworthy persons are those who honour their commitments with seriousness and responsibility when they are being observed, but above all when they are alone; … Sobriety is prudence, simplicity, straightforwardness, balance and temperance.  Sobriety is seeing the world through God’s eyes and from the side of the poor.”.

“And so,” concluded Pope Francis, “may mercy guide our steps, inspire our reforms and enlighten our decisions.  May it be the basis of all our efforts.  May it teach us when to move forward and when to step back.  May it also enable us to understand the littleness of all that we do in God’s greater plan of salvation and his majestic and mysterious working.”


(VIS) – This morning in the Paul VI Hall Pope Francis exchanged Christmas greetings with the employees of the Holy See and Vatican City State, and their families.

Francis thanked all present for their work and for their efforts in doing all things well, even when there is no recognition. He addressed in particular those who have carried out the same type of work for many years, acknowledging that routine is not always easy to accept because “we are not machines … At times we need an incentive, or to change a little. … Thank you! Let us continue to go ahead, in our various workplaces, collaborating with patience and endeavouring to help each other.”

The Holy Father also apologized for the scandals that have taken place in the Vatican. “But I would like my and your attitude, especially in these days, to be that of prayer: praying for those involved so that they may repent and return to a righteous path.”

“There is another thing I wish to say to you, possibly the most important: I encourage you to take care of your marriage and your children. Look after them, do not neglect them. Marriage is like a plant. It is not like a cupboard that you put in a room and perhaps dust every now and then. A plant is living and must be cared for every day. … Marriage is a living reality: the life of a couple must never be taken for granted, in any phase during the progress of a family. Let us remember that the most valuable gift for children … is their parents’ love. And I do not mean only the love of parents for their children, but also the love between parents themselves, that is, the conjugal bond. This is good for you and for your children,”

“Therefore, first and foremost cultivate the plant of marriage, as spouses, and at the same time take care of the relationship with your children; here too, focus on the human relationship rather than material things. Focus on mercy in your daily relations, between husband and wife, parents and children, brothers and sisters; and take care of grandparents. The Jubilee must be lived also in the domestic church, not only in major events! The Lord love those who practice mercy in ordinary situations. This is my wish for you: to experience the joy of mercy, starting with your family. Happy Christmas!”




As soon as I learned the news this morning, I posted one line on my Facebook page: FLASH – Mother Teresa to be canonized!

I heard the news this morning at Vatican Radio when I went to record “Joan’s Rome” and I put it on Facebook immediately via my Samsung phone.

How can you not love this photo of two of the greatest people who have graced this earth! (photo:


Though the announcement was made public only today, it refers to a meeting Pope Francis had yesterday, December 17 (his birthday) with Cardinal Amato, prefect of the Congregation for Causes of Saints, in which three decrees were promulgated, the first of which was for a miracle for Mother Teresa. Just two days earlier, 17 decrees were promulgated in another similar meeting.

The Pope gave himself – and us! – a great gift!

I have written about this for some time, saying I expected the announcement of her canonization to take place during the third week of December. Even Wednesday, on the radio with Teresa Tomeo during our weekly EWTN program, “Catholic Connection,” I mentioned I was expecting the decree for Mother Teresa and was disappointed when it was not announced that day.

Well, now it is official! It is expected she will be canonized in 2016 on or near the date of her September 5, 1997 death: Deo gratias!

Pope Francis on Thursday authorized the Congregation for the Causes of Saints to promulgate a decree regarding a miracle attributed to the intercession of Blessed Teresa (nee Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu). Blessed Teresa, known around the world as Mother Teresa was born August 26, 1910 and died September 5, 1997. She was foundress of the Congregation of the Missionaries of Charity and the Missionaries of Charity brothers.

To read more – a lot more! – go here:


Prince Gharios is the head of the house of Ghassan, and current descendant of the only Middle Eastern Christian dynasty, a dynasty that dates, in fact, to the early centuries of Christianity. The Ghassanids  were Arab Christians who emigrated in the year 250 from Yemen to southern Syria. Many Christian families of Lebanon, Joran, Syria and Palestine trace their roots to the Ghassanid dynasty. (photo from


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:




This page might be a bit light tomorrow as I spend time in the morning and early afternoon recording my weekly Vatican Radio show, “Joan Knows,” and also preparing “Vatican Insider,” my EWTN weekend radio show. Tomorrow afternoon, however, I will be attending a prayer vigil at St. Mary Major for all those who, like myself, will be invested Saturday into the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre. The investiture ceremony and Mass Saturday will take place at St. John Lateran.

Those will be two beautiful, memorable days in my life and I hope to share as much as possible with you. EWTN will be filming the investiture ceremony Saturday and I’ll let you know when you can view some of those images.

EWTN’s News Nightly will feature a brief conversation with me about this honor so tune in tonight or get your Tivo ready!


Did you know that we almost did not have a Pope Francis because of a ship?

In 1927 Mario Bergoglio, the Pope’s father, made a 60-mile trip by horse carriage from his home in Portacomaro, Italy to the port city of Genoa to purchase tickets for a boat trip to Argentina that he had booked earlier for himself and his family.

He sat in the offices of the Navigazione Generale Italian Shipping Company where an agent checked his papers and then told him: “I’m afraid that all the staterooms are booked for the Princess Mafalda.” The future Pope’s father protested, saying he had made reservations months earlier and had not been notified of any changes. The agent, looking at Mario’s papers, said someone made a mistakes, the prices were too low and the Bergoglio cabin in steerage had been booked at a higher price. Mario tried to book a higher class – no luck .It seemed the family dreams of doing well in Argentina like other relatives were shattered.

Back home, Mario Bergoglio, explained things to the family. Two weeks pass. One day Mario comes home, waving a newspaper that he shows to his parents –Pope Francis’ grandparents Giovanni and Rosa – The banner headline read: “PRINCESS MAFALDA SINKS!”  There were survivors and most of the dead were from steerage class, the one Mario had originally booked.

Only two years later were the Bergoglios able to leave Italy for Argentina on the ship Giulio Cesare, arriving in Buenos Aires in February, 1929.

On December 17, 1936 Jorge Mario Bergoglio – Pope Francis – was born.

By the way, the real Princess Mafalda of Savoy was captured by the Nazis during World War II for use as a hostage to manipulate her father. She died at Buchenwald concentration camp in 1944. Her full name was Princess Mafalda Maria Elisabetta Anna Romana of Savoy and she was the second daughter of King Victor Emmanuel III of Italy and his wife Elena of Montenegro. The future King Umberto II of Italy was her younger brother.

Pope Francis was serenaded today by members of Italian Catholic Action whom he thanked for their commitment to welcome migrants. They also gave him a cake. (photo



(Vatican Radio) Friday, Pope Francis will open a Holy Door at a newly refurbished homeless centre run by the Church near Rome’s main train station. The radio’s Lydia O’Kane went along to see the newly completed project which offers a bed, a meal and ray of hope to hundreds of people every night.

As you arrive at the Holy Door of the Caritas centre for the homeless at Rome’s Termini Station you can’t fail to notice the mosaic logo of the Year of Mercy depicting Jesus the Good Shepherd by Marko Ivan Rupnik. (photo: ANSA,


The door will be opened by Pope Francis on December 18th and he will also have the chance to see for himself the newly refurbished dormitory and soup kitchen which are named after Caritas Rome founder Don Luigi Di Liegro and Pope Saint John Paul II.

Speaking at the inauguration of the new centre which he described as a place of dignity and welcome, the present Director of Caritas Rome, Monsignor Enrico Feroci quoted the words of Don Luigi who said, “a city in which one man suffers less is a better city”.

Those words are inscribed on the walls of the new pristine soup kitchen which caters for up to 600 homeless people every evening and offers a much needed respite from the streets outside where people can come, for warmth, contact with others, and a good meal.

As I make my way to the hostel itself, I am impressed by how welcoming they have made the 200 bed dormitories, each one with its own signature colour.

It’s taken years of work and co-operation to have both the canteen and hostel ready for Pope Francis’ Jubilee visit as Fulvio Ferrari, the Chief Engineer responsible for the project explains.

“We worked during two years… in the last 6 months, we worked a great deal and for the Jubilee”.

So why does he think Pope Francis chose to open a Holy Door here?

He says it’s because it is putting service at the heart of the Church’s mission. This is a centre that offers hope and help to all who pass through its doors, but here at Termini there is also general agreement that in this Jubilee of Mercy more and more people are increasingly in need of services like these.



Today I offer three stories – the good news of the general audience, the great news from China and the bad news story about fraudulent Jubilee souvenir vendors in Rome.

Here is the logo from the official website of the Jubilee of Mercy that will be on all OFFICIAL merchandise:


Some background for the second story: I discovered many years ago that I harbored great affection for Catholics wherever they were persecuted and suffering. For many decades I followed the situation of Catholics in what used to be called Eastern Europe, the communist bloc countries of Hungary, Poland, Czechoslovakia, the USSR, etc.

My attention also turned to China in the 1990s when I was working for the Vatican and, in 1995, was part of the Holy See delegation to the 1995 U.N. Conference on Women in Beijing. We had daily Mass in our delegation suite (and the Chinese authorities who were placed in the hallway outside our rooms and this suite knew it!), always leaving the door a bit ajar on purpose. A Catholic Mass in a Chinese hotel would have been unthinkable before the U.N. conference or afterwards, even though freedom of religion was stated in a pamphlet about the Chinese constitution that was in every room.

There is the underground Church in China and the government-allowed Church – as you will see in the AsiaNews story.

I also have been following Church-State relations in Vietnam. I wrote about several of my experiences during my June 2013 trip to Vietnam – to DaNang and Hochiminhville (Saigon).

I was thus overjoyed when I read the AsiaNews story and why I called it great news. I could dedicate an entire book to all of the places I have mentioned. I have also been to Taiwan and there is flourishing freedom of religion there.


Pope Francis, at today’s weekly general audience, told pilgrims that he wanted the Jubilee to be an experience shared by all people. He said, “the Jubilee of Mercy was inaugurated this past week by the opening of the Holy Door, not only here in Rome but in dioceses worldwide, as a visible expression of our communion in the universal Church.”

He told his guests that he personally opened the first Holy Door in Bangui, the heart of Africa, when he visited the Central African Republic in November, noting that Rome is “the visible symbol of that mystery of communion between the Universal and each local Church.”

The Pope explained that, “Fifty years ago, the Second Vatican Council reminded us that the Church is called to be, in Christ, the visible sign of God’s merciful love for the entire human family. Each of us, by practicing charity, mercy and forgiveness, can be a sign of the power of God’s love to transform hearts and to bring reconciliation and peace.”

Mercy and forgiveness are not just nice words, said Francis, but rather visible signs that faith has transformed our hearts. “In our daily lives, we must never grow tired of loving and forgiving others as God loves and forgives us.”

“By going through the Door of Mercy during this Holy Year,” said the Holy Father, “we show our desire to enter more deeply into the mystery of Christ’s redemptive love. Jesus tells us that He Himself is the door to eternal life (cf. Jn 10:9), and he asks us, through genuine conversion, to open the doors of our hearts to a more sincere love of God and neighbor. … As we go through, we must also remember to keep the door of our hearts wide open.”

He then spoke extemporaneously and asked the faithful to “make sure that no one asks you to pay for going through that door! You don’t pay for salvation – Jesus is for free!”

Pope Francis said, “a special sign of grace in this Jubilee of Mercy is the sacrament of Penance, in which Christ invites us to acknowledge our sinfulness, to experience his mercy, and to receive the grace which can make us ever more effective signs of his reconciling love at work in our world.”


A “miracle” at the Holy Door in Zhengding: 10,000 underground Catholics celebrate the Jubilee without arrests (Gallery)

Rome (AsiaNews) – “It’s a miracle! It is protection from Heaven!” said some Catholics from the underground community in Zhengding (Hebei) after what happened on Sunday, December 13.

About 10,000 faithful from Zhengding, Lingshou, Beijing, and Baoding had gathered outside the cathedral (pictured) to celebrate the beginning of the Jubilee and the opening of the Holy Door.

The “miracle” is that police, always present in front of the church, did nothing to prevent the event and did not arrest anyone. (Perhaps) an even greater miracle was the fact that the underground bishop led the liturgy, which lasted from 8:30 am to 12:30 pm.

MSgr Julius Jia Zhiguo, who is not recognized by the government, has been under house arrest for years for refusing to join the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association (CPCA), and for remaining loyal to the pope.

The CPCA is a Communist Party agency whose aim is to establish a Catholic Church independent from the pope.

Msgr. Jia Zhiguo lives near Zhengding cathedral and is monitored day and night. He is often taken away for a week or two of “holiday” – i.e. classes of indoctrination and brainwashing – to convince him to join the CPCA.

Despite this, “it is amazing,” said a nun, “that so many people could gather for so long and no one was arrested. It is likely that there were plainclothes police mingled with the crowd, but nothing happened.”

A procession followed by a series of readings from Misericordiae Vultus, Pope Francis’ Bull of Indiction of the Jubilee of Mercy, preceded the solemn opening of the Holy Door in Zhengding. A single Eucharistic ceremony followed the door opening.

For years, the Chinese government has been trying to eliminate unregistered underground communities, whose “crime” is that of engaging in unsupervised religious activities. For this reason, priests involved in underground services are often imprisoned.

In recent months, many underground priests and bishops have come under strong pressure to join the CPCA, through enticements and offers of money.

Despite the constant monitoring to which he is subjected, Msgr. Jia Zhiguo is well liked by the police as well as the population.

For a long time, he hosted at his residence about 200 abandoned children and disabled people, taking care of them along with some nuns and faithful


(ANSA) Both pilgrims and counterfeiters have geared up for the Jubilee. Not only are fake rosaries, images and key rings flooding the religious-items market, there are also counterfeit personalized apostolic blessings on pontifical parchment with Holy See seals and photos of Pope Francis. Italian finance police confiscated 3,500 on Monday, a day when Interior Minister Angelino Alfano and Finance Police Chief Saverio Capolupo presented the first results of the Jubilaeum action plan against fraud and counterfeiting during the Holy Year.

“We knew that the Jubilee would have been hit by illicit business and fraudsters, and we thus prepared to fight against it,” the minister said. “A million counterfeit products have been confiscated this first week. The Jubilaeum plan aims to help pilgrims, increase perceived security and the fight against illegal trade, accommodation and counterfeit products. Every day as many as 32 finance police patrols are carried out in Rome to step up surveillance.”

A shop near St. Peter’s Basilica has been found to have housed the illegal printing press for the fraudulent apostolic blessings offered to unwitting pilgrims. The parchments had already had Pope Francis’s image and the papal and Vatican State emblems stamped on them. They also had – in Italian, Spanish, Portuguese and English – the words ‘blessing of the pilgrim’ on them and were personalized with names provided by the buyers.

The shopkeeper, who did not possess the necessary authorization from the Holy See, has been reported to the police for production and trade in counterfeit goods.

The parchments confiscated are worth over 70,000 euros, and the amount taken over during the first few days on sale is being calculated.

Interior Minister Alfano spoke about the lower number of visitors than expected during the beginning of this Holy Year, saying that it had nothing to do with the concerns raised by the recent attack in Paris. He noted that ”the number of pilgrims for the Jubilee are those expected and do not directly depend in any way on post-Paris anxiety. “Pope Francis’s strategy has been to open several Holy Doors and give value to other places of worship across the nation, such as Loreto and S.Giovanni Rotondo. “So it is not necessary to come to Rome to take part in the ceremony.”

On the issue of security, the interior minister said that ”on (the opening day) December 8, some 200,000 people took part in events in Rome and there was only one person reported to the police, for possession of a knife. This is proof that the (security) plan worked.”



There are so many stories I wanted to post today but I want to focus on what we most need in our world – what people around the world are seeking every day they draw breath – and that peace. And Pope Francis today gave us a tool in the search for peace – his 2016 World Day of Peace Message. That day is celebrated every year on January 1.

Below is a summary of the papal message and a link to the complete, 4,500-word document.

Before I bring you the peace message, I want to tell you about St. Peter’s Square. I was crossing the square last night about 5:30, the first time I had been there since the inauguration of the Holy Year. The route that pilgrims follow from Castel Sant’Angelo to and through the square and then the Holy Door of St. Peter’s (after having reserved a day and time online or at Via della Conciliazione, 7), is clearly marked by a metal, fence-like structure. Along the route there are Jubilee volunteers who wear yellow vests.

When coming home from the north side of the square, I generally go through the right hand colonnade and cross the square in an area where chairs are often set up for general audiences. However, I observed three things yesterday.

  1. You can’t access the square through the right hand colonnade – this is where the security machines are for pilgrims going to the Holy Door. This arrangement will surely last the entire Holy Year. Access to St. Peter’s Square is through the left hand colonnade or through only one opening on the Pius XII side of the square.
  2. There were few pilgrims last night at that hour who wanted to go through the Holy Door, so volunteers let people enter the area to start the security check without reservations. (If you are in Rome now, this might work as the crowds are not great at that hour)
  3. The north side of Pius XII Square – Pza. Pio XII – is where taxis have parked for years – a very handy site for people leaving their offices, tourists who need a taxi, etc. A policeman told me the taxi stand is now at the far end of Via della Conciliazione, near Castel Sant’Angelo.

Another piece of news that I will look at more in depth tomorrow. The Vatican warned us about them and, sure enough, they have come in droves to the Jubilee – counterfeiters! The Italian equivalent of treasury police have closed down vendors and are prosecuting store owners who are selling fake Jubilee rosaries, papal images, Holy Door copies and other religious items, especially papal blessings. As of January 2015 ONLY the Vatican’s Apostolic Almoner can make and sell papal blessings. They are not legally available outside Vatican City.  More tomorrow about this story, the official Jubilee emblem, etc. (photo. Guardia di Finanza)

Le false benedizioni apostoliche per i pellegrini del Giubileo sequestrate dalla Guardia di Finanza. Sulle pergamene contraffatte gli stemmi pontifici e le foto di Papa Francesco, 14 dicembre 2015. ANSA / UFFICIO STAMPA GUARDIA DI FINANZA  ++  ANSA PROVIDES ACCESS TO THIS HANDOUT PHOTO TO BE USED SOLELY TO ILLUSTRATE NEWS REPORTING OR COMMENTARY ON THE FACTS OR EVENTS DEPICTED IN THIS IMAGE; NO ARCHIVING; NO LICENSING  ++


Pope Francis on Tuesday issued his message for the World Day of Peace January 1, 2016. The theme of the Message is: “Overcome indifference and win peace.”

In the message, dated December 8, 2015, the Pope acknowledged the various forms of war, terrorism, and persecution present in today’s world, but said there is reason to hope. He cited several events over the course of the year 2015, including the various initiatives confronting climate change, the 50th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council, and the Jubilee of Mercy. (photo:


Referencing the theme of the message, the Holy Father then highlighted various forms of indifference in society. First, there is indifference to God, which in turn leads to indifference to one’s neighbor and subsequently to the environment.

Pope Francis also addressed what he referred to as an “indifference to mercy,” as seen with the Genesis account of Cain murdering his brother Abel. In contrast, God intervenes, the message reads: “He sees, hears, comes down, and delivers. God does not remain indifferent. He is attentive and He acts.”

“Mercy is the heart of God,” the Pope writes, and therefore must be the heart of all His children.

Pope Francis said we are called to “compassion, love, mercy and solidarity” in our relationships with one another. He added that “the conversion of our hearts” is needed for us to become “open to others in authentic solidarity.” The Pope called for the building of a culture of solidarity and mercy in order to overcome indifference.

This begins with families, which are the “first place where the values of love, fraternity, togetherness and sharing, concern and care for others are lived out and handed on.” He spoke also of the role of teachers, and communicators. The Pope added that communicators in particular should be “mindful” of how they obtain and disseminate information, saying their methods should always be “legally and morally admissible.”

Pope Francis went on to say that peace is the fruit of a culture of solidarity, mercy, and compassion.

It is also a sign of the Jubilee of Mercy, which began December 8, in which all are called to recognize indifference, and “improve the world around us.”

The Holy Father said these efforts begin with our families, neighbors, and places of employment. They extend to civil society’s care for vulnerable persons, such as “prisoners, migrants, the unemployed, and the infirm.”

On the subject of migrants, the Pope asked that legislation on migration be reviewed, in a way that facilitates their integration into society, with special attention given to legal residency in order to avoid criminal behavior.

Pope Francis appealed to national leaders to offer assistance to men and women suffering from lack of work, land, and lodging.

He concluded by entrusting the reflections contained in the message to the Blessed Virgin Mary. (Vatican Radio)




We are now in the first full week of the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy. Pope Francis, of course, as we all witnessed, opened the Holy Door of St. Peter’s Basilica on Tuesday, December 8, thus officially inaugurating the yearlong Jubilee. And this past weekend we saw some of the first events on the Holy Year agenda, including the Holy Father’s Eucharistic Celebration for Latin America in St. Peter’s on Saturday, December 12, Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, and his opening of the Holy Door at St. John Lateran, his cathedral church as the Bishop of Rome.

Also on Sunday, Cardinal James Harvey, archpriest of the basilica of St. Paul’s Outside-the-Walls opened the Holy Doors of this papal basilica. The only basilica yet to have its Holy Door opened is St. Mary Major, and that event will take place on January 1,  solemnity of the Mother of God.

At Saturday’s Mass for Latin America, Pope Francis said Mary “experienced the divine mercy, and hosted the very source of this mercy in her womb: Jesus Christ.” He said he hoped the Jubilee Year “will be a planting of merciful love in the hearts of individuals, families and nations.” Francis stressed that, “no sin can cancel [Jesus’] merciful closeness or prevent him from unleashing the grace of conversion, provided we invoke it.” He called on Christian communities be “oases and sources of mercy, witnesses to a charity that does not allow exclusions.”

Francis explained that the word “mercy” – “misericordia” – is composed of two words: misery and heart. The heart indicates the capacity to love; mercy is that love, which embraces the misery of the person. It is a love that “feels” our poverty as if it were its own, so as to free us of it.

At the end of his homily the Pope announced his February trip to Mexico, saying he will be at the Guadalupe shrine on February 13. After the homily and during the Prayer of the Faithful, Pope Francis moved everyone present when he prayed for his parents Mario and Regina, “who gave me life and transmitted faith to me,”and who were married eighty years ago.

Sunday, at St. John Lateran, as he opened the Holy Door, Francis remarked on the fact that this very same day bishops were opening Holy Doors in cathedrals throughout the world. He said that, “Doors of Mercy” will also be opened in places of poverty, need and marginalization.

The Holy Father said in his homily that this third Sunday of Advent, Gaudete or Rejoice Sunday, draws our gaze towards Christmas, which is now close. We cannot let ourselves be taken in by fatigue; sadness in any form is not allowed, even though we have reason to be, with many concerns and the many forms of violence that hurt our humanity. The coming of the Lord, however, must fill our hearts with joy.”

In a few off-the-cuff remarks, Pope Francis stressed the importance of God’s tenderness.

“God does not love rigidity. He is Father; He is tender; everything (is) done with the tenderness of the Father.”

Pope Francis called those who will cross the door to be “instruments of mercy, knowing that we will be judged on this.”

“The joy of crossing through the Door of Mercy is accompanied by a commitment to welcome and witness to a love that goes beyond justice, a love that knows no boundaries.”

To see where the Jubilee Doors of Mercy are in individual countries, click here:


Pope Francis Monday received the participants in a major pastoral initiative aimed at young people and sponsored by the Bishops Conference of Italy – the CEI. The Progetto Policoro began twenty years ago as a program to help unemployed young people of southern Italy to develop skills, find work, and most importantly, nurture a healthy sense of dignity and self-worth by creating and developing ties to the larger ecclesial and social community.

The Holy Father remarked that, in seeking to combine the Gospel with the reality of life, the Project represented an important initiative for the promotion of youth and a true opportunity for local development at national level. “Its key ideas have guided its success: the formation of the young, the establishment of cooperatives, the creation of mediation figures such as ‘community animators’ and a long series of concrete gestures, a visible sign of commitment throughout these twenty years of active presence.”

He told his guests, “You represent without doubt a sign of real hope for many people who have not resigned themselves but have instead decided to commit themselves courageously to creating or improving their opportunities for work”, and he invited them to “continue to promote initiatives for participation for young people in a community and participatory form.”

(sources:, Vatican Radio, VIS)