Enjoy another moment of the ever surprising Roman Pontiff!

FYI: Pope Francis’ morning Masses in the Santa Marta residence will resume on February 22. Tomorrow, in St. Peter’s Basilica, he will celebrate Mass for Franciscans who came to Rome to venerate Saints Pio and Leopold.

I have a good story to tell about TSA. There have been negative ones about this DHS (Department of Homeland Security) agency, but I’d like to tell you the good news about what happened to me last week.

My January 30 Delta flight from Rome to NYC (then to Chicago, and on to Houston the following morning) was a bit late arriving at JFK and we could not get off the plane until the paramedics boarded and accompanied a passenger who was ill off the plane. We deplaned at 5:30 and my flight to Chicago was 6:30 – but I still had to go through passport control, get my luggage, pass customs and go through security! Passport and luggage went rather smoothly and fairly quickly. Security was on the first floor but the lines were so long we were redirected to fourth floor security.

So up several escalators, get in line, place things in the bins etc. It is now 6:10. I asked an attendant if I’d make my 6:30 flight and he put me in front of several people. I had to remove my shoes and a sweater (technically my last birthday qualified me for leaving shoes and jackets on). I went through, hurriedly retrieved everything and then had to board a minibus to be taken to my gate! I arrive at Gate 48B at 6:25, ran to Gate 43B and and was told the plane had closed its door! However, one staff member said that catering was late, so perhaps the door was still open. She called the pilot – the door was open! I was taken outside, across a small tarmac (accompanied by several people) and climbed the dozen or so steps to the small plane.

Breathless, I sat down, took off my coat and realized I had left my very beautiful sweater jacket in security! I described it for the flight attendant, wrote down my name and US cell number, the pilot called 4th floor security and they said they had an item that resembled mine and I should call TSA when I got to Chicago.

TSA offices were closed when I got to Chicago but officials there gave me a few numbers, which I called the next morning and was given an email address and told that was the best and fastest way to communicate. TSA has a great website and I wrote several emails and when I heard nothing (a watched pot never boils) I contacted TSA’s media office. That got a response! I got an email asking me to identify the object, which I did, adding that I had a pin in the shape of an angel with a pearl on the right lapel. That was the kicker to identify the sweater. I always have my guardian angel when I travel!

TSA will get your item back to you within 7 days: you either have to go to a physical address they give you or set up a Fedex account and send that acount number and other information – such as to whom should the item be sent – back to TSA.

Those with whom I corresponded were very pleasant and enormously helpful. I cannot even fathom how many items must be left in security that they have to get back to people! Special procedures have to be followed if the missing item is a computer, however.

Almost the end of the tale: Two nights ago I had dinner with my friend Vivianna at La Vittoria. She came with a friend, a Delta flight attendant, Anita. I told Anita my story and she said she’d bring the sweater to me in Rome next weekend – just have TSA send it to her home!

Shakespeare said it best: “All’s well that ends well” (Maybe I should write that when I have sweater in hand!)

Speaking of miracles….the real ones….


What an amazing weekend it was in Rome! Lots of news but the really big story was the arrival Friday in Vatican City and St. Peter’s Basilica of the relics – the actual remains – of Saints Padre Pio and Leopold Mandic, two Franciscans known for their extraordinary dedication to hearing confessions.

Saturday, before 80,000 faithful in St. Peter’s Square, Pope Francis greeted members of the numerous Padre Pio Prayer Groups that had come from throughout the world to venerate the relics of the revered Italian saint. In fact, a number of groups were on my flight back to Rome from Houston.


Saint Padre Pio was an Italian Capuchin friar and St. Leopold Mandic, also a tireless confessor, was from Croatia.

It was Padre Pio himself who, in the mid-20th century, founded these prayer groups that are now in every region of Italy as well as in many countries around the world. The Holy Father thanked those present in the square Saturday and had very beautiful words about man they love and venerate.

“We can say,” began Francis, “that Padre Pio was precisely a servant of mercy. He was full-time, serving sometimes to the point of exhaustion, ‘the apostleship of listening’. He became, through the ministry of Confession, the living caress of the Father, who heals the wounds of sin and revives the heart with peace. St. Padre Pio never tired of welcoming people and listening to them, spending time and energy in order to spread the perfume of the forgiveness of the Lord. He could do this because he was always connected to the source: he ceaselessly quenched his thirst with Jesus Crucified, and thus became a channel of mercy. He bore in his heart many people and many sufferings, uniting all to the love of Christ who gave himself ‘to the end’. He lived the great mystery of sorrow offered up for love. In this way his little drop became a great river of mercy, which brought water to the deserts of the heart and created oases of life in so many parts of the world.”


The Pope noted that St. Padre Pio called the prayer groups “’nurseries of the faith, cradles of love’; they were not just centers for happy gatherings of friends and for support, but cradles of divine love. This is what prayer groups are! Prayer, in fact, is a true and proper mission that bears the fire of love to the whole of humanity. Padre Pio said that prayer is a ‘force that moves the world’. Prayer is a force that moves the world! Do we believe this? Because it is! Try it! It spreads the smile and the blessing of God over every languor and weakness.”



(Vatican Radio) The Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors has released a communiqué at the end of its week-long Plenary Assembly at the Vatican. Dated February 8, 2016, the statement details the focal points and proposals that emerged from the six Working Groups of the session, including a request for Pope Francis to remind all authorities in the Church of the importance of responding directly to victims and survivors who approach them, the finalization of a Universal Day of Prayer, and a penitential liturgy.

The communiqué goes on to list upcoming activities of the Commission and partner organizations, including workshops on the legal aspects of the Protection of Minors with a view to to establishing greater transparency around canonical trials, and the development of a website to facilitate sharing of best practices for the protection of minors around the world.

Below, please find the full text, in its official English version, of the communiqué from the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors:

News Release

Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors

8 February 2016


The Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors has had seven full days of meetings in Rome. Meetings of the six Working Groups focused on updates for current projects, and developing and drafting proposals. Outside collaborators who assisted the Working Groups included the Catholic Fund for Overseas Development (CAFOD), and an expert in Penal Canon Law. Draft proposals were presented to the Plenary Assembly for further discussion and decision about policies to propose to the Holy Father. Policies endeavor to recognize the diversity of information and guidance currently available to the Church around the world.

Examples of proposals being finalized for Pope Francis’ consideration include: a request for him to remind all authorities in the Church of the importance of responding directly to victims and survivors who approach them; the finalization of a Universal Day of Prayer and a penitential liturgy.

Workshops on the legal aspects of the Protection of Minors to establish more transparency around canonical trials, with participation of external collaborators, are planned for later in the year and a report and recommendations will be provided at the next Plenary Assembly. A website is also being developed to share Best Practice for the Protection of Minors around the world.

In order to fulfill the mission of the Holy Father’s Chirograph for the Institution of the Commission to promote local responsibility, Commission members are actively in contact with numerous Bishops Conferences, and members of the Commission have presented to Religious Conferences and Congregations on safeguarding minors.

Over the past year or so, Commission members have met with Bishops and child protection authorities in: Philippines, Austria, Pacific Islands, New Zealand, Scotland, Poland, Central America (in Costa Rica), United States National Safe Environment (SECs) and Victims Assistance Coordinators (VACs). As an outcome of the workshop conducted by members of the Commission last August in the Philippines, the Philippine Bishops’ Conference created a child safeguarding office and Pastoral Exhortation on the pastoral care and protection of minors.

A meeting is planned in March in Ghana with Secretaries General of the Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM), and a second meeting with child protection practitioners drawn from the Association of Member  Episcopal Conferences in Eastern Africa (AMECEA) in Tanzania. Commission members are also attending the Anglophone Safeguarding Conference in Rome and the United States National Safe Environment and Victims Assistance Coordinators 2016.  In 2017 the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences (FABC) has requested a workshop with Commission members.

The Commission likewise welcomes the recent announcement that in a week’s time the first course offering a diploma in the Safeguarding of Minors at the Pontifical Gregorian University will start with 19 participants from four continents: Africa, Europe, America and Asia.

The September 2016 meeting of the Commission will have a strategic focus on safeguarding minors in Catholic schools, and will invite contributions from experts in Latin America, England and Wales.

The Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors was created by Pope Francis in March of 2014. The Chirograph of His Holiness Pope Francis states specifically, “The Commission’s specific task is to propose to me the most opportune initiatives for protecting minors and vulnerable adults, in order that we may do everything possible to ensure that crimes such as those which have occurred are no longer repeated in the Church. The Commission is to promote local responsibility in the particular Churches, uniting their efforts to those of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, for the protection of all children and vulnerable adults.”END OF RELEASE

Following is some background on a concurrent story about commission member Peter Saunders who has said the only person who can tell him to take a leave of absence from the commission is Pope Francis:

EWTN/CNA –  February 6 – The Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Children has announced member Peter Saunders will take a leave of absence from his work with the commission.

“Today’s meeting of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors discussed the direction and purpose of the Commission,” read a Feb. 6 press release from the commission. “As the result of this discussion, it was decided that Mr. Peter Saunders would take a leave of absence from his membership to consider how he might best support the commission’s work.”

Saunders is founder of the U.K.’s National Association for People Abused in Childhood, which focuses on abuse prevention and support for abuse survivors.

A survivor of priestly sexual abuse, Saunders had been a member of the Commission for the Protection of Children since December 2014. He reportedly became increasingly critical of the commission’s process of reforming the Church’s abuse protocol.

In a statement Saturday, the commission’s president, Cardinal Sean O’Malley, confirmed Saunders “has been asked to advise the commission on the possible establishment of a victim- survivor panel to work with the commission.”

A Vatican official who requested anonymity told journalists the panel will likely be modeled after a similar panel established for Saunder’s U.K. organization.

Saunders was one of 17 members of the commission, which Pope Francis founded to address the abuse crisis. The commission met in Rome this weekend.

According to Vatican Radio, “examples of proposals being finalized for Pope Francis’ consideration include: a request for him to remind all authorities in the Church of the importance of responding directly to victims and survivors who approach them, the finalization of a Universal Day of Prayer and a penitential liturgy.”