It was a quiet day for Pope Francis – no public appearances – as he prepares for tomorrow’s general audience and also gets ready for the three-day Jubilee of Priests that starts tomorrow! The main event at the Vatican is taking place as I write (see story below) – the procession and rosary in the Vatican Gardens for the feast of the Visitation.

Following that I’ve posted an interesting story about the Vatican’s Cricket team! Enjoy!

A PAPAL TWEET FOR MAY 31: I join spiritually all those taking part in special devotions to the Blessed Virgin Mary on this last day of the month of May.


The Holy Father’s universal prayer intention for June is: “That the aged, marginalized, and those who have no one may find, even within the huge cities of the world, opportunities for encounter and solidarity.”

His intention for evangelization is: “That seminarians and men and women entering religious life may have mentors who live the joy of the Gospel and prepare them wisely for their mission.”


It is a time-honored tradition in the Vatican to hold an evening candlelit procession, with the recitation of the rosary, in the Vatican Gardens on the May 31 feast of the Visitation. In past years the lay faithful were invited to join cardinals, including the Pope’s vicar for Vatican City, bishops, priests and men and women religious in the procession which started at the Church of St. Stephen of the Abyssinians (named for St. Stephen Protomartyr, which means “first martyr”), located just behind the apse of St. Peter’s Basilica, and ended at the Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes.

In past years, about 9 p.m., the Pope joined everyone at the Grotto and made a brief address. I have posted several columns in the years that I joined in the procession.

During his pontificate, Pope Saint John Paul II participated in the procession every year until 2002, when his poor health made it impossible.

In 2005, just six weeks after his election, Benedict XVI participated in this celebration for the first time as Pope. In remarks at the grotto at that time, he called attention to the Year of the Eucharist, pointing out that “Mary helps us to discover the mystery of Communion.” Noting that the procession always occurs on the feast of the Visitation, he said that Mary’s trip to see her cousin Elizabeth was, in a sense, “the first Eucharistic procession in history,” adding that the faithful have the same role as the Church “unceasingly welcomes Jesus in the holy Eucharist and carries Him to the world.”

Photos from Ein Karem, site of the Visitation, home of St. Elizabeth, John the Baptist:




In 2008, that ceremony took place in St. Peter’s Square. It was believed the change was made by the then new papal master of liturgical ceremonies, Msgr. Guido Marini, to allow more faithful to participate. Candles, with durable plastic shields against the wind and a small prayer and song booklet prepared by the Vicariate of Vatican City were placed on each chair for the thousands of religious and lay people, including entire families, who participated in this evocative ceremony.

Cardinal Angelo Comastri, vicar for Vatican City, led the procession of cardinals, as he will again this year, 2016.

Pope Francis marked the feast of the Visitation in 2013, just months after his election, in St. Peter’s Square. In 2014 he participated in the procession in the Vatican gardens. I could find no record of his participation last year and he will not be present for tonight’s ceremony in the Vatican Gardens, once again led by Cardinal Comastri.

A note from a Vatican Radio news site states that “participation is reserved to Vatican staff and members of their family.” I do not remember seeing such a note in the past but that may simply be that there was a note and I overlooked it. However, in my experience, lay faithful from Rome did participate in the past, but the world has changed and so have security measures in many parts of the world, including the Vatican.


(Vatican Radio) St Peter’s Cricket Club, popularly known as the ‘Vatican XI’ is preparing for a second British tour with both ecumenical and interfaith objectives high on the agenda.

The team, comprised of Catholic priests and seminarians from India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and the UK, was founded in 2013 and challenged a Church of England cricket team in Canterbury the following year. Since then, the sporting friendships and spiritual experiences have grown, with the Anglican side coming to Rome for a return match in 2015.


From September 11th to 20th the Vatican team sets off on a second ‘Light of Faith’ tour, playing against Anglicans, a Muslim team from Yorkshire and an interfaith match against cricketers from Hindu, Muslim, Sikh and Buddhist communities in the south east of England.

The Vatican XI, which enjoys the patronage of the Pontifical Council for Culture, will play in venues which have been offered free of charge, including the famous Edgbaston ground in Birmingham and the revered Headingley site which has been used for international test cricket since 1899.

The goals of St Peter’s team members include sharing their faith with others, building bridges across religious and cultural divides and furthering what Pope Francis calls ‘the culture of encounter. To find out more, Philippa Hitchen spoke with team manager,Fr Eamonn O’Higgins, spiritual director of the Maria Mater Ecclesiae seminary where many of the players are in training for the priesthood.

Fr Eamonn says that the tours are called ‘Light of Faith’ because “deep down, that is what we try to transmit. He notes that while the 2014 tour focused on establishing relations with the Church of England, this second event has a much broader interreligious dimension with Muslims and others who’ve become interested in the opportunities that such encounters can offer.

While cricket is the context in which the players meet, Fr Eamonn says the tour is also about going “to pray and to commune” with people in different ways. He notes that he’s been invited to speak at a mosque on the Friday that the team will be in Batley, Yorkshire with the local community. “It’s a pilgrimage”, he says, adding “that means not only praying ourselves, but understanding and praying with other faiths as well”.

Asked about the effect of these ecumenical and interreligious encounters on the seminarians training at the Mater Ecclesiae seminary, Fr Eamonn says that for “all of us, not just the lads”, it has “an extremely broadening effect”. While we sometimes have our own stereotypes, often influenced by the media’s depiction of other religious communities, he says “the fact of meeting members of other faiths, understanding their contexts, listening to their prayer, being with their families”, enables the team to understand other people and their traditions in a new way.

“You cannot understand another culture or another religion without getting into it from the inside, from somebody else’s point of view, the Vatican team manager insists, “and this is the privilege we’ve been able to experience”.