Pope Francis tweeted today: Children forced to flee, especially if fleeing alone, are most defenseless and vulnerable. Let’s pray for them and help them. @M_RSection


Vatican Insider’s interview segment offers Part II of my conversation with San Antonio Archbishop Gustavo Garcia Siller as we talk about the V Encuentro and other topics during a visit he made to Rome.


The V Encuentro is a four-year process of ecclesial reflection and action that invites all Catholics in the United States to intense missionary activity, consultation, leadership development, and identification of best ministerial practices in the spirit of the New Evangelization. It is part of the priority activity of the USCCB’s Strategic Plan for 2017-2020. The V Encuentro (5th Encounter) started this very month at the grass roots level and calls for the development of resources and initiatives to better serve the fast growing Hispanic population in dioceses, parishes, ecclesial movements, and other Catholic organizations and institutions in light of its theme Missionary Disciples: Witnesses of God’s Love.

In the United States, you can listen to Vatican Insider (VI) on a Catholic radio station near you (there is a list of U.S. stations at or on channel 130 Sirius-XM satellite radio. 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 9:00am (ET). On the SKY satellite feed to the UK and parts of Europe, VI airs on audio channel 0147 at 11:30 am CET on Saturdays, and 5:30am and 10pm CET on Sundays. It’s also available on demand on the EWTN app and on the website. CHECK YOUR TIME ZONE. Here’s a link to download VI to your iTunes library:   For VI archives:


In view of the 2018 synod on on the theme: “Young People, the Faith and Vocational Discernment,” Pope Francis has written a letter to young people. It was revealed Friday ahead of a press conference at the Holy See Press Office to present the preparatory document for the Synod.

The Vatican document focuses far more on getting input from young people, learning who they are and what they want as they grow up and live in an era so different from their parents and pastors. And that is what the Pope says in his Letter to young people: the Church wants “to listen to your voice, your sensitivities and your faith, even your doubts and your criticism.” He wants youth to tell him, the bishops and pastors about their hopes and struggles. “Make your voice heard. Let it resonate in communities and let it be heard by your shepherds of souls.”

He starts the Letter by teling youth, “I wanted you to be the center of attention, because you are in my heart. Today, the (synod) Preparatory Document is being presented, a document which I am also entrusting to you as your “compass” on this synodal journey.”

“I would also,” said the Pope, “remind you of the words that Jesus once said to the disciples who asked him: ‘Teacher […] where are you staying’ He replied, ‘Come and see’.  Jesus looks at you and invites you to go with him. Dear young people, have you noticed this look towards you? Have you heard this voice? Have you felt this urge to undertake this journey? I am sure that, despite the noise and confusion seemingly prevalent in the world, this call continues to resonate in the depths of your heart so as to open it to joy in its fullness. This will be possible to the extent that, even with professional guides, you will learn how to undertake a journey of discernment to discover God’s plan in your life. Even when the journey is uncertain and you fall, God, rich in mercy, will extend his hand to pick you up.”

The Pope noted that, “In Krakow, at the opening of the last World Youth Day, I asked you several times: ‘Can we change things?’ And you shouted: ‘yes!’ That shout came from your young and youthful hearts, which do not tolerate injustice and cannot bow to a ‘throw-away culture’ nor give in to the globalization of indifference. Listen to the cry arising from your inner selves!”

“A better world,” continued Francis, “can be built also as a result of your efforts, your desire to change and your generosity. Do not be afraid to listen to the Spirit who proposes bold choices; do not delay when your conscience asks you to take risks in following the Master. The Church also wishes to listen to your voice, your sensitivities and your faith; even your doubts and your criticism. Make your voice heard, let it resonate in communities and let it be heard by your shepherds of souls.”

“Such is the case,” Pope Francis ended his letter to young people, “even in the journey of this Synod. My brother bishops and I want even more to “work with you for your joy” I entrust you to Mary of Nazareth, a young person like yourselves, whom God beheld lovingly, so she might take your hand and guide you to the joy of fully and generously responding to God’s call with the words: ‘Here I am’.”


Two heartwarming stories from the Vatican and a papal tweet…

01/12/2017: Young migrants, especially when unaccompanied, are especially defenceless. Let everyone offer them a helping hand.


(Vatican Radio) The controversial McDonald’s fast-food restaurant that has just opened only steps away from St. Peter’s Basilica and Vatican City State is to provide thousands of free meals to homeless people in the area.


The restaurant was opened at the beginning of the year after months of protest from locals and prelates who deemed it inappropriate for the unique historical setting of the building it is housed in, with a prime view on the Vatican’s Saint Anne Gate.

But a collaboration between the Borgo Pio branch of McDonald’s and a local charity organization called Medicina Sociale has yielded a fruitful agreement that promises to hand out over 1000 McDonald’s meals to homeless persons every Monday at lunchtime starting from January 16th.

The special “McVatican” – as the outlet has immediately been nicknamed – lunch boxes will include a double cheeseburger, fresh apple slices and a bottle of mineral water.

Lucia Ercoli, director of the charity organization, said she was “very satisfied with this agreement with McDonald’s” and pointed out that the fast-food chain responded “promptly” to their request.

‘Medicina Solidale’ has been working with the papal almoner Archbishop Konrad Krajewski over the past year, providing health check-ups and medical care to the local homeless community. Volunteers and workers at the charity will be charged with distributing the McDonald’s meals.


(Vatican Radio)  “He made boots for the Pope and was released from prison.” This is the story of Bobby Penny, the first inmate taken under the care of Deacon Thaddeus Horbowy, a retired chaplain for the US Federal Bureau of Prisons.

Deacon Horbowy told Devin Watkins the story of the pair of Texan boots during a recent trip to Rome.


“Bobby Penny was my first inmate. He walked into my office and said, ‘Chaplain, I’ve been sent here by the warden to work as your helper.'”

The encounter took place in Abilene, Texas some 25 years ago at a prison facility which houses 3,000 inmates. Deacon Horbowy said he noticed that Mr. Penny was “somehow different; he didn’t have an attitude”.

Having worked well together for several years, Deacon Horbowy was promoted and moved to another prison in Texas but was allowed to have Bobby Penny transferred with him.

Despite being trained only in boot repair, Deacon Horbowy told Mr. Penny to make him a pair of boots, saying “You’ve got plenty of time. Learn it!” The result was impressive, he said.

After retiring, Deacon Horbowy was invited to come to Rome for Pope Francis’ Jubilee audience for Deacons. Not long before his pilgrimmage, Deacon Horbowy saw Mr. Penny in the Texas prison and asked him to make a pair of boots for the Pope.

Despite resistance from the prison’s warden, Mr. Penny was able to make the boots. Not long after their meeting, in a development which may or may not be related, Deacon Horbowy received a letter from Mr. Penny announcing he had made parole and was released from prison.

During his recent trip to Rome, Deacon Horbowy brought that pair of boots in hopes of presenting them to Pope Francis as a gift.




Pope Francis continued his series of catecheses on Christian hope at his Wednesday audience in the Paul VI Hall and stressed that true hope is born of trust in God’s word, not in false idols such as wealth, power, beauty or even fortune tellers.

At one point, he departed from his prepared catechesis about false idols to tell a story about fortune tellers in a park in his native Buenos Aires. He said he used to walk through the park and see countless very small tables where these seers or fortune tellers were seated, talking to individuals.

Francis said: “It was always the same story: there’s a woman in your life, a man will come, everything will be just fine.” The Pope lamented that people paid these seers to get a sense of security, “ a false sense of security, one of – and pardon me! – stupidity.” He said it was so sad that people could feel better, more hopeful, with such false idols rather than having hope in Jesus Christ: “How very sad we do not trust Him as much!”


Our hope, said the Holy Father, “must be rooted in what can actually help in living and giving meaning to our existence,” not in illusions that are both useless and meaningless.

He noted that, “hope in God demands strength and perseverance, whereas these false gods promise an easy security, a future we can control. The Psalmist denounces this kind of idolatry, stating that those who put their trust in images that are the work of human hands, will come to be like them: spiritually blind, deaf and insensible.”

The false idols that the Pope mentioned, “with their illusion of eternity and omnipotence,” include values such as physical beauty, he said. This is not bad itself, but “when it becomes an idol to which we sacrifice everything, they are all realities that confuse the mind and the heart.”

The Pope interrupted himself once again to tell a story. When we have false idols and don’t trust in the Lord, “It’s terrible, it hurts the soul what I heard one time years ago in the diocese of Buenos Aires: a woman, a good woman, beautiful, very, very beautiful and who bragged about her beauty, said with great naturalness, ‘Yes, I had to have an abortion because my figure is so important’.He said this surely puts one on the wrong path and does not lead to lasting happiness.

“God is always greater than we are,” said Francis, “and we, created in his image and likeness, cannot reduce him to our size or fabricate other gods, made in our own image and tailored to our desires. By trusting in God’s word and hoping in his promises, we become more and more like him, sharing in his life and rejoicing in his provident care, revealed in the birth, death and resurrection of Jesus his Son.”

At the end of the catechesis, the Pope said, “Now I must tell you something that I don’t want to tell you.” He held up a red audience ticket, saying tickets to papal events, whether in St. Peter’s Square or the audience hall are always entirely free, noting that the tickets say this in six languages. Anyone who wants you to pay for a ticvket, said Francis, is a fraud, devious and a delinquent.

He called weekly audiences a chance “to talk to the Pope, to visit the Pope. If someone says you must pay, they are ripping you off. Beware – tickets are free!”


The Migration and Refugee Section of the new Dicastery for the Promotion of Integral Human Development has announced it is launching its first media campaign.

Although the Dicastery is run by Cardinal Peter Turkson – who had been serving as President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace – the Migration and Refugee Section is being led for the time being by Pope Francis himself, to show his particular concern during the ongoing refugee crisis.

The new media campaign is being launched to coincide with the 103rd World Day for Migrants and Refugees, which is observed 15 January 2017.

From 12 to 15 January 2017, the tweets of Pope Francis will focus on migrants and refugees, and will link directly to the Section’s Facebook page, which will present a brief story and reflection relevant to each day’s topic.

The media accounts of the new section are listed below
Twitter Accounts:
English –
Italian –
Spanish –
French –


A man entered the sacristy of a Roman basilica on January 7 and used a broken bottle to attack two priests.

Worshippers at the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore heard shouts from the sacristy as a 42-year-old man cut the faces of Father Angelo Gaeta, the sacristan, and Father Adolfo Ralf. Police soon apprehended the perpetrator.

The victims, according to Italy’s state radio and television network, are priests of the Franciscan Friars of Immaculate who have been critical of the institute’s founder, Father Stefano Maria Manelli. The network reported that the attacker’s motive was unknown and that he may have been psychologically disturbed. He was heard to have said, “I am misunderstood.”


A report from Nigeria from Fides News service, an agency of the Congregation for Evangelization of Peoples states that over 800 people have been killed and 16 churches destroyed by the terrorist group of Fulani herdsmen.

Bishop Joseph Danlami Bagobiri of Kafanchan in the state of Kaduna told Fides, “In the last three months attacks have increased carried out by the Fulani Herdsmen Terrorist (FHT) in more than half of the territory of the southern State of Kaduna.” Bishop Bagobiri was speaking in Rome where he was visiting the Italian headquarters of Aid to the Church in Need (ACN).

“In the West, this group is almost unheard of, he said, “but it has been responsible since September of fires in 53 villages, of the death of 808 persons, the wounding of 57 others, the destruction of 1,422 houses and 16 churches.

He also noted that from 2006 to 2014, more than 12,000 Christians were killed and 2,000 churches destroyed because of terrorism in Nigeria. These crimes were mainly committed by the Islamic fundamentalist group Boko Haram, he said, but Boko Haram is not the only group that spreads terror in the African country, and he highlighted the role of Fulani herdsmen in recent years.

The Fulani are a nomadic ethnic group that has been protagonists of recurrent conflicts with farmers in the area. However in recent times the attacks are of a completely different kind compared to the old clashes between farmers and herders, as the latter use “sophisticated weapons that did not exist before, such as the AK-47, said Bishop Bagobiri, adding that it is not known where the weapons come from.



Writing on his Apostleship of Prayer blog, “Offer it up,” Father James Kubicki, SJ national director of the Apostleship, explains a notable change in the format that has been used for quite some time for monthly papal prayer intensions.

“Since the late 1800’s,” he writes, “the Pope has given a monthly prayer intention to the world through the Apostleship of Prayer, now known as the Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network.  In 1929 he added a second intention for the missions.  Today these are called his “universal” and “evangelization” intentions.

The process of soliciting suggestions from Vatican Congregations and from members around the world, then proposing them to the Holy Father, then receiving his final versions and translating them from Italian into various languages, then publicizing them via print—is a long process.  That is why the intentions for 2018 will be chosen and translated in early 2017.”

“But a significant change has been made,” Fr. Kubicki then notes.

He explains that “Pope Francis is returning to the practice of one monthly intention; the twelve intentions for 2017, which alternate between evangelization and universal intentions, have already been published. However, given the speed of communication in the digital age, he is adding a second, urgent prayer intention that he will make known during his Angelus address on the first Sunday of the month.  As soon as we hear what they are we will be publicizing them on our website and other social media.!

Fr. Kubicki cites a fellow Jesuit, Fr. Frederic Fornos, the international director of the Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network, who, he says, “sees this as a way that Pope Francis wants to confront ‘the culture of indifference’ by focusing our prayerful attention on situations that are “more concrete, precise, current, related to actual circumstances.”

From the Apostleship of Prayer website:


  • ·         Pope’s Prayer Intention – Christian Unity: That all Christians may be faithful to the Lord’s teaching by striving with prayer and fraternal charity to restore ecclesial communion and by collaborating to meet the challenges facing humanity. 
  • ·         Urgent Intention – Homeless People Affected by the Cold: That in these days of such great cold that we think of all the people living on the streets, affected by the cold and by the indifference of others. We pray for them and ask the Lord to warm the hearts of others to help them.

Here is a video for Pope Francis’ January 2017 intention, published on January 9 – Christians Serving Humanity:

English translation: In today’s world, Christians from various churches work together to serve humanity in need, to defend human life and its dignity, to defend creation, and to combat injustice. This desire to walk together, to collaborate in service and in solidarity with the weakest and with those who suffer, is a source of joy for us all. Join your voice to mine in praying for all who contribute through prayer and fraternal charity to restoring full ecclesial communion in service of the challenges facing humanity.

The Apostleship of Prayer was set up in 1844 by a group of Jesuit seminarians at Vals, France.

The Apostleship website notes that, “Since 1844 our mission has been to help Christians live out their desire to serve God with their whole lives and their whole selves. God asks us all to pray for ourselves and for others. To make ourselves a living sacrifice and to pray without ceasing for all the needs of the Church and for the whole world. Since the nineteenth century popes have asked the Apostleship of Prayer to pray for specific intentions. We receive two prayer intentions each month from the Holy Father, pledging ourselves to pray for them every day.

In 2006, the board of the Apostleship of Prayer approved this statement of our mission:

The mission of the Apostleship of Prayer is to encourage Christians to make a daily offering of themselves to the Lord for the coming of God’s Kingdom and for the Holy Father’s monthly intentions. This habit of prayer encourages a Eucharistic spirituality of solidarity with the Body of Christ and loving service to others. Nourishing this spiritual program is the love of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

For more information:


(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has named an auxiliary bishop of Los Angeles – Oscar Azarcon Solis – as the tenth Bishop of Salt Lake City, United States.

Bishop Solis will be the first Filipino-American Bishop to lead a Diocese in the United States.


He said: “It’s a beautiful thing to receive the appointment. It’s a recognition of the diversity of the Church in America and the universality of the Church. It is a tremendous blessing and a responsibility and a privilege to be of service to the local Church in the United States of America, coming from the Philippines.”

Bishop Solis was born October 13, 1953 in San Jose, Nueva Ecija, Philippines.He attended the Christ the King Seminary of the Society of the Divine Word, Tagaytag City, to study philosophy and the Pontifical Royal Seminary at the University of Saint Thomas in Manila for his theological studies.

Bishop Solis was ordained a priest on 28 April 1979 for the Diocese of Cabanatuan and served as chaplain to a number of organisations, as Prefect of Seminary Studies and as Diocesan Vocations Director.

In 1984, he emigrated to the United States and until 1988 he was a Parochial Vicar in the Archdiocese of Newark, New Jersey. Later, he was incardinated into the Diocese of Houma-Thibodaux, Louisiana, in 1992, where he served in four different parishes.

Bishop Solis was named as an auxiliary bishop for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles and was ordained on February 10, 2004. He was the first Filipino-American bishop ordained in the United States.

In 2009 he was named Episcopal Vicar for the San Pedro Region and has served on the Subcommittee on Asian and Pacific Affairs at the US Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Bishop Solis will be officially installed at the Cathedral of the Madeleine, Salt Lake City, on Tuesday, March 7.




Pope Francis today addressed members of the diplomatic corps accredited to the Holy See in what is an annual address usually held the second Monday of January. He highlighted the lights and shadows of the world but principally focussed this year’s message on two topics – the theme of security and peace and “religiously motivated violence,” particularly “on the fundamentalist-inspired terrorism that in the past year has also reaped numerous victims throughout the world: in Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Belgium, Burkina Faso, Egypt, France, Germany, Jordan, Iraq, Nigeria, Pakistan, the United States of America, Tunisia and Turkey.”

The diplomats represent 182 nations and include 88 ambassadors who are full time residents in Rome. The newest member accredited to the Holy See, as Pope Francis specifically mentioned in his opening remarks, was the Islamic Republic of Mauritania. He spoke of various bilateral agreements and concordats and pointed out that, “in the context of the Holy See’s commitment to the obligations assumed by the aforementioned Agreements, the Comprehensive Agreement with the State of Palestine, which took effect a year ago, was fully implemented.”

The Holy See also has relations with numerous international institutions and agencies such as the United Nations.

Pope Francis began his remarks by noting that, “A century ago, we were in the midst of the First World War. A ‘useless slaughter’ in which new methods of warfare sowed death and caused immense suffering to the defenceless civil population.  In 1917, the conflict changed profoundly, taking on increasingly global proportions, while those totalitarian regimes, which were long to be a cause of bitter divisions, began to appear on the horizon.  A hundred years later, it can be said that many parts of the world have benefited from lengthy periods of peace, which have favoured opportunities for economic development and unprecedented prosperity.  For many people today, peace appears as a blessing to be taken for granted, for all intents an acquired right to which not much thought is given.  Yet, for all too many others, peace remains merely a distant dream.  Millions of people still live in the midst of senseless conflicts.  Even in places once considered secure, a general sense of fear is felt.  We are frequently overwhelmed by images of death, by the pain of innocent men, women and children who plead for help and consolation, by the grief of those mourning the loss of a dear one due to hatred and violence, and by the drama of refugees fleeing war and migrants meeting tragic deaths.” (photo


This, he said, is why he was devoting his address to the theme of security and peace.”

Francis explained that “Peace is a positive good, ‘the fruit of the right ordering of things’ with which God has invested human society; it is ‘more than the absence of war’. Nor can it be ‘reduced to the maintenance of a balance of power between opposing forces’. Rather, it demands the commitment of those persons of good will who “thirst for an ever more perfect reign of justice.”

“In this regard,” he said, “I voice my firm conviction that every expression of religion is called to promote peace. …. We know that there has been no shortage of acts of religiously motivated violence, beginning with Europe itself, where the historical divisions between Christians have endured all too long. …..”

“Sadly, we are conscious that even today, religious experience, rather than fostering openness to others, can be used at times as a pretext for rejection, marginalization and violence.” Naming the places that had experienced terrorism in the past year, the Pope said, “These are vile acts that use children to kill, as in Nigeria, or target people at prayer, as in the Coptic Cathedral of Cairo, or travelers or workers, as in Brussels, or passers-by in the streets of cities like Nice and Berlin, or simply people celebrating the arrival of the new year, as in Istanbul.

“We are dealing with a homicidal madness which misuses God’s name in order to disseminate death, in a play for domination and power.  Hence I appeal to all religious authorities to join in reaffirming unequivocally that one can never kill in God’s name.”

For the entire papal address, click here:




Sunday, in the splendor of the Sistine Chapel, in a tradition started by St. John Paul on the feast of the Baptism of Our Lord, Pope Francis baptized 28 babies – 13 girls and 15 boys – born to Vatican employees. He told them, in an off the cuff homily, that Jesus’ first “sermon” was probably the sound of his crying in the stable at Bethlehem.

At one point, when the crying and cooing of the babies reached a cresendo, Francis joked, “the concert has begun!” He told the mothers, “if your children are crying because they are hungry, then go ahead and feed them, just as Mary breastfed Jesus.”  (photo


He told his guests that faith does not just mean reciting the Creed on Sundays, but rather believing in the truth, trusting in God and teaching others through the example of our lives. Francis said faith is also the light that grows in our hearts – that’s why a lighted candle is given to every person being baptized. The Ppope told parents, “you have the task of making that faith grow, of nurturing it, so that it may bear witness to others.”

Later, at the noon Angelus, addressing shivering pilgrims in St Peter’s Square, Pope Francis asked for prayers for all those living and dying on the streets at this time of year, noting that a number of homeless in Rome have already ready succumbed to the cold.

Papal Almoner Archbishop Konrad Krajewski, who spoke to Vatican Radio, said the three hostels run by the Vatican will remain open 24 hours a day during the spell of frigid weather. Several Vatican cars were also been made available, outside of Vatican City, on Via della Conciliazione, for those who wish to remain on the streets, but could be better protected in a car. In addition, special thermal sleeping bags and gloves are being brought to the homeless.

It has been so cold that the water in the fountains in St. Peter’s Square froze. I took these photos today as I walked through the square to film a segment for “At Home with Jim and Joy.”



I did find one thing rather sad: workers were dismantling both the Christmas tree and the Nativity scene and they will surely be a thing of the past by tonight or tomorrow morning. Why is this sad? Because for all the decades I have lived here, if memory is correct, the tree and nativity scene have remained up until the February 2 feast of the Presentation of the Child Jesus in the Temple, allowing a lot more visitors to Rome to view this seasonal gift by the Church to the faithful.





Today, the feast of the Epiphany, is both a holy day and holiday in the Vatican and in Italy. As is traditional, it is marked by the Holy Father presiding at Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica and praying the Angelus afterwards from his study window in the Apostolic Palace overlooking St. Peter’s Square.

Epiphany is celebrated throughout the country in an extraordinarily festive way, from small hamlets and ancient villages to the great metropolises of this land. What takes place in the Vatican, starting with the papal Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica and ending with the joyous festivities in St. Peter’s Square, fairly well mirrors what happens around Italy on this day, although perhaps to a larger extent.

In addition to tens of thousands of faithful and tourists, the square is traditionally filled with scores of costumed citizens representing civil and religious organizations, regions and towns of Italy, troubadors, ancient Roman soldiers and flag throwers. Costumed horse riders – including the Three Magi, of course! – strut their finery and groups bearing statues and religious images and crosses and banners march through the square and down Via della Conciliazione at the end of the Angelus. Bands play and spectators applaud.

Although today’s festivities took place under a delft-blue sky, temperatures were rigid and the winds challenged those of the so-called Windy City of Chicago. As I’m still fighting a cold, I thought it wise to remain at home and thus missed one of my favorite celebrations of the year – but isn’t that why we have television to bring us events we cannot attend in person.

The word epiphany, by the way, refers not only to today’s religious feast but comes from the late Greek word meaning an appearance or manifestation, especially of a divine being, and/or a usually sudden manifestation or perception of the essence or essential nature or meaning of something.

In his homily at Mass, Pope Francis began by quoting Matthew’s Gospel: “Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews?  For we have observed his star in the East, and have come to worship him.” (photo:


“With these words,” he continued, “the Magi, come from afar, tell us the reason for their long journey: they came to worship the newborn King. To see and to worship. These two actions stand out in the Gospel account. We saw a star and we want to worship.

Francis explained that “these men saw a star that made them set out. The discovery of something unusual in the heavens sparked a whole series of events.  The star did not shine just for them, nor did they have special DNA to be able to see it.  As one of the Church Fathers rightly noted, the Magi did not set out because they had seen the star, but they saw the star because they had already set out (cf. Saint John Chrysostom).  Their hearts were open to the horizon, … They were open to something new. Thus, the Magi personify all those who believe, those who long for God, who yearn for their home, their heavenly homeland.  They reflect the image of all those who in their lives have not let their hearts become anesthetized.”

“A holy longing for God,” stated Francis, “wells up in the heart of believers because they know that the Gospel is not an event of the past but of the present.  A holy longing for God helps us keep alert in the face of every attempt to reduce and impoverish our life.  A holy longing for God is the memory of faith, which rebels before all prophets of doom.  That longing keeps hope alive in the community of believers, which from week to week continues to plead: “Come, Lord Jesus”.

The Holy Father noted that “longing for God draws us out of our iron-clad isolation, which makes us think that nothing can change.  Longing for God shatters our dreary routines and impels us to make the changes we want and need.   Longing for God has its roots in the past yet does not remain there: it reaches out to the future.  Believers who feel this longing are led by faith to seek God, as the Magi did, in the most distant corners of history, for they know that there the Lord awaits them.  They go to the peripheries, to the frontiers, to places not yet evangelized, to encounter their Lord.  Nor do they do this out of a sense of superiority, but rather as beggars who cannot ignore the eyes of those who for whom the Good News is still uncharted territory.”

Referring then to Herod, whose place was a short distance from Bethlehem, the Pope said, “he slept, anesthetized by a cauterized conscience.  He was bewildered, afraid.  It is the bewilderment which, when faced with the newness that revolutionizes history, closes in on itself and its own achievements, its knowledge, its successes.  The bewilderment of one who sits atop his wealth yet cannot see beyond it.  The bewilderment lodged in the hearts of those who want to control everything and everyone.  The bewilderment of those immersed in the culture of winning at any cost, in that culture where there is only room for ‘winners’, whatever the price.  A bewilderment born of fear and foreboding before anything that challenges us, calls into question our certainties and our truths, our ways of clinging to the world and this life.  Herod was afraid, and that fear led him to seek security in crime.

“Herod is unable to worship,” continued Pope Francis, “because he could not or would not change his own way of looking at things. He did not want to stop worshiping himself, believing that everything revolved around him.  He was unable to worship, because his aim was to make others worship him. Nor could the priests worship, because although they had great knowledge, and knew the prophecies, they were not ready to make the journey or to change their ways.

The Magi experienced longing; they were tired of the usual fare. They were all too familiar with, and weary of, the Herods of their own day. But there, in Bethlehem, was a promise of newness, of gratuitousness. There something new was taking place. The Magi were able to worship, because they had the courage to set out. And as they fell to their knees before the small, poor and vulnerable Infant, the unexpected and unknown Child of Bethlehem, they discovered the glory of God.”


At today’s Angelus, in a sunny but bitter cold St. Peter’s Square, Pope Francis again highlighted the meaning of the feast of the Epiphany, saying, “like the Magi, let us set out, clothe ourselves in the light following the star of Jesus, and love the Lord with all our might.”

He told the multitude of faithful in the square, “As the Magi chose to be guided by the star of Jesus, even in our life there are several stars. It’s up to us to choose which to follow. There are flashing lights that come and go, like the small pleasures of life: although good, they are not enough.”

Francis said, “the Magi invite us to follow the true light that is Lord, a light that does not dazzle, but accompanies and gives a unique joy. Follow today, among the many shooting stars in the world, the bright star of Jesus! Following it, we will have the joy, like  that of the Magi. ”

As he concluded his Angelus reflections, the Holy Father announced that he had a gift for those in square, and he held up a small booklet called “Icons of Mercy.”

“The Magi offered their gifts to Jesus, And speaking of gifts, I thought I’d give you a little gift: The “Icons of Mercy” booklet. The gift of God is Jesus, the Father’s mercy; and so, to remember this gift of God, I will give this gift that will be distributed by the poor, the homeless and refugees along with many volunteers and religious whom I cordially greet and thank you wholeheartedly.”

He especially pointed out that “the booklet is pocket size, so you can always have it with you”

Three hundred poor and homeless passed the booklets out and were later treated to lunch, another gift from Pope Francis.


Notwithstanding the fact that a huge snow storm has blanketed the EWTN Irondale campus and large areas of Alabama, creating hazardous travel conditions, and notwithstanding an employee alert that the Irondale offices will be closed today, a number of employees in engineering, operations, production, safety and security and radio are present to assure that “the show will go on” (in most cases).

My stalwart colleague Jeff Burson put together the elements of “Vatican Insider,” thus assuring that you will hear a new show this first weekend of the New Year.

The interview segment will feature my conversation with San Antonio Archbishop Gustavo Garcia Siller as we talk about the V Encuentro and other topics during a visit he made to Rome.


The V Encuentro, as its website explains, is a four-year process of ecclesial reflection and action that invites all Catholics in the United States to intense missionary activity, consultation, leadership development, and identification of best ministerial practices in

the spirit of the New Evangelization. The process has been proposed as a priority activity of the USCCB’s Strategic Plan for 2017-2020.

The V Encuentro (Encounter) starts this very month of January 2017 at the grass roots level and calls for the development of resources and initiatives to better serve the fast growing Hispanic population in dioceses, parishes, ecclesial movements, and other Catholic organizations and institutions in light of its theme Missionary Disciples: Witnesses of God’s Love.

The main goal of the V Encuentro is to discern ways in which the Church in the United States can better respond to the Hispanic/Latino presence, and to strengthen the ways in which Hispanics/Latinos respond to the call to the New Evangelization as missionary disciples serving the entire Church.

In the United States, you can listen to Vatican Insider (VI) on a Catholic radio station near you (there is a list of U.S. stations at or on channel 130 Sirius-XM satellite radio. 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 9:00am (ET). On the SKY satellite feed to the UK and parts of Europe, VI airs on audio channel 0147 at 11:30 am CET on Saturdays, and 5:30am and 10pm CET on Sundays. It’s also available on demand on the EWTN app and on the website. CHECK YOUR TIME ZONE. Here’s a link to download VI to your iTunes library:   For VI archives:


Papal tweet on January 5: May charity and nonviolence govern how we treat each other.


Pope Francis met on Thursday with hundreds of Italians from the archdiocese of Spoleto-Norcia, devastated by a series of powerful earthquakes over the past six months. The central Italian town of Amatrice and surrounding areas were hit by a 6.3 magnitude quake in August which killed nearly 300 people. Other powerful quakes caused major damage in the same region on October 26th and 30th, with the latest tremors reported in Spoleto last Monday, January 2nd.


Around 800 people, led by their Bishop Renato Boccardo and local civic authorities, travelled to Rome for the audience in the Paul VI hall. Many of them had lost their houses, livelihoods and friends or family members in the largest earthquakes which reduced parts of many towns and villages to piles of rubble.

Regional reconstruction: Pope Francis sat and listened as a survivor and a local parish priest described the immense suffering of people, now seeking to rebuild their shattered communities. In his off-the-cuff response, the Pope said the worst thing to do in such circumstances was to offer a prepared sermon, but instead he reflected on the work of physical, mental and spiritual reconstruction that has been taking place throughout the region.

Healing hands: Pope Francis spoke of the wounds which have affected those who’ve lost their loved ones and the importance of crying together as they seek to heal the pain. He spoke too of the healing hands of doctors, nurses, firemen and all those who worked together to pull survivors from the rubble or offer help to those most in need.

Sharing and solidarity: Finally the Pope spoke of the spirit of solidarity and nearness which is vital for the reconstruction process. While everyone affected by the earthquakes will continue to bear scars, he said it’s important to find the courage to dream again.  Sharing and remaining close together, he said, makes us more courageous and more human as we face this daunting task.

Amatrice visit: The Pope’s words come three months after he made a surprise visit to Amatrice and two neighbouring towns to meet with survivors and relatives of victims. During the visit, he said he had not come to make speeches, but simply to be close to those suffering and to pray with all those affected by the earthquakes. (Vatican Radio)



Today was a typically busy work day, including researching and writing some scripts for “At Home with Jim and Joy” and working on my weekend Vatican Radio show, “Joan Knows” which I’ll tape tomorrow at the radio instead of Friday as I usually do because that day, January 6, is the feast of the Epiphany and a big holiday, both solemn and yet festive, in Italy and the Vatican. Many VR employees will have the day off.

There was one unexpected addition to my agenda – time spent in attempts (so far fruitless) to contact the Vatican (which owns the building in which I live and to whom I pay my rent)) and its technical services offices to see about the damage done to my bathroom ceiling when the bathroom of the couple living above me flooded due to a broken pipe. This happened while I was away and I noticed it yesterday morning when I looked up at the water heater to see if the water had heated (I always turn it off when I am away) properly.

Our doorman gave me some numbers yesterday but there was no answer when I called. I tried again today to call these offices, but again, no answer. I even called the Vatican switchboard to ask the nuns to put me through to the person whose name had been given to me.

As the Italians say at such moments, “pazienza!” I’ll try again tomorrow, of course.

I am also fighting a cold that struck me like lightning in the middle of the afternoon yesterday. Have been at home all day, trying to improve for tomorrow’s radio and TV segments. Working at home has definite advantages!



(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Wednesday continued his series of reflections on Christian hope, speaking of the inconsolable pain of a parent losing a child. He focused his words on the Old Testament figure of Rachel, wife of Jacob, who is described by the prophet Jeremiah as weeping bitter tears for her children in exile.

In the book of Genesis, we learn that Rachel died in childbirth, giving life to her second son, Benjamin. But the prophet Jeremiah talks about her inconsolable grief at the loss of her children who’ve been sent into exile.

There are no words or gestures, the Pope said, that can console a mother faced with the tragedy of losing a child.  (photo


There are many mothers today, he went on, who are crying and inconsolable, unable to accept the senseless death of a child. Rachel’s pain, he said, encapsulates the suffering of all mothers and the tears of all people who weep for an irreparable loss.

This story, the Pope said, teaches us how delicate and difficult it is to console another person’s grief. Before speaking of hope, he said, we must share in their tears and if we can’t find words to do that, then it’s better to keep silent, offering only a gesture or a caress instead.

And yet God responds to Rachel’s tears, the Pope said, promising that her children will return to their homeland. The bitter tears of the woman who dies in childbirth become the seeds of new life and generate new hope.

In a similar way, he said, the death of Christ on the Cross offers life and hope to the innocent children of Bethlehem who are murdered by King Herod in the days following Jesus’ birth.

Pope Francis spoke of his own reaction to people who ask difficult questions about why children suffer. “I don’t know what to reply”, he said, “I simply say, ‘Look at the Cross: God gave us his Son, he suffered and perhaps you will find a reply there”.

The Son of God entered into our human suffering, the Pope concluded, sharing our pain and welcoming death. From the Cross, he gave new life to Mary, making her the mother of all believers. Through Mary’s and Rachel’s tears, he fulfills the words of the prophet and generates new hope.

At the end of the audience, Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Wednesday expressed his “sorrow and concern” upon hearing news of the prison riots that took place Monday in Brazil. More than 50 people were killed, making the riots the deadliest to hit Brazil in two decades.


During his General Audience on Wednesday, the Holy Father called for prayer “for those who have died, for their families, for all the inmates of that prison, and for those who work there.” The Pope also renewed his appeal “that prisons might be places of re-education and re-integration into society; and that the conditions of life of prisoners might be worthy of human persons.”

In improvised remarks following the appeal, Pope Francis led the crowd in a prayer for the prisoners involved in the riots, both living and dead, and for all prisoners throughout the world. He prayed to Mary, the Mother of prisoners, that prisons might not be overcrowded, but might be places of rehabilitation.

Brazil’s justice minister on Tuesday proposed an overhaul of the penal system to tackle chronic prison overcrowding  The minister, Alexandre de Moraes, said his country needed to improve conditions in jails, which are home to an estimated 600,000 inmates, after visiting the prison in the jungle city of Manaus.




I returned yesterday from a marvelous vacation with a ton of family members in Milwaukee, Chicago and River Forest. We spent wall-to-wall days celebrating as one should with family during this beautiful season – Masses, of course, long, fun meals, hours with the young and young at heart, lots of football games, a great animated child’s movie, “Sing,” and so very much laughter! So many feel-good moments of shared joy!

Being with the young ones is what this time of year is all about! They put so many things into perspective for those of us who are (we hope) all grown up!

The Milwaukee festivities included a family reunion of my niece Christie’s husband, Bryan Ortwein, together with his 6 sisters, 1 brother and parents. For three days there were 13 or 14 of us at breakfast and for several nights, 36 of us for dinner, each night at a different home, including Christie and Bryan’s. More about those gatherings (with photos) tomorrow as I participated in some family traditions that could easily be imitated (or perhaps they already are) by other families.

Chicago was two days of intense fun, including a visit to Lewis Towers (built by my great uncle Frank J Lewis), lunch and dinner with the Ortwein clan, lunch with my sister-in-law at RL restaurant and dinner with Fr. Dan Flens, a long time secretary to the late Cardinal Francis George. Before dinner we visited the cardinal’s residence where Cardinal George and Fr. Dan lived for years. The wonderful Albertine sisters who cared for Cardinal George for 15 years still live at the residence, as does another good friend, retired Auxiliary Bishop Raymond Goedert. (Cardinal Cupich chose not to live here; he lives in a suite of rooms at Holy Names Cathedral).

The nuns always do a beautiful job of decorating a very large Christmas tree and setting up a lovely Nativity Scene with figurines from Rome. Fr. Dan, my sister in law Anne and I had a great visit with the sisters and Bishop Goedert, enjoyed the tree and prayed in the exquisite chapel, small but awesome, of the residence.

River Forest was a reunion with two cousins who are sisters, Deb and Diane, who had spent 10 days with me in Rome in September and October, and Diane’s husband Tom. Again, more great food and conversation, some football games and so much laughter I could barely breathe!

It is amazing how one can burn both ends of the candle during the holidays and yet feel excited, rejuvenated, hopeful and anxious to meet and greet the future and new people and events and places – even after a long plane trip and some jet lag! A great night’s sleep is the remedy for that.

For those of you who travel, especially frequently, allow me to do some PR for two airports.

I flew to Chicago on Air Canada via Toronto – a truly beautiful, functional and welcoming airport. In particular, it has special passport control and luggage procedures in place for welcoming Americans back home so that when we arrive at our U.S. destination, the paper work is all done.

There is one area dedicated to this transfer where monitors posted on the wall let you know your luggage has been offloaded from one flight and is being transferred to another. Your initials and last name appear on the monitor as does your final destination, at which point your can proceed to passport control and then on to your next flight.

My flight to Chicago was in Concourse F where, after walking through a duty free shopping area, I saw what I believe to be scores, possibly hundreds, of tablets on dozens and dozens of tables. The tables and sitting area, including armchairs, were near the departure gates and the tablets had a number of icons that, when touched, allowed travelers to order food and drink and to pay via credit card on the adjacent card reader. You could also access emails, play computer games and get updated ìnfo on your flight, as well as many other options – all free. This is a fascinating and friendly way to keep travelers busy but you really must keep checking your watch so that, in the process of having fun, you don’t miss your flight!

My flight to Rome was on Lufthansa via Munich. Lufthansa and its subsidiarity, Swiss, are my favorite European airlines. No matter the class, in my dozens of trips with both of these airlines, I have always found the service to be marvelous where multi-lingual personnel are constantly polite, helpful and caring.

I had not been in Munich in a while and I would rate this airport 11 on a scale of 10 . It has had a great makeover and if I thought it was good before, it is great now. I was able to enjoy Lufthansa’s Senator Lounge in the time I had to spare before my flight to Rome and it was the most impeccable experience I have ever had in an airline lounge, including the huge variety of food in the buffet.

As we boarded the plane for Rome, we had been watching snow fall – it was beautiful and holidayish, of course, but also delayed our flight as every plane taking off had to be de-iced twice, once at the gate and a second time immediately before takeoff. As we waited out that hour, I think some of us were dreaming of the Senator lounge!

Here I am, back in Rome, safe and sound, and energized for the New Year.

I saw this headline last night after my return to Rome: “Hilarion Capucci, priest and Middle East activist, dies.” That led to an AP story on a man I interviewed 30 years ago in the Vatican for the National Catholic Register (well before it was part of the EWTN family). At that time, the expression most often used to describe Bishop Capucci was “Palestinian gun runner.”

The AP story lead: “Monsignor Hilarion Capucci, who was a Greek Melkite Catholic archbishop in Jerusalem when Israel convicted him in 1976 of using his diplomatic status to smuggle arms to Palestinian militants in the occupied West Bank, has died. He was 94. Both the Vatican and the Greek Melkite Catholic patriarchate on Monday confirmed reports the Capucci had died in Rome, but did not say when or provide other details.”

HERE is the whole story:

It would be very interesting to re-read that interview. I’ve contacted the Register but do not think they have those long-ago articles online. If my original typed interview is in my vast files, at the moment I’m not sure where to look.

In the 1980s, as the Internet had not yet been born and the fax machine, though around for a while, was finally becoming an important tool for document transmission, the telex was regularly used by the media to transmit stories, in addition to the ever-improving facsimile machine.

In the years I worked for the Register (1979 to December 1985), I was a one-person office and worked from home or from my then small desk in the Holy See Press Office. My stories appeared weekly and I most often dictated them by phone, occasionally using the Vatican fax machine (we were billed, of course, for transmissions). Technology has developed so much and so fast that it seems like I was working in the Dark Ages when I wrote for the Register!

The Capucci story is out there (or in my files) somewhere and I am now very curious to find it.

News now surrounds us 24/7 in countless ways and on a wide variety of social and other media. There was lots of news at the Vatican over the holidays and I was able to keep up-with at least the headlines, if not the whole story, so I’ll devote time in coming days to reading papal talks, homilies, documents, etc.

I’ll be with Teresa Tomeo as usual tomorrow, Wednesday on “Catholic Connection and EWTN radio so we can share some of those developments with you then!

It’s great to be back! Thanks a million to all of you who sent Christmas wishes, either by email, FB messages or snail mail cards. I’d love to respond personally but please know you were in my thoughts and prayers over the holidays – prayers said with heartfelt gratitude for your friendship and for being such huge fans of my work!