Saw this news report this morning: Russian President Vladimir Putin has announced that 755 staff must leave U.S. diplomatic missions by September 1 in retaliation for new U.S. sanctions against Moscow. I read that, on that date, staff levels of U.S. diplomatic personnel in Russia will total 455 people, identical to the number of Russian embassy employees in Washington. Thus, the total US diplomatic staff in Russia (is) was 1210 people. I just have one question – and am guessing I have a lot to learn: Why on earth does one embassy need 1,210 people? I’m sure that includes some chefs and household staff and office cleaning staff and a few drivers – but 1,210 people?


A song from the musical “Porgy and Bess” has the line “Summertime and the livin is easy,” and that’s pretty much how it is in Italy in July and even more so in August. Many businesses and shops close, sometimes for several weeks, Italians vacate major cities for their summer homes on the beach or in the cooler mountains, traffic is less congested and the noise level goes down noticeably.

It has been torrid in Rome since mid-June at least. Today it’s 95, tomorrow we’ll hit 101 and Wednesday will be 103. In fact, predictions for the next week say every day will be 100+ degrees. We are still waiting to hear if water rationing will go into effect throughout Rome. (photo EFP)


I know many places in the U.S. and around the world are experiencing heat waves and, in some places (Italy included), devastating fires, but it may seem hotter here than elsewhere simply because there is not as much air conditioning here as in the US. Many homes do not have AC as it is so expensive to run. Stores will have conditioning but they negate the effects by leaving their doors open. Generally speaking, in the U.S., you’ll be hot while outside but once you are in a car, bus, train, home, store, restaurant – you name it – you’ll find relief with AC.

Coming back this afternoon from Castel Sant’Angelo where I filmed a segment for “At Home with Jim and Joy,” the water in my bottle got so warm I had to empty the bottle – it was undrinkable.

Let’s not talk about public transport in this weather! A relatively small number of busses have fully functioning AC but often, those that have AC leave the windows open and in five minutes you feel like you are travelling in an oven! Right now the transport crisis is less about working AC than it is working drivers. Some drivers are on vacation but many are simply not reporting for work as they’ve not been paid in three months! Thus, fewer buses, longer waits and when your bus does come, chances are people are packed in like the proverbial sardines!

Tourists abound at this time of year, of course, but Italians have started their mass vacation exodus as, almost every weekend in July, cars filled with families depart Rome for the seashore or the mountains. Most families have second homes – some an hour’s drive away, others in the northern Alpine areas or on the beaches of Calabria and Sicily in southern Italy. Most Italians drive to their vacation home, some take a ship to the islands and many Italians, of course, travel beyond the borders of Italy to exotic places. July is a big month for vacation but August is traditionally the month when cities seem to literally close.

July and August in Rome is when people walk slower, simply because it is so hot or because they are just strolling for the fun of it, in good company and seemingly aimlessly. These are months when the sun shines mercilessly and you walk on the shady side of the street so that your shoes don’t stick to the sidewalk that appears to be melting under your feet. These are months when stores seem to close a bit earlier than usual, when restaurants remain open later than usual, when gelateria are still selling mouth-watering cones at midnight and watermelons are sold on every fifth street corner, satisfying a national passion – and a national pastime – in the summer.

This afternoon, as I was returning home from taping, I saw quite a number of places – restaurants, cafes, pharmacies, a newsstand, a hardware store – that are shuttered for the holidays. Such places usually put a sign on the shutter that tells when they will re-open. Pharmacies are required to post a list of close by alternative pharmacies that are open.

The Vatican is no exception to the July-August vacation time. Most employees want to escape the heat by heading to a milder clime or, when that is not possible, to seek relief in any form – the mountains, the sea or some place that at least can offer a lot of air-conditioning! Many employees are from overseas and thus return home for a month.

News is scarce because there are few people to make it. The main Vatican newsmaker, Pope Francis, has spent the last month on a relatively quiet working vacation, appearing in public only on Sundays for the Angelus. He resumes his weekly general audience this Wednesday, August 2.

Yesterday at the Angelus, before a fair sized crowd in St. Peter’s Square, notwithstanding the midday heat, he called for increased efforts to end human trafficking. His made his appeal after reciting the Marian prayer with pilgrims and tourists gathered in the square on the 17th Sunday in Ordinary Time and the World Day against Trafficking in Persons.

Francis began by noting, “Today is the World Day against Trafficking in Persons, promoted by the United Nations. Each year, thousands of men, women and children are innocent victims of sexual and organ trafficking, and it seems that we are so accustomed to seeing it as a normal thing. This is ugly, it is cruel, it is criminal! I would like to ask everyone to commit to countering this aberrant plague, a modern form of slavery, Let us pray together to the Virgin Mary to support the victims of trafficking and to convert the hearts of traffickers.”

I remember when papal vacations lasted several months. John Paul – and Benedict XVI in the early years – would often spend part of July in cooler northern Italy, usually at a summer residence owned by a diocese or seminary, and then go to Castelgandolfo for August and most of September. Often the Sunday Angelus was recited in the canopy-covered courtyard of the summer papal residence.

Yes, summertime – and the livin is easy!


This weekend I offer some great websites (not for the first time!) for your visit to Vatican City. You may know these already but if you don’t, you’ll probably discover they have the answers to your questions about getting tickets for and attending papal functions, reserving tickets for the Vatican Museums so you can skip the long lines, how to visit the Vatican Gardens and Castelgandolfo, get papal blessings, etc.

Visiting the gardens, museums, buying coins and stamps, etc: http://www.vaticanstate.va/content/vaticanstate/en/stato-e-governo.html

For papal audiences and events: http://www.vatican.va/various/prefettura/index_en.html

The Papal Almoner – for papal blessings: http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/institutions_connected/elem_apost/index.htm


I am finally back at the helm and rarin’ to go again with “Vatican Insider,” my segments on “At Home with Jim and Joy” and my Wednesday radio conversations with Teresa Tomeo on “Catholic Connection,” not to mention this column which I resumed on Monday.

Be sure to tune in to Vatican Insider this weekend for my conversation with Kathleen Beckman whom most of you know as a prolific author, engaging speaker and retreat master, and founder of Foundation of Prayer for Priests. Kathleen and I collaborated on the newly-released book, “When Women Pray” and that is what we’ll talk about today – prayer. This was a totally off-the-cuff conversation – one Kathleen suggested after we had just taped an interview about her experience in Rome attending a course on exorcism. So stay with us –and maybe pray with us!

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 www.ewtn.com) 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:  http://www.ewtn.com/se/pg/DatService.svc/feed/~LE.xml   For VI archives: http://www.ewtn.com/vondemand/audio/file_index.asp?SeriesId=7096&pgnu=


(Vatican Radio) The Holy See has confirmed that the Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin will travel to Moscow in September.

Parolin’s journey to Russia comes in the wake of his visits to Belarus and to Ukraine in the past two years signaling the Vatican’s continuing engagement with eastern Europe and its desire to continue supporting the Christians in the region.

In an exclusive interview with the Italian newspaper “Il Sole 24 ore, Cardinal Parolin pointed out that the Holy See’s support for Christians in Eastern Europe has never waned, not even in the darkest of years.

Holy See’s historical relationship with Russia

He said the Vatican has always given great value to its relationship with Eastern Europe and with Russia and he recalled the Tsar, Nicholas I’s two meetings with Pope Gregorius XVI in 1845, and how the the Pontificate of Pius IX began in 1847 with an agreement by which both the government and the Holy See played a part in filling vacant Latin Church episcopal sees in Russia and in its Polish provinces.

Parolin described the continuing relationship between the Vatican and Russia as a “patient, constructive and respectful dialogue”.

Diplomacy of peace

It is crucially important, he said, especially regarding those issues that are at the root of current conflicts or that risk triggering further tensions.

“In this sense, the question of peace and the quest for solutions to the various crises should be placed above any national or partial interest. There cannot be winners or losers, Cardinal Parolin stressed, I am convinced that it is the mission of the Holy See to insist on this fact”.

In the article the Vatican Secretary of State also touched on the global issue of violence perpetrated in the name of religion and spoke of the need to protect religious freedom and at the same time protect Christians – or any other community –  at risk of persecution.

He also spoke of the need to continue to work to protect and care for creation expressing his hope that the United States – and other international actors – do not ignore their international responsibility to care for our common home, work to reduce poverty and inequality, and open their hearts to forced migrants and refugees.

“The Catholic Church’s diplomacy is a diplomacy of peace” – Parolin explained – it is not driven by political, ideological or economic interests, and for this reason it is free to pursue the path to common good and to denounce the catastrophic effects a self-referenced vision can have on all.


It’s once again a quiet day at the Vatican but things will surely change in coming days as Pope Francis nears the end of his working vacation at the Santa Marta residence. He has, of course, appeared in the window of his study in the Apostolic Palace on Sundays for the Angelus, and will resume the weekly general audience on Wednesday, August 2, in the Paul VI Hall. The weather here has been exceedingly hot, although today and yesterday were rather reasonable with temps in the mid-80s to 90s. Those temps are doubtless the reason for holding the general audience inside.

The U.S has been having its own problems with heat waves and fires in many parts of the country but Italy has been suffering in many ways that are almost historical in nature, with both fires and severe drought.

The drought, brought about by some of the driest weather to affect Italy in 60 years, has left rainfall totals 80% below normal. Rome has had only 26 rainy days in this year’s first six months of this year, compared to 88 in the first half of 2016. Water rationing is still a possibility and could last as long as eight hours daily in alternating neighborhoods.

Rome’s celebrated Trevi Fountain risks running dry, as do other fountains in the Eternal City. We’ve already seen that the Vatican has chosen to turn off its fountains in St. Peter’s Square as well as inside Vatican City State.

One news source reported that Farmers’ lobby Coldiretti last week estimated 2 billion euros ($2.3 billion) worth of damage so far to Italian agriculture due to the crisis. Among those suffering are farmers growing canning tomatoes in the southeastern region of Puglia, wine grapes throughout much of Italy and those cultivating olives — all signature crops for the nation.


(ANSA) – Rome, July 25 – Mariella Enoc, president of Rome’s Bambino Gesù children’s hospital, said Tuesday that Charlie Gard’s therapy would not have been suspended if he had been at the Vatican-owned structure.

“I don’t know why the English hospital decided to suspend the child’s treatments,” Enoc told a news conference. “I know that here with us this would not have happened… I don’t know if it would have been possible to save Charlie, but I do know that lots of time was wasted in legal debates that served for nothing.”

On Monday the parents of the terminally ill British 11-month-old gave up their legal battle to have their son treated abroad. Earlier in July, UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson told Foreign Minister Angelino Alfano that legal reasons prevented Britain from allowing the family to take up an offer from Bambino Gesu’ hospital to try to cure the child.

The hospital had offered to help Gard’s mother Connie Yates and her husband Chris Gard after Pope Francis said treatment should be provided “until the end.” “The experimental therapy could have been an opportunity for Charlie Gard but it came too late,” said Bambino Gesù expert Professor Enrico Silvio Bertini.

“Unfortunately, it has emerged that it is impossible to start the experimental therapeutic plan in the light of the clinical evaluation… because of the seriously compromised condition of little Charlie’s muscle tissue,” said Bertini, the head of Bambino Gesù’s muscular and neurodegenerative illnesses department. (ANSA, a national Italian news agency)


Christians have devoted themselves to the veneration of Jesus’ Sacred Heart for centuries! While many saints have claimed to have had private revelations about Jesus’ Sacred Heart, the modern Catholic devotion is based primarily on the visions of St. Margaret Mary Alacoque in the 17th century. (As with all private revelations, Catholics are not obliged to believe them).

Following are the 12 promises privately revealed to St. Margaret Mary Alacoque by Jesus for those who practice devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus:

1) I will give them all the graces necessary in their state of life.
2) I will establish peace in their homes.
3) I will comfort them in all their afflictions.
4) I will be their secure refuge during life, and above all, in death.
5) I will bestow abundant blessings upon all their undertakings.
6) Sinners will find in my Heart the source and infinite ocean of mercy.
7) Lukewarm souls shall become fervent.
8) Fervent souls shall quickly mount to high perfection.
9) I will bless every place in which an image of my Heart is exposed and honored.
10) I will give to priests the gift of touching the most hardened hearts.
11) Those who shall promote this devotion shall have their names written in my Heart.
12) I promise you in the excessive mercy of my Heart that my all-powerful love will grant to all those who receive Holy Communion on the First Fridays in nine consecutive months the grace of final perseverance; they shall not die in my disgrace, nor without receiving their sacraments. My divine Heart shall be their safe refuge in this last moment.

Sacred Heart of Jesus, have mercy on us!
(Source: ChurchPOP)


Today, the very day we are celebrating grandparents, was the last of two days that my sister Gail and her husband spent in Uelzen, Germany where our maternal grandfather was born. Over two decades ago I began doing genealogical research on both the paternal (Lewis) and maternal (Bromann and Blattner) sides of our family. I did not have that many records to go on for the Bromann or Blattner families but that was where the then fairly new Internet came in.

I explored the websites of two cities, Hannover and Hamburg, as suggested by talks with my Mom and her sister. To make a long story short, with great joy I discovered that Grandpa Bromann was born in Uelzen and his parents, grandparents, etc. in nearby picturesque Hankensbuettel. I visited both towns in December 2006, taking photos and filming videos (what I’d have given for Facebook Live!) to give to my Mom and aunt as Christmas gifts. I also wrote a long blog about the visit and that, together with other information I had from the Internet, was the basis of my sister’s brief visit to Uelzen.

The Uelzen trip was to be the finale to our Danube River cruise, but that cruise was not to be, at least for me. Gail is willing to go back so perhaps we can write another chapter in the genealogy book and next time visit wonderful Hankensbuettel.

I can’t wait to see her photos, especially the records of our grandfather’s birth in 1869!!

For grandparents and grandchildren – Follow Pope Francis’ advice! (see below)


Today is July 26, feast of saints Anne and Joachim, maternal grandparents of Jesus. Congratulations to all grandparents throughout the world on this day, your very special day. And we cannot forget the grandchildren – your day as well!

Pope Francis tweeted today: How important grandparents are for family life, for passing on the human and religious heritage so essential for each and every society!

On December 19, 2016, the Holy Father addressed youth from Italian Catholic Action and invited them to share Advent with their grandparents, urging them to listen to the aged who “have the wisdom of life.”

“I would like to give you a task: speak to your grandparents, … ask them questions, they have the memory of history, the experience of living, and this is a great gift for you that will help you in your life journey. …. And (grandparents) should “listen to you, understand your aspirations and your hopes. This is your task: speak to your grandparents, listen to them.”

Francis began the general audience of March 11, 2015, by noting, “In today’s catechesis we continue our reflection on grandparents, considering the value and importance of their role in the family. I do so by placing myself in their shoes, because I too belong to this age group.

“When I was in the Philippines, the Filipino people greeted me saying ‘Lolo Kiko’ — meaning Grandpa Francis — ‘Lolo Kiko’, they said! The first important thing to stress: it is true that society tends to discard us, but the Lord definitely does not! The Lord never discards us. He calls us to follow Him in every age of life, and old age has a grace and a mission too, a true vocation from the Lord. Old age is a vocation. It is not yet time to “pull in the oars”. This period of life is different from those before, there is no doubt; we even have to somewhat “invent it ourselves”, because our societies are not ready, spiritually and morally, to appreciate the true value of this stage of life.”

Francis stressed that, “the prayer of grandparents and of the elderly is a great gift for the Church! The prayer of grandparents and of the elderly is a great gift for the Church, it is a treasure! A great injection of wisdom for the whole of human society: above all for one which is too busy, too taken, too distracted. Someone should also sing, for them too, sing of the signs of God, proclaim the signs of God, pray for them! Let us look to Benedict XVI, who chose to spend the final span of his life in prayer and listening to God! This is beautiful!”


Greeting to fellow members of the Constantinian Order of St. George: On this day in the year 306 AD, Constantine was acclaimed the 57th Emperor and Supreme Ruler of Rome and its Empire – the start of what history calls the Constantinian Era with its ideas of toleration for peoples, growth in nourishing established regions, securing the borders of the state and ushering in a period of relative stability and peace while entrenching the roots of the empire in the East.

Thanks to Emperor Constantine, Christianity was finally protected. He was responsible for building the first basilicas dedicated to Sts. Peter and Paul, as well as St. John Lateran. What is more, his mother, Empress Helena, was the inspiration for the Roman basilica of the Holy Cross in Jerusalem. In fact, the story of St. Helena, her conversion to Christianity, her trips to the Holy Land and her recovery of relics linked to Christ’s passion and death, which she subsequently brought to Rome, is as interesting – and, in a way, beautiful – as the church itself. (St. Helena’s statue inside St. Peter’s Basilica)

St. Helena’s faith, her devotion to the Cross and, of course, the relics themselves – part of the true Cross, a nail, thorns from the Crown of Thorns and the wood inscription affixed to the Cross bearing the words in three languages: “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews” – these are all the very raison d’etre for the basilica.


There was a fascinating meeting today in the EWTN offices about social media – the big movers and shakers (you can already guess what they are), guidelines for profitable use, statistics, improving outreach via Facebook, Twitter, what not to do on social media, gaining followers and fans, etc. I’ll try to put some of my notes together and bring a bit of the content to you – just the tip of an amazing iceberg.

To give you an idea: I thought I had a FB page when what I have is a FB account!

All quiet in the papal household today but I do have a few interesting Vatican stories as you can see……


(Vatican Radio) The drought that is affecting the city of Rome and the surrounding areas of the capital has led the Holy See to take measures to save water.

The Governorate of Vatican City State has decided to turn off all the fountains, both the external ones located in St. Peter’s Square, and the interior fountains including those in the Vatican Gardens. The move is in line with the teachings of Pope Francis in his Encyclical on creation Laudate Si.


On July 28th the medal marking the 5th year of Pope Francis’papacy will be made available in Vatican bookstores and in the offices of APSA (Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See).

On one side, the Pope’s coat of arms with the words FRANCISCUS P.P. ANNO V MMXVII. Below is name of artist. On the border E CIVITATE VATICANA and the medal number,

On the other side: An extended hand is a sign of welcome for those who must flee their country to seek a better future: hospes eram et collegistis me (Mt, 25,35 I was a stranger and you welcomed me). Seated on the ground among the people is a man who resembles Christ: what you have done to the least of my brothers, you have done to me (Mt. 25,40)

There will be 50 medals available in gold, 1,000 in silver and 1,500 in bronze.


(Vatican Radio)  The Vatican’s Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life has a new way to interact with the world: a new website launched this week – www.laityfamilylife.va – that offers news about the Dicastery’s activities, as well as social updates and videos.

Explaining its mission, the Dicastery says, “The new website, in addition to telling about the Dicastery’s activities, wants to become a familiar place for lay people and families, where everyone will feel at ease and have [a] chance to be heard.”

The portal also presents the Dicastery’s new logo, which represents “a hug that welcomes all the laity and all the families of the world.”

Designed by Anna Formaggio, the logo represents the colonnade around St. Peter’s Square made up of lay people who embrace a group of families.

“From the colonnade and the families within it life is born,” life which is represented by a flower sprouting from the columns.



I am finally back home and sitting at my desk – though just briefly these first days – trying to get back in the groove of things. The serious infection is gone and we’re now working on getting the tendon to 100 percent. I’ll certainly have a new appreciation of tendon issues whenever I read of athletes who injury the Achille’s tendon and need a lot of time and therapy to heal it.

I certainly spent a lot of time thinking about the healthcare bill in the U.S. Congress – or at least attempts to create a new bill to replace Obamacare. Two things are important for me – and probably for millions. Healthcare must cover pre-existing conditions and insurance companies must be allowed to compete in order to offer good policies at reasonable, affordable prices – not prices that will put families in the poor house with a single hospital stay.

The clinic I was in is run by the marvelous Sisters of St. Joseph of Gerona, a Spanish order of nursing nuns. I saw five of them at Mass in the clinic chapel the first weekend I was there – they all remembered me from a prolonged stay 15 years ago, as I did each of them! Loving, caring, ever-smiling sisters.  And Sr. Guadalupe still plays the organ at the 10:30 Mass.  Her real life sister, Sr. Isabella, accompanied the priest who brought me communion every morning at 7.

I had my iPad so could keep up with news during my stay. Today I offer a story by my EWTN colleagues that I found delightful, and then some stunning video images of Rome. Hope you enjoy both!

I cannot leave you with expressing my heartfelt thanks for all the prayers and rosaries and emails that came my way these past days. You’ll never know what they meant! Mille grazie! Thanks a million!


Loreto, Italy, Jul 23, 2017 / 03:57 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Nine-year-old Andrea is an Italian boy who joined 130 children last month for a “Pilgrimage of Joy” to the Marian Shrine of Loreto, Italy.

He was so moved by the experience that he wrote a letter about it to Pope Francis, inviting the Pope to accompany him and the other children for another pilgrimage next year.

And the Pope offered a surprising response, leaving the door open to the possibility in a letter of reply.

“Thanks for the invitation you have made me to go on a pilgrimage with you, being with children is for me the greatest joy. A proverb says: ‘Never say never.’ Therefore let us entrust this dream into the hands of Providence,” the Pope wrote.

Andrea’s letter to Pope Francis was sent on behalf of himself and the 130 other children who traveled to the Marian Shrine of Loreto from June 22-26. The letter was reprinted by several Italian media outlets.

The pilgrimage was organized by the Rome-Lazio chapter of the National Italian Union of Transportation of the Sick to Lourdes and International Shrines (UNITALSI) with the goal of teaching young children the importance of prayer and closeness to God, while at the same time allowing them to play, have fun, and make new friends.

We are more than 130 children, and many are sick, others in wheelchairs and others are going alone and are accompanied by some nuns,” Andrea said in his letter, adding that they are praying for the Pope every day.

Andrea also included a group photo of all the children, and asked for the Holy Father’s blessing.

Pope Francis responded saying that “it was so nice to receive your letter and to hear about the enriching adventure you experienced with UNITALSI during the Pilgrimage of Joy to Loreto for children.”

“Thanks also for the group photo you sent me, where I could see that there are a lot of you, and you all look so nice. As I was looking at each face in the photograph, I was praying to Our Lady of Loreto for you, and I blessed you straight from the heart, along with your parents, volunteers, priests and the UNITALSI leaders,” the Pope said in his reply.





There will be no updates on this page for a few days as I’m going to the hospital tomorrow morning in the hopes of resolving the problem of the infection in my right ankle, and the difficulty and pain I’ve had walking for weeks now as a result. The main issue is that I have severe allergic relations to every antibiotic I’ve ever taken, save one, Ciproxin. I had been put on Ciproxin for the infection but learned, when I finally saw an orthopedic doctor, that it was very bad for tendons so we stopped the daily doses. At the moment, the doctors I have seen feel the only way for me to heal is to have antibiotics in a controlled medial environment in the event of a reaction. My big hope is that I will finally find an effective antibiotic that I’m not allergic to!

I enter the Pio XI clinic tomorrow, July 11. It will be 15 years to the day that one of their best doctors performed a lengthy, life-saving surgery on me. I felt things would turn out well at the time as July 11 was my Dad’s birthday and he was where he could do some good!

By the way, hospitals/ospedali are state-run in Italy and clinica are private institutions, usually run by religious orders. Pio XI is run by a Spanish Order of nursing nuns – beautiful people.

So if you have an extra Ave in coming days, send it my way!


Joaquin Navarro-Valls, doctor, diplomat, journalist and confidante to Popes was laid to rest on Friday, July 7, remaining in his adopted city of Rome.

With his many talents, his phenomenal ability to listen, to see both the big and the small picture, to “read the signs of the times,” to work out the knots in a tough situation or conversation, he truly was a man for all seasons. This charming Spaniard was a diplomat through and through, a skilled professional – both as physician with a specialty in psychiatry and journalist – and a man whose Catholic faith was his true identity card. Above all, he was, at all times, a consummate gentleman.

And he had a great sense of humor, laughing easily and often. He loved a joke and could tell as good story as well as anyone. And did I mention his love for sports, tennis in particular. I  was told you want to play a game with Navarro-Valls, not against him!

Joaquin was unique in so many ways, large and small, not the least of which was being a superb, loyal friend to so many people, people from all walks and stations of life, people of diverse cultures, languages and backgrounds. His warm smile and ability with languages always opened doors. I am blessed to have been among his friends. He was a dear friend and, in countless ways a mentor.

As so many of you know, Joaquin led the Holy See Press Office for 22 years, from 1984 to 2006.

In November 1984, Joaquin was president of the Foreign Press Club in Rome and was presiding at a press conference with the late Gianni Agnelli of FIAT when he was summoned to be at the Vatican by 1:30 pm. That summons turned out to be lunch with Pope John Paul who asked him how the press office was functioning. Was it serving the media well? Was it serving the Church well? What could and should be improved?

Joaquin told me that story over dinner one night when we were in China with a Holy See delegation, adding that the Holy Father insisted that Joaquin answer his questions truthfully, not tell him what he thought the Pope might want to hear.

Not long after that meal, Joaquin was named to head the press office. And did he make changes!  Both John Paul and Navarro-Valls were very aware of the power of the media, of communications. Years later, Joaquin told journalists that before he came to the Vatican only about 15 percent of the news about the Pope and the Church originated in the Vatican, that is, briefings or press conference or publication of Vatican documents. Several years after Navarro-Valls began redoing things, it turned out that 85 percent of the news about the Church came from the press office.

Some of the big changes? Bulletins and other documents started to come out in different languages. The press office was totally remodeled in 1994 and ready for all the electronic innovations of the future. When needed, translators were present for press conferences, settling into the new booths provided in the press office renovation. After I showed him around the press office one day, a former U.S. ambassador to the Holy See told me that the White House correspondents would have every reason to be jealous of such a terrific structure and setting!

In 1984 I was covering the Vatican for the National Catholic Register and Joaquin and I first became friends soon after his nomination. That was the beginning of so many wonderful adventures. I could write a mini volume, not just a Joan’s Rome column!

I was honored and privileged to have been a member of four Holy See delegations to very important United Nations conferences in the 90s: Cairo in September 1994 on Population; Copenhagen March 1995, an economic summit; Beijing September 1995, the conference on Women, and June 1996 Istanbul, a conference on human settlements.

Cairo and Beijing in particular were extraordinary experiences in so many ways, both personal and professional.

Joaquin was added to the Cairo delegation a bit over a month before it was due to depart. He told me that he told the secretary of State that he would go if he was allowed to have Joan Lewis as his assistant as liaison with the press! And thus it was that I got my first diplomatic passport! The rest, as they say, is history.

Those were heady times and experiences and some day I hope to find the time to write in depth about those adventures.

On the rare occasions that we had time to eat a meal during those conferences, I asked Joaquin a thousand questions – about his family, his work before Rome, his work at the press office, how he came to be named, etc. Obviously lots of questions about the Holy Father! They were very close and that relationship was mutually beneficial throughout St. John Paul’s pontificate.

At the end of our time in Beijing (the conferences were usually about 3 weeks long) Joaquin gave me a small gift. He said he went shopping for the staff of the press office and simply did not know what to get for me. He choose a small pair of silk embroidered slippers, and told me when he saw these elegant slippers, he immediately thought of me. They are on my desk as I write. Gracias, amigo!

In August 1993, a year before the Cairo conference, World Youth Day was celebrated in Denver and Joaquin made sure I was part of the papal party. For starters, I spent five days at Regis University for the Youth Forum that preceded WYD. My main job was to liaise with the press. I did my best to honor the oly See, Joaquin as spokesman and the Coun tilHoly See, Joaquin and the press office and the (now former) Council for the Laity who organizes youth days.

Again, very heady and historic days with lots of interesting stories.

Joaquin’s birthday was November 16 and, for the 15 years I was at the press office, I always spent the night before preparing a cake for the office party. For 15 years I came up with a new theme for the decoration. Once I decorated the cake as a Spanish passport, another time as a Holy See passport, another time as St. Peter’s dome or the Spanish flag or a radio studio. I can’t even remember them all right now. No one got to see the cake until it was unveiled at the office party.  I always got a thank you note from Joaquin who once wrote that he never slept the night before his birthday, wondering exactly what theme Joan would choose for the decoration!

On another occasion I invited the staff of the Vatican Information service for a pre-Christmas luncheon at my home. I had roast turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes – the whole Thanksgiving/Christmas menu – AND a cake that was shaped and decorated like a Christmas wreath! When Joaquin arrived he went directly into the kitchen, asked if he could help and then spotted my electric carving knife. He asked if I would allow him to carve the turkey, “given that I am a doctor and know how to cut things up!” and he proceeded with skill and dexterity to perfectly carve our main course!

In December 2001, upon returning to Rome from a nephew’s funeral in Oregon, I noticed something was seriously wrong with my left eye. I went to the Vatican eye doctor who seemed worried and he said I should go to the eye hospital in Rome immediately to verify what he suspected – a detached retina.

It was just that and I informed my colleagues where I was, that I was having multiple tests and would be admitted to the hospital. As I was waiting to go into what would be a two-hour exam, who walked into the waiting room but Joaquin! I was scared speechless that I would lose my sight and burst into years as I saw a friendly face. The eye surgeon who examined me was a very talented woman from Genoa, very motherly and caring. She spent much of the time explaining everything she was doing, including an extraordinarily detailed drawing of my eye. She answered my questions and Joaquin’s – he spent the entire two hours with us. I am not sure I ever conveyed to him what those two hours meant to me. That is what Joaquin did for friends, who he was for friends.

In December 2014, having just marked 20 years at the press office, Joaquin arranged for all of us at the press office to have an audience with the Holy Father, clearly ailing at this point. I had met John Paul quite a number of times but was very emotional about this meeting for, in my heart, I felt it would be the last time I’d see him.

I spent the first part of the morning in my office, learning how to say Merry Christmas and Happy New Year in Polish. I wrote the phrases down on a yellow Post-it note and almost glued it to my left hand, repeating the phrases many times to myself. I kept glancing at it when we were in the papal library, each of us awaiting our turn to greet our beloved Holy Father.

John Paul was barely able to keep his head up at this stage of his Parkinson’s disease and smiling had become close to impossible. I felt like we were intruding in a moment when he should have been resting. However an aide read a statement and we knew the Pope wanted to do this for Joaquin.

When it was my turn, I knelt to touch his outstretched hand, recited my Polish version of Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, and immediately was looking into John Paul’s wonderful blue eyes. No one knew I was going to do this, and later Joaquin told me that was the nicest gesture I ever could have made for John Paul. “Did you notice,” Joaquin pointed out, “that the Pope raised his head only when you spoke Polish?”

Many years, many stories – these are just a few – and countless memories of time spent with a very great man, the Church’s Man for All Seasons.



It has been a very different, and at many moments difficult, week for me, given the continuing problems with my right ankle, problems that almost pale by comparison to the loss of my very dear friend of 33 years, Joaquin Navarro-Valls. As you know by now – and some of you may well remember – this charismatic and talented Spaniard led the Holy See Press Office for 22 years in an historic and remarkable fashion.

I will pray tribute to him as soon as I can. I have a thousand stories to tell, and have already shared some of them on radio.

Family and friends were able to pay tribute to Joaquin as of 4 pm yesterday in the basilica of Sant’Eugenio in Rome. This is also where his funeral took place this morning at 11. A pain almost larger than learning of his death was what I felt at being unable to go to eiether event to say my final arrivederci and grazie.

I’ve spent most mornings and part of one afternoon this week (and many of the preceding weeks) at the Vatican’s health care center, seeing doctors and having additional tests to determine the specific nature (we have no idea of the cause) of the infection in my right ankle. The final test and final visit to a specialist in infections determined that the best option is several days in a hospital with antibiotics administered under medical supervision, given that I normally have very severe allergic reactions to antibiotics.

I’ve been working with my insurance company but do not know, as I write, when I will be admitted. Hopefully I will have to post a note here when that day comes.

The hardest part of my ankle problem has been having to cancel a one week Danube River cruise with my sister! We have never gone on a vacation together! We’ve had family vacations, etc, but never just the two of us! We consider it just postponed, not cancelled. (My advice to travellers, by the way, never say ‘no’ to travel insurance!)

Work has been beneficial for me and I’ve enjoyed doing “Catholic Connection” with Teresa Tomeo, preparing my twice weekly contributions to “At Home with Jim and Joy,” and posting some items on this page. Sitting on my sofa with my laptop (on my lap) has been workable.

VATICAN INSIDER this weekend, however, has been prepared by my radio colleagues given that I simply did not have the time this week to dedicate to the three segments – News, the Q&A and the weekly interview. You will hear “The best of” with Kishore Jayabalan, director of the Action Institute’s Rome office. We talk about the mission and work of the Institute but our focus was principally on one of our favorite people and friends, the late, great Michael Novak, and his impact on the world, on Acton and on our personal lives.

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 www.ewtn.com) 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: http://www.ewtn.com/se/pg/DatService.svc/feed/~LE.xml   For VI archives: http://www.ewtn.com/vondemand/audio/file_index.asp?SeriesId=7096&pgnu=


(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has sent a Message to the participants in the G20 meeting taking place in Germany July 7-8. The Message is addressed to the Chancellor of Germany, Angela Merkel, and details what the Holy Father recognizes as four principles of action for the building of fraternal, just and peaceful societies: time is greater than space; unity prevails over conflict; realities are more important than ideas; and the whole is greater than the part.

To Her Excellency Mrs Angela Merkel Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany

Following our recent meeting in the Vatican, and in response to your thoughtful request, I would like to offer some considerations that, together with all the Pastors of the Catholic Church, I consider important in view of the forthcoming meeting of the G20, which will gather Heads of State and of Government of the Group of major world economies and the highest authorities of the European Union.  In doing so, I follow a tradition begun by Pope Benedict XVI in April 2009 on the occasion of the London G20.  My Predecessor likewise wrote to Your Excellency in 2006, when Germany held the presidency of the European Union and the G8.

In the first place, I wish to express to you, and to the leaders assembled in Hamburg, my appreciation for the efforts being made to ensure the governability and stability of the world economy, especially with regard to financial markets, trade, fiscal problems and, more generally, a more inclusive and sustainable global economic growth (cf. G20 Leaders Communiqué, Hangzhou Summit, 5 September 2016).  As is evident from the Summit’s programme, such efforts are inseparable from the need to address ongoing conflicts and the worldwide problem of migrations.

In my Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, the programmatic document of my Pontificate addressed to the Catholic faithful, I proposed four principles of action for the building of fraternal, just and peaceful societies: time is greater than space; unity prevails over conflict; realities are more important than ideas; and the whole is greater than the part.  These lines of action are evidently part of the age-old wisdom of all humanity; I believe that they can also serve as an aid to reflection for the Hamburg meeting and for the assessment of its outcome.

Here is full text of Pope Francis’ Message, in its official English translation; http://en.radiovaticana.va/news/2017/07/07/pope_francis_message_to_g20/1323678



The Holy Father’s July Prayer Intention has been released in writing and on video by the Apostleship of Prayer. The July 2017 intention is: “That our brothers and sisters who have strayed from the faith, through our prayer and witness to the Gospel, may rediscover the beauty of the Christian life.”

The text of the video message: “Let us never forget that our joy is Jesus Christ — his faithful and inexhaustible love.When a Christian becomes sad, it means that he has distanced himself from Jesus.But then we must not leave him alone! We should offer him Christian hope — with our words, yes, but more with our testimony, with our freedom, with our joy.Let us pray that our brothers and sisters who have strayed from the faith, through our prayer and witness to the Gospel, may rediscover the beauty of the Christian life.”

The Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network of the Apostleship of Prayer developed the “Pope Video” initiative to assist in the worldwide dissemination of monthly intentions of the Holy Father in relation to the challenges facing humanity.


(CNA/EWTN) – BAD FUSSING, Germany – Cardinal Joachim Meisner, archbishop emeritus of Cologne, Germany and one of four cardinals who sent the “dubia” to Pope Francis last year, passed away Wednesday morning at the age of 83.

According to a press release from the archdiocese pf Cologne, the cardinal died July 5 while on vacation in Bad Füssing, Germany. Recently, the prelate had lived in Cologne.

Archbishop of Cologne from 1989-2014, he retired with the permission of Pope Francis in February 2014, at the age of 80, the same year his age made him ineligible to vote in a conclave.

Cardinal Meisner, alongside Cardinals Carlo Caffarra, Walter Brandmüller and Raymond Leo Burke, submitted five “dubia,” or doubts, about the interpretation of Amoris laetitia to Pope Francis on Sept. 19, 2016.

The letter, made public in November, asked for clarification on Chapter 8 of the document, which touches on the reception of communion for divorced and remarried couples.

In May, the four – dubbed the “dubia cardinals” – sent a letter to the Pope requesting a private audience to discuss the content of the “dubia,” since they have yet received no response.

Cardinal Meisner, considered a leading conservative Catholic figure in Germany, stood in contrast to other German prelates who have propagated one of the more liberal interpretations of Chapter 8 of the post-synodal document.

Pope Francis sent a telegram to Cardinal Rainer Woelki, Archbishop of Cologne, July 5, expressing his sorrow at the death of Cardinal Meisner, as well as his closeness to Cardinal Woelki and the faithful of the archdiocese.

“With profound emotion I heard the news that suddenly and unexpectedly Cardinal Joachim Meisner has been called from this earth to the God of mercy,” he said.

“With profound faith and sincere love for the Church, Cardinal Meisner dedicated himself to the announcement of the good news,” it continued. “May Christ our Lord reward him for his faithful and courageous commitment on behalf of the people of the east and west, and make him a participant in the communion of saints in heaven.”

The telegram concluded with the Pope’s bestowal of the apostolic blessing on all those “who remember the deceased pastor with prayer and sacrifice.”

Born in Breslau, Germany on December 25, 1933, Cardinal Meisner was ordained a priest for the Diocese of Erfurt-Meiningen in 1962. Later he studied at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, receiving his doctorate in theology in 1969.

He was appointed auxiliary bishop to the Apostolic Administrator of Erfurt Meiningen in 1975, and elected a delegate to the fourth Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops at the Vatican in 1977, where he renewed a friendship with then-Cardinal Karol Wojtyla.

Cardinal Wojtyla became Pope John Paul II one year later, and appointed Meisner Bishop of Berlin in 1980, elevating him to the position of cardinal in 1983.

In 1988 Cardinal Meisner was made Archbishop of Cologne, serving in this position until his retirement at age 80 on Feb. 28, 2014.

He participated in the 2005 and 2013 papal conclaves which elected Pope Benedict XVI and Pope Francis. He had close relationships with both Pope St. John Paul II as well as Joseph Ratzinger, now-Benedict XVI, whom he would visit at the Vatican.

(Catholic News Agency)