Here is Pope Francis’ tweet from today – it is so beautiful and thought-provoking, I think I’ll put it in upper case bold cursive, color it blue, print it and put it on my computer:


I think I may soon start a column called “Where’s our Nation Heading?!” Because that’s the question I seem to ask myself several times a day when I read news stories about and from the U.S. When the anti-Catholicism in our own Congress becomes this strident, something has to be said and done – and it was yesterday in the Senate, as you will see in the story below from the Catholic League.


(Vatican Radio) October 31st 2017 marks the 500th anniversary of the day on which German theologian Martin Luther published his 95 theses, setting in motion the events of the Protestant Reformation.

To mark the occasion, the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity and the Lutheran World Federation on Tuesday issued a joint statement, giving thanks for the spiritual and theological gifts received through the Reformation and recalling the commemorative events that have taken place over the past year.

Exactly one year ago, Pope Francis travelled to the Swedish cities of Lund and Malmo to take part in a joint commemoration of the Reformation alongside leaders of the Lutheran World Federation. A moving liturgy in the ancient Lund cathedral and a joyful celebration of young people in Malmo arena focused on asking forgiveness for the sins of past centuries, while also celebrating the progress of the last fifty years and pledging to step up joint efforts in the service of those most in need.

Commitment to continue the ecumenical journey

One year on, today’s statement recalls those historic events, in particular the commitment by Pope Francis and former LWF president Bishop Munib Younan to continue the ecumenical journey.

The statement says the shared journey of the past fifty years has resulted in “the removal of prejudices, the increase of mutual understanding and the identification of decisive theological agreements”.

While Catholics and Lutherans can still not share at the Eucharistic table, the two Churches acknowledge their “joint pastoral responsibility to respond to the spiritual thirst and hunger of our people to be one in Christ “.

New insights into Reformation

Commemorating the Reformation together in many countries around the world, the statement says, has allowed Lutherans and Catholics new insights into events of the 16th century which led to their separation. Noting the theological progress that was made through the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification, the statement says growing communion and shared service are a sign of hope for the world of today to overcome divisions and fragmentation.

The statement concludes with a commitment to continue the journey towards unity, guided by God’s Spirit, in the knowledge that “what we have in common is far more than that which still divides us”.

Please find the full statement here:


October 31, 2017

Catholic League president Bill Donohue comments on remarks made yesterday by Republican leaders who spoke against anti-Catholicism:

Senate Republicans, joined by three Democrats, stopped a filibuster of the nomination of Amy Coney Barrett to the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals; the vote was 54-42. Final confirmation is due soon.

It was two Mormon Republicans, Senator Orrin Hatch and Senator Mike Lee, who made the most impassioned defense of Barrett’s nomination.

The Notre Dame law professor’s religious convictions were attacked recently by Senator Dianne Feinstein and Senator Dick Durbin, thus teeing up a response from those supporting her. Both Democrats questioned her suitability to be seated on the federal bench given her strong Catholic beliefs. Neither has apologized for their bigoted remarks.

Senator Hatch did not hold back in his statement. “I have to say that we stoop pretty low if we start to raise questions of religious beliefs before somebody can serve on the federal judiciary. Now I hope that that type of questioning will hit the dustbin of history, where it belongs.”

Senator Lee was just as pointed. He said “the fact of her religious beliefs or religious affiliation have nothing to do with her qualifications to serve as a federal appellate court judge.”

Lee also took a shot at those Democrats who made snide remarks about her Catholicism. “They were asking, ‘Do you actually believe that stuff? Do you actually believe the doctrine of your church? Do you believe it deeply, sincerely?’ Suggesting that if so, that is somehow a problem.”

Feinstein, who is Jewish, tried to deflect charges of anti-Catholicism by referencing her attendance at a Catholic school. Durbin, who is Catholic, referenced his Catholic status. But credentials do not matter: What matters are words. On this count, both of them came very close to invoking a religious test against Professor Barrett, something which is barred by the Constitution.

Hopefully, Barrett’s confirmation proceedings will continue absent any more of these invidious outbursts. Kudos to Senators Hatch and Lee, two devout Mormons, for standing on principle and against anti-Catholic bigotry.

(JFL: From National Review, Sept, 6, 2017:  This afternoon, during a confirmation hearing for 7th Circuit Court of Appeals nominee Amy Coney Barrett, Democratic senator Dianne Feinstein attacked the nominee for her Roman Catholic faith. Barrett is a law professor at the University of Notre Dame who has written about the role of religion in public life and delivered academic lectures to Christian legal groups.

Drawing on some of these materials, Feinstein launched a thinly veiled attack on Barrett’s Catholic faith, asserting that her religious views will prevent her from judging fairly. “When you read your speeches, the conclusion one draws is that the dogma lives loudly within you,” Feinstein said. “And that’s of concern when you come to big issues that large numbers of people have fought for for years in this country.”

Feinstein is clearly hinting here at the Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade, a ruling that Feinstein supports so vociferously that she has even called it a “super-precedent.”)



Interesting news from Rome over the weekend from Voice of the Family as it held a daylong meeting Saturday to mark the upcoming 50th anniversary of Blessed Paul VI’s encyclical on birth control, “Humanae vitae.”

Voice of the Family, as it explains on its website, is a coalition of 25 pro-life and pro-family groups that was born as an initiative of Catholic laity in order to offer expertise and resources before, during and after the 2014-2015 Synods on the Family. The meeting took place at the Pontifical Thomas Aquinas University and was opened by Walter Cardinal Brandmüller, one of the two remaining signatories of the dubia submitted to Pope Francis to request clarification of Amoris Laetitia.

Saturday, it was announced at the Voice of the Family meeting that Catholic academics have banded together to form a new laity-led Academy for Life, in the wake of many changes Pope Francis made in the Pontifical Academy for Life – changes that puzzled and upset many people. Last December, for example, he dissolved the entire membership. In the spring he reappointed some former members and also named new members, some of whom have written or spoken against Catholic teachings on life, issues such as abortion.

In new statutes for the Vatican body, Pope Francis also expanded its mandate to include a focus on the environment:

  • 3 – The (Pontifical) Academy has a primarily scientific role, for the promotion and defence of human life (Cf. Vitae Mysterium, 4). In particular, it studies various matters dealing with care for the dignity of the human person at different stages of life, mutual respect between the sexes and generations; the defence of the dignity of each individual human being; and the promotion of a quality of human life that integrates material and spiritual values. It does so in the context of a genuine “human ecology” that seeks to recover the original balance in creation between the human person and the whole universe (cf. Chirograph of 15 August 2016).

Called the John Paul II Academy for Human Life and the Family, the new academy, say members – many of whom were members of the Pontifical Academy for Life – will serve the same goals as the original Pontifical Academy, founded by Pope Saint John Paul II in 1994. This consists of the “interdisciplinary study and defense of human life in all its stages” and the “study of marriage and the human family.” It intends to offer the Church studies and explanations of the “most important anthropological and ethical truths about human life, human death, and about the family.”

Voice of the Family says that the following truths are at the heart of its work:

  • Marriage, the exclusive, life-long union of one man and one woman, is the foundation of a stable and flourishing society and is the greatest protector of children, born and unborn.
  • The separation of the procreative and unitive ends of the sexual act, which is intrinsic to the use of contraception, has acted as a major catalyst of the culture of death.
  • Parents are the primary educators of their children and the protection of this right is essential for building a new “culture of life”.

Following are some resources for further study of the newly re-formed Pontifical academy for Life:


STATUTES of the Pontifical Academy for Life:

SERVANTS OF LIFE: Declaration signed by all those who are nominated Members of the Academy (

To understand why some people were, as I wrote above, “puzzled and upset” at some of the changes made by Pope Francis in the Pontifical Academy for Life, especially in its membership, here are two pieces that explain the reasons for the perplexity:

A clear and well-reasoned piece for the National Catholic Register by Edward Pentin:

Vaticanista Sandro Magister offered an interesting analysis of the people included by Pope Francis in the re-formed pontifical academy, as well as those left off the list, names of former members not brought back into the academy:



My guest this weekend in the interview segment of Vatican Insider is Kate Mahoney whose miraculous cure of multiple organ failure following treatment for cancer was credited to the intercession of Servant of God Mother Marianne Cope and this led to Marianne’s beatification in 2005. Kate tells an amazing – and extremely inspiring! – story so be sure to pour that extra cup of coffee as you listen to her tale.

Here is a photo I took of Kate as she met Audrey Toguchi, another “miracolata” as we call her in Rome, whose cure of lung cancer was attributed to Blessed Damien of Molokai, a miracle that led to his canpnization in 2009. The two met for the first time at the Damien and Marianne Catholic Conference that I attended last weekend in Honolulu. The second photo also shows Bishop Larry Silva of Honolulu.

They both gave wonderful talks about their cures and answered questions for those attending this session.

Kate has written a book about her journey through illness to her pilgrimage to Rome for Mother Marianne’s beatification.

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:


ROME (CNS) — Pope Francis said that there are no easy answers to the suffering and destruction wrought by hurricanes and that while such disasters happen naturally, humankind must also take responsibility for not caring for the environment.

In a video chat with young children participating in a program of the international network of “Scholas Occurrentes” Oct. 26, the pope spoke with children from Texas and Puerto Rico, where Hurricanes Harvey and Maria struck hardest.

“If God loves us all, why did he make hurricanes and heavy rains?” asked Pedro Garcia, a 9-year-old Mexican-American boy living in Houston who lost his home after Hurricane Harvey struck Texas.

Galveston-Houston Catholic school students smile for a photo before a live video chat with Pope Francis at Telemundo Houston Oct. 26. In a video chat with young children from Texas and Puerto Rico, the pope said there are no easy answers to the suffering and destruction wrought by hurricanes. (CNS photo/James Ramos, Texas Catholic Herald)

Click here for full story:


(from EWTN’s ChurchPOP) –  The Las Vegas shooting on October 1st, 2017 was the deadliest shooting in modern American history, leaving 58 people dead and over 500 people injured.

About two weeks later, Fr. Clete Kiley from Chicago arrived in Las Vegas with a group meant to help and comfort the traumatized staff of the Mandalay Bay Hotel, from where the killer had opened fire on the concert crowd outside.

He had just finished leading prayer with several hundred members of the hotel staff when the hotel manager approached him. She explained that the shooter’s room had just been released back to the hotel by the FBI, and she wanted him to perform a blessing in the space.

As soon as he set foot in the hallway of the 32nd floor where the room was, he says he immediately felt a dark spiritual presence.

“I felt like I was being pushed back, like ‘don’t come in here’,”he told Newsweek. But he pushed on anyway: “On the inside, I’m going, ‘Oh no, you have to go’.” So he started praying the Prayer to St. Michael.

“When I stepped in the room, I really felt a real profound silence,” he later explained. “I immediately noticed the broken windows covered from outside. It was very powerful to see the physical damage.”

He could sense an evil presence in the room, so he used a palm branch to disperse Holy Water while praying to the Holy Spirit.

Right away, he could feel a sense of comfort and relief. When he returned back downstairs, the hotel staff was also relieved that a Catholic priest had blessed the room.

“You could see people go, ‘Thank God, that’s good’.” he said. “I really saw the whole thing as part of a healing process. A small part of a healing process.”

I left Honolulu Tuesday evening and, travelling via San Francisco and Washington, DC, arrived Rome this morning, safe, sound and luggage in tow! Because of the pilgrimage I made with guests of the Damien and Marianne Catholic Conference and Bishop Silva of Honolulu on Monday to Kalaupapa, some appointments on Tuesday as well as a lovely dinner party in my honor, and a full day of travel yesterday, I did not post a column on those days. I’ll bring you to Kalaupapa, photos and all, as soon as possible as I very much want to share with you a place I consider to be a shrine.

In the meantime, I share some papal tweets, the Holy Father’s talk with ISS astronauts and a terrific news story posted in the National Catholic Register – a Deo gratias kind of story!

Pope Francis tweeted:

October 25: Be courageous witnesses to Christ in the places where you live and work.

October 26: The culture of encounter means recognizing that we are all children of God, despite our differences.


(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis spoke via satellite link with the crew of the International Space Station on Thursday. Astronaut Randolph Bresnik of the U.S. commands the current 53rd ISS expedition, which has a complement of 5 mission specialists: Italian astronaut Paolo Nespoli; Russian astronauts Sergey Ryanzansky and Alexander Misurkin; and U.S. astronauts Joe Acaba and Mark Vande Hei.

The video link-up lasted about 20 minutes, with the Holy Father speaking to the astronauts from the “auletta,” or small room, of the Paul VI Hall, in the presence of the president of the Italian Space Agency (ASA), Roberto Battiston, and the director of Earth Observation Programmes of the European Space Agency (ESA), Josef Aschbacher.

During the course of the virtual visit, Pope Francis asked questions of the astronauts on topics ranging from the place of humanity in the universe, to the difference in perspective that living on the ISS brings, to the role of “That Love which moves the sun and the other stars,” in their work of understanding, to their reasons for desiring to explore space. Watch the full video by clicking here:.(from Vatican Radio)


Vice President Mike Pence announced the US will work directly with faith-based groups to get genocide victims the help they need to rebuild their lives – by Peter Jesserer Smith

WASHINGTON — Advocates for persecuted Christians and minorities in the Middle East received an unexpected “bombshell” of good news straight from Vice President Mike Pence on Wednesday evening, which may change the odds for the survival of Christianity in its historic cradle of Iraq.

Pence delivered the keynote address at the JW Marriott hotel for the annual In Defense of Christians conference’s Solidarity Dinner, and told the hundreds of attendees that President Donald Trump has ordered the U.S. State Department “from this day forward” to stop funding the United Nations’ ineffective relief efforts. Instead, he said USAID would also funnel support to the churches, agencies, and organizations working directly with persecuted communities victimized by the Islamic State (ISIS) and other terror groups.

“Christians in the Middle East should not have to rely on multinational institutions when America can help them directly,” Pence stated.

“We will no longer rely on the United Nations alone to assist persecuted Christians and minorities in the wake of genocide and the atrocities of terrorist groups,” he added. “The United States will work hand-in-hand with faith-based groups and private organizations to help those who are persecuted for their faith. This is the moment, now is the time, and America will support these people in their hour of need.”

The unexpected White House announcement thrilled advocates for Iraq’s Christian community, which along with the Yazidi and other indigenous religious communities, suffered genocide when ISIS, also known as Daesh, swept into Iraq in 2014, conquering Mosul and the Nineveh Plain. Although ISIS is nearly defeated in Iraq, the failure to rebuild quickly Christians’ homes and community infrastructure in this ancestral homeland of northern Iraq raises the risk that ISIS’ project of genocide could still be completed after the extremist group’s political death, especially if other ethno-religious groups move in.

Andrew Doran, IDC vice-president and senior policy adviser, told the Register, Pence’s announcement is “a game-changer” for the survival of Christians and other minorities in Iraq.

“All organizations doing aid for the victims of genocide and crimes against humanity, who were working with religious institutions, Christians in particular, have to be feeling enormously encouraged following the vice-president’s speech tonight,” he said.

Throughout the past three years, Iraq’s displaced Christians, consisting mostly of Assyrians, Syriacs, and Chaldeans living in their ancestral homeland of Mosul and the Nineveh Plain, were completely supported and sustained by the region’s churches and other forms of private support — not the United Nations. Christians considered U.N. camps too dangerous to enter, and consequently did not receive direct humanitarian aid through the UN’s agencies.



The Damien and Marianne Catholic Conference ended this morning with the third very special liturgy of the weekend. There was a Hawaiian Mass Friday, a Tonga celebration yesterday and the closing Mass this afternoon that featured various cultural elements and many languages.

To experience the Universal Church right here in the United States, in the very multi-cultural state of Hawaii was truly a joy. The beauty of the various languages and dress, the cultural customs incorporated into the Mass, the wonderful music, the pre-celebration dance by young children before our opening Mass, gave such a rich meaning to the Mass.

The Tongan Mass was so special. The Tongans create very special coverings for the altar, the chair of the main celebrant, the ambo and, in one photo you will see, a small podium with a box on top containing relics of St. Damien had its own covering and was surrounded by a lei as well.

Flowers in the form of leis play a huge role in all ceremonies in Polynesian cultures. In Hawaii, the placing of a lei over the head and around the shoulders of a person exemplifies the bestowing of honor and respect, and also the spirit of aloha. According to Hawaiian tradition, the maile was the lei for people of all classes and all occasions. The maile is a long-lasting lei and probably the oldest and most popular material used in leis by the early Hawaiians. It is an open-ended horseshoe fashion lei made of the spicy scented green maile stems and leaves.

The maile is most often reserved for memorable occasions. It is known to many as the “lei of royalty,” given to signify respect and honor. The maile is very popular at weddings, graduations and especially proms. On the US mainland, young men usually receive a boutonniere from their prom dates. In Hawaii, they are presented with a maile lei. Wedding leis are a Hawaiian wedding tradition. The maile is the most traditional wedding lei, as it was used by the Kahuna (Hawaiian priest) in old Hawaii to bind the hands of the bride and groom, symbolizing their commitment to each other.

I was blessed to receive 7 leis in two days, one of which was a maile. In the days fo the monarch, only royalty could wear these, never the ordinary people.

Conference organizers prepared more than 50 informative, inspiring sessions by local, national and international presenters over a three-day period, with the goal of transforming the lives of attendees. The sessions covered a broad range of topics, including leadership development, faith formation, spirituality, youth and young adult programs, and social services, and inspiring talks on sainthood, pointing to the lives of Damien and Marianne.

I had so hoped to bring you numerous Facebook Live posts but FB Live never worked in the convention center! In my condo, on the street, in a restaurant or store, yes, but never the center. Here, however, a few photos from the Tongan Mass:

Conference president, Makaka Aiona, said organizers hoped to keep the conference practical with principles that attendees could apply right away. “Our goal was to show the relevance and role of Saints Damien and Marianne in addressing the challenges we face every day in our families, homes and community.”

Some of the featured speakers we heard over these three days:

Very special guest and liturgical celebrant; Cardinal Soane Patita Mafi of Tonga: you will hear directly from him on my EWTN radio program, Vatican Insider.

Father William Petrie (a very close friend of mine for many years) shared his experiences as a Sacred Heart priest involved with Hansen’s disease patients for 25 years in India in a sponsored ministry of St. Teresa of Calcutta. He also served as pastor at St. Damien Church on Molokai for five years. Mother Teresa said: “I have to become holy in the state of life I live, and you must become holy in the state of life you live.”

Sister Alicia Damien Lau, (also a good friend from my visits here to learn about St. Marianne) – a Sister of St. Francis, she offered practical advice on how to follow in the footsteps of a saint by showing how the decisions we make every day can make a positive difference.  She retraces the life of an ordinary woman called to live the gospels to the fullest and experienced true spirituality as she reached out in faith and love to restore dignity, grace and healing to the outcasts in Kalaupapa, Molokai.

Dr. Edward Sri, theologian, best-selling author and well-known Catholic speaker who appears regularly on EWTN television, provided sessions on how love in marriages can be transformative and life-giving.  He teaches that falling in love is easy; growing in love is more difficult.

Teens often feel their families are dysfunctional and an impossible challenge and Paul J. Kim, international speaker, musician, and licensed marriage and family therapist had a session on how God can make beautiful things come out of the ugliest situations.

Jackie Angel, Catholic musician, singer, songwriter, speaker, and youth minister, showed God’s plan for romantic relationships to avoid heartache and pain.

Dr. H. Anthony Chan gave tips on how even with a very busy life and a demanding career in science and engineering research, he has found peace in the sacraments and Eucharistic adoration – something that has changed his life and he is changing lives!

Patrick Boland – (A new friend as I am an ‘ex officio’ member of the Joseph Dutton Guild) Patrick first visited Kalaupapa 50 years ago, and has been absorbed by the stories and the people of the place ever since.  He has been a board member of the Damien Museum and Archives, a member of Ka `Ohana O Kalaupapa, the Bishop’s Damien/Marianne Commission and now the Joseph Dutton Guild.  On occasion, he is a driver/guide for Damien Tours; a tour service at Kalaupapa that was started by patient Richard Marks 51 years ago.

Maria Devera  – (I am also blessed to have Maria as a very dear and close friend) a Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist whose journey has taken her to Loma Linda University Medical Center and Pediatrics, Child Psychiatry at Stanford University Medical Center and work in many communities in California before living in Hawaii. For the past 12 and a half years she has worked at Schofield Barracks Pediatric Clinic serving military families in Hawaii, in particular veterans returning from war zones, and her faith community. She has a passion for Brother Joseph Dutton and is a member of the Guild for his cause for canonization.

Audrey Toguchi – (one of my dearest friends) – Hawaii resident and retired school teacher whose recovery from lung cancer a decade ago stunned her doctor and was ruled a miracle by the Vatican. A warm, loving, humble lady, Audrey is a living, walking, talking phenomenon of Hawaiian history. She weaves Hawaiian history and her knowledge of St. Damien into a riveting story.

Kate D. Mahoney – The author of The Misfit Miracle Girl, Candid Reflections and an international speaker who travels the country to share anecdotes from life as patient and caregiver- it’s crisis, but with jazz hands. She is on a mission to inspire audiences across the globe sharing candid reflections and her miracle story – her miraculous cure from total bodily function shutdown due to the intercession of St. Marianne Cope.

Cardinal Mafi (l) and Honolulu Bishop Larry Silva (note the leis)

Audrey (l) and Kate – they just met for the first time!

Yours truly –



This might be the last column for a few days as the three-day conference I am in Honolulu to attend and speak at starts tomorrow morning and runs through Sunday afternoon. I will be bsuy every waking moment and what I can post, I will, although text and photos will more likely appear on my Facebook page.

Monday morning at 7:30 am I will be joining Bishop Larry Silva of Honolulu and other pilgrims for a visit to Kalaupapa – we’re scheduled to be back in late afternoon. We fly to Kalaupapa on Makani Kai Airlines from a small airport adjacent to the Honolulu international airport. In any case, as you can see, my time for writing lengthy posts will be limited in coming days.

I do want to share a nice story with you – a happy ending, if you will.

The parish office of St. Augustine Church is just meters from my condo and this is where I had copies of my speech printed as I have no facilities in the condo. I know Fr. Lane Akiona, the pastor and Sr. Cheryl Wint who is one of the organizers of the Damien and Mariane conference, and Sister was kind to make the copies.

I decided late this afternoon that I wanted a larger font for my speech as I have no idea how high or low my podium will be. The parish office was closed when I made this decision so I went to the Marriott hotel right across the street. I am a Marriott Rewards member and was sure they might help me out in the business office by printing some pages. The smiling gal at the front desk heard my story and, smiling but firm, said, “I’m sorry we can only do this for hotel guests.”

I truly was very surprised.  I naturally intended to pay for this service! Maybe I should have asked for the manager but I left the hotel, exiting through a large courtyard that has many stores. I stopped in a Segway office to ask if they knew where I could have some copies made – was there a Kinko’s nearby, perhaps? With huge smiles and in the typical Hawaiian friendly manner, they replied, “we’d be happy to do that for you!”

And they printed my speech – color parts and all –and would not let me pay a cent! I will find something very nice to do for them – in additon to promoting Segway!

The staff asked what my speech was about and I said, “I’m telling people how they can become saints!” They were amazed and then asked – quite naturally! – how does one becomes a saint. I stole a few lines from my talk and we spent a few interesting minutes together.

You never know in life, right?


And now a few words about the conference that starts tomorrow in the Vatican. If bi-location was a fact of life, that’s also where I’d be this weekend. I know Kairos and its leader, Cris Gangemi and have covered other conferences they’ve held in Rome and have interviewed Cris. I hope this weekend is a huge success for the organizers!


Here are some photos I took last evening – Waikiki by night:



Tune in to “Vatican Insider” this weekend when my guest on the interview segment is Vicki Thorn, a recently re-appointed member of the Pontifical Academy for Life. You have heard Vicki before as she is the founder of Project Rachel and also Executive Director of the National office of Post-Abortion Reconciliation & Healing in Milwaukee.

The academy, founded by Pope St. John Paul II and professor Jerome Lejeune in 1994, is dedicated to promoting the Church’s consistent life ethic and carries out research on bioethics and Catholic moral theology. Over the years it has promoted and developed the Church’s teaching on various areas of medical ethics, including procreation, in vitro fertilization, gene therapy, euthanasia and abortion.

The academy’s entire membership was completely dissolved last December by Pope Francis. He has since re-appointed some former members, appointed new ones and ordered that the statutes be completely re-written.

Tune in to Part II of our interview and listen to Vicki as she talks about the first meeting of the newly reconstituted Academy.

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:


(Vatican Radio) A global conference will open in Rome on Friday looking at best practices to help people with disabilities fully engage in the life of the Church.

The event is entitled “Catechesis and Persons with Disabilities: A Necessary Engagement in the Daily Pastoral Life of the Church.” It is sponsored by the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization and partnered by The Kairos Forum, a UK based organization that focuses on the spiritual and religious needs of people with disabilities.

Over the course of the three-day gathering 450 experts from around the world will share their insights.

Vatican Radio’s Lydia O’Kane spoke to Monsignor Geno Sylva, English language official at the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization, about the goals of the conference.

Speaking about how the conference came about, Msgr. Sylva said, “this international conference is the fruit that was sewn during the Jubilee (of Mercy) with all the other discussions that took place afterwards.”

He underlined that, “the aim and the goal is for us as a Church and for this Pontifical Council to really learn what are the best practices that are already taking place throughout the world in catechizing people with special needs …”

The Church and Disability

Msgr. Sylva stated that this conference is also meant to “highlight the responsibility that we have as a Church to take into account the special needs for each of the baptized, so that we can present to him or her the catechism, the catechesis of our Church in a way that they can receive it; they can grasp the elements of it .”

The global conference, “Catechesis and Persons with Disabilities: A Necessary Engagement in the Daily Pastoral Life of the Church,” will run from the 20th to the 22nd of October at the Urbaniana University in Rome.




In case you did not see Pope Francis’ tweet today: May artists spread the beauty of the faith and proclaim the grandeur of God’s creation and His boundless love for all.

FYI: The October 20, 21 and 22 Damien and Marianne Catholic Conference that I am attending, covering and speaking at will be streamed via Youtube as well as on (Hawaii Catholic TV). Hawaii Catholic TV, by the way, has been kind enough to help me film my segments for my Monday and Thursday appearances on “At Home with Jim and Joy.”

The schedule of conference events including speakers, break out sessions and the Tongan Mass on Saturday with Cardinal Mafi is here:   Check the time in your part of the world. Honolulu is 6 hours behind the East Coast (ET) and 3 behind Pacific Time.


The papal catechesis this morning at the weekly general audience in St. Peter’s Square focused, as Francis himself told pilgrims, “on Christian hope and the reality of death, a reality which our modern world so often leaves us unprepared to face.  Past civilizations had the courage to face death, and older generations taught the younger to see that inescapable event as a call to live for something enduring, greater than themselves.  For our days, no matter how many they are, pass like a breath.”

Francis explained that, “It is Jesus, however, who ultimately helps us to confront this mystery.  He shows us that it is natural to mourn the loss of a loved one.  For he too wept at Lazarus’ death.  But he did not only mourn; he also prayed to the Father and called Lazarus from the tomb.”

The Holy Father also spoke of the Gospel story of Jairus who turned to Jesus to ask him to save his sick daughter. Jesus answered Jairus’ faith-filled request: “Do not fear, only believe.” And this is what the Pope urged Christians: belief, not fear.

Francis said: “We are all small and defenseless before the mystery of death, but if we keep the flame of faith alive in our hearts, Jesus will take us by the hand, just as he did with Jairus’ daughter when he said: ‘Talitha cum’ which means, ‘Little girl, I say to you, arise’. To each of us, he will say: ‘I say to you, arise’.”

“Here is our Christian hope,” the Pope summarized. “Jesus has come to heal us, to save us from death. He says: ‘I am the resurrection and the life’; if we believe in him, even if we die, we will live.  In the face of our sorrow, Jesus invites us to faith in him.  This is our hope: when we mourn, we know that Christ remains always close to us.  And one day, when we too face death, we will hear Jesus’s voice: “I say to you, arise.”.


(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has condemned the terrorist attack that killed over 300 people, including children, in the Somali capital Mogadishu. (photo


Speaking during the weekly general audience in St. Peter’s Square, the Pope said he wished to express his sorrow for the massacre that took place on Saturday.

“This terrorist act , he said, deserves to be most strongly deplored, also because it falls on a population that is already suffering deeply”. Linda Bordoni reports:

The Pope said he is praying for the dead, for the wounded, for their families and for the whole people of Somalia.

“I implore the conversion of those who are violent and send my encouragement to those, who with enormous difficulties, are working for peace in that tortured land” he said.

On the ground in Mogadishu nearly 70 people are still missing  from Saturday’s bomb blast that killed more than 300 people in one of the world’s deadliest attacks in years

The death toll of 302 is expected to rise.

Somalia’s government has blamed the attack on the al-Shabab extremist group, which has not commented.


Pope Francis on Wednesday met a delegation of 80 members of “Religions for Peace,” in a small room of the Paul VI Hall before presiding at the weekly general audience.  He told them, “Religions, with their spiritual and moral resources, have a specific and ‎unique role to play in building ‎peace. They cannot be neutral, much less ‎ambiguous, where peace is concerned.”

Religions for Peace is the world’s largest and most representative multi-religious coalition that advances common action among the world’s religious communities to transform violent conflict, advance human development, promote just and harmonious societies, and protect the earth.



Pope Francis tweeted today: It is the duty of the human family to help free every single person from poverty and hunger.

As a Lady of the Order of the Holy Sepulchre, I follow any and all news on the Holy Land because it is that holy part of the world that is the first and main concern of the Order – of our activities, our pilgrimages, our financial help and our prayers. The Franciscans in the Holy Land are celebrating a historic anniversary, and Pope Francis had great praise for the Order as you’ll read below. If you’ve even been on a Holy Land pilgrimage, the Franciscans undoubtedly played a big role in your visit. Remember them in your prayers today!

The big news this weekend was Sunday’s announcement by the Holy Father of a synod for the Pan-Amazon region! The staff of the Synod of Bishops never seems to rest – they are currently working on the October 2018 synod for young people.

Before I move on, here’s a photo I took when I got up this morning. This vessel looked familiar and I remembered I had seen a news story on TV Sunday when I arrived. Here’s a related online news story with video:

Someone in our building told me today the big problem is trying to remove this vessel without harming the reef it is stuck on!


(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has sent a letter to the Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land marking the 800th anniversary of their presence as guardians of the holy sites in modern day Israel and Palestine.

In the letter, published on Tuesday, the pope praises the Franciscans for their vital contribution to life in the Holy Land, in particular their work to accompany pilgrims coming from all over the world. (photo:

The Pope recalls the way that Saint Francis, in May 1217 during the chapter of his recently founded order, decided to send the friars out on mission. The first missionaries to the Holy Land arrived that summer in the town of Acre, near Haifa, in northern Israel and just over a hundred years later, Pope Clement VI confirmed them as the custodians of the holy places.

Sowing peace, fraternity, respect

In the message, Pope Francis notes how the Franciscans live alongside people of different cultures and religions, sowing seeds of “peace, fraternity and respect”. As well as their work as guides for pilgrims, the Pope recalls, they are also committed to biblical and archaeological studies. Franciscans also work closely with the local Churches taking care of the poor, the sick, the elderly and the young people who find it hard to keep up hope amidst the ongoing conflict.

Collection for the Holy Land

The Pope says that the Franciscans are ambassadors for the whole people of God, who support them through the traditional Good Friday collection for the Holy Land and through the Vatican’s Congregation for Oriental Churches, which is currently marking the centenary of its foundation.


(Vatican Radio) Bishop Emmanuel Lafont of Cayenne in French Guyana reacted with joy Monday when he heard Pope Francis’ announcement of a Special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops for the Pan-Amazon region.

French Guyana and Suriname are part of the Amazon territory together with Guyana, Venezuela, Ecuador, Colombia, Bolivia, Peru and Brazil. (photo

Pope Francis had announced a special assembly of the Synod of Bishops for the Pan-Amazon region that will focus on the needs of its indigenous people, on new paths for evangelization and on the crisis of the rain forest. The announcement came on Sunday during the Angelus after a canonization Mass during which he canonized 35 new saints, including three indigenous children martyred in 16th century Mexico.

As well as being an essential ‘lung’ for the entire planet as Pope Francis said when he made the announcement, the six million square kilometers that define the region are home to indigenous tribes and even uncontacted peoples whose cultures and whose very existences are threatened by large-scale logging, mining and other industrial projects as well as by pollution and climate change

Speaking to Vatican Radio Bishop Lafont said he is very grateful to Pope Francis for having called this Synod.

“I am very happy, grateful to the Holy Father for having called this Synod which is most important” he said.

For the benefit of the indigenous peoples

First of all, Bishop Lafont continued “for the benefit of the indigenous people – the First Nations – of the Amazonian region, because they have a long history, for the past 500 years of submission, of exploitation, of misunderstanding.”

For the protection of Creation

The second reason for which he is grateful, the Bishop said, that “the Amazon is one of the most important regions in the world for the protection of Creation” and it is currently facing many challenges. “The Church, he said, ought to speak even more loudly for the protection of the region, and for the sake of the protection of the whole world”.



October 16th has always had a special place in my mind and my heart as it was on that day, 39 years ago, that a Polish cardinal was elected to the See of Peter and took the names John Paul II. I was actually in Cairo, Egypt the night he was elected and that in itself is a great story – but for another day.

I followed almost every day of St. John Paul’s magnificent papacy, and our lives intertwined a number of times during the years I worked in the Vatican. When I tell people those stories, they always say “God bless you!”  And I reply, “He really has!”

As a saint, he is now with us, more than ever. Someone to pray to and someone whose life (and death) can be an inspiration!


Yesterday was a remarkable day, as I posted on Facebook during my travels….travels that encompassed 4 cities (Rome, Frankfurt, San Francisco and Honoulu) and 12 time zones in 24 hours!

I was tired but, oddly enough, not exhausted and attribute some of that to PMA, a Positive Mental Attitude. I try to immediately adjust to where I am, not think about what time it is where I came from, and then just proceed as normal. I went to a local ABC store, got things for breakfast, had a sandwich for dinner and then unpacked.

As you know, I’m here for this weekend’s Saints Damien and Marianne Catholic Conference at the convention center. I’ve already been in touch with my friends here and with conference organizers and things look very promising – lots of enthusiasm about the conference guest speakers (

As I was about to get off the plane in San Francisco, I told the attendant who had been such a jewel on the flight from Frankfurt that I still had a six-hour flight ahead of me to Honolulu. A woman in the seat in front of me remarked how lucky I was to be going there, I agreed and explained I was going to attend a conference and give a talk. She asked the subject and I replied that I’d be speaking on how to become a saint! The woman smiled and said she wished she could attend the conference, and then asked me to tell her how one becomes a saint. I said, “If by chance you’re on the flight to Hawaii, I can explain!”

As I sit at a table in the wonderful condo of a good friend to write this column, I once again marvel at the beauty of this land I love. Windows surround me, and everywhere I look, I see the Pacific Ocean, the white, foamy surf, the surfers on big, crashing waves, the sunbathers on Waikiki beach, the palm trees and my favorite, the plumeria trees. And then there’s Diamond Head, an extinct volcanic crater and surely Hawaii’s most famous landmark. It is directly in front of me as I write these lines.

As the saying goes, “Life’s a beach”

It’s also  –

And Diamond Head –

And St. Augustine Church –

And –

This was the first photo I ever took of Diamond Head –

As I was going through my photos, I found this picture from a previous trip and only now realize the tall building on the right is where I am staying – the penultimate floor (above me is the penthouse)

I found the following on a site about historic Pacific parks: Lē‘ahi is the traditional Hawaiian place name for the crater. It is said that Hi’iaka, sister of the fire goddess Pele, gave Lē‘ahi its name because the summit resembles the forehead of the ‘ahi fish. Another translation is “fire headland” and refers to the navigation fires that were lit at the summit to assist canoes traveling along the shoreline.

It is hard to believe, looking at the overwhelmingly beautiful nature that marks this corner of God’s creation, that so many lives were marked for so many years by exile, pain, loneliness and deprivation in this paradise. Families were separated and, most often, never able to be together again. The years, the decades, well over a century in fact, when people with leprosy were exiled to the Kalaupapa peninsula on Molokai, those were dark years of hopelessness and fear – fear of contagion of a terrible disease for which, at the time, there was no remedy or cure.

There was no beauty on Kalaupapa for those exiles. They lived each day wondering about food, sanitation, a roof over their heads and, of course, medicines and medical care.

There was no hope for a bright future, for a job, for a tomorrow that promised to be even minimally better than today.

Until Fr. Damien arrived in 1873 at this isolated settlement to bring comfort and hope to these outcasts. Sixteen years among the patients of Hansen’s disease, improving their lot, little by little, day by day, trying to restore a lost sense of human dignity. Sixteen years of living heroic virtues until he died of leprosy in 1889.

In November 1888, a year before Fr. Damien died, Mother Marianne Cope arrived with six Sisters of St. Francis. She worked with the exiles for 30 years and died in 1918.

Damien and Marianne are the saints whose lives and virtues we will be looking at this weekend.

As the conference webpage states, its focus is “the respect of human life and dignity, marriage, youth and family life, education, social justice and evangelism.


A NOTE FOR TRAVELLERS : I flew from San Fran to Honolulu on United and, even though the flight is nearly six hours long, United does not serve a meal – you have to buy food. It is basically just snack food, except for a hamburger, a chicken wrap or a small pizza.   United offered the same terrible choice on my September 9-hour flight from Chicago to Honolulu and that prompted me to write to the president of the airlines and to essentially say that not serving a meal on a 9-hour flight was inhuman.

I wrote the letter while on the plane and told the crew and they were delighted! They said they’d LOVE to serve a meal and were happy I wrote because they feel the powers-to-be listen more to passengers than to the personnel.  I did get a very nice, lengthy letter from president Munoz’s assistant and some compensation for the issues encountered on the flight. She said there was one issue they were not aware of and was happy I wrote.

These lines are just to let you know that, as customers of a service you are paying for, you have rights, including the right to complain when something does not go as promised. Don’t make it angry, just factual.





Pope Francis tweeted the following on this historical day – 100 years ago, the final Marian apparition to the three shepherd children at Fatima: In this centenary of the apparitions of Our Lady of Fatima, we thank God for the countless blessings we have received under her protection.

It’s probably far-fetched to say “If you happen to be in Honolulu next week….” but I will say that to the many friends (and fans!) I have in the Hawaiian capital, inviting one and all to come to the Hawaii Convention Center on October 20, 21 and 22 for the Saints Damien and Marianne Conference ( . I’ll be there to write about the conference, interview guests (including Cardinal Mafi of Tonga!) and post some videos on Facebook Live. I’ve also been asked to speak and have been working on what I hope will be an informational and inspirational talk that I’ve titled, “A PhD in Sainthood.”

I leave Sunday and, after a very long trip, expect to spend Monday researching and writing and preparing several televised segments for “At Home with Jim and Joy.” Catholic TV in Honolulu has kindly agreed to tape those segments for us!

Aloha – until we meet again!


Tune in to “Vatican Insider” this weekend when my guest on the interview segment is Vicki Thorn, a recently re-appointed member of the Pontifical Academy for Life. You have heard Vicki before as she is the founder of Project Rachel and also Executive Director of the National office of Post-Abortion Reconciliation & Healing in Milwaukee.

The academy, founded by Pope St. John Paul II and professor Jerome Lejeune in 1994, is dedicated to promoting the Church’s consistent life ethic and carries out research on bioethics and Catholic moral theology. Over the years it has promoted and developed the Church’s teaching on various areas of medical ethics, including procreation, in vitro fertilization, gene therapy, euthanasia and abortion.

The academy’s entire membership completely was dissolved last December by Pope Francis. He has since re-appointed some former members, appointed new ones and ordered that the statutes be completely re-written Listen to Vicki as she talks about the first meeting of the newly reconstituted Academy.

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:


Pope Francis has sent a telegram expressing his condolences to the families of victims of widespread wildfires in northern California, and promising prayers for all those affected.

Signed by Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin and jointly addressed to Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco and Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles, the Holy Father expresses his prayerful solidarity with everyone affected by the fires.

The wildfires sweeping through California have killed at least 31 people and damaged thousands of homes, businesses and other buildings. More than 20,00 people have been displaced by 21 fires, and as many as 400 people remain missing amid the chaos of displacement and the ongoing battle to bring the blazes under control.

Following is the papal telegram:

The Most Reverend Salvatore Joseph Cordileone ,Archbishop of San Francisco

The Most Reverend José Horacio Gómez ,Archbishop of Los Angeles

Informed of the tragic loss of life and the destruction of property caused by the wildfire in California, the Holy Father assures you of his heartfelt solidarity and his prayers for all those affected by this disaster.  He is especially mindful of those who mourn the loss of their loved ones and who fear for the lives of those still missing.  His Holiness offers encouragement to the civil authorities and emergency personnel as they assist the victims of this tragedy. To all he sends his blessing.

Cardinal Pietro Parolin

Secretary of State