The following is EWTN’s coverage of the final hours in Vatican City of Pope Benedict on February 28, 2013. We see him take leave of the Apostolic Palace and staff of the Roman Curia and then, in one of the more moving moments of perhaps any live event we’ve seen on television, we follow the helicopter that takes the Pope to Castelgandolfo as it flies over Vatican City and its gardens, St. Peter’s Basilica, ancient Rome, the Colosseum, St. John Lateran Basilica (the cathedral of the Bishop of Rome, the Pope) and the Italian countryside, including ancient Roman aqueducts (one of which still works!) to the peaceful, small Roman hill town of Castelgandolfo

Towards the end of the video, we can see a sign in Castelgandolfo as Benedict arrives: “Your humility has made me greater! Thank you, Pope Benedict”

Get out the handkerchiefs!

And this is the video of literally the final moments of the Benedict papacy as the doors of the apostolic palace of Castelgandolfo close at precisely 8 pm!




For those who have been following events in the Holy Land and the fact that the doors of the basilica of the Holy Sepulchre were closed by religious leaders to protest a proposed tax on Church properties by the Israeli government: The Church of the Holy Sepulchre reopened early Wednesday morning after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu became personally involved and stopped measures.

“We, the heads of Churches in charge of the Holy Sepulchre and the status quo governing the various Christian holy sites in Jerusalem – the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate, the Custodian of the Holy Land and the Armenian Patriarchate – give thanks to God for the statement released earlier today by Prime Minister Netanyahu and offer our gratitude to all those who have worked tirelessly to uphold the Christian presence in Jerusalem and to defend the status quo,” the leaders of the three denominations in charge of the site said in a statement.

Among those urging leaders to reconsider this proposal, citing the potential damage to the Christian populace, was Cardinal Edwin O’Brien, Grand Master of the Order of the Holy Sepulcher.


Pope Francis’ general audience was originally scheduled to take place today in St. Peter’s Square but, given the frigid temperatures, the faithful were accompanied to both St. Peter’s Basilica, where the Holy Father stopped briefly, greeting people and shaking hands, and then in the Paul VI Hall where the main body of his catechesis took place.

Continuing his weekly general audience catechesis on the Mass, Pope Francis today highlighted the Liturgy of the Eucharist that begins, he said, with the “preparation of the gifts of bread and wine,” a rite that “invites us to present our own lives as a spiritual offering.”

“In our catechesis on the Mass, we now turn from the Liturgy of the Word to the Liturgy of the Eucharist. Following the Lord’s command at the Last Supper to ‘do this in memory of me’, the Church at every Mass makes sacramentally present the sacrifice of the New Covenant sealed by Jesus on the altar of the cross. The Liturgy of the Eucharist begins with the Preparation of the Gifts of bread and wine that will then be consecrated in the Eucharistic Prayer and received by the faithful in Holy Communion.

“The rite of the Preparation of the Gifts invites us to present our own lives as a spiritual offering together with the gifts we bring to the altar. The Prayer that concludes this rite voices our confidence that the Church’s offering will be transformed by the Holy Spirit and become a sacrifice pleasing to the Father, in union with the sacrifice of Christ on the cross.”

Francis said that, “through the holy signs, the Church renders ever present the Sacrifice of the new covenant sealed by Jesus on the altar of the Cross. (The Cross) was the first Christian altar, (and) when we approach the altar our memory goes to that first altar. …. The priest, who in the Mass represents Christ, does what the Lord himself did and entrusted to the disciples at the Last Supper: He took the bread and the cup, gave thanks, gave them to the disciples, saying: ‘Take, eat … drink: this is my body … this is the cup of my blood. Do this in memory of me’. Obedient to the command of Jesus, the Church has arranged the Eucharistic Liturgy in moments that correspond to the words and gestures He made on the eve of his Passion.”

“At every Mass,” concluded the Pope, “may we experience the Preparation of the Gifts as an invitation to offer our lives completely to the Lord, in order to receive from him the grace to live ever more fully our vocation to grow in holiness and to serve the coming of his Kingdom.”


In his greetings to pilgrims and visitors from Syria, the Holy Land and the Middle East at the general audience, Pope Francis improvised yet another appeal for what he called that “martyred nation,” saying, “We must pray for these brothers and sisters of ours and for all persecuted Christians, they want to drive them away.”

Although the United Nations Security Council has called for a ceasefire in order to allow humanitarian aid to reach the most affected areas, reports from Syria claim that fighting is continuing despite the truce.



Thursday, February 28, 201

Venerable and Dear Brothers,

I welcome you with great joy and I offer each one of you my most cordial greeting. I thank Cardinal Angelo Sodano who, as always, interpreted the sentiments of the entire College: Cor ad cor loquitur [heart speaks to heart] I warmly thank you, Your Eminence. And I would like to say — taking up your reference to the disciples of Emmaus — that for me too it has been a joy to walk with you in these years, in the light of the presence of the Risen Lord.

EWTN’s coverage of this final morning: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LUp0aTMJ3RU

As I said yesterday to the thousands of faithful who filled St Peter’s Square, your closeness and your advice have been of great help to me in my ministry. In these eight years we have lived with faith very beautiful moments of radiant light on the Church’s journey, as well as moments when several clouds gathered in the sky. We sought to serve Christ and his Church with profound and total love, which is the heart and soul of our ministry. We gave hope, the hope that comes to us from Christ, which alone can give light to us on our journey. Together we may thank the Lord who has enabled us to grow in communion and, together, pray him to help us to grow even more in this profound unity, so that the College of Cardinals may be like an orchestra where differences — an expression of the universal Church — contribute to a superior and harmonious concord.

I would like to leave you a simple thought, which is deep in my heart: a thought about the Church, about her mystery, that constitutes for us all — we can say — the reason and passion for life.

I will allow a sentence of Romano Guardini to help me. It was written in the very same year that the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council approved the Constitution Lumen Gentium, in his last book, which also a personal dedication to me — which makes the words of this book particularly dear to me. Guardini says the Church “is not an institution conceived and built in theory… but a living reality…. She lives through the course of time, in becoming, like every living being, in undergoing change…. And yet in her nature she remains ever the same and her heart is Christ”.

It seems to me that this was our experience yesterday in the Square: seeing that the Church is a living body, enlivened by the Holy Spirit and which is really brought to life by God’s power. She is in the world but not of the world: she is of God, of Christ, of the Spirit. We saw this yesterday. That is why Guardini’s other famous saying is both true and eloquent: “The Church is reawakened in souls”. The Church is alive, she grows and is reawakened in souls who — like the Virgin Mary — welcome the Word of God and conceive it through the action of the Holy Spirit; they offer to God their own flesh. It is precisely in their poverty and humility that they become capable of begetting Christ in the world today. Through the Church, the Mystery of the Incarnation lives on for ever. Christ continues to walk through the epochs and in all places.
Let us stay united, dear Brothers, in this Mystery: in prayer, especially in the daily Eucharist, and in this way we shall serve the Church and the whole of humanity. This is our joy that no one can take from us.

Before I say goodbye to each one of you personally, I would like to tell you that I shall continue to be close to you with my prayers, especially in these coming days, that you may be completely docile to the action of the Holy Spirit in the election of the new pope. May the Lord show you the one whom he wants. And among you, in the College of Cardinals, there is also the future pope to whom today I promise my unconditional reverence and obedience. For this reason, with affection and gratitude, I cordially impart to you the Apostolic Blessing.



Do you remember where you were five years ago today, February 27, 2013?

Were you by any slim chance at the final Wednesday general audience of Pope Benedict’s pontificate?

I was at the general audience – indirectly – as I began the first of two full days of television commentary for EWTN’s coverage of Benedict’s final days in office, after he announced on February 11, 2013, that he would resign the papacy in February 28.

Mary Shovlain was a partner for much of that coverage that included the final general audience, Benedict’s meeting with each member of the College of Cardinals and his never to be forgotten final hours in Vatican City State as he was taken to Castelgandolfo in a helicopter in a Hollywood ending to a superb pontificate – the bluest skies, the about-to-set brilliant sun, the helicopter passing over Vatican City and past the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica.

Rain almost would have been welcome as it would have summarized our tears!

Tear-jerking moments for every single person around the globe who witnessed this final act of humility and courage by a Pope, truly a Holy Father, who had said on February 11:

“After having repeatedly examined my conscience before God, I have come to the certainty that my strengths, due to an advanced age, are no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the Petrine ministry. I am well aware that this ministry, due to its essential spiritual nature, must be carried out not only with words and deeds, but no less with prayer and suffering. However, in today’s world, subject to so many rapid changes and shaken by questions of deep relevance for the life of faith, in order to govern the barque of Saint Peter and proclaim the Gospel, both strength of mind and body are necessary, strength which in the last few months, has deteriorated in me to the extent that I have had to recognize my incapacity to adequately fulfill the ministry entrusted to me.”

Here’s a look back at that general audience, held in the presence of an estimated 150,000 people….this is a tribute filled with great love and respect to a man missed by millions – Sto lat, Benedict emeritus!

Saint Peter’s Square,
Wednesday, 27 February 2013
(Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SNf9U9x0pUc)

Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate and in the Presbyterate!
Distinguished Authorities!
Dear Brothers and Sisters!

I thank all of you for having come in such great numbers to this last General Audience.

Heartfelt thanks! I am truly moved and I see the Church alive! And I think we should also say thanks to the Creator for the fine weather which he gives us even on this winter day.

Like the Apostle Paul in the biblical text which we have heard, I too feel a deep need first and foremost to thank God, who gives guidance and growth to the Church, who sows his word and thus nourishes faith in his people. At this moment my heart expands and embraces the whole Church throughout the world; and I thank God for all that I have “heard” in these years of the Petrine ministry about the faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and the love which truly circulates in the Body of the Church and makes it live in love, and about the hope which opens and directs us towards the fullness of life, towards our heavenly homeland.

I feel that I bear everyone in prayer, in a present, God’s present, in which I gather together every one of my meetings, journeys and pastoral visits. In prayer I gather each and all, in order to entrust them to the Lord: that we might be filled with the knowledge of his will, with all spiritual wisdom and understanding, and that we might lead a life worthy of him and of his love, bearing fruit in every good work (cf. Col 1:9-10).

At this moment I feel great confidence, because I know, we all know, that the Gospel word of truth is the Church’s strength, it is her life. The Gospel purifies and renews, it bears fruit, wherever the community of believers hears it and receives God’s grace in truth and charity. This is my confidence, this is my joy.

Some great photos here: http://archive.boston.com/bigpicture/2013/02/pope_benedict_xvis_last_genera.html

When on 19 April nearly eight years ago I accepted the Petrine ministry, I had the firm certainty that has always accompanied me: this certainty of the life of the Church which comes from the word of God. At that moment, as I have often said, the words which echoed in my heart were: Lord, why are you asking this of me, and what is it that you are asking of me? It is a heavy burden which you are laying on my shoulders, but if you ask it of me, at your word I will cast the net, sure that you will lead me even with all my weaknesses. And eight years later I can say that the Lord has truly led me, he has been close to me, I have been able to perceive his presence daily. It has been a portion of the Church’s journey which has had its moments of joy and light, but also moments which were not easy; I have felt like Saint Peter with the Apostles in the boat on the Sea of Galilee: the Lord has given us so many days of sun and of light winds, days when the catch was abundant; there were also moments when the waters were rough and the winds against us, as throughout the Church’s history, and the Lord seemed to be sleeping. But I have always known that the Lord is in that boat, and I have always known that the barque of the Church is not mine but his. Nor does the Lord let it sink; it is he who guides it, surely also through those whom he has chosen, because he so wished. This has been, and is, a certainty which nothing can shake. For this reason my heart today overflows with gratitude to God, for he has never let his Church, or me personally, lack his consolation, his light, his love.

We are in the Year of Faith which I desired precisely to reaffirm our faith in God in a context which seems to push him more and more into the background. I should like to invite all of us to renew our firm confidence in the Lord, to entrust ourselves like children in God’s arms, certain that those arms always hold us, enabling us to press forward each day, even when the going is rough. I want everyone to feel loved by that God who gave his Son for us and who has shown us his infinite love. I want everyone to feel the joy of being a Christian. In one beautiful morning prayer, it says: “I adore you, my God, and I love you with all my heart. I thank you for having created me and made me a Christian…”. Yes, we are happy for the gift of faith; it is our most precious possession, which no one can take from us! Let us thank the Lord for this daily, in prayer and by a consistent Christian life. God loves us, but he also expects us to love him!

But it is not only God whom I want to thank at this moment. The Pope is not alone in guiding the barque of Peter, even if it is his first responsibility. I have never felt alone in bearing the joy and the burden of the Petrine ministry; the Lord has set beside me so many people who, with generosity and love for God and the Church, have helped me and been close to me. Above all you, dear brother Cardinals: your wisdom, your counsel and your friendship have been invaluable to me; my co-workers, beginning with my Secretary of State who has faithfully accompanied me in these years; the Secretariat of State and the whole Roman Curia, as well as all those who in various sectors offer their service to the Holy See: many, many unseen faces which remain in the background, but precisely through their silent, daily dedication in a spirit of faith and humility they have been a sure and trustworthy support to me. I also think in a special way of the Church of Rome, my Diocese! I cannot forget my Brothers in the Episcopate and in the Presbyterate, the consecrated persons and the entire People of God: in my pastoral visits, meetings, audiences and journeys I have always felt great kindness and deep affection; yet I too have felt affection for each and all without distinction, with that pastoral charity which is the heart of every Pastor, and especially of the Bishop of Rome, the Successor of the Apostle Peter. Every day I have borne each of you in prayer, with the heart of a father.

I would like my greeting and my thanksgiving to extend to everyone: the heart of the Pope reaches out to the whole world. And I wish to express my gratitude to the Diplomatic Corps accredited to the Holy See which represents the great family of the nations. Here I think too of all those who work for good communications and I thank them for their important service.

At this point, I would also like to thank most heartily all those people throughout the world who in these recent weeks have sent me moving expressions of concern, friendship and prayer. Yes, the Pope is never alone; now I once again experience this so overwhelmingly that my heart is touched. The Pope belongs to everyone and so many persons feel very close to him. It is true that I receive letters from world leaders – from heads of state, from religious leaders, from representatives of the world of culture, and so on. But I also receive many, many letters from ordinary people who write to me simply and from the heart, and who show me their affection, an affection born of our being together with Christ Jesus, in the Church. These people do not write to me in the way one writes, for example, to a prince or some important person whom they do not know. They write to me as brothers and sisters, as sons and daughters, with a sense of a very affectionate family bond. Here one can sense palpably what the Church is – not an organization, an association for religious or humanitarian ends, but a living body, a communion of brothers and sisters in the Body of Christ, which makes us all one. To experience the Church in this way and to be able as it were to put one’s finger on the strength of her truth and her love, is a cause for joy at a time when so many people are speaking of her decline. But we see how the Church is alive today!

In these last months I have felt my energies declining, and I have asked God insistently in prayer to grant me his light and to help me make the right decision, not for my own good, but for the good of the Church. I have taken this step with full awareness of its gravity and even its novelty, but with profound interior serenity. Loving the Church means also having the courage to make difficult, painful decisions, always looking to the good of the Church and not of oneself.

Here, allow me to go back once again to 19 April 2005. The real gravity of the decision was also due to the fact that from that moment on I was engaged always and forever by the Lord. Always – anyone who accepts the Petrine ministry no longer has any privacy. He belongs always and completely to everyone, to the whole Church. In a manner of speaking, the private dimension of his life is completely eliminated. I was able to experience, and I experience it even now, that one receives one’s life precisely when one gives it away. Earlier I said that many people who love the Lord also love the Successor of Saint Peter and feel great affection for him; that the Pope truly has brothers and sisters, sons and daughters, throughout the world, and that he feels secure in the embrace of your communion; because he no longer belongs to himself, he belongs to all and all belong to him.

The “always” is also a “for ever” – there can no longer be a return to the private sphere. My decision to resign the active exercise of the ministry does not revoke this. I do not return to private life, to a life of travel, meetings, receptions, conferences, and so on. I am not abandoning the cross, but remaining in a new way at the side of the crucified Lord. I no longer bear the power of office for the governance of the Church, but in the service of prayer I remain, so to speak, in the enclosure of Saint Peter. Saint Benedict, whose name I bear as Pope, will be a great example for me in this. He showed us the way for a life which, whether active or passive, is completely given over to the work of God.

I also thank each and every one of you for the respect and understanding with which you have accepted this important decision. I will continue to accompany the Church’s journey with prayer and reflection, with that devotion to the Lord and his Bride which I have hitherto sought to practise daily and which I would like to practise always. I ask you to remember me in prayer before God, and above all to pray for the Cardinals, who are called to so weighty a task, and for the new Successor of the Apostle Peter: may the Lord accompany him with the light and strength of his Spirit.

Let us call upon the maternal intercession of the Virgin Mary, Mother of God and Mother of the Church, that she may accompany each of us and the whole ecclesial community; to her let us commend ourselves with deep confidence.

Dear friends! God guides his Church, he sustains it always, especially at times of difficulty. Let us never lose this vision of faith, which is the one true way of looking at the journey of the Church and of the world. In our hearts, in the heart of each of you, may there always abide the joyful certainty that the Lord is at our side: he does not abandon us, he remains close to us and he surrounds us with his love. Thank you!

To special groups:
I offer a warm and affectionate greeting to the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors who have joined me for this, my last General Audience. Like Saint Paul, whose words we heard earlier, my heart is filled with thanksgiving to God who ever watches over his Church and her growth in faith and love, and I embrace all of you with joy and gratitude.

During this Year of Faith, we have been called to renew our joyful trust in the Lord’s presence in our lives and in the life of the Church. I am personally grateful for his unfailing love and guidance in the eight years since I accepted his call to serve as the Successor of Peter. I am also deeply grateful for the understanding, support and prayers of so many of you, not only here in Rome, but also throughout the world.

The decision I have made, after much prayer, is the fruit of a serene trust in God’s will and a deep love of Christ’s Church. I will continue to accompany the Church with my prayers, and I ask each of you to pray for me and for the new Pope. In union with Mary and all the saints, let us entrust ourselves in faith and hope to God, who continues to watch over our lives and to guide the journey of the Church and our world along the paths of history.

I commend all of you, with great affection, to his loving care, asking him to strengthen you in the hope which opens our hearts to the fullness of life that he alone can give. To you and your families, I impart my blessing. Thank you!
I offer a warm and affectionate greeting to the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors who have joined me for this, my last General Audience. I commend all of you, with great affection, to his loving care, asking him to strengthen you in the hope which opens our hearts to the fullness of life that he alone can give. To you and your families, I impart my blessing. Thank you!

Lastly, my thoughts turn to the young people, the sick and the newlyweds. May the Lord fill with love the heart of each one of you, dear young people, so that you may be ready to follow him with enthusiasm; May he sustain you, dear sick people, so that you may accept the burden of suffering serenely; and may he guide you, dear newlyweds, so that you may raise your families in holiness.


My memories of February 27, 2013:

I feel so blessed to once again be part of a moment in history, to have been present today to help do the commentary for EWTN for Pope Benedict’s final general audience as Pontiff.

The weather was beautiful, a decidedly miraculous change from the rainy, cloudy, cold weather of past days.

The event – the freely given resignation of a Pope – was momentous, singular, not seen since Celestine V renounced the papacy in 1294, 719 years ago.

And the world, through television and all the various social media, could watch, hear, listen and be part of this unique moment –and even share it electronically with others around the world as it was taking place!!

It was amazing to walk three blocks from my home to St. Peter’s Square and see the enormous crowds that had gathered from early hours to get to see “their” Holy Father – a crowd later estimated by the police to be at least 150,000, a crowd that reflected the Universal Church with the many colorful flags, banners, and multi-lingual cheers, a crowd that included 70 plus cardinals, one of whom could well be Benedict’s successor.

Here is a link to the YouTube video of this morning’s general audience – commentary during the actual general audience was by Vatican Radio: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=saKWsdNUwbo

Today was a very full day, and I am in between appointments as I write these words. I was on the EWTN set for about four hours, and then went to the press office for a very short briefing, back home for a quick lunch and some preparatory research for future shows, followed by my weekly radio show with Teresa Tomeo in mid-afternoon, and then a hop over to Fox News Rome studios to do a show at 4:45. The guest before me was a friend from London, Archbishop Vincent Nichols of Westminster.

I have an appointment this evening at 9 in St. Peter’s Square with Australian television to make an appearance on a morning show (given the time difference between Rome and Australia). Then, perhaps a bite to eat and more research for the live transmissions EWTN will do tomorrow – the Pope’s final meeting with cardinals, his departure for Castelgandolfo and the final event, the closing at 8 pm of the great gate at Castelgandolfo by the Swiss Guards who will then leave the apostolic palace.

At 8 pm the sede vacante starts.

I now offer you the entire profound, personal, emotional, beautiful words by Pope Benedict who speaks to the faithful of the world for the final time as Supreme Pontiff. The translation is from the Vatican Information Service (see above).


“In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a courageous act.”
George Orwell


So many of you have written to me to ask what my reaction has been to the February 17 tweet by one Tony Annett that said EWTN should be under interdict until they “get rid of Raymond Arroyo,” a remark retweeted by a papal advisor.

My immediate reaction was confusion. If it had been April 1, I’d have thought it was an April Fools Day remark. That confusion turned to consternation, however, as I considered the source of the retweet.

What prompted that tweet and retweet? It seems to be this tweet from Edward Pentin on February 16: .@RobertSRoyal and @GeraldMurray8 dissect @antoniospadaro’s speech at Georgetown, the Vatican’s approach to China and @CardinalBCupich’s seminars on #AmorisLaetitia on @worldoverdc with @RaymondArroyo https://youtu.be/rYh3jMo49xU
11:05 PM – 16 Feb 2018

On February 17, we read: Tony Annett Retweeted Edward Pentin
Tony Annett‏ @tonyannett Feb 17 Make no mistake, these attacks on @antoniospadaro and @CardinalBCupich represent “total war” on the papacy of Pope Francis. Time to interdict @EWTN until they get rid of @RaymondArroyo.

We then read that Fr. Antonio Spadaro retweeted Tony Annett’s tweet.

When you retweet, it either means you agree with what you retweeted (I’ve done it scores of times with tweets from Pope Francis) and let it go without commentary OR you disagree and then comment and explain why.

Fr. Spadaro (I visited his site and only read a very small portion of his over 32,000 tweets!) did not make a comment so I am assuming he agreed with Annett.

Why would he? Who is he?

Who is Fr. Antonio Spadaro, S.J. in addition to being a Jesuit confrère of Pope Francis and editor-in-chief of the Jesuit-affiliated magazine Civilta Cattolica?

He is a papal confident who, I have been told by numerous colleagues in the media and friends, lay and priests alike, in the Roman Curia, has the papal ear 24/7. While Pope Francis has the C9 cardinal advisors and talks to other people and meets regularly with heads of office and dicasteries of the Roman Curia, and is said to listen to them when they answers his questions or when they office advice, it seems he really listens to Spadaro.

If you were an avid reader of Fr. Spadaro’s speeches and his tweets, you’d come to know his liberal bent on many matters, as you would his little or no love for the United States.

How does Fr. Spadaro feel about America, and how many of his feelings and ideas has he transmitted to Pope Francis, whom he sees more than regularly at the Santa Marta residence?

Here is one reaction (and I could post many more!) to a Civilta Cattolica piece from last July about religion in America (Phil Lawler, Catholic Culture):

With a harsh denunciation of American conservatism, published in the semi-official Jesuit journal Civilta Cattolica, the Vatican has plunged headlong into a partisan debate in a society that it clearly does not understand, potentially alienating (or should I say, further alienating) the Americans most inclined to favor the influence of the Church.

Why? Why this bitter attack on the natural allies of traditional Catholic teachings? Is it because the most influential figures at the Vatican today actually want to move away from those traditional teachings, and form a new alliance with modernity?

The authors of the essay claim to embrace ecumenism, but they have nothing but disdain for the coalition formed by Catholics and Evangelical Protestants in the United States. They scold American conservatives for seeing world events as a struggle of good against evil, yet they clearly convey the impression that they see American conservativism as an evil influence that must be defeated.

While they are quick to pronounce judgment on American politicians, the two authors betray an appalling ignorance of the American scene. The authors toss Presidents Nixon (a Quaker), Reagan, Bush, and Trump into the same religious classification, suggesting that they were all motivated by “fundamentalist” principles. An ordinary American, reading this account, would be surprised to see the authors’ preoccupation with the late Rev. Rousas Rushdoony and the Church Militant web site: hardly major figures in the formation of American public opinion. The essay is written from the perspective of people who draw their information about America from left-wing journals rather than from practical experience.

To continue: https://www.catholicculture.org/commentary/otn.cfm?id=1228

What we seem to have in Fr. Spadaro and Tony Annett is a visceral dislike of anyone or any entity that disagrees with or questions or criticizes Pope Francis.

If you started to list those who have questioned the Holy Father because he has not been clear about something or he has caused confusion or people simply want him to resolve a matter, that list would include cardinals, bishops, priests, scholars, theologians and faithful, committed lay Catholics. There are those who indeed have challenged the Pope but the majority are simply people who want to resolve a doubt.  And when a doubt is about the Church teaching, doctrine, morals or Magisterium, it must be cleared up.

I remember in high school getting a homework assignment wherein the teacher had not been clear at all what she wanted us to do. She was known for being overly verbose and often unclear (derailed from her original thought) when explaining something. I raised my hand to ask her what she meant and heard my classmates whisper, ‘thanks, Joan, I didn’t understand that either.’

The teacher was not happy to be questioned but soon understood I was not the only one who didn’t understand the assignment, and she repeated it, her explanation was clear and that was that.

Here’s another take on the now famous – or infamous – tweet from Robert Royal, This appeared as a Note before his column yesterday in “The Catholic Thing”:

Note: Heartfelt thanks to all of you who expressed support and offered prayers over the past few days after stories appeared about a retweet by Antonio Spadaro S.J., a close collaborator of the Holy Father’s, calling on EWTN to fire Raymond Arroyo for his criticisms of various recent papal moves (and no doubt for the now five-year run of the Papal Posse). Or be placed under interdict.

This was either a weak attempt at intimidation or a lame attempt at humor – in either case, quite imprudent from someone who knows that what he says is taken, rightly or wrongly, to reflect back on Pope Francis.

Be assured, this portends no serious harm to me. This is why we have independent think-tanks and publications like The Catholic Thing, so that at least some in both Church and society may speak freely. Fr. Murray is most likely fine as well. But it’s not entirely a laughing matter for a prominent media figure like the talented Mr. Arroyo. If you want to express support, take a look at #imwithRaymond.

In any case, it will have no effect on our labors to understand and speak truth as we see it. – RR

And here’s the column that followed that Note: Three Crises – and Three Opportunities:

A wickedly funny website on matters Catholic, Ignatius His Conclave, recently pointed out that, in the currently casual logic of the Church, Communion for the divorced and remarried is:
1) a conscience matter (Cardinal Blase Cupich in February), or
2) subject to local regulation, which may lead to differences among bishops and national bishops’ conferences (the pope in Amoris laetitia and various spokesmen at various times), or
3) that “there are no other interpretations” than that of the Argentine bishops, since the papal letter saying so was published in the Acta Apostolicae Sedis (June 2017).
Which of these mutually exclusive possibilities is now normative, or will be at some future date, is anybody’s guess.

Read on to learn more about the Three Crises and Three Opportunities:


Rome’s winter wonderland of this morning is no longer – the sun came out and melted what it could! However, the memories of this beautiful interlude will linger for a long time!  One of my first thoughts this morning was of the children who were possibly seeing snow for the first time  – the last snowfall here was in February 2012!


Pope Francis made some new appointments on Monday, elevating to the rank of archbishop two prelates who have served in the Vatican for many years, Msgrs. Alfred Xuereb and Jose Bettencourt.

Portuguese Msgr. José Avelino Bettencourt, currently the chief of protocol at the Secretariat of State, has been named titular Archbishop of Cittanova and raised to the office of apostolic nuncio. He was ordained a priest in 1993 and entered the Holy See’s diplomatic service in 1999, serving in the nunciature of the Democratic Republic of Congo before coming to work in the Secretariat of State in 2012. Msgr. Bettencourt speaks English, French, Italian, Portuguese and Spanish.

Pope Francis also raised Maltese Msgr. Alfred Xuereb to the rank of archbishop and named him as apostolic nuncio to Korea and Mongolia. Born on the island of Gozo in 1958, Mgr. Xuereb was ordained in 1984 and began working in the secretariat of the Pontifical Lateran University in 1991. He started his service in the Vatican Secretariat of State in 1995, before transferring to the Pontifical Household in November 2000.

He returned to the Secretariat of State, serving as secretary to Pope Benedict XVI from 2007 and then to Pope Francis from his election in March 2013. In November that year, he was named as delegate on the Pontifical Commissions for both the Vatican bank (Institute for Works of Religion) and the re-organization of the economic structures of the Holy See and in March 2014 he was appointed as Secretary General of the Secretariat for the Economy.


JERUSALEM (CNS) — Protesting several recent actions they described as a “systematic campaign … against the churches and the Christian community in the Holy Land,” the heads of Christian churches announced Feb. 25 they were closing of the doors of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher for an undisclosed period of time.

(CNS photo/Baz Ratner, Reuters)Bewildered pilgrims milled around the square in front of the church as Greek Orthodox Patriarch Theophilos III — flanked by Franciscan Father Francesco Patton, custos of the Holy Land, and Armenian Patriarch Nourhan Manougian — read a short statement to the press. At the same time, the only two people allowed to close the doors — the Muslim custodian of the key, AdeebJawad JoudehAl Husseini, and Muslim door keeper Wajeeh Nuseibeh — closed and locked the doors.

“This systematic and unprecedented attack against Christians in the Holy Land severely violates the most basic … and sovereign rights, trampling on the delicate fabric of relations between the Christian community and the authorities for decades,” the heads of churches said in their statement.

The church leaders were protesting the Jerusalem municipality’s intention to impose property taxes on church property, such as hotels and convention centers, not used for worship purposes. The proposal to levy taxes on some properties would run contrary to the unofficial historical tax-exempt status the churches have enjoyed for centuries.

In addition, the church leaders said they oppose a bill in the Israeli parliament that would limit the ability to sell church-owned land to private owners. The bill, whose vote was postponed following the church protest, would be specifically detrimental to the Greek Orthodox Church, which owns large tracts of land in central Jerusalem upon which many private homes are built; many of those 99-year-old building rental contracts will soon expire. The church already has sold some of the land to private owners, and homeowners whose apartments are on the land worry about losing their homes.

Rachel Azaria, the member of Parliament who sponsored the bill, said it is not meant to affect what the church can do with its property, but what happens when the land rights are sold to a third party.

As media gathered to hear the church leaders, pilgrims wandered around the church square, some kneeling in front of the massive wooden doors — the closest they would come to entering the church.

“We had one shot,” said Flavia Falcone, 25, an Italian Catholic living in Poland, who had come to Israel for four days. “This was a bad decision. Faith and politics are two different things. I came here all this way to see the church and I find it closed. It is not very pleasant.”

It is only the second time the doors to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher have been closed in the middle of the day, other than for traditional religious ceremonies. The other time was 20 years ago, when a visitor to the church began taking down crosses and candles, said Nuseibeh.

The church leaders said taxing commercial properties decreases revenues for the church’s good works and breaches “existing agreements and international obligations which guarantee the rights and the privileges of the churches, in what seems as attempt to weaken the Christian presence in Jerusalem.”

“The greatest victims in this are those impoverished families who will go without food and housing, as well as the children who will be unable to attend school,” they said.

In early February, the Jerusalem municipality announced it would begin collecting $186.4 million in property taxes from some 887 church-owned properties that were not houses of prayer.

Patriarch Theophilos has traveled to meet world leaders, including Pope Francis, on the legislative issue.

Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat went on social media in response to the Feb. 25 protest, clarifying that there was no intention to tax places of worship, but rather church businesses such as hotels and conference halls.

“Commercial buildings are not exempt from municipal taxes regardless of their ownership,” he said. He noted that, by not taxing commercial properties owned by churches, Jerusalem residents were missing out on revenue.

“We will no longer require Jerusalem’s residents to bear or subsidize this huge debt,” he said in a tweet, assuring that — like all churches, synagogues and mosques — the Church of the Holy Sepulcher was exempt from municipal taxes.


A statement from the Catholic Center for Studies and Media in Amman, Jordan: http://en.abouna.org/en/content/jordan-ccsm-advisory-council-calls-revoking-decision-impose-taxes-jerusalem-churches

The Advisory Council of the Catholic Center for Studies and Media (CCSM) in Jordan has followed with great concern the statement of the Israeli Municipality of Jerusalem, in which it announced the imposition of property taxes (known as arnona) on churches as well as the seizure of church properties and bank accounts on the pretext of non-payment of tax on land property.

In light of these fateful developments, the Advisory Council of the Catholic Center for Studies and Media in Jordan declares its categorical rejection of the relevant Israeli steps, since they are incompatible with the historical position of the Churches in the Holy City and with their relations with the civil authorities. The Churches have been exempted from paying taxes over centuries. The civil authorities have always respected the great role played by Christian churches which serves local communities through their hundreds of millions of dollars worth of projects and initiatives that are spent on building schools, hospitals, homes and charities. Many of the projects are dedicated to serve the elderly, the people with special needs, as well as the needy and poor families.

The Advisory Council affirms that such decisions will undermine the sacred character of Jerusalem and its inclusive identity, debilitate the Churches’ endeavors to fulfill their role and mission in the Holy Land, jeopardize their role, and put more pressure on Christians in Jerusalem and the Holy Land which ultimately threatens their historic and deep-rooted presence.

NOTE FROM JOAN: King Abdullah of Jordan, considered “Guardian and Custodian of the Christian and Muslim Holy Sites in Jerusalem,” provided a great part of the monies for the recent restoration of the church of the Holy Sepulchre out of his personal money. Restoration was finished in 2017. The holy places were, until the Six-Day war of 1967, under Jordanian sovereignty. If you are a history buff, you will want to read this piece: http://orthochristian.com/92374.html


I will keep you posted as the games progress – there are a lot of  fun and interesting statistics involved with this international edition of Clericus Cup. The final, by the way, will be played on Saturday, May 26.

The images shown below are from past matches.


The Italian acronym CSI has nothing to do with crime scenes and forensics experts and everything to do with sports, in particular football – or, as it is called in the States, soccer. CSI stands for Centro Sportivo Italiano – Italian Sports Center – whose initiative, the Clericus Cup, kicks off this Saturday in Rome.

Under the sponsorship of the Italian Episcopal Conference and its pastoral ministry for Sports and Leisure, CSI is promoting Clericus Cup 2018, a soccer tournament open to seminarians and priests from colleges, universities, convents and pontifical seminaries in the city and province of Rome. The first games are scheduled for February 24 in the elimination phase.

The North American College, the U.S. national seminary in Rome, has played every year in this tourney and the team, the North American Martyrs, have won several championships.

The idea for this Cup might have come from remarks made years ago by then Cardinal Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone, an avid soccer fan who has, even as cardinal, had announced soccer matches on Italian radio for his beloved Turin team, Juventus.

He once jokingly told Italian reporters, “I do not rule out that in the future the Vatican could form a top soccer team of the level of Inter or Roma,” – other top notch Italian teams. He added that the Holy See, for example, could form “a magnificent team” by drawing on the hundreds of Brazilian students at its pontifical universities around the world.

The Clericus Cup Rules and Regulations are posted on the CSI web site, and include information on uniforms and game dates. There is no cost but players must enrol in CSI and there may be from 14 to 20 players on a team. Each team can field 11 players. Matches will be played on Saturdays, say the Rules, and will last one hour instead of the 90 minutes for professional soccer.

In American football, there is what is known as the “Hail Mary pass,” a forward pass thrown in a moment of desperation whose chances of being caught usually range from little to nil. Will players in the Clericus Cup have a Hail Mary kick?

Let the Games begin!



In case you missed the link I posted on Twitter and on Facebook, here is video of the final morning of Pope Francis and members of the Roman Curia on retreat in Ariccia, as well as their return to Vatican City (Vatican Media): https://youtu.be/HJ6bwXvJG2A


Welcome to Vatican Insider on this last weekend of February when my very special guest in the interview segment is Archbishop Bashar Ward of Erbil, northern Iraq to whom I spoke during his brief time in Rome with other Chaldean bishops on their ad limina visit. We spoke after he had appeared on EWTN’s News Nightly show and just before his departure for the U.S. where he has been giving talks at universities and creating both awareness of and funding for the plight of Christians in Iraq. As you may know, there are strong Chaldean Catholic communities in Detroit and San Diego in the United States.

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 http://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=


Pope Francis and the Roman Curia concluded their spiritual exercises this morning – a retreat that had begun late last Sunday afternoon on the theme “In praise of Thirst.”

The last meditation of Fr.José Tolentino Mendoça focussed on the “Beatitudes of Thirst” and concluded his cycle of meditations on thirst.
By Sr.Bernadette Mary Reis, fsp

The Beatitudes: Matthew sets the scene on the mountain. We therefore understand that “He is creating a parallel between Jesus and the figure of Moses—between the presentation of the Old Law, the Decalogue, and that of the New Law, the Beatitudes.”

The Beatitudes are our path

The Beatitudes are more than a law. They are, rather “ configuration of life, a true existential call.”In this way, they enlighten the path for the Church and for humanity as we journey toward an eschatological horizon.

The Beatitudes are a self-portrait of Jesus

Jesus’ Beatitudes are not only words that he proclaimed. “They represent the key by which to read his entire life.” We find in Jesus a model for living each of the Beatitudes. Above all, for us Christians, they are a “elf-portrait of the one who pronounced them.” Fr. Tolentino says that for Jesus this self-portrait “is an image of himself which he is constantly revealing to us and imprints on our hearts.” It is the model that we should use in order to “transform our own image.”

How are we proclaiming the Beatitudes?

God desires that our life be lived according to the beatitudes. “But what have we made of the Gospel of the Beatitudes? How have we proclaimed it? How do we put it into practice?” Do we see those who mourn, those who are in need of consolation, those who hunger and thirst for justice, the peacemakers?” If we do, Fr.Tolentino observes, “by being at their side,” the Church will rediscover her mission.

Beatitude people

The parable that best describes “Beatitude people” is that of the wedding guests (Luke 14:15-24). After the invited guests refuse to come, the “poor, the crippled, the blind, and the lame” are invited. “The Church is not an exclusive club, closed, happy in measuring who to exclude. She must keep the doors open and, in an inclusive key, mirror in herself the world’s crossroads.”



Any time one visits St. Peter’s Basilica is a special time – time to look at over 500 years of Church history (the cornerstone was laid in 1506) and art and liturgy, time to ponder the sheer grandeur and magnificence of this house of worship, time to think about the first Pope, St. Peter, for whom this church is named and who is buried below – way below! – the main altar in an area excavated last century known as the scavi.

A visit is also time for reflection, for prayer, for sitting down in a quiet corner, perhaps the Blessed Sacrament Chapel, a side altar or one of the small chapels below the basilica, in the grotto area. It is also surely a time for Mass!

However, there are two days a year when visiting the Basilica of St. Peter becomes an ultra special occasion and today, February 22 is one of them! Today is the feast of the Cathedra or Chair of Peter, a recurrence dating back to the fourth century that honors and celebrates the primacy and authority of St. Pete

On this day – and it is really quite remarkable! – the famous statue of the first Pope, the one on the right side of the main aisle of the basilica whose right foot is worn shiny from the faithful touching it over the centuries, is adorned with lavish vestments, a papal ring and the triple tiara. A bouquet of several dozen red roses is usually placed at the foot of the column bearing the statue of a seated St. Peter and rope barriers are positioned just for this single day to keep the faithful from touching or kissing the statue.

Peter before he appears in finery –

By the way, the second day that St. Peter is dressed in all his finery is June 29, feast of Sts. Peter and Paul, Apostles.

I first visited the basilica on this feast day in 1991, the first year I was working at the Vatican Information Service. To learn the history and background of this celebration for a story I had to write for VIS, I interviewed several people in the Vatican, one of whom, Msgr. Michele Maccarrone, was an expert on the Chair of Peter. In fact, he gave me one of the few remaining copies of a 1985 issue of the Italian periodical, “Rivista di Storia della Chiesa in Italia,” (Review of Church History in Italy) entirely dedicated to “The Chair of Peter, From Symbol to Relic.” He wrote part of that article and the footnotes make reference to his other works on the Chair of Peter.

The word “cathedra” means seat or throne and is the root of the word cathedral, the church where a bishop has his throne and from whence he preaches. Another word for “cathedra” is “sede” (seat or see): the “see” is the place from which a bishop governs his diocese. Thus, for example, the Holy See (also called the See of Peter) is the see of the bishop of Rome, the Pope.

The Chair of Peter is actually a throne that Charles the Bald, the grandson of the Emperor Charlemagne, gave to Pope John VIII at the former’s coronation as emperor on Christmas Day 875. For many years, the chair was used at liturgical events by Pope John and his successors: it was ensconced in Bernini’s Altar of the Chair, where you view it today, in 1666.

A mixture of tradition, legend and belief held for many years that this was actually a double chair, parts of which dated back to the early days of Christianity and to St. Peter himself. This chair or cathedra has been studied over the centuries and the last time it was removed from its niche in the Bernini altar was a six-year period from 1968 to 1974 where studies pointed to a single chair whose oldest parts date to the sixth century. What appeared to be an outer or second chair was a covering that served both to protect the throne and to carry it in procession.

Some terrific photos by my EWTN colleague Daniel Ibanez –

We thus know that Pope St. Peter could not have used this chair but his successors have spoken of it as a symbol.

On Sunday, February 22, 2004, in reflections made during the Angelus, Pope John Paul remarked that, “the liturgical feast of the Chair of Peter underscores the singular mystery, entrusted by the Lord to the leader of the Apostles, of confirming and guiding the Church in the unity of faith. This is what the ‘ministerium petrinum’ is, that particular service that the Bishop of Rome is called to render to all Christians. An indispensable mission that is not based on human prerogatives but on Christ Himself as the cornerstone of the ecclesial community. Let us pray that the Church, in the variety of cultures, languages and traditions, will be unanimous in believing and professing the truth of faith and morals transmitted by the Apostles.”

In 2012, Pope Benedict XVI described the chair as “a symbol of the special mission of Peter and his Successors to tend Christ’s flock, keeping it united in faith and in charity.”

Last year, at his weekly general audience, Pope Francis spoke of this feast, saying, “Today we celebrate the feast of the Chair of St. Peter the Apostle, the day of the special communion of believers with the Successor of St Peter and the Holy See,” and he asked the faithful to pray for his Petrine ministry.