Pope Francis this morning met with 5 NASA astronauts of the ISS – the International Space Station – and enjoyed a lively exchange with them, speaking with and through Italian astronaut Paolo Nespoli, who also gave the Pope his very own space suit, albeit with a papal white cape. The Pope had spoken wth the astronauts, via an uplink from the Vatican, in space last October 26.

Joining Nespoli were 3 American astronauts – Joseph Acaba, Randy Bresnik and Mark Vande Hei – and Russian member of the team, Sergey Ryazanskiy.

Here’s the first hand story from the terrace of EWTN’s Rome office where the men were scheduled to meet briefly with a few members of the press this afternoon before continuing their travels.


We all had a chance to speak to them individually and EWTN filmed several of the interviews for “Vaticano” and News Nightly.

As I entered the Vatican building that houses our offices, four of the astronauts were speaking to a few members of the media. I listened and then spoke to two of them and, as I was doing so, someone asked if I’d like a photo with the four men. Of course, I would! I handed him my camera but he never pressed down hard enough to actually take the photo (!) so later, on the terrace, as the group was about to change into travel clothes I asked for another group photo. I was the only one who had that privilege as they were pressed for time, but the daughter of a journalist colleague did slip into the photo.

I only partially heard the stories they were telling my colleagues for TV – and I did post a Facebook live. It was wonderful as they talked about the spiritual, about what it is like to view the world, the universe, our earth from space and have your own look at creation, at a Creator.

I overheard Mark Vande Hei, in answer to a question from the DC bureau, say that Christmas was a problem, it was a workday for the Americans but not for the Russians. However, all was resolved when the Russians decorated “their” part of the spaceship!

I asked Mark when they had arrived in Rome and he said ‘only yesterday’. I asked if all the time in space had actually helped them when it came to earthly travels and jet lag and he replied that he felt it had helped indeed.

Tune in to Vaticano and News Nightly for their stories, up close and personal!

Here’s the story from inside the apostolic Palace: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-pope-astronauts/astronauts-give-pope-personalized-space-suit-add-white-cape-idUSKCN1J41XU



My guests this weekend in the interview segment of Vatican Insider are Nadine Bargnes and Dawn Iacono of St. Gregory the Great Parish in Amherst, New York where, over 15 years ago they founded MOMS, the Ministry of Mothers Sharing. Nadine and Dawn, former volunteers in Rome for the Jubilee Year of Mercy, returned to the Eternal City with 24 Catholic MOMS from the diocese. Msgr. Robert E. Zapfel, who studied and lived in Rome and is pastor of St. Leo the Great Parish in Amherst, was the spiritual guide for the group. They have a fascinating story to tell – and wait till you hear what they did the last full day of their pilgrimage in Rome. (Nadine L, Dawn R)

The entire pilgrimage was formed around MOMS and moms (lower case) – not only daily Mass and the practice each day of a virtue associated with motherhood (faith and joy, sacrifice and suffering, chastity and purity, courage, justice, fortitude and charity) but visits to churches and shrines dedicated to saints who were also mothers.

You will learn all about MOMS as a ministry, and Dawn and Nadine are only too happy to have you contact them if you wish MOMS in your parish. St. Gregory the Great is not the only parish to have this ministry but it began there. Please write me for their email addresses.

And look at this magnificent shawl! Blue, of course, for Mary, the Blessed Mother! Catherine Wadhams, one of the MOMS on pilgrimage, made one for every member of the pilgrimage and threw in two extras – one for Joan Lewis and a white one for Pope Francis. They talk about that in our conversation!

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=


Our wonderful Msgr. Anthony Figueiredo, whose commentary your hear ever Wednesday for the weekly papal audience on EWTN, says Mass Friday mornings at 8:45 in St. Peter’s Basilica for our Rome staff Mass is traditionally celebrated at the altar of the tomb of St. John XXIII but we’ve been elsewhere in these days his remains have been on pilgrimage in and around his native Bergamo, Italy. I understand St. John will be back this Sunday!

Today, the feast of the Sacred Heart, Msgr. Anthony celebrated Mass at the Sacred Heart of Jesus altar. Only two of us were present and, as you can see in one photo, I did a reading and the Responsorial Psalm. At the start of Mass, Msgr. lists all those for whom we were asked to pray and during Mass gives a wonderful homily, both times mentioning that prayers on this feast day are also always for the sanctification of priests.

Today he explained the beautiful mosaic you see in these photos (yes, mosaic! FYI, I have been told that there is only one painting in St. Peter’s Basilica – what you think are paintings are mosaics!) that depicts Jesus and St. Margaret Mary Alacoque who lived from 1647 to 1690. She was French, a Visitation nun and a mystic and passionately promoted devotion to the Sacred Heart.

I remember especially Msgr. Anthony’s words about Jesus’ Sacred Heart being so big that it has room for every single last one of us, His love is unsurpassable and forever, and His mercy is greater than any sin. My paraphrasing will not do justice to his words.

After Mass, as we walked back to the sacristy, I said, “the best part of the day had just ended!”