Two big stories in the Vatican today: one involves the new editorial board of the Vatican newspaper’s monthly magazine “Donna Chiesa Mondo” (Women Church World), and the other involves the move of the newspaper itself, L’Osservatore Romano, outside of Vatican City State, after 90 years inside the mini state.

The first issue of L’Osservatore Romano* was published on July 1, 1861 in Rome, only months after the Kingdom of Italy was proclaimed in March 17 of that year. It is has 9 language editions (Italian is daily and weekly, 6 other languages are weekly and Polish is monthly. (

There will be lots of moving vans in coming months around Vatican City and Palazzo Pio XI, the building that has housed Vatican Radio for decades and will welcome the staff of the Vatican paper. The move, one of a number of moves of Vatican communications offices and staff in coming months, is expected to take about a year.

Palazzo Pio is named for Pope Pius XI who inaugurated Vatican Radio on February 12, 1931.

The prefect of communication Paolo Ruffini and interim Holy See Press Office director, Alessandro Gisotti told journalists this is all “part of the reform” of Vatican communications. “We are trying to optimize the spaces (we have) and this is a project that will take several months, from now until the summer of 2020.”

Basically the staff members of the Vatican’s newspaper, radio, television and web offices will all be housed in Palazzo Pio XI. Only technical staff, such as those who work for Vatican television, will work inside Vatican City.

Lots more on this topic – especially reaction to the announced move – so stay tuned!

* I have a copy of the newspaper that announced the election of Pope John Paul I (not called John Paul I until John Paul II was elected), Papa Luciani, that might have a certain value. There was a misprint in Latin on the front page (a misprint noted by the then editor’s 15-year old son who had just begin to study Latin) and they had to stop the presses and re-do that page. I have one of the rare editions of the paper with the misprint!


L’Osservatore Romano, the Vatican newspaper, announced today that the monthly magazine, “Donna Chiesa Mondo” (Women Church World) will be regularly published in the month of May. The announcement also revealed the membership of the new editorial board of the magazine, including the name of the new coordinator, Rita Pinci who, in turn, released a statement.

On March 26 there was the stunning news of the mass resignation of the editorial board and Lucetta Scaraffia, the founder of the Vatican’s monthly magazine on and for women – “Donna Chiesa Mondo” – that is published by the Vatican paper “L’Osservatore Romano.

On April 1, the board published an editorial in which members complained of feeling “surrounded by a climate of distrust and progressive de-legitimization.” They said the Vatican was “returning to the practice of selecting women [writers] who ensure obedience,” to a “clerical self-reference.””

In her statement, Rita Pinci said she was “pleased about this appointment. It is something I was not expecting and at first I was surprised by the proposal of L’Osservatore Romano’s editor-in-chief, Andrea Monda … because he thought of me, and for the complete freedom that he has assured to me and the Editorial Board. I have followed “Donne Chiesa Mondo” since it began, and I think the Church needs the gaze and voice of women who represent more than half of the faithful.”

Pinci added, “I am not a theologian, a Church historian, an expert on Vatican issues. I am a journalist. I am a believer. I was asked to make my expertise available to a community and a newspaper that I have always read with interest, and I believe that it is a great human – before professional – opportunity for me, to be able to take part in this project.

“My contribution will be mainly that of coordinating the Editorial Board in its work which will be carried out in a collegial manner and in the spirit of sharing the diverse talents and skills of the women who will participate in it and with whom I am proud to share this stretch of the road in a pursuit that for me began even before the professional one, in the first years of university, when I began to share certain fundamental themes of the women’s movement.”


I got quite a chuckle when I read the Pope’s comments to beauticians today. My first thought was: in how many beauty salons around the world will Francis’ remarks become the topic of the day, perhaps even the subject of gossip! An interesting audience and even more interesting remarks. I did a very brief search on the internet to see if other Popes had addressed hairdressers and beauticians and could not find another case.


Pope Francis on Monday met representatives of the association of hairdressers, hairstylists and beauticians of Italy, encouraging them (to work) in their profession in a “Christian style” and to help contribute to the common good of society.

Some 230 members of Saint Martin de Porres Committee, present in many regions of Italy, met the Pope in the Vatican on their weekly day of rest on Monday, which this week coincided with the feast of their patron.

The Pope noted that their pilgrimage to the tombs of the Apostles in Rome and their meeting with the Successor of Peter are a sign of the importance they attach to the Christian faith, as well to the religious dimension that characterizes their association. This, he said, is because of St. Martin, their patron.

The Peruvian saint of mixed race, the Pope explained, was accepted into the Order of the Dominican Fathers only as a tertiary and then as a brother and co-worker. He accepted this condition, living a life of utmost humility, radiated by love. With self-sacrifice, he devoted himself to the poor and the sick, providing them with health care, thanks to the concepts he learned first in a pharmacy and then as a pupil of a barber-surgeon, according to the custom of the time.

Born in Lima, on December 9, 1579, St. Martin died there on November 3, 1639. He was declared a saint by St. Pope John XXIII in 1962.

Pope Francis said that the “humble and great figure of Saint Martin de Porres”, whom Pope Paul VI proclaimed patron of their category in 1966, helps them to “bear constant witness to Christian values.” “He encourages you, above all,” he said, “to practice your profession in a Christian style, treating customers with kindness and courtesy, and always offering them a good word and encouragement, avoiding giving in to the temptation of gossip that easily creeps into your work environment, that we all know about.”

In conclusion, the Holy Father pointed out that each one of them, in their “typical professional work, can always act with righteousness, thus making a positive contribution to the common good of society.” (Source: vaticannews)


Pope Francis Friday addressed the Catholic Biblical Federation and, as I read his words I started laughing, not because of what the Holy Father said, of course, but because I remembered what Italian comedian Roberto Benigni once said about the Bible: He said it was the only book whose author, God, also created its readers!


My very special guest this weekend on Vatican Insider’s interview segment is also a longtime friend and a colleague when we both worked at Vatican Radio for many years – Tracey McClure. Tracey and a few others made some history not long ago by founding D.Va – Donne in Vaticano – Women in the Vatican – the first ever women’s association approved by the Vatican! Full disclosure: I am a member of D.VA (pronounced diva) and have participated in many activities but I wanted Tracey to give you the behind the scenes input.
This is Part II of our conversation. Part I aired on April 12. Part II was to have aired last weekend but was pre-empted by Triduum and Holy Week liturgies.

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Pope Francis on Friday met with the Catholic Biblical Federation on the occasion of its 50th anniversary, and told his guests that the Bible is not a beautiful collection of sacred books to study, it is the Word of life to be proclaimed through the streets of the world.

In order to highlight the fruits of its 50 years of activity, the Catholic Biblical Federation has been holding an International Biblical-Pastoral Congress this week on the theme “Word and Life, Biblical Animation of the life and pastoral activity of the Church”.

The Pope dedicated his remarks to “Word and life,” and began by noting that, “the word of God is alive; it does not die or even age; it remains forever.” He said that, “The Word brings God’s breath into the world, it infuses the heart with the warmth of the Lord. All the academic contributions and volumes that are published are and cannot but be at the service of this.”

The Holy Father explained that, in the Church, “the Word is an irreplaceable injection of life. That is why homilies are fundamental. … Preaching, is not an exercise in rhetoric, nor is it a set of wise human notions. Instead, it is a sharing of the Spirit, of the divine Word that touches the heart of the preacher, who communicates that warmth, that anointing.”

Pope Francis expressed the hope that there would be “a new season of greater love for Sacred Scripture flourishing on the part of all the members of the People of God”, so that it would deepen our relationship with Jesus. The Word, he added, “gives life to each believer by teaching them to renounce themselves in order to announce Him.”

A Church that lives by listening to the Word, said Pope Francis, “is never satisfied with her own security. She is docile to the unpredictable novelty of the Spirit.”

In concluding remarks, Francis said he prayed the Bible would not remain in a library but would be proclaimed through the streets of the world where people await it. (source: vaticannews)


Today is a national holiday in Italy, Liberation Day, the day American soldiers arrived in Italy, starting the liberation of major cities from the German occupiers and leading to the end of World War II. It was the end of Benito Mussolini’s Italian Socialist Republic and the end of Nazi occupation in Italy.

As an American living in Rome, over the years I’ve had many conversations with Italians on this day, and have been fascinated by their recollections of the war and this particular day. Many, now senior citizens, shared their personal memories of the day the Allies entered Rome, telling me how, at the age of 6 or 7, they ran alongside tanks and jeeps, waving enthusiastically at the American soldiers and, in many cases, trying to catch candy the soldiers were throwing out at the crowd.

Countless numbers of children, alongside their parents, instead walked step in step with soldiers as they entered the city on foot. They merely wanted to be next to their liberators, their “saviors.” Children often sought just to hold the hand of a soldier, to squeeze that hand, to look up and, with a broad smile, to say “grazie.”

Others, born long after the war ended, told me fascinating stories they heard from their parents or grandparents, noting that often their parents had trouble simply trying to express the relief, the joy, that came with liberation.

Today, as I walked by a Vatican-owned apartment building whose doorman, Francesco I’ve known for years, I told him it was a shame that he had to work on an Italian holiday. Francesco smiled and said, “but the Vatican was an ally all those years ago.” He then told me several stories he had heard from his father and grandfather, stories of how people suffered in the war, lived for years in fear and yearned month after month, year after year, for liberation.

And that came on April 25, 1945.


Pope Francis receives members of the Italian Federation of Associations for the Deaf in audience in the Vatican, and stresses the need for inclusion and a culture of encounter.

The Italian Federation of Associations for the Deaf was founded in 1920. In the words of its original mission statement, it was created in order to “counter the isolation, marginalization, and humiliation of the hearing and speech impaired.”

Inclusion and quality of life
Pope Francis met with members of the Federation in the Vatican on Thursday and expanded that mission, saying the Federation is now dedicated to “tackling the culture of waste, and encouraging greater inclusion in all environments.” This work is necessary, he said, in order “to ensure a better quality of life for the deaf person and the overcoming of this disability by valuing all dimensions, including the spiritual one.”

Fragility and encounter
While his words were simultaneously translated into sign language, Pope Francis said: “Deaf people inevitably experience a condition of fragility.”

Like so many other people with disabilities, they also often experience forms of prejudice, even in Christian communities. “This is not right,” insisted Pope Francis. The deaf teach us that only by accepting our limitations and fragilities can we help build “the culture of encounter,” as opposed to widespread indifference, he said.

“Hearing” the voice of God
“God’s presence is not perceived with the ears, but with faith,” said Pope Francis. God’s voice resounds in each person’s heart, “and everyone can hear it.” The Pope invited those present to “help those who do not ‘hear’ God’s voice to be more attentive to it.”

Finally, Pope Francis offered his prayers for all deaf people throughout the world, “especially those who live in conditions of marginalization and poverty.”

I pray that you “may bring your special contribution to society,” he said, and that you “may be capable of a prophetic gaze, capable of accompanying processes of sharing and inclusion, of cooperating in the revolution of tenderness and closeness.”


You know the saying, “If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans for the day!”

My day has been fairly upside down because of a number of unexpected events but I always try to find time to post a blog – I think the Lord knows that is always one of my plans for the day!

There is time for an update on my appearance on Newt Gingrich’s podcast, “Newt’s World”. I just learned we are over 21,000 downloads and counting. Heartfelt thanks for the enthusiastic emails I’ve received since the podcast aired Sunday! Two links:

Newt’s World Ep 11: Cookies With The Pope – Joan Lewis

To listen now:


Pope Francis this morning in St. Peter’s Square continued his weekly catechesis on the “Our Father,” telling the faithful present, “we now consider the expression: ‘as we forgive those who trespass against us’.”

He began by noting that, “Since everything we have, including our very existence, comes as a gift from God, we are always in his debt, for our life was not simply willed, it was also loved into being.

“We can be confident, then,” he added, “that the Lord will always forgive our trespasses when we ask him with contrite hearts. Yet this grace also calls us to forgive others, just as God has forgiven us. We see this in the parable of the unmerciful servant, who though having his own enormous debt written off, in turn refuses to cancel a much smaller debt owed to him. The message is clear: if you refuse to forgive, then you will not be forgiven.”

Francis then explained that, “God’s abundant grace is always demanding. Those who have received so much must learn to give as much, without holding some back for themselves.”

The Holy Father illustrated with a story of a priest he knew who went to hear the confession of a lady who was on her deathbed.

The Pope said, “the priest asked her if she repented of all her sins. ‘Yes’ was her answer.”

“Then the priest asked: ‘Do you forgive others? And the lady, at the point of death, said: ‘No.’

“The priest was distressed. If you do not forgive, God will not forgive you.”

If we have problems forgiving others, said Pope Francis, we need to ask the Lord to help us to forgive.

Forgiveness stops spread of evil
Pope Francis noted that Jesus inserts the power of forgiveness into human relationships, saying it fills the gap left by justice in the world.

“Not everything in life is resolved by justice. Especially where it is necessary to put a stop to evil, someone must love beyond what is necessary, in order to restart a story of grace. Evil knows how to take revenge, and, if we do not interrupt it, [evil] risks spreading, suffocating the whole world.”

Thus, Pope Francis concluded, “this Easter week is an opportunity to offer others the most precious gift we have received: forgiveness.” (vaticannews)



Today, April 23 is the feast of St. George the Martyr and the name day of Pope Francis who was baptized Jorge (George) Mario Bergoglio. It is a longstanding tradition in Italy for people to celebrate their onomastico or name day – the day of the saint for whom they were named at baptism. Many Italians celebrate their onomastio in a bigger fashion than their actual birthday.

To mark his name day, today Pope Francis donated 6,000 rosaries to youth from the archdiocese of Milan. This was done through the auspices of the Office of Papal Charities (the papal Almoner or Almsgiver) with rosaries that had been made for the 2019 World Youth Day held in Panama in January.

A Vatican note explained that the rosaries were made of olive wood from the Holy Land. Caritas Jerusalem organized the production of the rosaries, which gave work to the poor, to refugees, and to families of prisoners.

Tomorrow morning, the young people from Milan will attend the weekly general audience with the Holy Father.

In a note, the interim Director of the Holy See Press Office, Alessandro Gisotti said that, “accompanying [the Pope’s] gesture, the Holy Father asked the young people to remember him in a special way in their prayer, particularly by entrusting him to the Virgin Mary just a few days before the month of May” which is dedicated to the Mother of God.

In 2018 on his name day, Pope Francis offered 3,000 servings of Italy’s celebrated gelato to the homeless and needy and he actually marked this day by spending time with the needy and homeless of Rome, according to a brief note from the Office of Papal Charities.


Here is the latest missive from the Benedictine Monks of Norcia as they continue to rebuild their monastery and the basilica of St. Benedict after the October 2016 earthquake. They have been men of faith with a very positive outlook since day one of the catastrophic event that flattened the celebrated basilica. In this Easter letter, they also offer a link to their recent digital newsletter – definitely worth your while, lots of news and some great photos.

“We wish you and all of your loved ones a holy Easter week.

”The Easter Solemnity this year brings us face to face with the mystery of death, new life and Christ’s sacrificial act which brings those two together. First with news of the fire at Notre Dame in Paris and then the stories of the hundreds of dead and wounded Christians in Sri Lanka, we try to unite our prayers at the foot of the Cross, with all those suffering from these tragedies, and we pray that the light of the Resurrection will come through the darkness of sin and death.

“Our most recent print newsletter has just been sent to press, and in it, we have included some photos of the Easter Triduum at the monastery, details about our new canine guardians, and our progress in learning monastic sign language to maintain silence within the clausura. But because we want to share these many good things with you during this time of holy celebration, we’ve included a digital copy of the newsletter in this e-mail. You can view it by clicking here.

“To close on a lighter note: Those of you who have been regularly following developments “in Monte” will recognize the name Tertullian; not the early Christian Latin author but the monastery’s tortoise who freely roams our cloister. Dug into the ground hibernating, as is his custom during the winter months, we had started to worry that we had lost him because he had been “away” for an unusually long period this year. However, recently, he emerged from his hole and is now trotting about (at a turtle’s pace) again, much to the delight of the monks.

“May God bless you and reward you for your prayers and help as we, renewed with light from the Paschal mystery, continue to work to bring new life to Norcia through the rebuilding of our monastery. Prior Benedict Nivakoff, O.S.B.”

The monks ask people to keep their homemade beer in mind as its sales help in the rebuilding of the monastery after the devastating earthquake of October 2016 that destroyed their monastery and razed the basilica of St. Benedict to the ground. When the monks announced the damage in a series of tweets, they also announced that the monks were all safe. They have been rebuilding every since.




Several years ago, a good friend who worked for the Vatican, invited me to breakfast at a place called Homebaked in the Monteverde neighborhood of Rome. The entire menu was American – bacon, eggs, toast, waffles, pancakes, bagels, OJ, coffee, etc. – all those good things we associate with an American breakfast and miss living in Rome. I was thoroughly delighted, enjoyed a delicious, ample, homemade breakfast and went back a number of times, always wishing it was closer to where I lived.

Well, Homebaked has now come to me – their second Rome location has opened just over two blocks from my home on 25 Via di Porta Cavalleggeri and about 100 yards from St. Peter’s Square! I discovered it last week as I got off a bus and found myself staring at this familiar name and a beautiful, inviting window filled with brownies, donuts and slices of fresh pie and the aroma of American coffee brewing next to the sweets.

I immediately went in and there were my friends, the owners, Jesse, American and his wife Carolina, Italian. Big smiles and hugs all around and a promise to return after a press conference I had to cover.

I did return and had a late lunch, brunch to be precise. I’ve been back almost daily even just for a coffee and to say Hi. I took some photos, as you will see and was honored to put the very first pin on the Homebaked map of the U.S. where visitors are asked to tag the city they are from or where they were born. (I tagged Chicago!). The Monteverde café has such a map and the tradition continues of Via di Porta Cavalleggeri!

The new location is a jewel – a beautifully executed interior that just begs you to enter – warm and inviting and filled with sunshine – the colors as well as the atmosphere.

So come on over for breakfast, brunch (French toast, bacon and a mimosa, maybe?), lunch or a mid-afternoon piece of pie (or a few brownies) and coffee.

And spread the word! Tell Jesse and Carolina that Joan sent you!

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As it says on one of its FB pages, “Homebaked is a warm tiny place, that feels just like Grandma’s kitchen.
“Homebaked will embrace you with its hearty homemade apple pie or pumpkin pie, brownies, cookies, cheesecake, cinnamon rolls, cupcakes, muffins and more. Everything is made from scratch from secret family recipes. At Homebaked you will also be able to find bagels, pancakes, American breakfast, and a vast array of sandwiches, wraps and salads. Last, but not least, Homebaked has real brewed coffee as well as espresso, the only Italian thing you will find here. Homebaked is the only real American eatery in Rome, run by Americans. It has quickly become the home to many expats and American students.”

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