Today, April 8 is the 14th anniversary of one of the most remarkable days in the history of the Church – the funeral of the beloved Pope John Paul II after an almost 27-year papacy, the 3rd longest in the Catholic Church after St. Peter and Pope Pius IX. He had died on April 2, vigil of Divine Mercy Sunday.

I was reporting on the funeral that day and the photos I took in the following slideshow were taken both before the funeral Mass as I walked from my home to the Holy See Press Office and then after the funeral Mass as I walked down Via della Conciliazione and around Pza. Pio XII and St. Peter’s Square.

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Having worked at the Vatican for 15 years of his pontificate, I cannot forget the man, his works, his life, long illness, death and massive funeral. Those of us who worked for the Holy See were privileged to pay our respects in the Apostolic Palace’s Clementine Hall where the Pope was laying in state. He had been moved there on April 3 and then to the basilica for viewing by the faithful on April 4. Even there, we employees had a privileged entrance.

These pictures are from the vigil of the funeral as people paid their respects inside the basilica, day and night.

An estimated 4 million people were in Rome for the week following John Paul’s death – 4 million souls whom Rome fed and housed and cared for! Just over half were able to enter St. Peter’s Basilica to view the pontiff, often waiting in line from 5 to 19 hours!! Over 1 million watched his funeral on 30 megascreens set up throughout the city.

The Vatican announced that 149 heads of State and government were at the funeral – the single largest gathering in history of heads of State outside of the United Nations and that number included 4 kings and 5 queens and scores of presidents and prime ministers.

I live across from Vatican City and watched the incredible cavalcade of VIP cars as they entered Vatican City via the Perugino Gate to access the Diplomats Door of St. Peter’s Basilica. Motorcades carrying heads of state or government may enter Vatican City except for police escorts.

On a normal day the walk from my apartment to the Vatican office where I worked would have taken 8 minutes. April 8th it was closer to 40 minutes and I was lucky at that because every uniformed officer who in some way surrounded Vatican City that day and was guarding all access via streets and sidewalks had been given a copy of the official Vatican press office ID and told to absolutely let us through so we could work.

Rome was like no one had ever seen it: Car and truck traffic was greatly reduced or banned completely in certain areas of the center of Rome and banned in all areas surrounding Vatican City. VIP motorcades that brought dignitaries to the Vatican were allowed, as I said. Schools and public offices were closed. One could hear the constant whirr of security helicopter rotors and the noise of fighter jets as they flew around airspace closed to private planes.

The sheer numbers of the day were overwhelming – the numbers of cars, motorcycles, policemen, fireman – just about anyone who wore a uniform – was at or near the Vatican that day. Not to mention the hundreds of thousands of faithful who filled every inch of space created by God and man.

For me, the most stunning image of the day was that of the Holy Father’s simple wood coffin on top of which was the Book of Gospels, What was so stunning was how the strong wind (the Holy Spirit for sure!) opened the book, gently turned the pages and finally closed the Book of Gospels as if signifying the end of an earthly life and the start of eternal life – as if justifying the countless banners that read SANTO SUBITO – SAINTHOOD IMMEDIATELY!

As Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, main celebrant of the Mass and future Benedict XVI, said in his funeral homily: “Our hearts are full of sadness, yet at the same time of joyful hope and profound gratitude.”



“The best results and the most effective resolution that we can offer to the victims, to the People of Holy Mother Church and to the entire world, are the commitment to personal and collective conversion, the humility of learning, listening, assisting and protecting the most vulnerable.” Pope Francis, February 24, 2019

Listening and Learning
The 10th ordinary Plenary Assembly of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors began in Rome Thursday April 4, with the testimony of a mother from sub-Saharan Africa, who was the victim of clerical sexual abuse as a child.

This testimony was part of the Commission’s ongoing commitment to root all endeavors in attentive listening to the lived reality of those who have suffered abuse in the Church.

Commission members would like to thank her for her enduring witness and for the insight she provided into the complex issues that victims/survivors of clerical sexual abuse face in her specific cultural context.

Assisting and Protecting
Opening the April 4-7 Assembly, Commission President, Cardinal Séan Patrick O’Malley, O.F.M. Cap. greeted members on behalf of the Holy Father.

He also conveyed Pope Francis’ appreciation for the Commission’s assistance in initially proposing both the February Meeting with Presidents of Bishops Conferences on the Protection of Minors and the recently published safeguarding guidelines and norms for Vatican City State, the Vicariate for Vatican City and the Roman Curia. Feedback from the February meeting indicates that the understanding of the critical role of safeguarding in the life and mission of the Church is maturing. It also indicates that much remains to be done.

In light of this and its specific mandate to advise the Holy Father and through him assist the local Church leadership, the Commission is pursuing a large number of projects including:

  •   Through its group Working with Survivors, the establishment of a Virtual Survivor’s Advisory Panel (SAP). This method of listening to, and learning from survivors in a safe and culturally familiar space, is in addition to those local SAPs already established and at various stages of development within the local Church in Brazil, Zambia and the Philippines.
  • An internal study day with international experts regarding understanding sexual offending and its implications for preventing future abuse. This understanding is a key factor in proactively providing safe environments for minors.
  • A substantial project on creating an audit instrument. This includes the compilation of a collection of materials on safeguarding guidelines and the analysis of models for monitoring the level of implementation with the aim of creating a resource to assist local churches in the creation, implementation, review and audit of safeguarding programmes.
  •  Research to assess the status of implementation of safeguarding education and formation in Catholic schools, beginning with pilot projects in South Africa, Colombia, India, the Philippines and Tonga.


  • An international academic seminar on issues relating to “Confidentiality and Transparency” with particular emphasis on canonical penal procedures, planned for December 2019.
  • A “Latin American Symposium on Protective Environments in Churches and Civil Societies” cohosted by the PCPM and the Archdiocese of Bogotá, with the participation of the Confederation of Latin American and the Caribbean of men and women Religious (CLAR), the Latin American Episcopal Council (CELAM), Catholic Schools, government entities, international and local NGOs, international media, and Churches of other denominations.

The Holy See

The working groups of the PCPM have also continued their dialogue with Congregations and dicasteries of the Roman Curia, which have particular responsibilities in the area of safeguarding, including the Doctrine of the Faith, for Laity, Family and Life, Institutes of Consecrated Life and Apostolic Life, Clergy, and Bishops.

The Commission would also like to thank H.E Archbishop Charles J. Scicluna of Malta for sharing his time and expertise with members during the Plenary Assembly.

The 10th ordinary plenary assembly of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors took place in Rome April 4 to 7, 2019.

The Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors was created by Pope Francis in March of 2014 to propose the most opportune initiatives for the protection of all minors and vulnerable adults and to promote local responsibility in the particular Churches. For more information on the work of the Pontifical Commission visit our website at http://www.protectionofminors.va