I leave tomorrow to spend Christmas and New Year’s in California with family and friends but that does not mean I will not be thinking of and praying for you in this special season. In addition, I’ll be coming into your homes as I’ll be on “At Home with Jim and Joy,” and have prepared some special shows for my weekend radio program, “Vatican Insider.” So stay tuned for those!

My home is ready – my front door, my dining room table (always set for 4, year round, different settings) and my Lladro Nativity Scene:

I wish all of you, my friends, family and faithful readers, TV viewers and radio listeners a blessed, holy, happy and healthy Christmas and a splendid New Year, a year that will be so wonderful you’ll find it hard to believe!
Before we part, however, I have a special gift for you as you will see below – One Solitary Life.


My special guest this weekend on Vatican Insider is Sr. Gabriella Bottani, international coordinator for Talitha Kum, an international network of women against human trafficking, under the auspices of the UISG – International Union of Superiors General.

Sister explains the name, Talitha Kum, where the organization is working, how they coordinate activities and what happens when they save a person, almost always women and young females, from traffickers. A wonderful explanation of the amazing, and often thankless, work that Talitha Kum members do around the world!

Sr. Gabriella is on the right on this photo taken in September when members were received by Pope Francis:

Click here for more information:
IN THE UNITED STATES, you can listen to Vatican Insider (VI) on a Catholic radio station near you (stations listed at or on channel 130 Sirius-XM satellite radio, or on 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.” VI airs at 5am and 9pm ET on Saturdays and 6am ET on Sundays. On the GB-IE feed (which is on SKY in the UK and Ireland), VI airs at 5:30am, 12 noon and 10pm CET on Sundays. Both of these feeds are also available on the EWTN app and on ALWAYS CHECK YOUR OWN TIME ZONE! For VI archives: (write Vatican Insider where it says Search Shows and Episodes)


This powerful Christmas column by late columnist Jimmy Bishop will surely leave you speechless for its beauty, simplicity and yet depth of understanding. I heard this for the first time a number of years ago when Andy Williams recited this in one of his Christmas albums:

“He was born in an obscure village, the Child of a peasant teen who knew not man. He grew up in another obscure village, where He worked in a carpenter shop until He was thirty. Then for three years He was an itinerant preacher. He never married or owned a home. He never held a job, yet paid taxes. He never set foot inside a metropolis. He never traveled two hundred miles from the place He was born. He never wrote a book, or held an office. He did none of the things that usually accompany greatness. He received no awards, no medals, no prizes from His peers.

“While He was still a young man, the tide of popular opinion turned against Him. His friends deserted Him. He was turned over to His enemies, and went through the mockery of a trial. He had no lawyers, no friendly juries, no fair hearing. He was nailed to a cross between two thieves. While He was dying, His executioners gambled for the only piece of property He had – His cloak. After He died, He was taken down and laid in a borrowed grave. Those who stood watch could not explain His disappearance.

“And yet two thousand years have come and gone, and today He is still the central figure for much of the human race. All the armies that ever marched and al the navies that ever sailed and all the parliaments that ever sat and all the kings that ever reigned, put together, have not affected the life of man upon this earth as powerfully as this ‘One Solitary Life’.”



Pope Francis dedicated the catechesis of today’s general audience, the last of the year and exactly one week before Christmas, to how we prepare to receive the Lord Jesus and the importance of the nativity scene in that preparation.

“Dear Brothers and Sisters,” began Francis, “In these last days of Advent, we do well to ask ourselves: How am I preparing for the birth of Jesus?

He answered his question by suggesting, “One way to prepare for Christmas is to set up a nativity scene in our homes, churches and public spaces, a lovely tradition that began with Saint Francis of Assisi. The Christmas crèche is a kind of living Gospel, a touching reminder that the Lord showed his love for us by being born as one of us, in order to share in our daily lives, hopes and concerns.”

Pope Francis, in fact, visited the celebrated shrine of Greccio on Sunday, December 1 where he signed his Apostolic Letter Admirabile signum, a reflection on the meaning of the nativity scene. The small grotto here resembles the grotto of Bethlehem where the Mary gave birth to Jesus.

Continuing his weekly catechesis, the Holy Father said, “The name Bethlehem, which means ‘house of breadì, and the image of the manger evoke the meals that we share as families, and the centrality of Jesus, the living bread come down from heaven, in our family life.”

“In this world of frenetic activity,,” stated the Pope, “the Christmas crèche also encourages us to pause and contemplate what is truly important in life. Everything in the nativity scene speaks of the harmony and peace that only Christ the Saviour can bring to our lives and to our world.”

Francis concluded: “As we gaze upon the lowly scene of Jesus’ birth, let us invite him into our hearts, so that each new day can bring spiritual rebirth and preserve in us the joy of Christmas.”

The following photos are of the Vatican’s nativity scene in St. Peter’s Square.

For a story about this nativity scene: click here:



In an historical and unprecedented move, the Vatican announced today that Pope Francis has abolished the pontifical secret for cases of sexual abuse.

Following, in their entirety, are the two papal documents (AMENDMENTS TO “NORMAE DE GRAVIORIBUS DELICTIS” and INSTRUCTION ON CONFIDENTIALITY OF LEGAL PROCEEDINGS), an interview by Vatican News Editorial Director Andrea Tornielli with Archbishop Charles Scicluna, Adjunct Secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and an editorial commentary by Tornielli.


His Holiness Pope Francis, in the Audience granted to the undersigned Cardinal Secretary of State and the undersigned Cardinal Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith on 4 October 2019, has decided to introduce the following amendments to the “Normae de gravioribus delictis” reserved to the judgement of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, in accordance with the Motu proprio of Saint John Paul II “Sacramentorum Sanctitatis Tutela” (30 April 2001), as amended by the Rescriptum ex Audientia SS.mi dated 21 May 2010 and signed by the then Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Cardinal William Levada:

Article 1

Art. 6 § 1, 2° Sacramentorum Sanctitatis Tutela is replaced in its entirety by the following text: “The acquisition, possession or distribution by a cleric of pornographic images of minors under the age of eighteen, for purposes of sexual gratification, by whatever means or using whatever technology”.

Article 2

§ 1 – Art. 13 Sacramentorum Sanctitatis Tutela is replaced in its entirety by the following text: “The role of Advocate or Procurator is carried out by a member of the faithful possessing a doctorate in canon law, who is approved by the presiding judge of the college”.

§ 2 – Art. 14 Sacramentorum Sanctitatis Tutela is replaced in its entirety by the following text: “In other Tribunals, for the cases under these norms, only priests can validly carry out the functions of Judge, Promoter of Justice and Notary”.

The Holy Father has ordered that the present Rescriptum be published in L’Osservatore Romano and in Acta Apostolicae Sedis, and take effect on 1 January 2020.

From the Vatican, 3 December 2019


His Holiness Pope Francis, in the Audience granted to His Excellency Archbishop Edgar Peña Parra, Substitute for General Affairs of the Secretariat of State, on 4 December 2019, has decided to issue the Instruction On the Confidentiality of Legal Proceedings, attached to the present Rescriptum, of which it forms an integral part. The Holy Father has determined that the Rescriptum shall have firm and stable application, notwithstanding anything to the contrary, even if worthy of special mention, that it shall be promulgated by publication in L’Osservatore Romano, with immediate force, and then be published in the official commentary Acta Apostolicae Sedis.

From the Vatican, 6 December 2019


INSTRUCTION On the Confidentiality of Legal Proceedings

1. The pontifical secret does not apply to accusations, trials and decisions involving the offences referred to in: a) Article 1 of the Motu proprio “Vos estis lux mundi” (7 May 2019); b) Article 6 of the Normae de gravioribus delictis reserved to the judgement of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, in accordance with the Motu proprio “Sacramentorum Sanctitatis Tutela” of Saint John Paul II (30 April 2001), and subsequent amendments.

2. Nor does the pontifical secret apply when such offenses were committed in conjunction with other offences.

3. In the cases referred to in No. 1, the information is to be treated in such a way as to ensure its security, integrity and confidentiality in accordance with the prescriptions of canons 471, 2° CIC and 244 §2, 2° CCEO, for the sake of protecting the good name, image and privacy of all persons involved.

4. Office confidentiality shall not prevent the fulfilment of the obligations laid down in all places by civil laws, including any reporting obligations, and the execution of enforceable requests of civil judicial authorities.

5. The person who files the report, the person who alleges to have been harmed and the witnesses shall not be bound by any obligation of silence with regard to matters involving the case.


Interview by Vatican News Editorial Director Andrea Tornielli with Archbishop Charles Scicluna, Adjunct Secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith on the publication of the Rescriptum of the Holy Father Francis On the Instruction Sulla Riservatezza delle cause (On the privacy of legal proceedings)

Published in Vatican News and L’Osservatore Romano – 17 December

Scicluna: “An epochal decision that removes obstacles and impediments” – “The bishops had spoken about it at the February meeting on the protection of minors”.

«An epochal decision». This is how the archbishop of Malta Charles Scicluna, adjunct Secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, described the rescriptum published on Tuesday 17 December 2019, in this interview with Vatican Radio – Vatican News.

What importance does the Pope’s decision to abolish pontifical secrecy in cases of sexual violence in child abuse have?

I remember when the bishops were called to the Vatican by the Holy Father Francis in February 2019, that there was a full day of discussion on the question of transparency in cases of sexual misconduct. In May 2019 we have a new law which also gave an important impact and also development in the same line, and now we have another law by the Holy Father that says that cases of sexual misconduct are not under the Pontifical secret, that would be the highest level of confidentiality. That means, of course, the question of transparency now is being implemented at the highest level.

What does this decision change in concrete terms?

It opens up, for example, avenues of communication with victims, of collaboration with the state. Certain jurisdiction would have easily quoted the pontifical secret because that was the state of the law, in order to say that they could not, and that they were not, authorized to share information with either state authorities or the victims. Now that impediment, we might call it that way, has been lifted, and the pontifical secret is no more an excuse. However, the law goes further: it actually says, as also does Vos estis lux mundi, that information is of the essence if we really want to work for justice. And so, the freedom of information to statutory authorities and to victims is something that is being facilitated by this new law.

Does the abolition of pontifical secrecy mean that documents will become public?

The documents in a penal trial are not public domain, but they are available for authorities, or people who are interested parties, and authorities who have a statutory jurisdiction over the matter. So I think that when it comes, for example, to information that the Holy See has asked to share, one has to follow the international rules: that is, that there has to be a specific request, and that all the formalities of international law are to be followed. But otherwise, on the local level, although they are not public domain, communication with statutory authorities and the sharing of information and documentation are facilitated.


Following is a Comment by Editorial Director, Andrea Tornielli on the publication of the Rescript of the Holy Father Francis on the Instruction Sulla riservatezza delle cause (On the confidentiality of legal proceedings)

Published in Vatican News and L’Osservatore Romano – 17 December 2019

Historic decision, fruit of the February summit

With the abolition of the pontifical secret for cases of sexual abuse against minors, Pope Francis continues on the path of transparency.


Convened by Pope Francis in the Vatican in February 2019, the summit on the protection of minors continues to bear fruit. In fact, today, Tuesday, 17 December, an important decision is being announced. It would not be hazardous to define it as historical. That decision regards the pontifical secret. The Pope, in fact, via a Rescript has decided to abolish it in cases of the sexual abuse of minors, of sexual violence and child pornography.

This means that any reporting, testimony and documents produced in canonical trials related to such cases of sexual abuse – those kept in Vatican Dicastery archives as well as those found in diocesan archives – which until now were subject to the pontifical secret, can now be handed over when requested to lawful authorities in their respective countries. This is a sign of openness, transparency, and the willingness to collaborate with the civil authorities.

In the case of Vatican Dicasteries, the request must be forwarded through the international rogatory process customary in the context of relations between States. The procedure is different, instead, for cases where the documents being requested are kept in diocesan Chancery archives: the competent legal authorities in each respective country must forward the request directly to the bishop. Particular arrangements provided for in agreements between the Church and State remain unaffected.

Connected to last May’s Motu Proprio Vos estis lux mundi, the breadth of Pope Francis’ decision is evident: the well-being of children and young people must always come before any protection of a secret, even the “pontifical” secret. The Rescript obviously does not affect the sacramental seal in any way, that is, the secret of confession, which is completely different from the pontifical secret, which covers documentation and testimony. Neither does it mean that in these cases those documents produced in canonical trials should enter into the public domain or that they should become matter for public disclosure. The right of the victims and the witnesses to confidentiality must always be protected. Now, however, the documentation must be placed at the disposal of the civil authority for the purpose of investigating cases for which canonical proceedings have already begun.




Pope Francis on Monday met a delegation of 64 young boys and girls from “Azione Cattolica dei Ragazzi (ACR),” Children’s Catholic Action, a wing of Italy’s lay Catholic organization, Azione Cattolica.
By Robin Gomes (vaticannews)

Pope Francis invited children to look to the Child Jesus with amazement and, like Him, to be little “bridges” where they live.

50 years of ACR
Comprising youngsters between 4 and 14 years of age, ACR is the children’s wing of the Catholic Action of Italy (AC), a lay organization founded in 1922 for the spiritual and moral renewal of society through the education and formation of young people.  The children’s wing was started in 1969.

Pope Francis expressed appreciation for the various initiatives that ACR has carried out marking its 50th anniversary this year. “Your formation programme,” the Pope said, “outlines a path that helps you to become aware of your vocation as missionary disciples.”

Marking 50 years, some 1,000 boys and girls from all over Italy gathered together in Rome from October 31 to November 2, in what they called, “Children in Synod”. Expressing appreciation for this initiative, the Pope said he was curious to know about their observations and resolutions.

Little “bridges”
However, he gave the boys and girls homework to do. “On Christmas Day, gather together in prayer and, with the same amazement of the shepherds, look at the Child Jesus, who came into the world to bring the love of God, who makes all things new,” the Pope said.

“With His birth,” he explained, “Jesus made Himself a bridge between God and mankind, reconciled earth and sky, recomposed the whole human race into unity.”  Today, the Pope said, the Child Jesus also asks them to be little “bridges” where they live.

When the Pope asked them whether it is better to build bridges or walls, the youngsters together answered “Bridges”. He noted they must have already realized the need for it. At times, he pointed out, it is not easy “but if we are united with Jesus we can do it”.

Mary’s school
In conclusion, the Holy Father urged the children to learn the true meaning of Christmas from Mary. “She and Saint Joseph,” he said, “can truly teach us how to accept Jesus, how to adore him and how to follow Him day by day.”


(CNA – Courtney Mares) On Gaudete Sunday, Pope Francis celebrated a Filipino Christmas tradition in St. Peter’s Basilica — the Simbang Gabi Christmas novena.

In the Philippines, for centuries, there has been a novena in preparation for Christmas called Simbang Gabi, ‘Mass of the night’. During nine days the Filipino faithful gather at dawn in their parishes for a special Eucharistic celebration,” Pope Francis said Dec. 15.

“Through this celebration we want to prepare ourselves for Christmas according to the spirit of the Word of God that we have listened to, remaining constant until the Lord’s definitive coming,” he said in his homily for the Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica.

Pope Francis invited Rome’s Filipino community to celebrate Gaudete Sunday Mass at the Vatican in honor of the first day of the traditional novena. It is the first time that a pope has celebrated Simbang Gabi at the Vatican.

The Simbang Gabi tradition in the Philippines dates back to the 17th century. Filipinos hang a star outside their homes, and attend early morning Masses on each of the nine days before Christmas.

“In recent decades, thanks to Filipino migrants, this devotion has crossed national borders and has arrived in many other countries. Simbang-Gabi has also been celebrated in the diocese of Rome for years, and today we celebrate it together here, in St. Peter’s Basilica,” Pope Francis said.

The pope told the Filipino community gathered in St. Peter’s Basilica that they are called to be “leaven” in their parish communities in Italy, and encouraged them to share their “cultural and spiritual wealth.”

There are over 167,000 Filipinos residing in Italy, according to the Italian Ministry of Labor. Fr. Ricky Gente, chaplain for the Filipino community in Rome, address Pope Francis following the Mass:

“Almost 500 years ago, European missionaries planted the seed of faith in our beloved Philippines. We are happy and blessed because after five centuries we are here in Europe and throughout the world transmitting the joy and beauty of the Gospel,” Fr. Gente said.

“Before the celebration of the last World Day of Migrants and Refugees, the Holy Father shared with me that Filipino women are ‘smugglers of the faith,’” the priest said.

“Yes, it is true, we carry with us everywhere we go the torch of faith and of the Gospel in the world, the same faith and Gospel that have been transmitted to us. This is why today, here in front of you, you find a happy and smiling people because the flame of faith continues to burn intensely in our hearts,” he added.

The Filipino community gave Pope Francis a traditional Marian statue as an early birthday gift. The pope will celebrate his 83rd birthday on Dec. 17. Pope Francis responded after receiving the gift: “Be smugglers of the faith.”

“We are all invited to build together that communion in diversity that constitutes a distinctive trait of the Kingdom of God, inaugurated by Jesus Christ, Son of God made man,” the pope said in his homily. “We are all called to proclaim the Gospel together, the Good News of salvation, in all languages, so as to reach as many people as possible.”

“To adequately prepare ourselves for this new outpouring of grace, the Church offers us the time of Advent, in which we are called to reawaken in our hearts the expectation and to intensify our prayer,” Francis said.

“May the Holy Child that we are preparing to worship, wrapped in poor swaddling clothes and lying in a manger, bless you and give you the strength to carry on your testimony with joy,” Pope Francis said.


Happy Anniversary to Pope Francis who today marks the 50th anniversary of his priestly ordination!

It has been interesting to read the many articles about the appointment by Pope Francis of Filipino Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle to head the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, the almost 400-year old dicastery originally known as Propaganda Fide (Spreading the Faith). A number of sites have suggested that Francis, in naming a charismatic personality, is also indicating one possible successor of his to the papacy.

That interested me and I looked at the history of this Congregation and found that of Tagle’s 40 predecessors as cardinal prefects of Propanganda Fide, only one, Cardinal Mauro Capellari had been elected as Pope, becoming Pope Gregory XVI. Born Bartolomeo Alberto Cappellari in September 1765, he had adopted the name Mauro upon entering the religious order of the Camaldolese. He was prefect of the Congregation from 1826 to 1831 when he was elected Pope. He was also ruler of the Papal States until his death in 1846.

Just sayin….it doesn’t mean it can’t happen a second time.


My guest this week in the interview segment of Vatican Insider is well-known to many of you – Janet Morana – executive director of Priests for Life and also one of the main hosts of EWTN’s “The Catholic View.” Janet was in Rome for a forum of and by Catholic-inspired NGOs – Non-governmental organizations. Priests for Life is a member of that forum and Janet tells an exciting story about the meeting – so stay tuned for that!

I interviewed Janet on Saturday, December 7 in my office at 5 pm. After that conversation, we went to 6 pm Mass at St. Patrick’s and then to my parish’s annual gala dinner dance for charity. Of necessity, we were both dressed for the gala, not for a radio interview and I announce this at the end of our talk. Here is a photo to prove it!

IN THE UNITED STATES, you can listen to Vatican Insider (VI) on a Catholic radio station near you (stations listed at or on channel 130 Sirius-XM satellite radio, or on 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.” VI airs at 5am and 9pm ET on Saturdays and 6am ET on Sundays. On the GB-IE feed (which is on SKY in the UK and Ireland), VI airs at 5:30am, 12 noon and 10pm CET on Sundays. Both of these feeds are also available on the EWTN app and on ALWAYS CHECK YOUR OWN TIME ZONE! For VI archives: (write Vatican Insider where it says Search Shows and Episodes)


Vaticannews yesterday reported on the Pope’s address to members of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the Vatican Dicastery. It noted that, “the tasks of what are today called the Congregation for the Causes of Saints and the Congregation for Divine Worship, had been carried out earlier by the Sacred Congregation of Rites, instituted over 4 centuries ago in 1588. Pope Saint Paul VI in 1969, Pope Francis said, split the Congregation into two dicasteries that have “two large areas that are clearly distinct.”

Thus, a 50th anniversary for the Congregation for Causes of Saints, a congregation that inaugurated a new website – http://www.causesanti,va – that very same day.

Francis said that the many beatifications and canonizations that have been celebrated in recent decades mean that saints are models and guides of Christian life, but they are not unreachable human beings. In fact, he said, “they are people who have experienced the daily toil of existence with its successes and failures, finding in the Lord the strength to always get up and continue the journey.”

In what appeared to be remarks aimed at the recent postponement by Vatican orders of the scheduled December 21 beatification of Venerable Fulton Sheen in the Illinois diocese of Peoria, the Holy Father exhorted the Congregation in its task of carrying out with scrupulosity and accuracy its investigative research into the martyrdom, heroic virtues, the offering of life and miracles of men and women candidates, in order clear the field of any ambiguity or doubt and achieve full certainty in the proclamation of their holiness.


Two interesting things about today’s Vaticannews posts:

– The daily press office bulletin notes that, among those the Pope received today in audience were U.S. bishops from Illinois, Wisconsin and Indiana (Region VII), on their ad limina visit. Notably missing was the name of Bishop Jenky of Peoria, the diocese that was to have hosted the beatification of Venerable Fulton Sheen on December 21.

– As you will see below, the Vatican today published a list of names of resignations Pope Francis has accepted and appointments he has made. We did this in our daily bulletins for over 21 years when I worked at the Vatican Information Service. VIS was shut down several years ago as part of the Pope’s reorganization of Vatican communications. I’d love to have a euro for every time I have been asked when VIS will come back! I’d love to have collected a euro during those 21 years when bishops and nuncios in particular told us VIS was the best thing the Vatican had ever done in communications! AND I heard from those same folks (and others, over the years) that the first thing they did was scroll down the page to the Nominations section (it was always at the bottom of our news reports)!

Pope Francis, as I write, is celebrating Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica for the liturgical feast day of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Guadalupe. He has done this for several years now. Journalists have been informed that he will deliver an off-the-cuff homily as there is no prepared written text. I am not sure but believe the US bishops from Region VII will concelebrate at this Mass.

Unless you are fluent in Italian, you will not be able to enjoy the new website of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints (, available now only in Italian. A congregation communique says the site offers the bios of 700 saints, has a search engine, presents the saint of the day, and has interactive information on the canonical procedures leading up to beatification and canonization.


Tomorrow, December 13th marks the 50th anniversary of Pope Francis’ ordination to the priesthood. Vatican News celebrates this milestone recalling some of Pope’s reflections regarding priests and the priesthood.
By Sergio Centofanti

On December 13, 1969, just four days before his 33rd birthday, Jorge Mario Bergoglio was ordained a priest. His vocation dates back to September 21, 1953, the Feast of St. Matthew, the tax collector converted by Jesus: it was during a confession that day, that the future Pope had a profound experience of God’s mercy. The Pope was born in December 17, 1936

To read some highlights and explore a photo gallery, click here:


Pope Francis has named new Bishops for dioceses in South Sudan, the Republic of Congo, Nigeria, Ecuador, Colombia, Peru, the United States, and Poland.

By Vatican News

On Thursday, the Holy See announced the following resignations and appointments for various episcopal sees around the world.

The Holy Father, Pope Francis, has:
– accepted the resignation of Archbishop Paulino Lukudu Loro, M.C.C.J., from the pastoral care of the Archdiocese of Juba, South Sudan; and at the same time, named Bishop Stephen Ameyu Martin Mulla, until now Bishop of Torit, as Archbishop of the same Metropolitan See;
– accepted the resignation of Bishop Jean Gardin, C.S.Sp., from the pastoral care of the Diocese of Impfondo, Republic of Congo; and at the same time, named Father Daniel Nzika, of the clergy of Ouessa, and until now Vicar General, as Bishop of the same Diocese;
– named Father Julius Yakubu Kundi, of the clergy of Zaria, and until now Pastor of Saint John in Muchia, as Bishop of the Diocese of Kafanchan, Nigeria;
– named Bishop Sedundo René Coba Galarza, until now Military Ordinary of Ecuador, as Bishop of Ibarra, Ecuador;
– accepted the resignation of Bishop Carlos Germán Mesa Ruiz from the pastoral care of the Diocese of Socorro y San Gil, Colombia; and named Father Luis Augusto Campos Flórez, of the clergy of the Archdiocese of Bogotá, Colombia, and until now Episcopal Vicar of the Archdiocesan Zone of the Holy Spirit, as Bishop of the same Diocese;
– named Father Giorgio Barbetta, of the clergy of Gubbio, Italy, as titular Bishop of Isola and Auxiliary of the Diocese of Huari, Peru, where he has been serving as a fidei donum priest, and Rector of the Señor de Pomallucay Seminary;
– accepted the resignation of Bishop Paul Joseph Swain from the pastoral care of the Diocese of Sioux Falls, United States; and named Father Donald Edward DeGrood, of the clergy of the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis, until now Pastor of St John the Baptist Parish in Savage, Minnesota, as Bishop of the same Diocese;
– named Father Adrian Jósef Galbas, S.A.C., until now Provincial of the Society of the Catholic Apostolate of the Province of Poznań, as Auxiliary of the Diocese of Ełk, Poland, assigning him the titular see of Naisso



Pope Francis’ Message for the 53rd World Day of Peace describes peace as a journey of hope to be undertaken in a spirit of dialogue, reconciliation and ecological conversion.

By Linda Bordoni (vaticannews)
The 53rd World Day of Peace will be observed on 1 January 2020.

Pope Francis’ Message, published on 12 December, is entitled “Peace as a journey of hope: dialogue, reconciliation and ecological conversion”.

The Pope begins by saying that hope puts us on the path to peace, while “mistrust and fear weaken relationships and increase the risk of violence.” He urges us to be artisans of peace, open to dialogue in a spirit of reconciliation, on a journey of ecological conversion that leads to a “new way of looking at life.”

Hope keeps us moving forward
Describing peace as “a great and precious value, the object of our hope and the aspiration of the entire human family”, Pope Francis says it is a goal towards which to strive in spite of seemingly insurmountable obstacles.

He recalls the scars of war and conflict borne in “the memory and in the flesh” of humanity, and says they “affect especially the poor and the vulnerable,” perpetrating humiliation and exclusion, sorrow and injustice.

Fraternity, an innate vocation of humanity
“Entire nations – the Message reads – find it difficult to break free of the chains of exploitation and corruption that fuel hatred and violence. Even today, dignity, physical integrity, freedom, including religious freedom, communal solidarity and hope in the future are denied to great numbers of men and women, young and old.”

“Every war,” the Pope says, “is a form of fratricide that destroys the human family’s innate vocation to brotherhood.”

Peace and stability incompatible with fear of the other
War, the Pope notes, “often begins with the inability to accept the diversity of others, which then fosters attitudes of aggrandizement and domination born of selfishness and pride, hatred and the desire to caricature, exclude and even destroy the other”.

Referring to his recent visit to Japan and his call for the elimination of nuclear weapons, Pope Francis emphasizes that, “peace and international stability are incompatible with attempts to build upon the fear of mutual destruction or the threat of total annihilation.”

They can be achieved, he says, only on the basis of a global ethic of solidarity and cooperation.

Fraternity generates dialogue and trust
A part of the Message is dedicated to the issue of mistrust and fear that, the Pope says “weaken relationships and increase the risk of violence, creating a vicious circle that can never lead to a relationship of peace.”

“Even nuclear deterrence can only produce the illusion of security,” he says.
The only way to break down the current dynamic of distrust, the Pope continues, is by pursuing “a genuine fraternity based on our common origin from God and exercised in dialogue and mutual trust.”

The desire for peace, he reiterates, “lies deep within the human heart, and we should not resign ourselves to seeking anything less than this.”

The memory of the past for a future of peace
Pope Francis describes memory as the horizon of hope: “Many times, in the darkness of wars and conflicts, the remembrance of even a small gesture of solidarity received can lead to courageous and even heroic decisions. It can unleash new energies and kindle new hope in individuals and communities.”

Recalling his moving meeting with the Hibakusha, the survivors of the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, who still bear witness to the horror of the past in order to ensure and build a more fair and fraternal future, the Pope describes memory as “the fruit of experience, to serve as the basis and inspiration for present and future decisions to promote peace.”

The challenge of overcoming personal and political interests
“Setting out on a journey of peace,” Pope Francis says, “is a challenge made all the more complex because the interests at stake in relationships between people, communities and nations, are numerous and conflicting”.

Hence he appeals to “people’s moral conscience and to personal and political will,” because “peace emerges from the depths of the human heart and political will must always be renewed, so that new ways can be found to reconcile and unite individuals and communities.”

Artisans of peace
In the final part of the Message Pope Francis reminds us that peace is something that must be built up continually, and that it is a journey to be made together in constant pursuit of the common good.

“The world does not need empty words but convinced witnesses, peacemakers who are open to a dialogue that rejects exclusion or manipulation,” he says.

In fact, he elaborates, “we cannot truly achieve peace without a convinced dialogue between men and women who seek the truth beyond ideologies and differing opinions,” to the point even of “seeing in an enemy the face of a brother or sister.”

The peace process, he explains, requires patience, commitment and creativity. It must be built, step by step, opening the way to a shared hope that is stronger than the desire for vengeance.

Recognizing each other as brothers and sisters
Pope Francis goes on to urge all men and women of goodwill to “renounce the desire to dominate others” and exhorts us to learn to look at each other “as persons, sons and daughters of God, brothers and sisters”.

Only by choosing the path of respect, he says, “can we break the spiral of vengeance and set out on the journey of hope”.

Learning “to live in forgiveness, we grow in our capacity to become men and women of peace,” he says, noting that true peace can only be obtained through a more just economic system, ” marked by quotas of gratuitousness and communion “.

Ecological conversion: a new way of looking at life
Recalling his Encyclical Letter, “Laudato sì,” the Pope invokes an ecological conversion as a constructive and just response to “the consequences of our hostility towards others, our lack of respect for our common home or our abusive exploitation of natural resources – seen only as a source of immediate profit, regardless of local communities, the common good and nature itself.”

He says the journey undertaken by the recent Synod on the Amazon moves us to commit to the renewal of “a peaceful relationship between communities and the land, between present and past, between experience and hope.”

The Pope describes it as “a journey made of listening and contemplation of the world that God has given us as a gift to make our common home.”

“The ecological conversion for which we are appealing will lead us to a new way of looking at life, as we consider the generosity of the Creator who has given us the earth and called us to a share it in joy and moderation,” he writes. The Pope notes that for Christians, it requires that “the effects of their encounter with Jesus Christ become evident in their relationship with the world around them.”

We obtain all that we hope for
In the last chapter of his Message, the Pope says “The journey of reconciliation calls for patience and trust. Peace will not be obtained unless it is hoped for.”

He stresses that it is necessary to believe in the possibility of peace, inspired by God’s love for each one of us, that is “liberating, limitless, gratuitous and tireless.”

His invitation is to overcome fears that are at the roots of conflict, to promote a culture of encounter, to give life to universal fraternity, as we tread a Christian path sustained by the sacrament of Reconciliation, which “requires us to set aside every act of violence in thought, word and deed, whether against our neighbours or against God’s creation.”

“The grace of God our Father,” Pope Francis concludes, “is bestowed as unconditional love. Having received His forgiveness in Christ, we can set out to offer that peace to the men and women of our time. Day by day, the Holy Spirit prompts in us ways of thinking and speaking that can make us artisans of justice and peace.”



Santa Maria Sopra Minerva Closed for Repairs

If you have tried to enter Rome’s basilica of Santa Maria Sopra Minerva where the body of St. Catherine of Siena lies, and you have found the doors closed, you might have to wait a few years to get back in! I have been in touch with Dominican friends and have learned that the ceiling had started to fall down at the Minerva so Italian government authorities have closed the basilica for repairs. It could be as much as a couple of years, but I heard they are planning to open the sanctuary very soon so people can enter and at least go there. I am not sure when or how that will happen. The Dominican friars who reside adjacent to the church will remain where they are.

The Chapel of Our Lady of San Marco

I came across this chapel a few Sundays ago as I was retuning home after Mass at St. Patrick’s in the center of Rome. I was in Pza. Venezia and transferring from one bus to another to get home. As I walked along Palazzo Venezia, I noticed an open door I had never before seen in all my decades in Rome. I glanced up and saw the Italian name above the door: Chapel of Our Lady of San Marcos!

I was amazed, and I walked in and fund myself in the presence of not just artistic beauty but the Blessed Sacrament on the altar! Two nuns and a handful of lay people were reciting the Angelus – it was indeed noon! I spoke to one of the nuns afterwards and learned that her congregation is the Daughters of the Church.

I went online to learn a bit more about this chapel. The very small and very ornate room you first enter is the original chapel. Also called La Madonnella (little Madonna) di San Marco, this is a late 17th century devotional chapel which was dismantled and inserted into the ground floor of the Palazzo Venezia, a 15th century edifice, in the 20th century. The separate entrance doorway is on the right hand side of the façade of the palazzo on the west side of the Piazza Venezia (the door I entered as you will see in my photos). The chapel is counted as attached to the basilica of San Marco.

The chapel opens just before 7 am and closes at noon, then re-opens at 4 until (I think) 7 pm.

The chapel’s profile was raised in 1957 when Mother Maria Oliva Bonaldo, foundress of the Congregation of the Daughters of the Church established a small convent attached to San Marco, and the sisters have made the chapel a center of Eucharistic devotion. Another adjacent room in the palazzo was taken over and is used as a chapel for exposition of the Blessed Sacrament.

Gaudete Sunday to Mark 50th Anniversary of the Bambinelli Blessing

The third Sunday of Advent, known as Gaudete Sunday, is the day that children of all ages and from all over Rome – and sometimes other towns and cities in Italy – bring their bambinelli, statues of the Baby Jesus, to be blessed by the Pope at the end of the Angelus. These statues will be placed in the cribs of nativity scenes – known as ‘crèches’ in French and ‘presepio’ in Italian, in homes and schools. Many a child holds up two or even three statues for the papal blessing as they bring a bambinello for a friend who could not make it to the Angelus.

This coming Sunday, when Pope Francis recites the Angelus, it will mark the 50th anniversary of the first time children brought their statues of Baby Jesus to St. Peter’s Square. In fact, it was December 21, 1969 that Pope St. Paul VI imparted for the very first time a papal blessing on the statues the children brought to the square.

A Serata for Charity

For decades the Catholic American community in Rome, first at Santa Susanna and now at St. Patrick’s, has held an annual fundraiser for a number of Roman charities on the first Saturday of December. A number of years ago what was a daytime bazaar became a gala serata, or evening, in an elegant atmosphere with dining, dancing, live and silent auctions and a raffle. In recent years all the monies raised have gone to 6 Roman charities.

The evening would never happen if it were not for the most amazing parishioners you’d ever want to meet – those who attend Masses in the chapel at Marymount International School (parents of those who attend MMI) and those who come to St. Patrick’s in the heart of Rome on Via Boncompagni.

The student dining room at MMI is turned into a glamorous venue for one night as you will see in a few of the early photos I took. Members of the SOC (Serata Organizing Committee) meet for many months during the year and for very long hours on the actual gala weekend, putting up, enjoying and then taking down all the decorations.

Our auctioneer par excellence is our wonderful, multi-talented pastor/rector, Paulist Fr. Greg Apparcel. He has been part of the American Catholic community in Rome for almost 20 years and this was probably his last serata. Fr. Steve Petroff is our new assistant rector and will capably take over the reins of the parish and the serata, among other duties, when Fr. Greg leaves.

A comment on two of the photos you will see: You will recognize Janet Morana in one picture dancing with Maria Lina Martin, an astonishing, very much with it, always smiling, enthusiastic 99-year old parishioner! Janet was at the Serata as was Bob Lalonde (who works with Priests for Life) and they were seated next to Maria Lina and kept up a running conversation. Another photo shows the SOC members grouped together at what is now an annual attraction – our photo booth. You can have serious pictures taken or wear one of the headpieces they provide or hold up a crazy sign.

I had interviewed Janet at my home at 5 pm for Vatican Insider, after which we all went to 6 pm Mass at St. Patrick’s (they were leaving early the next morning) and then on to the Serata!

I took just a few photos before a lot of guests arrived but then had to man the table where we were selling raffle tickets for an iPhone Pro and 2 wonderful trips.

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Learn more about this our parish and this special evening here:

Come visit when you are in Rome! Sunday Masses in English at 9 am and 10:30, and coffee and cornetti and other sweets after the 10:30 Mass.

A Roman Restaurant and a Nativity Scene

You know very well, having heard it a thousand times, that one of my favorite restaurants, just 3 blocks from my home, is La Vittoria, owned and run by my friend Claudio and his wife Palmerina and one of their two sons, Leonardo, a great cook and waiter.

Among their Christmas decorations every years is their beloved Nativity scene. I always rejoice when I see it, and yet part of me feels sad as I feel this would not be welcome in America. Imagine the complaints by this or that political group or even individuals if they did not like a restaurant displaying a Nativity scene. We know that even a single, very loud complaint could bring down a Nativity scene!

Thank you, La Vittoria!



Pope Francis this afternoon paid a visit to the exhibit called “100 Cribs in the Vatican” that had been officially inaugurated yesterday in the Pius X Hall of a Vatican building just off Via della Conciliazione. The exhibit will remain open until January 13.

You will recall that last Sunday, when he visited the town of Greccio where in 1223 St. Francis set up the first living Nativity scene, Pope Francis signed his Apostolic Letter Admirabile signum on the meaning and importance of the Nativity scene. Today’s visit, according to vaticannews, showed that the Pope wanted to give a further sign of your attention to this tradition of faith. (Vatican photo)

He was welcomed by Archbishop Rino Fisichella, president of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization, who accompanied him to explain the works represented. The Pope also met the artists accompanied by their families, recited a prayer and blessed those present.

The Chamber Choir of the Chorus School “Kodály” in Budapest, visiting the Vatican with a Hungarian delegation, performed some Christmas songs. The Pope spent about 40 minutes at the exhibit, leaving just before 5 pm.

For a history of the 100 Cribs exhibit:



From the website:

In response to the postponement of the Beatification of Fulton J. Sheen, Bishop Daniel Jenky of the Diocese of Peoria has asked the faithful to participate in a special nine-day novena to “petition God unceasingly” that the Cause may move forward to the Beatification and Canonization of Fulton Sheen.

On this 40th anniversary of Sheen’s death, Bishop Jenky decided to make known this upcoming special novena trusting in the “power of prayer” to move heaven as well as instill hope to all those saddened and disappointed by the delay announced so close to the expected Beatification.

The nine-day novena will start on December 12th, the Feast Day of Our Lady of Guadalupe and include daily meditations on reflections from Fulton Sheen. The novena is available in English and Spanish and will be carried on many Catholic television networks as well as many social media sites.

Bishop Jenky asks the many supporters of Archbishop Sheen to give themselves over to prayer, which is always the best way to support the Cause. Together, we seek God’s will in the ultimate judgment of the Apostolic See.