JOAN, BEIJING AND THE UNITED NATIONS – A TRAVEL DIARY IN THE CORONAVIRUS ERA

JOAN, BEIJING AND THE UNITED NATIONS

I know it came as a surprise to many that I am in the United States given the coronavirus situation, both here and in Italy. However, I had a very important event on my agenda and wanted to keep my travel plans even though that event was reduced to one day instead of ten. Following is the letter I sent to family and friends about that event:

“On March 12, there will be an event at the United Nations in NYC to mark the 25 years since the UN conference on Women was held in Beijing, China. You may or may not remember but I was working for the Vatican at the time and I was named as a member of the Holy See delegation to that conference.

”Because I was on that delegation, I am one of three women scheduled to speak at the UN event on March 12! You cannot imagine how honored I am, how privileged I feel as well as a tad nervous!

”The Holy See Mission to the United Nations invited us and they will be giving out more details in coming days. They want me there on the 10th so I will fly in that day and probably spend a night or two after the conference. There will be meetings before the conference, luncheons, etc. Each of us will be tasked with a specific focus for our 12 to 15-minute talk and I will work on that in coming days.

”The event will be held in a 600-person capacity room and we can invite friends or family. There is a link to register if friends want to come.

”Say a prayer that I will be inspired as I prepare my remarks. Speaking at the UN is no small matter, even if I am not addressing the General Assembly!”

An estimated 10,000 people were expected to be in NYC for the 10-day event. I was excited beyond telling at this unique occasion but totally understood when the UN decided to cancel the anniversary celebration and have a one-day event. However the Mission told me they would be happy if I came to NY and that is what I decided to do, checking with airlines to see if flights had changed, etc. as things evolved with the virus.

I had lunch with the staff of the Mission today and I will be addressing them tomorrow afternoon – basically the remarks I would have made tomorrow at the UN.

It is a wonderful occasion as I know three of the principals here well: Archbishop Gabriele Caccia, the nuncio or permanent observer to the United Nations, Fr. Roger Landry and Msgr. Hilary Franco whom I first met in Rome in the 70s when he was working with Cardinal John Wright, prefect at the Congregation for Clergy. We should write a book together!

Keep up your prayers, the one “vaccine” we know will work! Give Italy and its people a special place in your hearts and prayers.

A TRAVEL DIARY IN THE CORONAVIRUS ERA

March 10 United flight 41 from Rome to Newark…

A quick summary of my travel experience.

Rome’s Fiumicino airport, as you might imagine, was not overflowing with huge crowds yesterday as I checked in for my flight about 7 am. Check-in was fast with fewer passengers. We were given a form to fill out and turn in at the gate – name, flight number, seat number, personal info, phone, etc.

Security went smoothly and only few lanes were open. As I walked through the airport duty free area after security, I saw some but not all airline and store employees wearing masks. Of the few passengers in airport wearing masks, most seemed to be Asians… my impression only…seemed to be the same in Rome. (I have seen two people thus far in NY with masks and both were Asian)However, almost all personnel at the boarding gates were wearing masks.

Health ministry officials at the gates were numerous. We had our temps measured just before boarding by officials using a temp machine on a tripod. We stood about 10 feet away, it took seconds and they gave the thumbs up to board. I have no idea if anyone on our flight was denied boarding. I had upgraded to business class and was among the first to board. Business, by the way, was about 2/3 full but economy had very few passengers.

As we stood in line to board, before they took our temps, we were asked to stay a meter apart. One meter seemed to be the norm on board where possible. In business two people were together if they were a couple or friends, otherwise we were alternating seats and rows.

Arrival in Newark was normal. Because the airport had nowhere near the normal number of passengers in the arrivals area or in the halls waiting to leave, things went smoothly. Passport inspection was totally normal and no one measured temps or asked questions. If desired, hand sanitizer was available at each passport agent’s window.

THE GENERAL AUDIENCE: THE BEATITUDES, CORONAVIRUS, SYRIA, GOOD FRIDAY MEDITATIONS BY PRISONERS

What fun! I was quoted, but not by name, in the last sentence of this story about the coronavirus in Italy when Courtney quotes a “colleague who said ‘Christ is in Quarantine’” – that was my blog title a few days ago! https://www.foxnews.com/media/american-italy-coronavirus-quarantine-travel-restrictions

The Vatican announced today that on Sunday, March 15, Pope Francis’ private Mass in the chapel of the Santa Marta residence will be transmitted on live TV from 7 to approximately 7:30 am. (Check online with Vatican media).

THE GENERAL AUDIENCE: THE BEATITUDES, CORONAVIRUS, SYRIA, GOOD FRIDAY MEDITATIONS BY PRISONERS

Following is the English language catechesis of the Pope’s general audience today. The audience was filmed in the library of the Apostolic Palace. The monsignors from the Secretariat of State who recite the catechesis in diverse languages joined the Holy Father in the library.

Dear Brothers and Sisters: In our continuing catechesis on the Beatitudes, we now turn to the fourth Beatitude: “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied” (Mt 5:6). Jesus speaks not only of hungering and thirsting for personal and social justice, but also points to a deeper yearning for righteousness in the eyes of God. Psalm 63 expresses this thirst thus: “O God, you are my God, I pine for you; my heart thirsts for you” (v. 1). Saint Augustine puts it similarly: “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you” (Confessions, I, 1). This desire lies within every human heart and finds its fulfilment in Christ, who through the paschal mystery has reconciled us to the Father and calls us to share with everyone the Good News of our justification. The Beatitude promises us that by promoting justice in this highest sense, we will find true satisfaction, for our thirsting for righteousness will be quenched by the love God pours out upon his children.

After greetings in diverse languages, the Pope said in Italian:

At this moment, I would like to address all the sick who have the virus and who suffer from the disease, and to the many who suffer uncertainties about their diseases. I sincerely thank the hospital staff, the doctors, the nurses and the nurses, the volunteers who in this difficult moment are beside the people who suffer. I thank all Christians, all men and women of good will who pray for this moment, all united, whatever the religious tradition to which they belong. Thank you very much for this effort.

But I would not want this pain, this very strong epidemic to make us forget the poor Syrians, who have been suffering on the border between Greece and Turkey: a people suffering for years. They must escape from war, from hunger, from disease. Let’s not forget the brothers and sisters, many children, who are suffering there. I affectionately greet you, dear Italian-speaking brothers and sisters. I encourage you to face every situation, even the most difficult, with fortitude, responsibility and hope.

I would also like to thank the parish of the “Due Palazzi” prison in Padua: thank you very much. Yesterday I received the draft of the Via Crucis, which you did for the next Good Friday. Thank you for all working together, the whole prison community. Thanks for the depth of your meditations.