WHERE BEING A FOREIGNER MAKES YOU FEEL AT HOME – VATICAN INSIDER: THE ENDLESS WONDERS OF ROME

Just a brief blog today, recounting my adventure at lunch and inviting you to spend part of your weekend with me on “Vatican Insider.” I’m probably not going to be back over the weekend but you never know! So check things out just in case!

WHERE BEING A FOREIGNER MAKES YOU FEEL AT HOME

One of my absolute favorite spots in all of Italy for a meal and a view that leaves you breathless is Sorrento’s Circolo dei Forestieri, the Foreigners Club. The huge outside terrace overlooking the Mediterranean and the large inside dining room are both drawing cards for Sorrentines and visitors alike. Many a wedding reception and other important family events are celebrated here. Coronavirus has greatly reduced foreign visitors and it was sad today not to see the terrace totally filled with happy guests!

I had a divine pasta in a delicate tomato sauce with ricciola, my absolute favorite white fish in Italy (I believe it is yellowfish in English), an even more delicate white wine and an amazing view (I am sure heaven is very much like this!)! If I had been any more relaxed I’d have fallen off my chair!

I have a wonderful story to tell about the young waiter, Ciro, but it is time for Mass so that will be another time. In the meantime, Enjoy! Four of the pictures I took just sitting at my table!

VATICAN INSIDER: THE ENDLESS WONDERS OF ROME

Join me for a new edition of Vatican Insider on this first weekend of August – a torrid one in so many places of the world to read various weather reports. Just a line now to tell you about the Special I’ve prepared that I’ve called “And If You Have Time.” Previously in Vatican Insider I have aired special reports on Rome’s major papal basilicas, the catacombs, visiting Vatican City, the scavi, and a lot more. I’ve heard from many of you who write to tell me how much you enjoy these visits and listen to the podcasts so this week I have more special places to share with you.

There are endless wonders in Rome – a city of several millennia of Church and civil history, of art, and music, a world of culture. This weekend I’d like to bring you around Rome for brief visits to a number of other churches in Rome that would, if taken individually, merit almost as much attention as we have given to the major basilicas. All of the churches I am about to list are noted for their place in history, their architectural beauty and as repositories as some of the greatest works of art that man has ever known. Many are shrines in their own right as they house the bodies or relics of numerous pontiffs and saints.

So tune in for that after the news segment!

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DAY FOUR IN A BIT OF HEAVEN

DAY FOUR IN A BIT OF HEAVEN

Just a brief column this afternoon before I close up my workshop and go to Mass and dinner.   I’ve spent part of the morning and part of the afternoon working and in between I went to down to the port area of Sorrento to look into boat times to Positano.

Because there are fewer tourists and visitors this year, it turns out there are also fewer boats available to go to Ischia, Capri, Positano, Amalfi and Naples. I am happy I went because actually there are only two boats each day to Positano and two boats day back to Sorrento. I had a lovely lunch at a delightful restaurant I know at the port and then came back to my hotel to work on this week’s Vatican Insider and also on this column.

There’s a lovely public park not far from my hotel and near the church of San Francesco that overlooks the Mediterranean and all the beaches several hundred feet below – not sandy beaches as you will see in the photos. There is an elevator and it costs one euro to go down the several hundred feet from the city park to the beach area That’s what I did (as you see in a photo) prior to my going to the port for information on boats to Positano.

I have a bit I want to say about how people, that is to say staff in hotels, restaurants etc. are dealing with new restrictions because of the coronavirus pandemic, in addition to things like the obligatory masks, having hand sanitizer available, sanitizing tables and chairs in restaurants, etc.

My hotel, for example, has a buffet breakfast but instead of each guest handling food and plates etc. we indicate what we want and we are served. Also, we guests keep our room keys until the day we leave because if we returned them every night to the hotel they would just have to sanitize them. Interestingly enough, in the morning in the breakfast room individual portions of cereal are in small plastic bags with ribbons tied around them so there aren’t a lot of people touching cereal boxes or bowls.

An interesting thing for me is receiving communion. I have been to two different churches, San Francesco on Tuesday and the Sorrento cathedral last night and in both cases. the priests came down the center aisle to distribute communion to the faithful who were seated at both ends of each pew. There was also a lay minister helping with the Eucharist. The priest wore masks they did not wear gloves.

Well on that note I will close this column and post some pictures and then I’m off to Mass!

THE GOOD NEWS…. – AND THEN THERE’S THIS…

Today was mostly a workday (maybe you heard Teresa Tomeo and I chatting on our weekly time together on “Catholic Connection”), but I did spent time before lunch strolling around some of my favorite Sorrento spots. And now, in several slideshows, I’d like to share some photos of what this beautiful town has to offer – her churches, stores, fashions, etc. The two churches I feature are San Francesco that I visited Monday night and San Antonino Abate (abbot) where I was overjoyed to attend Mass and receive communion yesterday.

Churches I love –

A few sights –

Shop till you drop –

And if you want limoncello….

THE GOOD NEWS….

(ANSA) – The Teatro alla Scala Chorus and Orchestra will start its autumn season on September 4 at Milan’s Duomo with a performance of Verdi’s Requiem conducted by Riccardo Chailly. La Scala will then take Verdi’s Requiem to Bergamo and Brescia, the Italian provinces hit hardest by the coronavirus emergency, on September 7 and 9 respectively. The famous opera house will reopen its doors on September 12 with Beethoven’s ninth symphony.

(ANSA) – Florence’s Uffizi gallery is organizing a major show in Forlì next year to mark the 700th anniversary of Dante’s death, director Heike Schmidt said (in early July). “A great show will be dedicated to the Supreme Poet in a strongly symbolic place, because it was in those lands that the author of the Divine Comedy spent several years of his exile,” Schmidt said. For this extraordinary initiative the Uffizi gallery will make available, in addition to art historians, some of the works most closely linked to Dante and his time. There will also be loans from all over the world,” Schmidt said.

AND THEN THERE’S THIS…

STATE OF EMERGENCY UNTIL OCT 5 – The Italian government has announced that the state of emergency in which we are living because of the coronavirus will last until October 5. That does not mean that Italy returns to the draconian measures of total lockdown, businesses closing, etc. In fact, they are looking forward to re-opening schools here in September. What the state of emergency does, according to ANSA, is “it gives special powers to governors and other public bodies, making it possible, for example, to create ‘red zones’ sealing off areas where an coronavirus outbreak has occurred.

“It also makes it possible for the government to stop flights to and from countries with a high incidence of contagion. As a result, people who are from, or who have passed through, 16 ‘at-risk’ States are not allowed into Italy at the moment. (including US) (Today: New covid cases in Italy 181: deaths 11)

NFL RESTRICTIONS ON PLAYER CHURCH ATTENDANCE – I am a huge football fan so, like millions of Americans, I’ll be anxious to see if and how games are played this year, both at the university level and professional football. I know a number of Catholic coaches and players so the following story from The Federalist really interested me:

“NFL – A deal reached by the National Football League and the NFL Players Association bans players from attending any indoor church services that are above 25 percent capacity, multiple sources told NBC Sports on Saturday. Alongside its restrictions on attending worship services, the collective bargaining agreement (CBA) also prohibits players from attending indoor nightclubs and bars (except for take-out), indoor concerts, professional sports games, and indoor parties that include 15 or more people. The deal has not been publicly released, but NBC Sports made no mention of any restrictions on attending protests. Meanwhile, the NFL’s Twitter account has been sharing and celebrating pictures of players engaging in protests around the country. https://thefederalist.com/2020/07/28/the-nfl-just-declared-war-on-church/

CHINESE HACKERS ATTACK VATICAN, HONG KONG – (Asianews) – PIME victim of Chinese hackers, along with the Vatican and the Study Mission in Hong Kong. A private US company, Recorded Future, detected the espionage operation against the mail servers of the Vatican Secretariat of State, the Diocese of Hong Kong, and the Holy See’s Study Mission in Hong Kong, which acts as a quasi-nunciature. PIME’s mail server did not work for weeks. The AsiaNews website has been attacked but not disabled. The hacking is the work of RedDelta, an entity linked to the Chinese government. Recorded Future appears to have no links to the Trump administration. Espionage and hackers are an international problem to live with. http://www.asianews.it/news-en/PIME-victim-of-Chinese-hackers,-along-with-the-Vatican-and-the-Study-Mission-in-Hong-Kong-50681.html

PARADISE IN THE COVID ERA

PARADISE IN THE COVID ERA

When I got to Termini rail station in Rome yesterday to get my train to Sorrento, I knew I would be seeing the largest number of people I had seen since early March. What was this brief excursion out of Rome going to be like? Will I be safe, notwithstanding taking all precautions and obeying all the rules? All the worries that we have because of Covid come to the surface when you plan travel. Here’s what I saw and experienced….

It seems that all major rail stations now in Italy have one, possibly two entrances from the station area to the track area and one, perhaps two, exits from the track area back into the station. I had no problem accessing track 12, I simply showed my ticket and in about 10 minutes the train arrived and I was boarding my car. At no point, however, did I see any personnel – all of whom wore masks – taking temperatures.

What was so fascinating was that each passenger, once in their seat, got a bag with a mask, gloves, a headrest cover and a bottle of water. So it was apparent that TrenItalia is very aware of the needs in a Covid area and it seems they wanted to reassure passengers. There was, of course, social distancing on the train with only families being allowed to sit together, that is to say, side-by-side in two or four seats. It was just over an hour trip to Naples (Napoli Centrale had only one way from the station to the track area and vice versa) where I then had a driver waiting for me to take me to Sorrento.

The usual way of getting from Naples main station to Sorrento – something I have done for years – is to take the local train called the Circumvesuviana (you guessed it – it means ‘around Vesuvius’ as that is the route taken travelling south). It is notoriously crowded and often people have to stand with their luggage for half if not the entire 55- minute trip to Sorrento.

I had tried to be so careful for so many months about avoiding crowded situations that it seemed to me that hiring a driver and avoiding challenges was the sanest thing to do. It was just under an hour to Sorrento, my beloved Sorrento, a place I have been visiting on and off since 1993. I had booked a wonderful small hotel in on a very quiet no-traffic street I know well and yet it is just five minutes from all of Sorrento’s major sites, including my favorite part of Sorrento, her churches.

Because of a technical mixup in Rome, I was unable to film my segment for the live Monday show of “At Home with Jim and Joy” and thus my first hour in Sorrento was spent doing that.

About 6 pm, I started to walk around in this town I so love and that is so very beautiful, seeing so many of the lovely familiar spots that bring a smile to my face and inside my heart. I was hoping to find a 6 pm Mass and went to several churches that were open but had no evening Mass so I stopped in San Francesco church and said a rosary.

It was after 7 o’clock when I finished and I walked to Piazza Tasso, the very lively main square in town and had a glass of white wine while waiting to go to dinner. This is the best place in town for people-watching! What was interesting was that they brought some little snacks but, as you can see, they were all in individual, throwaway containers.

Dinner was at one of my favorite restaurants in all of Italy – L’Antica Trattoria. I’ve known Aldo, the owner, and many of his amazing staff since 1993 when my mom and I spent a week in Sorrento the summer after my dad had died. Any time since then that I’m in Sorrento, I come back to this very special and beautiful place. In 2000 Aldo completely re-did the kitchen and I’ve never seen one I thought was more beautiful with separate areas to prepare the antipasti, the main meals, the desserts, and they have a very special wine cellar.

I ate in my favorite area – the garden-like terrace – where I enjoyed a superb dinner. Aldo’s chefs are amazingly creative, marrying flavors you might never have thought of. Some of the best meals I’ve ever had in Italy were at L’Antica Trattoria, and that included last night, as you can see. There are some very, very special rooms inside as well.

So my Monday was a very busy one – travel, work, then being a tourist, but maybe you’re not a tourist if you’re very much at home in a place that is not home.

Incoming days I’ll try to recount some of my adventures and post a lot of photos and spend as little time as I can on papal and Vatican issues! Don’t be too shocked! This is still actually a work week for me, and we can be together again on Wednesday because I’ll be with Teresa Tomeo on her show “Catholic Connection”. I’ll also be preparing my radio special for the weekend for “Vatican Insider.

I’m signing off but come back tomorrow for a visit. Join me in Piazza Tasso for a Prosecco!

POPE TO YOUNG PEOPLE: USE THE “FANTASY OF LOVE” TO REACH OUT TO THE ELDERLY

A heads up: I leave tomorrow afternoon for a few days in Sorrento on the Amalfi Coast, my first excursion out of Rome since March 13! It should be very interesting, even with all the Covid-related rules, regulations and restrictions. However, Sorrento and surroundings are a small slice of paradise so this will be more a delightful change of place, than a change of pace. I’ll be working, writing blogs (no promises for Monday!), posting stories and photos and doing radio shows, etc. It might be a “Joan’s Rome” lite but that’s OK!

I so enjoyed the Angelus today, especially Pope Francis’ remarks about grandparents on this day when we celebrate Sts. Joachim and Ann, Mary’s parents, thus Jesus’ grandparents. I don’t remember if I ever asked anyone when I was little about Jesus’ grandparents – I just knew his parents, Mary and Joseph.

When I became aware of Joachim and Ann (also spelled Anne), I started to imagine Jesus as a toddler, following his grandparents around the house when they came to visit or he went to their house. I pictured him perhaps helping in a garden or in the kitchen and surely in St. Joseph’s carpenter shop, asking a lot of questions. Were they around when Jesus was a teen? We know so little about them that we don’t know how old he was when they died.

By the way, this is one of my very favorite pictures! (from Pinterest)

Pope Francis has spoken of grandparents countless times in his papacy – one could write a short book on the subject. In addition, he has reminisced often about his own grandmother Rosa: On one trip, he said; “I had the grace to grow up in a family where faith was lived in a simple and concrete way; but it was above all my grandmother, my father’s mother, who marked my path of faith. She was a woman who explained to us, who spoke to us about Jesus, who taught us the Catechism.

“I always remember that on Good Friday evening she would take us to the candlelight procession, and at the end of this procession… my grandmother would make us children kneel and she would say: ‘Look, he is dead, but tomorrow he will rise again.” I received the first Christian announcement from this woman, from my grandmother! That’s beautiful! The first announcement at home, with the family! And this makes me think of the love of many mothers and grandmothers in the transmission of the faith. It is they who transmit the faith.”  

If you are blessed enough to have living grandparents; visit as often as possible, collect stories, ask a thousand questions, learn about the richness of your past! And with today’s technology be sure to record their stories and memories – and take pictures!

POPE TO YOUNG PEOPLE: USE THE ‘FANTASY OF LOVE’ TO REACH OUT TO THE ELDERLY

Pope Francis urges young people to show tenderness to the elderly by connecting with them, “calling them, video-chatting with them…sending them hugs.”

By Sr Bernadette Mary Reis, fsp

After reciting the Angelus in St Peter’s Square, Pope Francis recalled the liturgical memorial of Saints Joachim and Ann, Jesus’ grandparents.

The Pope invited them to reach out tenderly to the elderly by doing something concrete for those “who are most alone in their homes or retirement residences, and who have not seen their loved-ones for months”.

“Dear young people, the Pope continued, “each elderly person is your grandparent!” He then begged young people not to leave the elderly alone. “Use the fantasy of love”, he told them. Then he gave them some suggestions: “Call them, videochat with them, send them messages, listen to them, go and visit them when it is possible while observing health precautions, send them a hug.”

Pope Francis then picked up one of his favorite themes, reminding young people that the elderly are their “roots.”

“An uprooted tree does not grow or bear flowers or fruit”, he said. Being united and connected with the elderly is important because that is how we remain connected to our roots, he explained. He then quoted an Argentinean poet, who said that the flowers that we see on trees come from what is underground.

After his words, the Pope asked for a round of applause for grandparents.

 

 

VATICAN INSIDER: SOME TRIVIA AND FUN STORIES FROM THE VATICAN (PART II) – UNESCO “REGRETS” TURKISH DECISION ON HAGIA SOPHIA, A WORLD HERITAGE SITE – JULY 24, FEAST OF BELOVED LEBANESE SAINT CHARBEL MAKHLOUF

Click here for English edition of weekly L’Osservatore Romano: https://www.osservatoreromano.va/en/pdfreader.html/ing/2020/07/ING_2020_030_2407.pdf.html?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=NewsletterOR-EN

VATICAN INSIDER: SOME TRIVIA AND FUN STORIES FROM THE VATICAN (PART II)

Wherever you are as you listen to Vatican Insider this weekend, if you’ve decided to spend a brief moment with me, I think I have a fun offering for you in what is normally the interview segment.

I’ve called this Special “Inquiring Minds Want To Know” because I’m going to bring you some trivia – some little known, and often unusual facts about the Vatican, Popes or the Church. Join me for Part II as I look at who is the patron saint of television, the story of the statue of St. Peter in the basilica named for him and why Popes wear white. I’ll also look at who made one of the most visited nativity scenes in Rome and lastly, will tell you which has the biggest dome – St. Peter’s Basilica or the U.S. capitol?

Remember these stories might be a bit of trivia but they are not trivial!

UNESCO “REGRETS” TURKISH DECISION ON HAGIA SOPHIA, A WORLD HERITAGE SITE

There could be an interesting twist in Turkey’s July 10 decision to turn the once Christian basilica-then mosque-then museum of Hagia Sophia back into a mosque. In 1934, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founding father of the Republic of Turkey, turned Hagia Sophia into a museum, which later became a UNESCO world heritage site. It was Turkey’s current president Erdogan who announce the recent change on July 10. Reaction against the change poured in, not only from many Turks but from around the world and one of the strongest voices was that of UNECSO.

Two things in particular struck me and I have contacted UNESCO but do not have an answer as I write:

1. “This decision announced today raises the issue of the impact of this change of status on the property’s universal value. States have an obligation to ensure that modifications do not affect the Outstanding Universal Value of inscribed sites on their territories.”

2. “UNESCO calls upon the Turkish authorities to initiate dialogue without delay, in order to prevent any detrimental effect on the universal value of this exceptional heritage, the state of conservation of which will be examined by the World Heritage Committee at its next session.”

Both of these imply some possible change in the monetary aspect of being a World Heritage site, such as monies earmarked for restoration, etc.

Hagia Sophia re-opened today for Muslim prayer. Today’s date was important as July 24, 1923 marks the date that Allied powers and Turkey signed the Treaty of Lausanne that ended the Ottoman Empire and signaled the start of the Republic of Turkey. An estimated 7,000 police closed off and policed a large portion of Istanbul adjacent to Hagia Sophia. Those who could not get inside brought their own prayer rugs and prayed outside in the adjacent garden area. An estimated 1,000 faithful prayed inside, including President Erdogan.

Following is the complete statement from the UNESCO website:

Hagia Sophia: UNESCO deeply regrets the decision of the Turkish authorities, made without prior discussion, and calls for the universal value of World Heritage to be preserved.

Paris, Friday 10 July – The Director-General of UNESCO deeply regrets the decision of the Turkish authorities, made without prior discussion, to change the status of Hagia Sophia. This evening, she shared her serious concerns with the Ambassador of Turkey to UNESCO.

Hagia Sophia is part of the Historic Areas of Istanbul, a property inscribed on UNESCO’s World Heritage List. “Hagia Sophia is an architectural masterpiece and a unique testimony to interactions between Europe and Asia over the centuries. Its status as a museum reflects the universal nature of its heritage, and makes it a powerful symbol for dialogue,” said Director-General Audrey Azoulay.

This decision announced today raises the issue of the impact of this change of status on the property’s universal value. States have an obligation to ensure that modifications do not affect the Outstanding Universal Value of inscribed sites on their territories. UNESCO must be given prior notice of any such modifications, which, if necessary, are then examined by the World Heritage Committee.

UNESCO also recalls that the effective, inclusive and equitable participation of communities and other stakeholders concerned by the property is necessary to preserve this heritage and highlight its uniqueness and significance. The purpose of this requirement is to protect and transmit the Outstanding Universal Value of heritage, and it is inherent to the spirit of the World Heritage Convention.

These concerns were shared with the Republic of Turkey in several letters, and again yesterday evening with the representative of the Turkish Delegation to UNESCO. It is regrettable that the Turkish decision was made without any form of dialogue or prior notice. UNESCO calls upon the Turkish authorities to initiate dialogue without delay, in order to prevent any detrimental effect on the universal value of this exceptional heritage, the state of conservation of which will be examined by the World Heritage Committee at its next session.

“It is important to avoid any implementing measure, without prior discussion with UNESCO, that would affect physical access to the site, the structure of the buildings, the site’s moveable property, or the site’s management,” stressed Ernesto Ottone, UNESCO’s Assistant Director-General for Culture. Such measures could constitute breaches of the rules derived from the 1972 World Heritage Convention. (https://en.unesco.org/news/unesco-statement-hagia-sophia-istanbul)

JULY 24, FEAST OF BELOVED LEBANESE SAINT CHARBEL MAKHLOUF

On one of my visits to Lebanon, a very good friend took me to Saint Maroun Monastery in Annaya, the shrine of St. Charbel, perhaps the most beloved of Lebanon’s saints, beloved by both Christians and Muslims. We spent an afternoon and early evening exploring the Monastery of St. Maroun, the hermitage and small museum and also attended Mass in a church built in 1840. Our final moments were at the tomb of the saint that, since 1952, has been in a cave-like structure.

Thousands and thousands of medically-verified miraculous healings have been attributed to St. Charbel’s intercession. For the past 70 years, since the healings have been recorded, more than 29,00 such cases have been archived.

Charbel, a Catholic Maronite monk and priest renown for his holiness, lived from May 8, 1828 to December 24, 1898. for several decades after his death, his body was incorrupt. Though his body is no longer incorrupt, his tomb is one of several in the world that has oil exuding from it, said to have miraculous healing as attested to by many witnesses.

I have a small bottle of that oil – still unopened – from that visit.

Here are some photos I took on that afternoon visit. The shrine is well above sea level and it was cold as we were on our mini pilgrimage.

USCCB DAY OF MOURNING FOR HAGIA SOPHIA – VIOLENCE AGAINST CATHOLIC SITES: US BISHOPS URGE LOVE IN RESPONSE TO HATRED

Two stories today from and about the USCCB – the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops:

USCCB DAY OF MOURNING FOR HAGIA SOPHIA

I shared this article earlier today on Facebook and on my Twitter account. I feel it is important, especially in view of Turkey’s invitation to Pope Francis to visit Hagia Sophia, the former basilica and then museum now turned into a mosque. The Vatican has not issued any statement so far and has not responded to media requests for clarification about that invitation. To read the article, “US Catholic Bishops Declare ‘Day of Mourning’ Over Hagia Sophia Becoming Mosque,” click here: https://www.newsmax.com/us/Catholic-bishops-Hagia-Sophia-Turkey-mosque/2020/07/22/id/978466/

VIOLENCE AGAINST CATHOLIC SITES: US BISHOPS URGE LOVE IN RESPONSE TO HATRED

The Bishops of the United States respond to reports of increasing incidents of church vandalism and fires, and urge understanding and love in response to confusion and hatred.

By Vatican News

The Bishops’ Conference of the United States, the USCCB, has issued a statement in response to numerous attacks against Catholic churches, statues, and other religious symbols.

“Our nation finds itself in an extraordinary hour of cultural conflict,” reads the statement from Archbishop Thomas Wenski of Miami and Archbishop Paul Coakley of Oklahoma City.

The two archbishops, chairmen respectively of the USCCB’s Committee on Religious Liberty and the Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, point to numerous acts of violence in recent weeks, including an attack in Florida when a driver rammed his car into a church and attempted to set the building on fire. Numerous statues of Jesus Christ and the Blessed Virgin have also “been defaced or even beheaded” in recent weeks, they note.

The historic mission church of San Gabriel in Los Angeles was destroyed by fire earlier in July, and the cause is still unknown.

“Whether those who committed these acts were troubled individuals crying out for help or agents of hate seeking to intimidate, the attacks are signs of a society in need of healing,” the archbishops wrote.

Acknowledging that the motives behind the incidents remain unclear, they said they are praying for those responsible, adding, “we remain vigilant against more of it.”

In their statement, the two prelates insist, “the path forward must be through the compassion and understanding practiced and taught by Jesus and His Holy Mother.” They encourage contemplation of “images of these examples of God’s love,” rather than destruction of them.

“Following the example of Our Lord,” say Archbishops Wenski and Coakley, “we respond to confusion with understanding and to hatred with love.”

WHAT A TREASURE: ROME’S RELIQUARY WITH FOOT OF MARY MAGDALENE – SAINT MARY MAGDALENE’S STORY

One of the treasures of Rome that I’ve featured in a “Joan’s Rome” video was a priceless relic of bones from the left foot of Mary Magdalene – Mary of Magdala! I had been to San Giovanni church near my home a number of times for Mass but had obviously never explored it well as I’d have never forgotten this relic had I known.

When I learned about it, I hurried to a 6 pm evening Mass and afterwards visited the shrine in which reposes this foot-shaped reliquary. I spoke to the priests and they gave me some literature and the story you read below is a synthesis of that brochure.

Today is the feast of this wonderful, and so often misunderstood or mis-identified woman, and I’d like to share some stories.

As soon as I find my photos, I’ll add them to the story. I’ve spent considerable time this afternoon searching my vast archives and had no luck but will pursue the matter! I know there are photos online but they are not mine! Facebook does not keep photos posted after a short time or I’d have re-posted the pictures from a blog I did.

WHAT A TREASURE: ROME’S RELIQUARY WITH FOOT OF MARY MAGDALENE

San Giovanni Battista dei Fiorentini – St. John the Baptist of the Florentines – is known as the regional church for expatriates from Florence whose patron saint is John the Baptist. There was a flourishing expat Florentine community in Rome in the mid-15th century that featured the bankers and artists for which the city was famous. That expat Florentine community was concentrated on a bend of the Tiber River where the church stands today.

San Giovanni was built for the first Medici Pope, Leo X, who started a competition for the church’s construction. Great numbers of famous artists participated in the project but the building was on-again off-again for a few centuries. Two of the most celebrated artists are buried here – Carlo Maderno and Francesco Borromini.

Only in recent years, however, has San Giovanni dei Fiorentini made a singular claim to fame: it possesses relics of the foot of St. Mary Magdalene that rest in a shrine to the left of the main sanctuary.

Historians seem to agree that Mary Magdalene died and was buried in Ephesus and that, given historical vicissitudes, her body – or parts of it, what we will call relics – was brought to Constantinople, then to the south of France and, finally Rome.

How the relics got to the south of France seems to be the biggest mystery – not all legends agree. One, in fact, says Mary Magdalene lived in a cave as a hermitess in the south of France where she died.

The historical account found in the Church of San Giovanni dei Fiorentini says her body was sent by ship from Sainte Baume in Provence to Rome where her left foot was removed according to the Greek tradition that this is always the first foot that rises when you enter the after life. Her foot came to rest in St. Peter’s basilica with other passion relics.

For many years, pilgrims who came to Rome to visit the tomb of Peter would first stop to venerate the foot of St. Mary Magdalene who was the first person to enter the tomb of the Risen One. This foot was first kept in a precious reliquary of Benvenuto Cellini.

More historical vicissitudes and the foot finally came to rest in San Giovanni dei Fiorentini – but only in 1984! – where it was buried away in a closet with other forgotten relics and historical pieces.

Amazingly enough it was discovered only in the year 2000 when San Giovanni began work on its Museum of Sacred Art!

SAINT MARY MAGDALENE’S STORY

(Franciscan Media) – Except for the mother of Jesus, few women are more honored in the Bible than Mary Magdalene. Yet she could well be the patron of the slandered, since there has been a persistent legend in the Church that she is the unnamed sinful woman who anointed the feet of Jesus in Luke 7:36-50.

Most Scripture scholars today point out that there is no scriptural basis for confusing the two women. Mary Magdalene, that is, “of Magdala,” was the one from whom Christ cast out “seven demons” (Luke 8:2)—an indication at the worst, of extreme demonic possession or possibly, severe illness. (image Pauline.org)

Writing in the New Catholic Commentary, Father Wilfrid J. Harrington, O.P., says that “seven demons” “does not mean that Mary had lived an immoral life—a conclusion reached only by means of a mistaken identification with the anonymous woman of Luke 7:36.” In the Jerome Biblical Commentary, Father Edward Mally, SJ, agrees that she “is not…the same as the sinner of Luke 7:37, despite the later Western romantic tradition about her.”

Mary Magdalene was one of the many “who were assisting them [Jesus and the Twelve] out of their means.” She was one of those who stood by the cross of Jesus with his mother. And, of all the “official” witnesses who might have been chosen for the first awareness of the Resurrection, she was the one to whom that privilege was given. She is known as the “Apostle to the Apostles.”

Reflection
Mary Magdalene has been a victim of mistaken identity for almost 20 centuries. Yet she would no doubt insist that it makes no difference. We are all sinners in need of the saving power of God, whether our sins have been lurid or not. More importantly, we are all “unofficial” witnesses of the Resurrection.

TURKISH PRESIDENT HAS REPORTEDLY INVITED POPE FRANCIS TO HAGIA SOPHIA – ST. FRANCIS AND A MONASTERY IN VENICE

July 21 is always a day I celebrate with joy as it was the date I was baptized! I could not know at the age of three weeks that a whole new life was starting for me but, as I grew and learned about the faith and received my First Communion and so much more, I realized it was the greatest treasure of my life.

TURKISH PRESIDENT HAS REPORTEDLY INVITED POPE FRANCIS TO HAGIA SOPHIA

A report in the Greek City Times, citing the Anadolou Agency, says that Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has invited Pope Francis to visit Hagia Sophia. The article was entitled “Turkey Invites Pope Francis to Hagia Sophia.”

“Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan invited the head of the Catholic Church and sovereign of the Vatican City State, Pope Francis to visit Hagia Sophia (Church of the Holy Wisdom),” the report started. “According to Ibrahim Kalin, spokesperson for the Turkish presidency, Turkey has invited everyone to the mosque, including Pope Francis.” https://greekcitytimes.com/2020/07/21/turkey-invites-pope-francis-to-hagia-sophia/

If you recall, on July 12, the second Sunday in July that traditionally marks the International Day of the Sea, at the Angelus Pope Francis mentioned this after the Marian prayer, extending “an affectionate greeting to all those who work at sea, especially those who are far from their loved ones and their country.”

Then, speaking somewhat hesitatingly in obviously pained extemporaneous remarks, he said: “And the sea carries me a little farther away in my thoughts: to Istanbul. I think of Saint Sophia, and I am very saddened.” He did not mention Turkey’s president by name or use the word ‘mosque’ but it was President Erdogan who, on July10 announced the decision to turn the museum commonly known as Hagia Sophia back into a mosque.

Hagia Sophia was built 1500 years ago – in 537 – as a basilica by the Byzantine Christian Emperor Justinian and dedicated to Divine Wisdom – thus the name Hagia Sophia. After the Ottoman conquest of Constantinople in 1453, the basilica was converted into a mosque and the city was renamed Istanbul. In 1934, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founding father of the Republic of Turkey, turned Hagia Sophia into a museum, which later became a UNESCO world heritage site.

Reactions around the world to the July 10 decision ranged from disappointment to condemnation, and people immediately looked to the Vatican for a statement. Negative reaction poured in from Orthodox leaders, the European Union and the World Council of Churches, to name a few.

The WCC told Turkey’s president in a letter of “the grief and dismay of the World Council of Churches and of its 350 member churches in more than 110 countries, representing more than half a billion Christians around the world at the step you have just taken. By deciding to convert the Hagia Sophia back to a mosque you have reversed that positive sign of Turkey’s openness and changed it to a sign of exclusion and division.”

And then Sunday, July 12, we heard Pope Francis say with sadness, “And the sea carries me a little farther away in my thoughts: to Istanbul. I think of Saint Sophia, and I am very saddened.”

FRANCIS AND A MONASTERY IN VENICE

I now know what new place I will visit the next time I’m in Venice!   What a great story this is about St. Francis and a beautiful Venetian island! To whet your appetite….

 “When Francis returned to Venice, after a months-long sea journey aboard a cargo ship, he was at the height of his fame as a preacher. Thousands were inspired by his invitation to give up worldly possessions and live a life of penance, brotherly love, and peace.  (photo Aleteia)

Upon his arrival in Venice, hundreds of believers were gathered to meet him. But Francis realized he first needed a moment of quiet, reflection and prayer before returning to his worldly mission. Thanks to a small rowboat, he made his way to a tiny island inside Venice’s Lagoon, located between the islands of Burano and Sant’Eramo, now known as “St. Francis of the Desert.”

To read more and be inspired: https://aleteia.org/2020/04/23/the-island-where-saint-francis-took-refuge-to-reflect/?utm_campaign=NL_en&utm_source=daily_newsletter&utm_medium=mail&utm_content=NL_en

 

 

POPE VISITS YOUTH PARTICIPATING IN “SUMMER YOUTH IN THE VATICAN”

POPE VISITS YOUTH PARTICIPATING IN “SUMMER YOUTH IN THE VATICAN”

From Holy See Press Office director, Matteo Bruni:

“This morning, shortly after 9.00 am, the Holy Father visited the children and young people participating in the Summer Youth in the Vatican that is taking place these days. He met them as they were having breakfast in the atrium of the Paul VI Hall. After visiting the different tables, the Pope went to the spaces set up in the hall for games and talked with the participants.

Later, sitting with the children, he encouraged them to make new friends: ‘people who only know how to have fun alone are selfish, to have fun you have to be together, with friends!’

Before returning to Santa Marta around 10 am, Pope Francis greeted the animators and organizers individually and thanked them for their work.