I was privileged this morning to attend the symposium organized by the U.S. Embassy to the Holy See on “Advancing and Defending International Religious Freedom Through Diplomacy.” There were very interesting talks by the U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin and Archbishop Paul Gallagher, secretary for Relations with States (essentially a Vatican foreign minister).

An undercurrent of the symposium had to do with China and the 2018 Vatican agreement with the Communist government of Beijing that, although never made public (even Chinese bishops and cardinals have no idea of its content), whose main focus was the nomination of bishops in China.

In the two years since that Agreement was signed (on a trial basis, up for renewal as I write), persecution against Christians has increased notably with churches being destroyed, burned or otherwise closed, priests and bishops imprisoned, among other things. Chinese Catholics, I have learned from friends there, feel betrayed at the agreement and “betrayed a second time” if the Vatican intends to renew the Agreement for two more years.

Persecution of Christians in China is a known fact. The media has been covering this for quite some time – and well before the 2018 Vatican-China Agreement. That Agreement puzzled world leaders at the time and even more so today, the eve, it seems, of a renewal.

On September 19, Secretary Pompeo tweeted: “Two years ago, the Holy See reached an agreement with the Chinese Communist Party, hoping to help China’s Catholics. Yet the CCP’s abuse of the faithful has only gotten worse. The Vatican endangers its moral authority, should it renew the deal.”

With that tweet was a link to Pompeo’s September 18 article in First Things entitled, “China’s Catholics and the Church’s Moral Witness.” Decried by many who said this was not the way a diplomat should act publicly, especially before a visit to the Vatican, it was also praised by many who know the real situation in China.

His remarks today, in both printed form and video, are here:

He will meet tomorrow, October 1 with Cardinal Parolin and Abp. Gallagher at the Vatican. Pompeo met Pope Francis last October 3 but is not scheduled to meet him on this trip.   Some reports say this is because the Pope does not meet high-ranking people at an election time on their country while others report that Pompeo’s recent tweet did not seem appropriate, especially as a prelude to his visit to Italy and the Vatican.

The video of the symposium is also on the site of the U.S. Embassy to the Holy See:

The speeches of Cardinal Parolin, Abp. Gallagher and Secretary Pompeo are also on that site.

Amb. Gingrich and Secretary Pompeo start speaking at 15:30. Cardinal Parolin starts at 2.12.01.


The United States Embassy to the Holy See hosted a symposium on Wednesday in Rome with Cardinal Pietro Parolin, U.S. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo and Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher

By Sr Bernadette Mary Reis, fsp

On Wednesday, the United States Embassy to the Holy See hosted a symposium in Rome. “Advancing and Defending International Religious Freedom through Diplomacy” was its theme.

Shared priority for US and Holy See
In her welcoming remarks, U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See Callista Gingrich highlighted: “Promoting and securing the universal right of religious freedom is a shared priority for the United States and the Holy See.” This collaboration preserves this right, she continued, at a “critical time” in which international religious freedom must be advanced and defended.

Moral witness
U.S. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo opened his remarks reflecting on World War II because of the 75th anniversary of when it ended. He recounted the story of Fr. Bernard Lichtenberg, arrested by the Nazi regime for his outspokenness and public prayer “for the Jews and other victims of Nazi brutality.” He also recalled Pope John Paul II’s “pivotal role in igniting the revolution of conscience that brought down the Iron Curtain.” The U.S. Secretary of State then criticized China in regard to religious freedom. Religious freedom, he said, depends on Christian leadership and the moral witness of those who have withstood persecution.

Religious freedom important for Holy See
Representing the Holy See were the Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin and Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher, the Holy See’s Secretary for Relations with States.

Archbishop Gallagher extended Pope Francis’ greetings to the participants, saying the Pope “is aware of this meeting on a topic of great importance for the Holy See, especially in its diplomatic activities on both the bilateral and multilateral levels.”

Right to religious freedom
Awareness has been growing, the Archbishop acknowledged, regarding the role religions play in questions such as international peace, security, and mutual coexistence. Due to this reality, protecting religious freedom “is one of the main political priorities of the Holy See,” he said. It is important, because of the innate dignity of the human person, created in God’s image and likeness, and is “foundational to each person’s identity,” their own integral development and that of society.

Types of religious persecution
Persecution of religious liberties is not limited to physical persecution. Ideological trends and silencing through “political correctness” are also forms of attacking religious freedom, Archbishop Gallagher explained. “Particularly unacceptable and offensive,” he said, is the pressure that religious freedom and conscientious objection must be abandoned in the name of promoting other “so-called human rights.”

Holy See at the service of the persecuted
The Holy See is committed to remaining in the discussion, the Archbishop said. This discussion, is now guided by the “teaching and engagement” of Pope Francis, and stresses “the importance of dialogue and mutual understanding among peoples and societies” and “different religious” persuasions.

Two panel discussions followed Archbishop Gallagher’s remarks: 1. Diplomatic tools for identifying areas of concern where religious freedom is threatened and 2. Diplomacy and international cooperation.

Freedom of conscience
Concluding the symposium, Cardinal Parolin reiterated that defending and promoting religious freedom is a “hallmark of the diplomatic activity of the Holy See.” This right, coupled with the “inviolable right to life” is the foundation for all other human rights, the Cardinal said. When this freedom is violated, the “enjoyment of all rights” is put in jeopardy. Freedom of conscience is also intimately connected to religious freedom because it is the “inner sanctum” in which we discover a law we “have not laid upon” ourselves, but which we “must obey.”

Exaggerated personal freedom
Cardinal Parolin expressed the insight that violations against religious freedom today are rooted in a misunderstanding of human freedom. Intolerance is shown not only by prohibiting people the exercise of their religion, but also through “the intolerant voices of the politically correct” who are themselves intolerant of others’ religious beliefs. When the highest good attainable is that of removing any obstacle to the individual freedom to choose, leading to an exaggerated personal freedom, the common good is threatened, he said. This type of freedom is rooted in the self, rather than in the Creator, and does not seek the good of others.

Freedom to seek the truth
In concluding, the Cardinal noted that understanding religious freedom solely as “freedom from coercion” is only a partial understanding. The positive aspect of this freedom is “the freedom to seek the truth,” the “freedom for belief.” It is the freedom to discover “the ultimate truth of one’s existence, one’s origin and destiny given by the Creator.” This is the “tool.” he said, that needs to be given to believers. Unless believers discover the purpose for which they were created, “an end that exists beyond the self,” the Cardinal said, “we cannot hope but to find a society in crisis with each of us unable to embrace anyone but ourselves.”

Responding to questions from journalists on the sidelines of the Symposium, Cardinal Parolin stated that the Holy See believes in a policy of taking small steps and that the Agreement (with China) on the appointment of bishops is a step toward greater religious freedom as well. Therefore, he declared it is not appropriate to use the topic of the Agreement between the Holy See and China for internal electoral purposes in the United States.




( – Angels—messengers from God—appear frequently in Scripture, but only Michael, Gabriel and Raphael are named.

Image: Detail | East window behind the altar | St. Michael’s Church, Ballinasloe, County Galway, Ireland | Frederick Settle Barff

Michael appears in Daniel’s vision as “the great prince” who defends Israel against its enemies; in the Book of Revelation, he leads God’s armies to final victory over the forces of evil. Devotion to Michael is the oldest angelic devotion, rising in the East in the fourth century. The Church in the West began to observe a feast honoring Michael and the angels in the fifth century.

Gabriel also makes an appearance in Daniel’s visions, announcing Michael’s role in God’s plan. His best-known appearance is an encounter with a young Jewish girl named Mary, who consents to bear the Messiah.

Raphael’s activity is confined to the Old Testament story of Tobit. There he appears to guide Tobit’s son Tobiah through a series of fantastic adventures which lead to a threefold happy ending: Tobiah’s marriage to Sarah, the healing of Tobit’s blindness, and the restoration of the family fortune.

The memorials of Gabriel and Raphael were added to the Roman calendar in 1921. The 1970 revision of the calendar joined their individual feasts to Michael’s.

Each of the archangels performs a different mission in Scripture: Michael protects; Gabriel announces; Raphael guides. Earlier belief that inexplicable events were due to the actions of spiritual beings has given way to a scientific world-view and a different sense of cause and effect. Yet believers still experience God’s protection, communication, and guidance in ways that defy description. We cannot dismiss angels too lightly.

(PS from Joan – Prayer to St. Michael because we really need him in these times!

“Saint Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle. Be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil; May God rebuke him, we humbly pray; And do thou, O Prince of the Heavenly Host, by the power of God, thrust into hell Satan and all evil spirits who wander through the world for the ruin of souls. Amen”)


The theme for the 2021 World Day of Social Communications chosen by Pope Francis echoes the words of the Apostle Philip, so as to recall that communication consists in “encountering people as and where they are”.

By Vatican News

The theme for the 55th World Day of Social Communications, to be held in May 2021 was released on Tuesday. The theme is: “’Come and see’ (Jn 1,46). Communicating, encountering people as and where they are.”

The words “Come and see” are central to the Gospel. Before the Gospel is proclaimed, prior to words, there are “looks, testimonies, experiences, encounters and closeness. In a word, life.”

These words from the Gospel of John (1, 43-46) were chosen by Pope Francis, with the subtitle “Communicating, encountering people as and where they are”.

Here is the full Gospel passage: “The next day, after Jesus had decided to leave for Galilee, He met Philip and said, ‘Follow me’. Philip came from the same town, Bethsaida, as Andrew and Peter. Philip found Nathanael and said to him, ‘We have found Him of whom Moses in the Law and the prophets wrote, Jesus son of Joseph, from Nazareth’. Nathanael said to him, ‘From Nazareth? Can anything good come from that place?’ Philip replied, ‘Come and see’”.

A message accompanying the theme’s announcement states:

“In the epochal change we are experiencing, in a time that obliges us to social distance due to the pandemic, communication can enable the closeness that is necessary to recognise what is essential, and to truly understand the meaning of things.

“We do not know the truth if we do not experience it, if we do not meet people, if we do not participate in their joys and sorrows. The old saying “God meets you where you are” can be a guide for those engaged in media or communications work in the Church. In the call of the first disciples, with Jesus who went to encounter them and to invite them to follow Him, we also see the invitation to use all media, in all their forms, to reach people as they are and where they live.”


Today September 28, 2020 marks the 42nd anniversary of the death of Pope John Paul I. As Cardinal Albino Luciani he was the archbishop of Venice when elected to the papacy on August 26, 1978.

I found the following story from the Vatican news website very interesting, especially given that Cardinal Joseph Zen, archbishop emeritus of Hong Kong was in Rome for several days, hoping to see Pope Francis but that meeting never happened.

The Hong Kong diocesan paper published Cardinal Tong’s Letter in its online edition last Wednesday, though the print edition is dated September 27.   Here is a link to the Catholic newspaper that carried Cardinal Tong’s full Letter on Communion:…/pastoral…/news/hongkong/

This story was written by Vatican News English Section. Vatican news does offer two news sites in Chinese but I cannot tell if this same story is on those sites:

Traditional Chinese:

Simplified Chinese:


Cardinal John Tong Hon of Hong Kong urges the local Catholic community to be guided by Church teaching during social unrest this past year.

By Vatican News English Section

In a recent Pastoral Letter, Cardinal John Tong Hon of Hong Kong addressed the social turmoil and division that rocked Hong Kong over the past year saying, “the public are fully justified in expecting the local government to take action promptly to address their aspirations for justice, democracy and a more decent quality of life.”

However, he also acknowledged that divisions have found their way into the local Catholic community.

Church teaching
The Cardinal pointed out that the faithful are free to have different views given that social and political issues are often complex and do not come up with “simple or ready answers.”

Nevertheless, he said, “differences in viewpoints must not give way to a division in the Church.  “We must bear in mind,” he added, “the teaching of Vatican II that all the faithful are to strive to preserve Church communion, and they are to take account of the common good of the Church even when exercising their own rights.”

Cardinal Tong noted one of the consequences of social turmoil in Hong Kong has been a “hatred” of some sectors of the public towards those who do not share their stances or endorse their actions in regard to socio-political reforms.”

The Beatitudes
The Cardinal said that at this present time, “it is fitting to reiterate that the Church gives support to ‘democracy’ as a system of governance.”

Pope Francis, he said, in his apostolic exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium writes “that the progress in building a people in peace, justice and fraternity can be achieved by committed and responsible citizens. However, such a progress is an ‘ongoing process’ which demands that people work slowly but surely, without being obsessed with immediate results. In contributing to building a society of peace, justice and fraternity, we have a twofold role to play as ‘prophet’ and ‘servant’: we have to discern the ‘signs of the times,’ and we have to act like the salt of the earth, the light of the world and the yeast of human society.”

The Cardinal said, “in our endeavours for socio-political reforms and the well-being of society, we should be guided by the social teaching of the Church. We must, above all, put into practice what Jesus teaches in the Beatitudes and in the Sermon on the Mount. Thus we must realise that treating others as ‘enemies’ to be hated and fought against is inconsistent with the Christian faith.”

Christ crucified, he continued, “has set an example for all Christians to follow: whatever might be the conflicts that have to be resolved, love, forgiveness and reconciliation must always prevail, if justice and peace are to be achieved. “The end does not justify the means.””

He went on to say that pastors and priests “should enlighten the faithful and form their consciences with the social teaching of the Church so that they can adopt a balanced approach and take the right course of action while engaging themselves in social concern activities.”

However, he stressed, priests “should not exert their influence in those areas.”

The Cardinal also emphasized that Catholics who arrogantly challenge or criticise the Church or even slander Church leaders are simply setting a bad example and creating a split in the Church. Only by preserving their communion with the Hierarchy can “Catholics truly manifest the ‘sense of faith’ (sensus fidelium) as advocated by Vatican II.”

Hope amid challenges
In his Pastoral Letter, the Cardinal noted that many Catholics “bear a gloomy outlook about the future of Hong Kong. They have based their views on the uncertainties about the rule of law and the political reform, and the almost unbearable impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic on our local economy and livelihood”, he said.

“I earnestly call”, he continued, “on these Catholics to place an unwavering hope in Jesus Christ…”

The Cardinal also underlined that the “social turmoil last year and the current pandemic have made great impacts on Hong Kong, and we can foresee new challenges to our evangelising mission in the years to come.”

Cardinal Tong concluded by saying that God is “the key to our human destiny, of the need for a stronger sense of solidarity among members of the human family, and of the significance of maintaining Church communion, though allowing for a “diversity” in Church life.”


It was a big news day here as the story continues to develop surrounding the Pope’s acceptance yesterday afternoon of the resignation of Cardinal Angelo Becciu as head of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints as well as resignation from the rights he has as a cardinal. A report by Italian news agency ANSA, noted that Becciu, a former substitute of the Secretariat of State, said that he did nothing wrong and implied that Pope Francis made him quit. “I said to the pope ‘why are you doing this to me?’ In front of the whole world,” Becciu told daily newspaper Domani. “He said that I allegedly gave money to my brothers. I see no crimes and I am sure that the truth will come out. I didn’t steal even one euro. I am not under investigation but if they send me to trial, I will defend myself.” He later held a press conference

And a big day today for Pope Francis who, in a recording made at the Vatican in Spanish, addressed the United Nations General Assembly as it marks its 75th anniversary. A Vatican news summary of that speech is below, as well as a link to the papal address and translation in English.

And here is your weekly English edition of L’Osservatore Romano:


As you know, two weeks ago, in what is normally the interview segment, I began a series about famous Italian shrines, starting with Rome’s Shrine of Divine Love. Last week we went on a mini pilgrimage to the shrine of Our Lady of the Rosary of Pompeii. This week I take you a shrine that might be lesser known outside of Italy but is extremely popular here – St. Gabriel of the Sorrowful Virgin. You will learn about the young man whom many have called Assisi’s “second St. Francis!”

You might be interested in this week’s Q&A because, on this weekend that follows the stunning September 24 news of Pope Francis accepting the resignation from the office of Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints and from the rights connected with the Cardinalate, presented by His Eminence Cardinal Giovanni Angelo Becciu,” I will try to answer the question that has come to me: Exactly what does the resignation from rights connected with being a cardinal entail? I’ll look at who a cardinal is and what he does, according to Canon Law.

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)


Pope Francis calls for reforms, multilateralism, cooperation and respect for human dignity in his video message to the 75th Session of the General Assembly of the United Nations.

By Fr. Benedict Mayaki, SJ (Vatican news)

This year marks a special anniversary for the UN – the 75th year from the signing of the UN Charter in San Francisco in 1945. On Monday, representatives of the Member States gathered in a high-level event to commemorate the anniversary, with other activities scheduled throughout the week.

With the Covid-19 health crisis still limiting global movement, participation at the event was mostly virtual as world leaders sent in pre-recorded video messages. The Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin also addressed the General Assembly via a video message on Monday.

Pope Francis on Friday addressed the representatives of the 193-member world body. In a video message, the Pope appealed for a joint commitment towards a better future through multilateralism and collaboration among states.

He also noted that this 75th anniversary is a fitting occasion to express the Holy See’s desire that the organization serves “as a sign of unity between States and an instrument of service to the entire human family.”

As the world continues to face challenges stemming from the deadly coronavirus pandemic, Pope Francis highlights that the ongoing crisis has exposed our human fragility and has called into question our economic, health and social systems. More so, it has brought to the fore the need to realize the right of every person to basic health care.

Reiterating his reflections during the Extraordinary Moment of Prayer on 27 March, Pope Francis said the pandemic calls us to seize this time of trial to “choose what matters and what passes away,” and “separate what is necessary from what is not.” He urged that we choose the path that leads to the consolidation of multilateralism, global responsibility, peace and inclusion of the poor.

The current crisis, the Pope notes, shows us that solidarity cannot be “an empty word or promise.” It also shows us “the importance of avoiding every temptation to exceed our natural limits.” In this regard, the Pope considers the effect of the pandemic on the labour market driven by an increasing robotization and artificial intelligence (AI), and stressed the need for “new forms of work that are truly capable of satisfying human potential while affirming our dignity.”

To ensure this, the Pope proposes “a change of direction” that involves a more robust ethical framework capable of overcoming “today’s widespread and quietly growing culture of waste.” He called for a change in the dominant economic paradigm which aims only to expand profit. At the same time, he urged businesses to make offering jobs to more people one of their main objectives.

Pope Francis points out that at the origin of the culture of waste, there is a “gross lack of respect for human dignity, the promotion of ideologies with reductive understandings of the human person, a denial of the universality of fundamental human rights and a craving for absolute power and control.” These, he states, are “an attack against humanity itself.”

The Pope laments the many violations of fundamental human rights that “offer us a frightening picture of a humanity abused, wounded, deprived of dignity, freedom and hope for the future.” The Pope characterises as “intolerable, yet intentionally ignored by many”, the instances of religious persecution, humanitarian crises, the use of weapons of mass destruction, internal displacement, human trafficking and forced labor, and the “great numbers of people being forced to leave their homes”.

The Pope notes that international efforts to respond to crises begin with great promise but many subsequently fail due to a lack of the political support necessary to succeed or “because individual states shirk their responsibilities and commitments.” To combat this, he is appealing to the international community to ensure that institutions are truly effective in the struggle against these challenges and reiterated the Holy See’s commitment to playing its part to help the situation.

In responding to the inequalities between the rich and the poor, Pope Francis proposes a reconsideration of the role of economic and financial institutions. He recommends an economic model that “encourages subsidiarity, supports economic development at the local level, and invests in education and infrastructure benefitting local communities.” He also calls on the international community to put an end to economic injustices through greater fiscal responsibility among nations and “an effective promotion of the poorest” including offering assistance to poorer and highly-indebted nations.

The Pope goes on to highlight the devastating effects of the Covid-19 crisis on children, including unaccompanied migrants and refugees, pointing out that instances of child abuse and violence have seen an increase. Calling on civil authorities, Pope Francis urges them to be “especially attentive to children who are denied their fundamental rights and dignity, particularly their right to life and to schooling.”

Turning his thoughts toward the family, he laments the weakening of the “natural and fundamental group unit of society” by ideological colonialism that produces a feeling of “lacking roots” in its members. He also spoke for the advancement of women, pointing out that at every level of society, women now play an important role and offer their contribution towards the promotion of the common good.

Pope Francis talks of the “need to break with the present climate of distrust” marked by the erosion of multilateralism and the development of new forms of military technology that irreversibly alter the nature of warfare. In particular, he singles out nuclear deterrence that “creates an ethos of fear based on the threat of mutual annihilation” and calls for dismantling the perverse logic that links security to the possession of weaponry while generating profit for the arms industry. On this front, he calls for increased support for the principal international and legal instruments on nuclear disarmament, non-proliferation and prohibition.

“We never emerge from a crisis just as we were. We come out either better or worse,” Pope Francis affirmed.

He also adds that the present crisis has demonstrated the limits of our self-sufficiency as well as our common vulnerability. It has also shown that “we cannot live without one another, or worse still, pitted against one another.” Therefore, at this critical juncture, “it is our duty to rethink the future of our common home and our common project” by strengthening multilateralism and cooperation between states.

Concluding, Pope Francis emphasizes that the UN was established to bring nations together. Therefore, the institution should be used to “transform the challenge that lies before us into an opportunity to build together, once more, the future we all desire.”




BREAKING FROM HOLY SEE PRESS OFFICE: “Today, Thursday 24 September, the Holy Father accepted the resignation from the office of Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints and from the rights connected to the Cardinalate, presented by His Eminence Cardinal Giovanni Angelo Becciu.”


The 106th World Day of Migrants and Refugees will be celebrated on Sunday September 27, 2020 on the theme “Forced like Jesus Christ to flee.”

The Vatican’s Migrants and Refugees Section has produced a video (link below) for this year’s communication campaign. This Vatican offices is, as its website says, “a small pastoral office of the Holy See, personally directed by Pope Francis, working to help the Church worldwide to accompany vulnerable people on the move, including those who are forcibly displaced by conflict, natural disaster, persecution or extreme poverty, refugees and victims of human trafficking.”

The video explores the sub-theme “To collaborate in order to build.” It offers real-life testimony of an internally displaced person who describes how she was able to rebuild her life thanks to the help and collaboration she received. The Holy Father urges us to collaborate “perfectly united in mind and thoughts,” as St. Paul urges.


Ahead of the World Migrant and Refugee Day slated for September 27, Lorena Margarita Pinilla Rojano shares her experience of fleeing from violence and becoming internally displaced

By Vatican News

The Church marks the 106th World Day of Migrants and Refugees on Sunday.

Since the first observance of this annual celebration in 1914, this day has been set aside to express concern for vulnerable people on the move and the increasing awareness for them as they face challenges.

The Pope’s Message for this year’s celebration is themed: “Forced like Jesus Christ to flee.” His reflections are inspired by the experience of Jesus as a child with His parents as displaced refugees.

Pope Francis points out that “building the Kingdom of God is a commitment that all Christians share, and for this reason, it is necessary that we learn to collaborate.” He also prayed that we “may be perfectly united in mind and thought,” as St. Paul recommends.

Lorena’s story
This week, the Vatican’s Migrant and Refugees Section of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development released the sixth in a series of videos ahead of the annual day.

In the video, Lorena Margarita Pinilla Rojano—a 25-year-old woman from Chibolo Magdalena, Columbia—recounts her experience of becoming internally displaced.

“I arrived in the city of Bogotá in 2012. I have been here for 8 years,” she said. “I arrived here with my family, which was displaced because of violence.”

She recalls that her family had to flee Chibolo Magdalena in the middle of the night, leaving behind everything, including her father’s farm, which the guerillas burnt down.

Beginning anew
In 2015, Lorena moved to Soacha Cundinamarca, a suburb of Bogota, and was able to purchase a home. Currently, she is one the beneficiaries of an initiative run by the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) in San Benito, and is one step closer to her dreams of becoming an entrepreneur.

“I had a business idea that I wanted to develop but I did not have the financial means to do that,” she said. “I am grateful to the Jesuits here in Columbia who supported me, trained me, and offered me this initiative opportunity. Thanks to them, I developed my business initiative and moved forward.”

Lorena gives some sound advice: She encourages everyone to “move on and fight for their dreams.”


I have been working on this column since last Saturday while I was still in Sorrento. First there were issues with Microsoft Word, then even bigger ones with WordPress, to the point I thought I’d no longer be able to post a blog! That issue was resolved this morning, Deo gratias!  In the meantime, apologies in the event I’ve overdone it with the slideshows!

I firmly believe that when life gives you a lemon, you make limoncello!


My delightful two week sojourn in what I have been calling “my corner of heaven,” Sorrento, is over. But I still have a lot to share with everyone who, once Covid is a memory and people can travel with relative freedom, will plan on coming to Bella Italia, and especially Sorrento!

Every time I come to the Amalfi Coast and spend time, be it 2 days or 2 weeks, I meet new and wonderful people, see new and stunning sights and go home renewed, refreshed and happier, more contented than when I arrived.

As you will see in the slideshows, there’s something for everyone in this part of God’s beautiful world – parks, statues, flora and fauna, the glistening waters of the Mediterranean, dotted with pleasure craft an the boats that take you to neighboring islands, gorgeous historic churches, luxury hotels and warm, welcoming small hotels and residences and, of course, a plethora of restaurants and stores!

Soon I’ll be offering a column called “Tables with a View” that will feature all of the places where I’ve eaten that have had superb views!

When you can travel again with some kind of frequency and normalcy, I hope you put the Amalfi Coast, especially Sorrento, at the top of your list, and that my travelblogues have stimulated, not discouraged you!

The many facets of the diamond that is Sorrento –

Flora and Fauna, Parks and Statues:

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Views – the Mediterranean:

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And shopping galore:

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We have all been wondering what would happen in inclement weather to weekly general audiences that were resumed only a few weeks ago outdoors in the Vatican’s San Damaso courtyard. Today we found out. Today it rained.

September has been an unusually warm, even hot, month and even that might have caused some problems for people sitting under a hot sun for some hours.

Pope Francis was, of course, seated under a canopy, but the prelates from the Secretariat of State who deliver summaries of the papal catechesis in different languages were not. However, those priests and a small number of invited guests who sat in the “prima file,” the first row, were given large umbrellas in the yellow and white Vatican colors. The mask-wearing faithful sitting in the courtyard brought their own umbrellas.

As far as I could see, it was a light drizzle, not a constant rain. We are in fall, and that’s when weather can change, though I must say, when October is a beautiful month in Italy, it is spectacular! Here’s hoping!


Speaking during the general audience in the Vatican, Pope Francis looks to a post-pandemic world and reflects on the principle of subsidiarity, whereby every level of society has a role to play in revitalizing the social fabric.

By Vatican News

Continuing his series of catecheses on the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic in light of the Church’s teachings, Pope Francis said, “Every one of us is called to assume responsibility for his or her part,” and he highlighted the fact that we must look to the future working for a social order in which the dignity and the gifts of all of its members are respected.

From top to bottom and from bottom to top
To better explain its meaning, he recalled how after the great economic depression of 1929, Pope Pius XI explained that “this principle has a double movement: from top to bottom and from bottom to top.”

“To emerge better from a crisis, the principle of subsidiarity must be enacted, respecting the autonomy and the capacity to take initiative that everyone has, especially the least,” the Pope said elaborating on the fact that this principle “allows everyone to assume his or her own role for the healing and destiny of society.”

He decried the fact that many people are unable to participate in the reconstruction of the common good because they are marginalised, excluded or ignored.

“Certain social groups do not succeed in making a contribution because they are economically or socially suffocated. In some societies, many people are not free to express their own faith and their own values,” he said.

Elsewhere, he continued, “especially in the western world, many people repress their own ethical or religious convictions: This is no way to emerge from the crisis, or at least to emerge from it better.”

Pope Francis said that it is right that the highest levels of society, such as the State, should intervene to provide the necessary resources to progress. He noted that public institutions are trying to help through appropriate interventions; however, he continued, society’s leaders must respect and promote the intermediate or lower levels.

The decisive contribution of all
“The contribution of individuals, of families, of associations, of businesses, or every intermediary body, and even of the Church, is decisive,” he said.

The Pope said that we all need to assume responsibility in the process of healing the society of which he or she is a part, but the injustice of exclusion happens often “in those places where huge economic and geopolitical interests are concentrated.” He recalled the reality in the Amazon region, for example, where he said the voices of the indigenous peoples, their culture and world visions are not taken into consideration.

The hegemony of large multinational companies
“Today, this lack of respect of the principle of subsidiarity has spread like a virus. Let’s think of the grand financial assistance measures enacted by States. The largest financial companies are listened to rather than the people or the ones who really move the economy,” he said.

He also turned his thoughts to the current race for a cure for the new coronavirus noting that “the large pharmaceutical companies are listened to more than the healthcare workers employed on the front lines in hospitals or in refugee camps. This is not a good path.”

Reflecting on St. Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians, in which the apostle says that all the parts of the body are necessary and that those parts that may seem the weakest and least important, in reality, are the most necessary (1 Cor 12:22), Pope Francis said that only by implementing the principle of subsidiarity will we all be able to assume our role for the healing and destiny of society.

“Implementing it gives hope in a healthier and more just future. Let’s construct this future together, aspiring to greater things, broadening our horizons and ideals,” he said.

Pope Francis recalled previous catecheses in which solidarity was upheld as a way out of the crisis, but he pointed out “this path of solidarity needs subsidiarity. In fact, there is no true solidarity without social participation, without the contribution of intermediary bodies: families, associations, cooperatives, small businesses, and other expressions of society.”

During the lockdown, he recalled, the spontaneous gesture of applauding for doctors and nurses began as a sign of encouragement and hope.

Let’s extend this applause, he said, to every member of the social body, for their precious contribution, no matter how small. He also had special words of thanks and gratitude for the millions of volunteers who have given their all during the crisis.

“Let’s applaud the elderly, children, persons with disability, workers, all those who dedicate themselves to service,” he said. “But let’s not stop only at applauding.”

Hope is audacious
Pope Francis concluded by looking ahead, beyond the crisis, with the invitation to be hopeful:

 Hope is audacious,” he said. “Let’s encourage ourselves to dream big, seeking the ideals of justice and social love that are born of hope,” trying not to reconstruct an unjust and unhealthy past, but a future in which mutual enrichment allows the beauty and the wealth of smaller groups to flourish, and “where those who have more dedicate themselves to service and give more to those who have less.”

For the video of the audience:




In one of the largest such ceremonies in history, Pope John Paul II canonized Padre Pio of Pietrelcina on June 16, 2002. It was the 45th canonization ceremony in Pope John Paul’s pontificate. More than 300,000 people braved blistering heat as they filled St. Peter’s Square and nearby streets. They heard the Holy Father praise the new saint for his prayer and charity. “This is the most concrete synthesis of Padre Pio’s teaching,” said the pope. He also stressed Padre Pio’s witness to the power of suffering. If accepted with love, the Holy Father stressed, such suffering can lead to “a privileged path of sanctity.”

Many people have turned to the Italian Capuchin Franciscan to intercede with God on their behalf; among them was the future Pope John Paul II. In 1962, when he was still an archbishop in Poland, he wrote to Padre Pio and asked him to pray for a Polish woman with throat cancer. Within two weeks, she had been cured of her life-threatening disease.

Born Francesco Forgione, Padre Pio grew up in a family of farmers in southern Italy. Twice his father worked in Jamaica, New York, to provide the family income.

At the age of 15, Francesco joined the Capuchins and took the name of Pio. He was ordained in 1910 and was drafted during World War I. After he was discovered to have tuberculosis, he was discharged. In 1917, he was assigned to the friary in San Giovanni Rotondo, 75 miles from the city of Bari on the Adriatic.

On September 20, 1918, as he was making his thanksgiving after Mass, Padre Pio had a vision of Jesus. When the vision ended, he had the stigmata in his hands, feet, and side.

Life became more complicated after that. Medical doctors, Church authorities, and curiosity seekers came to see Padre Pio. In 1924, and again in 1931, the authenticity of the stigmata was questioned; Padre Pio was not permitted to celebrate Mass publicly or to hear confessions. He did not complain of these decisions, which were soon reversed. However, he wrote no letters after 1924. His only other writing, a pamphlet on the agony of Jesus, was done before 1924.

Padre Pio rarely left the friary after he received the stigmata, but busloads of people soon began coming to see him. Each morning after a 5 a.m. Mass in a crowded church, he heard confessions until noon. He took a mid-morning break to bless the sick and all who came to see him. Every afternoon he also heard confessions. In time his confessional ministry would take 10 hours a day; penitents had to take a number so that the situation could be handled. Many of them have said that Padre Pio knew details of their lives that they had never mentioned.

Padre Pio saw Jesus in all the sick and suffering. At his urging, a fine hospital was built on nearby Mount Gargano. The idea arose in 1940; a committee began to collect money. Ground was broken in 1946. Building the hospital was a technical wonder because of the difficulty of getting water there and of hauling up the building supplies. This “House for the Alleviation of Suffering” has 350 beds.

A number of people have reported cures they believe were received through the intercession of Padre Pio. Those who assisted at his Masses came away edified; several curiosity seekers were deeply moved. Like Saint Francis, Padre Pio sometimes had his habit torn or cut by souvenir hunters.

One of Padre Pio’s sufferings was that unscrupulous people several times circulated prophecies that they claimed originated from him. He never made prophecies about world events and never gave an opinion on matters that he felt belonged to Church authorities to decide. He died on September 23, 1968, and was beatified in 1999.


Referring to that day’s Gospel (Matthew 11:25-30) at Padre Pio’s canonization Mass in 2002, Saint John Paul II said: “The Gospel image of ‘yoke’ evokes the many trials that the humble Capuchin of San Giovanni Rotondo endured. Today we contemplate in him how sweet is the ‘yoke’ of Christ and indeed how light the burdens are whenever someone carries these with faithful love. The life and mission of Padre Pio testify that difficulties and sorrows, if accepted with love, transform themselves into a privileged journey of holiness, which opens the person toward a greater good, known only to the Lord.” (source:

I think you’ll enjoy this EWTN production on Padre Pio as well over 230,000 have so far!




“Samaritanus bonus” (The Good Samaritan), a newly published letter by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, approved by the Pope, reiterates the condemnation of any form of euthanasia and assisted suicide, and advocates support for families and healthcare workers.

By Vatican News

On Tuesday, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith announced the publication of a Letter approved by Pope Francis on 25 June and entitled Samaritanus bonus (“The Good Samaritan”): On the Care of Persons in the Critical and Terminal Phases of Life”. It bears 14 July as its publication date, in honor of St Camillus de Lellis, the patron saint of the sick, hospitals, nurses and physicians.

“Incurable cannot mean that care has come at an end” – those who are terminally ill have the right to be welcomed, cured, loved. This is affirmed in Part One of Samaritanus bonus. The Letter aims to provide concrete ways to put into practice the parable of the Good Samaritan, who teaches us that “even when a cure is unlikely or impossible”, medical care, nursing care, psychological and spiritual care “should never be forsaken”.

Incurable, never un-care-able

“To cure if possible, always to care”[1]. These words of Pope Saint John Paul II explain that incurable is never synonymous with un-care-able. To provide care until the very end; to “be with” the sick person; to accompany, listen to, make him or her feel loved: this is how loneliness and isolation, the fear of suffering and death can be avoided. The entire document is focused on the meaning of pain and suffering in the light of the Gospel and of Jesus’ sacrifice.

Inalienable dignity of life

“The uninfringeable** value of life is a fundamental principle of the natural moral law and an essential foundation of the legal order”, the Letter states. “We cannot directly choose to take the life of another, even if they request it”. Citing Gaudium et spes, the document reiterates that “abortion, euthanasia and wilful self-destruction poison human society” and “are a supreme dishonor to the Creator” (no. 27).

Obstacles that obscure the sacred value of human life

The document cites several factors that limit the ability of apprehending the value of life, such as when life is considered “worthwhile” only if certain psychic and physical conditions are present. One of these obstacles the Letter notes is a false understanding of “compassion”. True compassion, it explains, “consists not in causing death”, but in affectionately welcoming and supporting the person who is sick, and providing the means to alleviate his or her suffering. Another obstacle it lists is a growing individualism that provokes loneliness.

The teaching of the Magisterium

It is a definitive teaching that euthanasia represents “a crime against human life”, and, therefore, is “intrinsically evil” in every circumstance. Any “formal or immediate material cooperation” constitutes a grave sin against human life that no authority can “legitimately recommend or permit”. Those who approve laws in favor of euthanasia “become accomplices” and are “guilty of scandal” because these laws contribute to the malformation of consciences. The act of euthanasia must always be rejected. However, the Letter acknowledges that the desperation or anguish of the person requesting it might diminish or even make “non-existent” his or her personal responsibility.

No to aggressive treatments

The document also explains that protecting the dignity of death means excluding aggressive medical treatments. Therefore, when death is imminent and inevitable, “it is lawful…to renounce treatments that provide only a precarious or painful extension of life”, without, however, interrupting necessary ordinary treatments the patient requires, such as food and hydration “as long as the body can benefit from them”. Palliative care is a “precious and crucial instrument” with which to accompany the patient. Palliative care must never include the possibility of euthanasia, the Letter emphasizes, but should include the spiritual assistance of both the person who is sick and the members of their families.

Support for families

It is important in caring for a sick person that he or she is not made to feel like a burden, but that they “sense the intimacy and support of their loved ones. The family needs help and adequate resources to fulfil this mission”. State governments need to “recognize the family’s primary, fundamental and irreplaceable social function (…) [and] should undertake to provide the necessary resources and structures to support it.”

Care in the prenatal and pediatric stages

From the moment of conception, children affected by malformation or other chronic illnesses are to be accompanied in a “manner respectful of life”. In cases of “prenatal pathologies…that will surely end in death within a short period of time”, and when no treatment exists to improve the child’s condition, the child “should not be left without assistance, but must be accompanied like any other patient until they reach natural death”, without suspending food and hydration. The Letter states that “recourse to prenatal diagnosis” is “obsessive” in today’s society and notes that it sometimes results in the choice for abortion or other “selective purposes”. Both abortion and the use “prenatal diagnosis for selective purposes” are “unlawful”, the Letter asserts.

Deep sedation

To alleviate pain, medication is used that may “induce the loss of consciousness”. The Letter affirms that it is morally licit to sedate “to ensure that the end of life arrives with the greatest possible peace and in the best internal conditions”. This also applies to types of sedation that hasten “the moment of death (deep palliative sedation in the terminal stage)”. But it is not acceptable that sedation be administered that “directly and intentionally causes death”, something the Letter defines as a “euthanistic practice”.

The vegetative state

Even in the case when the patient is not conscious, he or she “must be acknowledged in their intrinsic value and assisted with suitable care”, which includes the right to food and hydration. There may, however, be cases in which “such measures can become disproportionate” because they are no longer effective or because the means of administering them “create an excessive burden”. In this case, the Letter states that “adequate support must be provided to the families who bear the burden of long-term care for persons in these states”.

Conscientious objection

The Letter requests that locals Churches and Catholic institutions and communities “adopt a clear and unified position to safeguard the right of conscientious objection” in contexts where morally grave practices are allowed by law. It also invites Catholic institutions and healthcare personnel to witness to the values the Church professes regarding life issues.

Specifically in the case of euthanasia, the document states that, “there is a grave and clear obligation to oppose them by conscientious objection”. It is important that doctors and healthcare workers be formed in accompanying the dying in a Christian way. The spiritual accompaniment of a person who chooses to be euthanized requires that of “an invitation to conversion”, and never any gesture “that could be interpreted as approval”, such as remaining present while the euthanasia is being performed.

[1] John Paul II, Address to the Participants in the International Congress on “Life-Sustaining Treatments and Vegetative State: Scientific Advances and Ethical Dilemmas”.

(** JFL: I had never read the word uninfringeable until today. While I had an idea of its meaning, I looked at several other language translations of this word and every one I saw used “inviolable”)


What a beautiful meeting today with ASD children and their caregivers! If any of you have – or had in the past – a child in your family with a disorder, disability or other special needs, you will love this story.   I lost a nephew in 2001 when he was 20 of double pneumonia. He was a twin and his sister is just fine and has her own family today.

Christopher was brought to many doctors over the years but nary a one defined what he had (or was) by name. He never spoke a word, never was self-sufficient and seemed to delight in colors and noise and movement. He was ambulatory but that was about it. A number of us did feel that, although he could not verbalize it, he did recognize various people as he’d smile in recognition when certain people walked into the room and spoke his name. Only one doctor made an allusion to autism, saying Christopher had certain autistic traits but he (the doctor) would not call him autistic.

I believe the family members who care for children with disabilities are among the most amazing people on earth – saints in the making. And the same goes for professional staff and other caregivers.


Pope Francis on Monday received in the Vatican a group of children and adolescents with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), who are being treated at a clinic in St. Polten, Austria. He thanked all for the wonderful work for the youngsters.

By Robin Gomes

The Pope expressed his delight at meeting the group of 42, including children with ASD, their parents and the staff of Ambulatorium Sonnenschein where they are treated.

“Welcome to the Vatican! I am happy to see your faces, and I read it in your eyes that you too are happy to be here with me for a while,” he told the group.

The children undergo therapy at Ambulatorium Sonnenschein or the Sunshine Outpatient Clinic, which was established in 1995.  The treatment combines diagnosis, advice and therapy for children and adolescents with special needs under one roof.

Flowers in a meadow
“Your house is called ‘Sunshine’, a beautiful name!” the Holy Father said, adding, there is a reason behind it.  “It is because your house is like a magnificent blooming meadow in the sunshine and you are the flowers of this ‘Sunshine’ house!”  He explained that God created the world with a great variety of flowers of all colors, and every flower has its beauty, which is unique.

“Each of us,” said Francis, “is also beautiful in God’s eyes, and God loves us.  Hence, we need to thank God for it.”

“Thank you for the gift of life, for all creatures! Thank you for mom and dad! Thank you for our families! And thank you also for the friends from the ‘Sunshine’ center!” the Pope said.  Gratitude, he explained, is a beautiful prayer that is pleasing to God.

He told the children they can also ask Jesus to help their parents with their work or comfort the grandmother who is a bit sick.  They can ask Jesus to help children around the world who have nothing to eat or even help the Pope to lead the Church well.  “If you ask with faith, the Lord will surely hear you,” the Pope assured them.

For Jesus
Pope Francis concluded his meeting, thanking all those present, including the clinic staff.  “Thank you for this beautiful initiative and for your commitment to the little ones entrusted to you,” he said, adding, “Everything that you have done for one of these little ones, you have done it to Jesus!”