For all astronomers, wannabe astronomers and those with only a minimal interest in planets and stars, La Specola Vaticana – the Vatican Observatory – has just launched a new website, online store and podcast:





Re: Hans Kung. I met him in Hungary in October 1983. I attended a lecture of his, knowing that he was a celebrated and much debated theologian and I was told that many other world class theologians were also at this lecture. Not speaking German, the content of his message was lost on me but the person whose guest I was that evening, Bishop Josef Cserhati of Pecs, every so often summarized what Kung said. I took notes and would give anything to know where those notes are now. The bishop introduced me to Kung. I only remember exchanging a few words. Everyone pressed around us to meet him!

I was on a fact-finding trip to then communist Hungary for the National Catholic Register, principally to do stories on what it was like to be a Catholic in a communist nation. I spent several days in Budapest and then was a guest at Bishop Cserhati’s palace/residence in Pecs for 4 days. No computers or laptops in those days. I’d love to see the stories I did for the Register.

I actually have very vivid memories of those days in Hungary, of days spent with the bishop and his staff, starting with Mass and breakfast, of travelling around the diocese with his driver Rudy, visiting parishes and homes.

Two memories stand out:

One evening after dinner, Bishop Cserhati took me to a parish where workers were renovating the parish community center. The men I spoke to were only too happy to take a brief break to answer questions with the bishop as a translator. This work was to have a second income, something to add to the low salaries of their day jobs. Lots of questions and very interesting answers. I remember the title of that Register story: “Communists by day and Socialists by night.” Those were the first words that one of the workers spoke to me in answer to a question I had – “we’re communists by day and socialists by night”!

Another day Bishop Cserhati invited a pastor to join us for lunch at a well-known restaurant on a river. An elderly man whose ministry the bishop obviously respected, he took us to a store his sister owned, selling clothing and accessories. Private enterprise in a communist land! At the end of our visit, the priest (whose name I have forgotten as I write but it’s surely in my Register stories!) said his sister wanted to give me a gift and to choose anything in the store.

Obviously I did not want to choose something costly like clothing. As I looked into the accessory cabinet, I spotted a beautiful hand-painted handkerchief and said I would love to have that, saying it was very special and small enough that I could always have it with me. In fact, I just now went and got it and it is next to me as I write. It is in a lovely collection of handkerchiefs I have.

Interesting how in a few paragraphs one can go from the life and times of a theologian to visiting a country with a bishop to the beauty of a gifted handkerchief!


Continuing his catechesis on Christian prayer, Pope Francis reflects on the Communion of Saints, saying their intercession “is their most exalted service to God’s plan”

By Lydia O’Kane (vaticannews)

Following the Easter celebrations, Pope Francis on Wednesday continued his catechesis on Christian prayer during the general audience, focusing this week on the Communion of Saints.

He explained that whenever we pray, we are never alone, but find ourselves immersed in a great stream of past, present and future intercession for the needs of individuals and of the whole world. (Vatican photo)

Expansive Power of Prayer

We pray together with all the saints in the communion of the Body of Christ which is the Church, the Pope said, adding that those good prayers are “’expansive,’ they propagate themselves continuously, with or without being posted on social networks: from hospital wards, from moments of festive gatherings to those in which we suffer silently.”

“One person’s pain is everyone’s pain, and one person’s happiness is transmitted to someone else’s soul,” he added.

Intercession of the saints

Pope Francis noted, “Prayer is always born again: each time we join our hands and open our hearts to God, we find ourselves in the company of anonymous saints and recognized saints who pray with us and who intercede for us as older brothers and sisters who have preceded us on this same human adventure.”

“There is no grief in the Church that is borne in solitude,” he underlined. “There are no tears shed in oblivion, because everyone breaths and participates in one common grace.”

Great Cloud of Witnesses

The Pope described the saints as this “great cloud of witnesses” both known and unknown who ceaselessly pray with us and for us in giving glory to God. “Our veneration of the saints draws us closer to Jesus, the sole Mediator between man and God,” he said.

Never too late to convert to holiness

Pope Francis went on to say that the saints “remind us that even in our lives, however weak and marked by sin, holiness can unfold. It is never too late to be converted to the Lord who is good and great in love. … In Christ too, we sense a mysterious solidarity with our loved ones who have died, for whom we continue to pray.”

In off the cuff remarks, the Pope noted, “Holiness is a life journey, an encounter with Jesus, whether long or short, whether in an instant. But always it is a witness; a saint is a witness, of a man, a woman, who met Jesus and followed Jesus.” He also highlighted that here on earth there are to be found “the saints next door.”

Giving a Hand

The Pope emphasized that the intercession of the saints “is their most exalted service to God’s plan” and we can and should “ask them to intercede for us and for the whole world.”

Dwelling on loved ones who have passed from this life, Pope Francis said, “There is a mysterious solidarity in Christ between those who have already passed to the other life and we pilgrims in this one: from Heaven, our beloved deceased continue to take care of us. They pray for us and we pray for them.”

The Pope stressed that the saints are there to “’give us a hand’ to obtain the grace from God that we need.”

Divine Mercy Sunday

Concluding his catechesis and addressing the Polish-speaking faithful, the Pope recalled that next Sunday the Church will celebrate the Feast of Divine Mercy, instituted by St John Paul II. Pope Francis said “that the liturgy of this Sunday seems to outline the path of mercy which, while reconstructing the relationship of each person with God, also arouses among men new relationships of fraternal solidarity.”

Man, in fact, receives God’s mercy, “but he is also called to ‘use mercy’ toward others.” Let us ask, said the Pope, for “the grace of forgiveness and of working love toward our neighbour.”

CLICK HERE FOR VIDEO OF GENERAL AUDIENCE: Pope at Audience: The Saints ceaselessly “give us a hand” – Vatican News

(At the end of the audience catechesis, Pope Francis said, “I wish to assure my prayers for the victims of floods that in the past days have struck Indonesia and East Timor.” He invoked the Lord “to receive the dead, comfort their families, and sustain those who have lost their homes.”)


The 93 year-old theologian participated in the Second Vatican Council. A critic of the doctrine on papal infallibility, his authorisation to teach Catholic theology was revoked in 1979. Swiss theologian Hans Küng died on Tuesday at the age of 93 in his home in Tübingen, Germany. Swiss theologian Hans Küng dies aged 93 – Vatican News