I wish all of my readers a wonderful, happy, fulfilling Memorial Day weekend!  I pray it will be safe and healthy as well as parts of the world and the United States start to recover from Covid closedowns and restrictions and offer hopeful signs of opening up!  Blessings upon you!

Weekly edition in English of L’Osservatore Romano: ING_2021_022_2805.pdf (


Welcome to a new edition of Vatican Insider! And many thanks to my radio colleagues for putting together a “Best of” for two weekends in my absence!

My guest this week in the interview segment is Archbishop Rino Fisichella, the very busy and very multi-lingual president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization. Pope Benedict instituted this pontifical council in June 2010 and the archbishop has been the only president since then. We look at some of the important work of the Council: the New Evangelization, Catechesis, Shrines, Fridays of Mercy, Missionaries of Mercy, 24 Hours for the Lord, Sunday of the Word of God, World Day of the Poor, Jubilee of Mercy and Year of Faith.

And you think you’re busy….!

We end Part I with a reference to the May rosary marathon at shrines around the world for an end to the pandemic and go into more detail next weekend in Part II. Next weekend, we’ll also talk about Pope Francis’ apparent plans to merge the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples with the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization.

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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: go to and write the name of the guest for whom you are serarching in the SEARCH box. Below that, will appear “Vatican Insider” – click on that and the link to that particular episode will appear.



I was delighted today to learn that Pope Francis has appointed Archbishop Arthur Roche as the new prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship, succeeding Cardinal Robert Sarah who resigned, according to Canon Law, when he turned 75. The Pope also named Archbishop Vittorio Francesco Viola to succeed Abp. Roche as secretary and he appointed Bishop-elect Aurelio García Marcías as under-secretary of the congregation. I’ve known Abp. Roche for some time and am delighted the Pope put his trust in him to head such an important Vatican office. Pope appoints leadership at Congregation for Divine Worship – Vatican News


Travel, especially international travel, has been on the back burner for millions of people since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic in early 2020. One by one, countries began to be overrun by the virus and certain regions within those countries became epidemic centers. The U.S. State Department had its embassies around the world continually issue travel alert emails with titles such as this: Subject: Italy Travel Advisory: Level 4: Do Not Travel, April 20, 2021

With the pandemic seeming to be on a downturn in many places, travel, especially international is opening up in many parts of the world. Travel today will be a bit different than in the past as there are still rules, regulations and restrictions in place, but filling out some forms and having a rapid antigen test taken before you travel will seem worth it when, in your mind’s eye, you see St. Peter’s Basilica, the fountains of Rome, the canals of Venice, and the art of Florence. You can even smell the lemon trees of the stunning Amalfi Coast!

And you know you can almost taste the divine cuisine of this beautiful land! Not to mention a memorable red wine and a limoncello to top off that meal!

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Here’s a summary of my recent trip to the U.S. and my return to Italy:

On May 11, upon arrival at Rome’s Fiumicino Airport, before even accessing the check-in counter, I had to stop at two points. The first was to show proof of a negative Covid test and the second was to fill out a form required by the Italian government (forms available in English and Italian). The rest of the boarding procedure was normal.

Returning to Italy was another matter. As I outline the steps one has to take to travel internationally, I want to preface my comments by stating that I fully agree with any country’s decision to impose rules for travellers. So many countries were just devastated by Covid that, for any return to some kind of normalcy, for a return to receiving visitors, they simply want to keep their country and its citizens safe and healthy. Thus, they ask you to follow a few rules. I’m good with that!

As soon as you make a plane reservation to travel overseas, your airline will stay in touch with you, sending what you need to travel and to enter a foreign country. I cannot emphasize enough to be certain you fill out all documents, forms and questionnaires they send you via email! I missed one and it took a while to fill it out at the airport. Some forms, if not all, will have to be printed. I recommend having a clear plastic folder in which, before and during your trip, you put all Covid and travel related documents. Keep everything together and accessible.

You will have to show a Covid negative test to even start your journey. United required it to be 48 hours before a trip. Check your airline. Fortunately I am on Medicare and that paid the very high cost of my Covid test in Chicago – $240 (10 times what I paid in Italy!)! I hope that is not a national average!

At the airport I filled out (as did many other passengers) a European Union Passenger Locator Form (EU-PLF). To be honest, if it was sent to me in an email, I missed it! It’s several pages long and you might feel like you being put on some “Wanted” list!

You’ll receive an email that says: “Thank you for completing the Passenger Locator Form before your trip. We appreciate your cooperation. Important: please carry the PLF document with you when travelling, either electronically or in print.” There is a QR code in the email as well.

An hour before we landed in Rome, United gave us another form for the Italian government, the Declaration for Entry Into Italy. It was in English on one side and Italian on the other, and the English was actually quite funny. I wanted to offer my free services to the Italian government to re-translate some of this form!

Well before you even see a passport official or retrieve your bag, you’ll take care of Covid matters. This means you’ll stand in line to have paper forms inspected and be given new forms to fill out if necessary. Lines move fairly slowly but eventually passengers are brought up to the level where rapid antigen tests are given. The first person you’ll see in a small booth will take all of your papers and your passport, put the content into his computer and ask you to pay €20 for the test!   Credit cards only.

You then move to a series of small booths where tests are given and results handed out. That procedure is about 20 minutes.

At long last, negative Covid test in hand, you are free to go to passport control and then to baggage claim.

Baggage claim was probably the best part of the morning. There was no waiting at the carousel because you’d already been in the airport an hour or more – plenty of time to deliver bags to the terminal!

Please don’t let any of the above-outlined rules and regulations stop you from making your much-awaited fabulous journey overseas. I wrote about Italy but check any other destination you have in mind.

Do everything your airline says, fill out and print all forms, have your rapid Covid test, have a little patience at the airport and voilà, you can start the long-awaited trip of your dreams!

Maybe we can even meet up for a cappuccino or a glass of wine!

And, as I always say – God sit on your shoulder!



I returned yesterday morning from a marvelous and memorable 13-day vacation in the U.S., the first time off I’ve taken since Christmas 2019!

It truly seemed as if the Lord had planned those days.… amazing, uplifting, joy-filled days marked by the priestly ordination of my friend Ryan Brady and his first Mass, other Masses and meals with his family and friends, a big weekend of Order of Malta events with extraordinarily special friends, both lay people and priests, reunions with two nieces and their families, including two little ones I’d never met, and time on the beach and in a great Chicago park with the kids!

The sameness of Covid life for 15 months became 13 days of joy, laughter, hug upon hug, no social distancing with friends and family, meals in crowded restaurants with happy, laughing people. I even saw a double-decker bus in Chicago, open at the top, filled with tourists and that really warmed the cockles of my heart!

I re-discovered the feeling of truly feeling excited, thrilled, overjoyed at even the smallest pleasure!  The feeling of not just being happy or content but of feeling real excitement, anticipation! Feeling re-born – and in so many ways! – might describe these uniquely wonderful days.

I shared with so many my great joy at hugging and being hugged, telling them I was hugged more in three days in Chicago than I’d been in 14 months in Rome! There was such a spontaneous, warm and wonderful naturalness about people. I never sensed fear.

We could walk anywhere outside without masks and that was special beyond telling! Where obliged by a store, an office or some Federal building, we wore masks. But outside, no need.

I saw many people in Newark and O’Hare airports but can safely assume there were nowhere near the usual number of travellers. My United flights within the U.S. were full, but the international ones had a number of empty seats, although I must say there were more passengers on my return flight to Italy (Deo gratias!) than the one to the U.S.

I want to share some photos I took yesterday just minutes before landing at Rome’s Fiumicino Airport. It was a glorious day and I just had to document it…

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Only one of FCO’s three terminals has been used for well over a year and it is so sad to see empty baggage claim areas with beautiful ads calling out to you, suggesting how and where you could spend your time in Rome. Especially sad was the area outside of customs where normally there is the cacophony of voices of countless friends and family members of passengers, as well as dozens of private car drivers shouting out names.

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Tomorrow I’ll bring you all the necessary instructions for travelling to Italy in Covid times. Don’t hesitate to return to the Eternal City, to Florence and Venice and the enchanting Amalfi Coast! Just bring the right papers!

As St. John Paul loved to say: “Non abbiate paura!” (Have no fear!)

Stay tuned…..



At today’s general audience held outdoors in the Vatican’s San Damaso courtyard, the Holy Father met a survivor of the Auschwitz concentration camp and kissed the tattooed number on her arm. She was prisoner 70072 in the Auschwitz/Birkenau camp. The Pope visited Auschwitz in 2016. (Vatican photo)

In 2019 Belarussian-born Lidia Maksymowicz, later adopted by a Polish Catholic family, addressed a Sant’Egidio-sponsored meeting in Krakow, Poland where she lives, and told her story.

Sant’Egidio published her story. We learned she was deported to Auschwitz Birkenau when she was not yet three years old. She spent three years in the “children’s block” and underwent several medical experiments, such as the inoculation of viruses and saline solutions by Dr. Josef Mengele, vividly remembering his polished boots and what she called “a possessed gaze.”

Of the imprisonment. Lidia remembers the hunger, the lice, the terror of the children as doctors arrived and the roll call when they were called with the numbers they had tattooed on their arm. The missing numbers – people, children never called by name – were replaced with the latest arrivals who shared with the other prisoners the fate of facing the Polish cold in the barracks and ruthlessness of the SS.

SS is the abbreviation of “Schutzstaffel,” German for “Protection Squad,” an elite Nazi paramilitary group that was basically responsible for the genocide of an estimated 6 million Jews and millions of others during World War II. For years the SS was what one history site called “the foremost agency of security, surveillance, and terror”

When the Red Army liberated the camp on January 27, 1945, Lidia was welcomed by a Polish family from Oświęcim, a few meters from Auschwitz. Sant’Egidio noted in its story that, for the first time, the inhabitants of the city saw the faces of the prisoners of that camp from which the terrible smell of that smoke that stretched for tens of kilometers came. And, “for the first time Lidia, still a child, saw a house, with a bed, sheets and a kitchen.”

Lidia’s mother, also brought to Auschwitz, was given number 70071. Lidia never saw her after they were separated.

A documentary about Lidia has been made entitled “70072: The Girl Who Did not know how to hate. The true story of Lidia Maksymowicz.”


Pope Francis, at the weekly general audience this morning, continued his catechesis on prayer and told the faithful present in the San Damaso courtyard, “we now consider those times when our prayers appear to go unanswered.”

“We think, for example,” he said, “of the heartfelt prayers we offer for our sick children, or for our friends who experience great pain. In our disappointment, we may feel that God is deaf to our pleas; we may even be tempted to stop praying.”

“There is a radical objection to prayer,” he noted, “that derives from an observation we all make: we pray, we ask, and yet sometimes our prayers seem to go unheard: what we have asked for – for ourselves or for others – is not fulfilled. We have this experience, very often… If the reason for which we prayed was noble (such as intercession for the health of a sick person, or for the end of a war, for instance), the non-fulfilment seems scandalous.”

Francis explained that, “Jesus, our great teacher of prayer, taught us in the Our Father to ask for many things, but above all that God’s will be done. A mature faith trusts in the Lord’s providence, his greater plan for our lives and our world, yet we naturally feel deep disappointment when our petitions seem to go unheard. Jesus shows us by his own example that God understands our sufferings, yet does not always immediately grant our wishes.

“In Gethsemane, Jesus offered a prayer that seemed to go unanswered; yet his complete trust in the Father’s will led to our salvation and the glory of the resurrection. Evil never has the last word. If there are times when we walk in the dark, guided only by the light of faith, may we never abandon our trust in the Father’s will to make all things work together for our ultimate good.”

In greetings to the English-speaking faithful, the Pope said, “United in this month of May with Our Blessed Lady, may we grow in the certainty that our heavenly Father always hears our prayers. Upon you and your families I invoke the joy and peace of the Lord. May God bless you!”



Where were you 40 Years Ago – May 13, 1981?

Well, let me tell you about that day, one I’ll never forget, a day the world, the Church will never forget. A day the world stood still.

Hours, days, weeks and then months of the pope being hospitalised because of the shooting, contacting a virus (the citamegalovirus, if memory serves me), and being released only in August. I covered all the papal news every day, every word from the press office and I even covered the trial of Mehmet Ali Agca, the Turkish-born shooter. Hearing him speak was like listening to fingernails on a blackboard!

I remember May 13, 1981 as if it was today – every moment clear as a bell. I remember the fear, the anxiety, the disbelief, the screams and then the prayerful silence of those in St. Peter’s Square that day. I remember my mind being almost unable to process the words I heard – “The Pope’s been shot!” I can still see the scenes in the press office, the thousands of media arriving in the Eternal City, the thousands of people who came to St. Peter’s Square on Wednesdays and Sundays in particular, hoping to hear – and they did” – words of comfort from the Pope himself in the hospital. (vaticannews photo)

This is a story I first wrote several years after the attempt on John Paul’s life:

I was on my way to St. Peter’s Square for the 5:00 pm general audience that Pope John Paul had just begun to preside. The weather had been very warm and the Vatican had moved the audiences from the hot late morning sun to a later time in the afternoon.

As I walked towards the square after having a coffee in a small bar nearby, I saw a group of Italian students, perhaps 30 of them, perhaps 10-years old, walking away from St. Peter’s Square with their teacher. They were not running so there was no reason to worry and I didn’t give them a second thought, except to wonder why they were leaving the papal audience, instead of attending it.

And then I heard a scream! A voice shouted in Italian, “They’ve shot the pope!”

My mind could not process those words together. My feet seemed nailed to the sidewalk, I was momentarily paralyzed – it may have been five seconds or less but I couldn’t move! When I finally absorbed the shock, I ran towards St. Peter’s Square where people were not quietly listening to what should have been a papal catechesis, rather they were going in all directions, asking each other what they heard, asking each other what they had seen. There were a lot of tears, so many people holding their heads, shaking their heads in disbelief, but always the tears.

My mind still could not conceive the words “They’ve shot the pope.” It was unbelievable, unimaginable. Who in their right mind would want to shoot a man of such magnificent spirituality, such great teaching, such wisdom and humanity and humor, a man whose entire life was a life of prayer, of service, of dedication, of singular love for his Church love for his people, for all people?

Where was that life now – 5:30 in the afternoon of Wednesday, May 13? Had it ended? Was it hanging in the balance? Was it possible to go from joy to sorrow in only a nanosecond?

As I was running towards the square to see what had happened, one of the more amazing things happened.

I entered St. Peter’s Square and asked in as many languages as I knew what people had heard and what they had seen. At a certain point, a very tall American priest, with an obviously worried expression on his face, came up and asked me if I knew the whereabouts of the two women in his pilgrimage group who had been shot along with Pope John Paul!

Naturally, I was absolutely floored and asked him their names and if he thought they had been taken to a hospital. To this day, 39 years later, I remember those names: Ann Odre was a senior citizen in Father’s group and Rose Hall was the wife of a military man who had just come from – or was perhaps going to – Germany to see him. I made inquiries and found that both women had been taken to the nearby Santo Spirito hospital where, a day or two later, I visited Ann Odre.

Obviously the confusion in the Square surpassed understanding. And, in a way, the relative silence surpassed understanding. There was probably more silence than there should have been with a crowd of that size but people were praying, people were not talking, so many were struck dumb by the idea someone would want to shoot a pope.

John Paul of course became the focus of everyone’s attention: the faithful in the square, the people of Rome whose bishop had just been shot and, thanks to the media, people around the world. As a member of the media, I ran back to the press office to tell my colleagues what I had learned. I worked for a weekly newspaper in Rome at the time – the International Daily American – and also wrote a weekly column for the National Catholic Register as the Rome bureau chief. Working for a weekly it was tough to have a scoop but what I had discovered in the square, especially the information about the two American women, had to be shared with all of my fellow journalists.

For hours we were on the phone. We all called our contacts to ask who might have been in the square, what they saw, what they heard. Bit by bit, information was pieced together. We learned that a man with a gun, had raised it, pointed it at the pope and fired shots and was immediately wrestled to the ground by a nun. The man, we later discovered, was a Turkish citizen named Ali Agca who was immediately taken into custody.

No one even thought of leaving the press office: Throughout the evening, and into the first hours of the new day, we all had our eyes on the television sets in the press office. There was nothing at that time like today’s social media – no Internet, Twitter, Facebook, Youtube and videos made with cell phones (no cell phones at that time, either!), iPads, etc., so we relied on our land line phones and Italian television.

It was an amazing evening. The hours dragged on and on, restaurants closed and yet no one had dinner. At best, some colleagues went to a few coffee bars before they closed to get a sandwich and some coffee for what we knew would be a long night. We all knew that no matter what we were writing, the final story line could not be written until we heard from Gemelli hospital if the pope had survived his surgery or if indeed a final line have been written in the life of Pope John Paul.

Given God’s great love – and surely his Mother Mary’s love as well – for this special man, given Pope John Paul’s belief in Divine Mercy and his unshakeable belief in Divine Providence, we all received the gift of a pope who survived and a long papacy, following this potentially fatal day.


I got to bed in the wee small hours of the morning after dictating my story on the phone to the Register, based at the time in Los Angeles. I was exhausted when I went to bed and only slept a few hours because all of us were anxious to return to work the next morning and find out what had happened to the pope overnight.

You all know the rest of the story: Pope John Paul survived, had a long recovery period and eventually had other surgeries: There would be another 24 years of a fruitful pontificate by a travelling pope, a pope who wrote documents and poetry, a pope who influenced the lives of hundreds of millions of people.

As I write these words 40 years later, that Pope is now Saint John Paul II.


I last took some time off when I went to Chicago and then California for Christmas 2019 but that is about to change. Covid has changed travel plans for millions of people, I’m sure, but I’m finally able to board a plane and I’ll be doing just that tomorrow, destination Chicago, with proof of vaccination and a negative Covid test.

Although I’ll be spending time with a lot of friends and relatives, the main purpose of my visit is to attend the May 15 priestly ordination and then his first Mass on May 16 of Deacon Ryan Brady, a young man I met several years ago and to whom I gave a chalice that had been in my family since 1927. I’ve told that story before on these pages: A CHALICE GOES HOME….. | Joan’s Rome (

These pages may be dark for a bit but you never know when I might get the urge to post something. I will also probably update Facebook and Twitter (@joansrome and occasionally. Please say an Ave for safe travels and for the future Fr. Ryan Brady.

Today’s saint, St. Damien of Moloka’i, is very dear to my heart, as you night know if you’ve been following Joan’s Rome for some time. I’ve been to the peninsula of Kalaupapa on the island of Moloka’i many times – Kalaupapa is where the victims of leprosy were exiled for life. Over 8,000 are buried here, though many tombstones were washed away a long time ago in a tsunami. I’ve posted just a handful of photos from one visit there. Most are of the Kalawao side of the peninsula where Damien built St. Philomena church and adjacent cemetery. The tomb of the grandfather of Honolulu’s Bishop Larry Silva is on Kalaupapa.

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This is my incredible friend Audrey Toguchi whose cure of cancer through the intercession of Blessed Damien led to his canonization in 2009.

I am on the Honolulu diocesan guild for the cause of canonization of Servant of God Joseph Dutton. Joseph worked on Kalaupapa for 44 years, several years with Fr. Damien (the ‘other’ Joseph: Fr. Damien was baptized Joseph de Veuster) and then 30 years with St. Marianne Cope. Joseph Dutton has a singularly amazing story and I am honoured to be working for his cause. Will Hawaii have a third saint? Let’s see! To learn more:


( – When Joseph de Veuster was born in Tremelo, Belgium, in 1840, few people in Europe had any firsthand knowledge of leprosy, Hansen’s disease. By the time he died at the age of 49, people all over the world knew about this disease because of him. They knew that human compassion could soften the ravages of this disease.

Forced to quit school at age 13 to work on the family farm, Joseph entered the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary six years later, taking the name of a fourth-century physician and martyr. When his brother Pamphile, a priest in the same congregation, fell ill and was unable to go to the Hawaiian Islands as assigned, Damien quickly volunteered in his place. In May 1864, two months after arriving in his new mission, Damien was ordained a priest in Honolulu and assigned to the island of Hawaii.

In 1873, he went to the Hawaiian government’s leper colony on the island of Moloka’i, set up seven years earlier. Part of a team of four chaplains taking that assignment for three months each year, Damien soon volunteered to remain permanently, caring for the people’s physical, medical, and spiritual needs. In time, he became their most effective advocate to obtain promised government support.

Soon the settlement had new houses and a new church, school and orphanage. Morale improved considerably. A few years later, he succeeded in getting the Franciscan Sisters of Syracuse, led by Mother Marianne Cope, to help staff this colony in Kalaupapa.

Damien contracted Hansen’s disease and died of its complications. As requested, he was buried in Kalaupapa, but in 1936 the Belgian government succeeded in having his body moved to Belgium. Part of Damien’s body was returned to his beloved Hawaiian brothers and sisters after his beatification in 1995.

When Hawaii became a state in 1959, it selected Damien as one of its two representatives in the Statuary Hall at the US Capitol. Damien was canonized by Pope Benedict XVI on October 11, 2009.




Weekly English edition of L’Osservatore Romano: ING_2021_019_0705.pdf (


This week I feature Part II of my conversation with Fr. Mark Lewis, vice rector for Academics at the Jesuit-run Gregorian University in Rome. He tells us about his background and how he got to Rome and the Gregorian. He also teaches Church history at this venerable, centuries-old academic institution located in the very center of Rome.

You’ll learn about Father’s specific work at the university, how it reflects the universal Church in its teaching staff and student body and how the Greg – as we in Rome call the university – has dealt with the pandemic – everything from classes online requiring new technology to turn-styles that measure the temperature of those entering the university. I also ask Father why he thinks Pope Francis was the first ever Jesuit to be elected to the papacy when other cardinals of other orders – Dominicans, Franciscans, etc – have been elected.

By the way, many buildings in Rome are very old and have very large rooms with unusually high ceilings and nothing to soften sound waves – thus an acoustic nightmare. And that explains the echo in this and other interviews I’ve done.

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: go to and write the name of the guest for whom you are searching in the SEARCH box. Below that, will appear “Vatican Insider” – click on that and the link to that particular episode will appear.


The Council of Cardinals discuss the impact of the Covid-19 crisis around the world, and the Church’s response to it, during a virtual meeting held on Thursday afternoon. The also continue talks on the upcoming Apostolic Constitution which will focus on the organization of the Roman Curia.

By Vatican News staff reporter

In a meeting held virtually on Thursday afternoon, members of the Council of Cardinals shared their experiences of the “economic and social consequences” of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, and discussed “the Church’s commitment to health, economic recovery and the support offered to those most in need.”

Pope Francis took part in the meeting from his residence in the Casa Santa Marta, while the other members of the Council – Cardinals Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga, Reinhard Marx, Sean Patrick O’Malley, Oswald Gracias, and Fridolin Ambongo Besungo – joined the conversation from their respective countries. Cardinals Pietro Parolin and Giuseppe Bertello, along with the council’s secretary, Bishop Marco Mellino, were connected from the Vatican. (Vatican media file photo)

After considering the current situation in their various regions, the members of the council turned their attention to the forthcoming Apostolic Constitution, which will deal with the organization of the Roman Curia. A note from the Holy See Press Office explained that the cardinals discussed “the working methodology that will have to be implemented for the revision and correction of some normative texts” after the new document takes effect.

They also addressed several “further perspectives opened up by the text under development.”

The next meeting of the Council of Cardinals is scheduled for June of this year.


I’ve attended many Swiss Guard swearing-in ceremonies over the years, including Mass with them in the Sistine chapel on their 500th anniversary, a ceremony that took place in the Paul VI Hall when there was inclement weather and several ceremonies in the traditional San Damaso courtyard, The main ceremony for the 500th anniversary was held in St. Peter’s Square – the entire 500th anniversary was a very special celebration with a number of events. I’ve placed some of my pictures of those moments in the vaticannews article you see below. (I obviously had a better camera in the last two slideshows!)


The Prefecture of the Papal Household has announced that, on Wednesday May 12, the Holy Father will preside over the general audience in the San Damaso courtyard of the Apostolic Palace. By observing the health indications provided, the faithful who wish to participate will be able to enter through the Bronze Goor in St. Peter’s Square. No entrance tickets are required.


Pope Francis on Thursday received 34 new members of the Pontifical Swiss Guard, ahead of their afternoon swearing-in ceremony, telling them that the qualities of courtesy and helpfulness in their work “are a beautiful testimony and a sign of the Church’s welcome.”

By Vatican News staff reporter

Greeting the 34 new Swiss Guards and their families in the Vatican on Thursday, the Pope recalled the history of the Corps and the work many young men have carried out with commitment and fidelity that continues today.

He also spoke of members of the Guard that “have gone so far as to sacrifice their own lives to defend the Pope.”

500th Anniversary celebration of the Swiss Guards –

Vocation of the Swiss Guard

Pope Francis noted that many people have a calling in life, which means that some men have a vocation to the priesthood or consecrated life. Others, he said, “follow the conjugal vocation and form their own families.”

Addressing the new recruits, the Pope said, “With you, I thank the Lord, the source of all good, for the various gifts and vocations He has entrusted to you, and I pray that those who are now beginning their service may respond fully to Christ’s call, following Him with faithful generosity.”

He also expressed his appreciation that young people “choose to dedicate some years of their lives in generous service to the Successor of Peter and to the ecclesial community.”

Swearing-in ceremony in the Paul VI Hall –

Thank you

During his greeting to the new recruits, Pope Francis took the opportunity to publicly thank “all the members of the Swiss Guard for their diligent service.”

“I greatly appreciate your ability to combine professional and spiritual aspects, thus expressing your devotion and fidelity to the Apostolic See,” he said.

Important qualities

The Pope went on to say that those pilgrims and tourists who come to Rome “have the opportunity to experience the courtesy and helpfulness of the guards at the various entrances to Vatican City. Never forget these qualities, which are a beautiful testimony and a sign of the Church’s welcome.”

Traditional ceremony in the San Damaso courtyard –

Concluding his address, Pope Francis extended his good wishes to the young recruits and expressed the hope that the time spent in the Eternal City would be an occasion for a deepening of their faith and an even stronger love for the Church.

(On January 22 this year, the Pontifical Swiss Guards turned 515 years old! Click here for story: Swiss Guards celebrate 515 years – Vatican News)


Pope Francis has sent a message to Cardinal Oswald Gracias expressing his closeness with the people severely hit by record infections and deaths from Covid.

By Robin Gomes (vaticannews)

Pope Francis has expressed his solidarity and closeness to the people of India, ravaged by the second wave of Covid-19 infections that has overwhelmed its healthcare system.

“At this time when so many in India are suffering as a result of the present health emergency, I am writing to convey my heartfelt solidarity and spiritual closeness to all the Indian people, together with the assurance of my prayers that God will grant healing and consolation to everyone affected by this grave pandemic,” the Pope wrote in a message to Cardinal Oswald Gracias of Bombay, the president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI).

The Holy Father particularly expressed his closeness to “the sick and their families, to those who care for them, and in particular to those who are mourning the loss of their loved ones.”

“I think too of the many doctors, nurses, hospital workers, ambulance drivers and those working tirelessly to respond to the immediate needs of their brothers and sisters. With deep appreciation, I invoke upon all of them God’s gifts of perseverance, strength and peace.”

Pope Francis expressed his gratitude to the Catholic Church of India “for its works of charity and fraternal solidarity carried out in the service of all.”

“I think especially of the generosity shown by so many committed young people.  I join you in commending to the Lord’s infinite mercy the faithful who have lost their lives, not least the great numbers of priests and men and women religious.”

“In these days of immense grief, may we all be consoled in the hope born of Easter and our unshakeable faith in Christ’s promise of resurrection and new life,” the Pope concluded, imparting his blessing.


In his general audience series of catecheses devoted to prayer, Pope Francis last week spoke of meditative prayer and this week he focused on contemplative prayer. For many the terms might seem interchangeable but there is a difference. I read both papal catecheses to try and understand.

Last week the Pope said, “We all need to meditate, to reflect, to find ourselves. Especially in the voracious Western world, people seek meditation because it represents a high barrier against the daily stress and emptiness that is everywhere.”

He further added that it is “a phenomenon to be welcomed, because we possess an interior life that cannot always be neglected.”

This week, Francis explained, “we now consider contemplative prayer. For Christians, contemplative prayer is an act of the heart by which we fix our gaze in faith upon Jesus, quietly pondering his word and his saving mysteries.”

Our minds and our hearts are surely vessels of these kinds of prayer.

If you search online for an explanation of the two types of prayer and the difference between them, all reliable sites state it this way: “While both are forms of prayer, the fundamental difference between meditation and contemplation is that meditation is a human mode of prayer whereas contemplation is divinely infused. ..”


Here are three links for viewing the daily rosary recitation at different shrines around the world as people pray for an end to the pandemic. Tune in at 6 pm Rome time:

The Holy See ( click on VIDEO

Schedules – Vatican News

News from the Vatican – News about the Church – Vatican News

Here is the May 5 to 11 schedule of shrines from which the rosary will be recited during this prayer marathon for an end to the pandemic. Also listed are the prayer intentions for the day:

May 5. Blessed Virgin of the Rosary (South Korea) – For all children and adolescents

May 6. Our Lady of Aparecida (Brazil) – For all young people

May 7. Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage (Philippines) – For all families

May 8. Our Lady of Luján (Argentina) – For all communication workers

May 9. Holy House of Loreto (Italia) – For all seniors

May 10. Our Lady of Knock (Ireland) – For all people with disabilities

May 11. Virgin of the Poor (Belgium) – For all the poor, homeless and economically distressed

Click here to view the full list of shrines: April | 2021 | Joan’s Rome (


Pope Francis began today’s general audience, live-streamed from the papal library of the Apostolic Palace, by explaining that, “in our continuing catechesis on Christian prayer, we now consider contemplative prayer. For Christians, contemplative prayer is an act of the heart by which we fix our gaze in faith upon Jesus, quietly pondering his word and his saving mysteries.”

By way of example of contemplation, Francis underscored what “the simple farmer of Ars told Saint John Vianney: in praying before the Tabernacle, “I look at him and he looks at me”. By gazing on our Lord in this way, we come to feel his loving gaze upon us and our hearts are purified. This in turn enables us to see others in the light of that truth and compassion which Jesus brings to all.” (photo: vatican media)

The Holy Father said, “Christ himself is the model for all contemplative prayer: amid the activity of his public ministry he always found time for a prayer that expressed his loving communion with the Father. At the Transfiguration, Jesus prepared the disciples for his coming passion and death by enabling them to contemplate his divine glory.”

“Through our prayer,” concluded Pope Francis, “may we persevere in union with him on the path of love where contemplation and charity become one. For, as Saint John of the Cross, the Church’s great master of contemplative prayer teaches us: one act of pure love is more useful to the Church than all the other works put together.”




Following is the text of Pope Francis’ video message with his prayer intention for the month of May on the theme “The world of finance: ‘Let us pray that those responsible for finance collaborate with governments to regulate financial markets and protect citizens from its dangers’.”

“While the real economy, the one that creates jobs, is in crisis – how many people are out of work! Financial markets have never been as hypertrophic** as they are now.

How far is the world of big finance from most people’s lives!

Finance, if not regulated, becomes pure speculation animated by monetary policies.

This situation is unsustainable. It’s dangerous

To prevent the poor from again paying the consequences, financial speculation must be strictly regulated.

Speculation. I want to emphasize this term.

Finance is a tool of service, a tool to serve people and to take care of the common home!

We still have time to start a process of global change to put into practice a different, more just, inclusive, sustainable economy that leaves no one behind. Let’s do it!

And let’s pray for finance leaders to work with governments to regulate financial markets and protect citizens in danger.”

Click here for video prepared by Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network of Pope Francis’ May prayer intention with English subtitles: Pope’s May prayer intention: ‘For the world of finance’ – Vatican News