I may be taking some time off tomorrow to celebrate another beautiful gift from God – another year of life in a beautiful family – my blood relatives as well as friends who are like family and my huge faith family, the Catholic Church! I don’t actually know how many times day I thank God for things, large and small, but it surely in the dozens.

I am grateful for countless things and events and people in my life and you, my readers and those who listen to “Vatican Insider” on the radio are high on that list. May each day of your lives be filled with many God-given moments for which to be thankful!

However, I will be with you briefly tomorrow! Don’t forget to listen to Catholic Connection with Teresa Tomeo. I join her every Wednesday, birthday or not, at 9:39 ET (3:39 pm in Rome).


Today, June 29 is the feast of Saints Peter and Paul, Apostles and patron saints of the City of Rome. It is a holiday in the Vatican and in Rome and usually is a very festive occasion but the Coronavirus has again muted some celebrations this year, although the papal Mass during which Pope Francis blessed the palliums to be given to the new metropolitan archbishop created since last June 29 took place in the splendor of St. Peter’s Basilica.

The pallium is a white woolen circular band embroidered with six black crosses and two hanging pieces, one in front and another in back, that is worn over the shoulders and symbolizes their authority as archbishop and their special bond with the Roman Pontiff.

For decades the pallium was placed by the Pope on the shoulders of the new metropolitan archbishops, However, in 2015 Francis changed the traditional ceremony, having decided that the public ceremony of investiture of the pallium on metropolitan archbishops would henceforth take place in their home dioceses and not in the Vatican as has been the case under recent pontiffs. The nuncio to the country of the new archbishop places the pallium on his shoulders.

June 29 is also one of two days a year (the other is the February 22 feast of the Chair of Peter) when the bronze statue of the saint for whom the basilica is named is adorned with pontifical vestments, the triple tiara and a papal ring. His right foot is almost worn away from years of pilgrims kissing or rubbing the foot. Pope Francis kissed the foot this morning.


In 2006 I covered the visit to Turkey by Benedict XVI and learned a great deal about Catholic-Orthodox relations, as well as those between the Catholic Church and Islam. Before this apostolic pilgrimage, I studied at length both aspects of the papal trip – the visit to the Orthodox patriarchate and the Church’s relations with Islam given that Pope Benedict made history with a much-applauded visit to Istanbul’s Blue Mosque. Today I provide a capsule summary of what I learned and wrote about at the time.

The Holy See and the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople exchange regular annual visits and send delegations for the feast days of their respective patrons. The Vatican celebrates the June 29 feast of Sts. Peter and Paul, Apostles and the Orthodox patriarchate marks the November 30 feast of St. Andrew, patron of the Ecumenical Patriarchate.   Roman Catholics believe St. Peter was given the mandate by Christ to lead the church and was thus the first Pope. The Orthodox believe that mandate was given to his brother, Andrew.

Both Pope Benedict and Pope Francis have travelled to Turkey to celebrate this feast together with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I. I was in Turkey to cover Benedict’s trip in November 2006 but did not accompany Francis in 2014.

On both occasions a Divine Liturgy was celebrated in St. George Church, located in the Phanar neighborhood (also spelled Fanar) of Istanbul. The name is the Turkish transliteration of the original Greek word meaning a lighting lantern, a streetlight, a lightpost with a lantern. The name is also linked to the classical phanárion and the modern fanári meaning “lantern.”

The Phanar neighborhood became home to many Greeks as well as to the Patriarchate of Constantinople after the fall of Constantinople in 1453, 400 years after the Great Schism, the divide between Constantinople and Rome, between the Eastern and Western Churches.

Today Phanar houses the offices of the patriarchate and the residence of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I. Just as the term Vatican – Vatican City State – is used the describe the heart of the Catholic Church, the Holy See, Phanar is often shorthand for the Ecumenical Pariarchate.

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In his talk on November 30, 2006, Pope Benedict said, “the divisions that exist among Christians are a scandal to the world and an obstacle to the proclamation of the Gospel.”

One of the principal reasons for the thousand-year old split between Catholics and Orthodox is the Petrine ministry – Petrine referring to St. Peter – and the Petrine ministry being the office of the Pope.

Benedict made reference to that as well in his talk. He said that Christ gave Peter and Andrew the task of being “fishers of men,” but entrusted that task to each in different ways. Peter, said the Pope, was called “the rock upon which the Church was to be built and entrusted him with the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven.” Peter traveled from Jerusalem to Antioch to Rome “so that in that city he might exercise a universal responsibility.”

“The issue of the universal service of Peter and his Successors,” said Benedict XVI, “has unfortunately given rise to our differences of opinion, which we hope to overcome.”

Some historical background on the East-West split:

What has come to be known as the East-West Schism occurred in 1054 when Patriarch Michael Cerularius of Constantinople, leader of the Eastern Christian Churches, and Pope Leo IX, leader of the Western Church, excommunicated each other. The mutual excommunications were lifted only in 1965 when both Pope Paul VI and Patriarch Athenagoras, following their history-making meeting in Jerusalem in 1964, held ceremonies that revoked the excommunication decrees.

Differences between the two Churches on matters of doctrine, theology, and language had been growing for years, with the most prominent issue being papal primacy. There were also issued over claims of jurisdiction. However, the two Churches have been seeking unity ever since.

The Petrine ministry – the primacy of the Pope – was specifically mentioned vis-a-vis the Orthodox Church in the document from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith entitled “Responses to Some Questions on Certain Aspects of the Doctrine of the Church,” dated June 29, 2007.

Pope Francis quoted this document – specifically the fourth question – in his talk during the Divine Liturgy in 2014. (This 1,200-word document, excluding footnotes, with five questions and five answers is eminently readable:

If you have time today, or want to save this for a later reading, here is the transcript of my lengthy interview for EWTN radio in Phanar with Archbishop Demetrios, the then primate of the Greek Orthodox Church in America, spiritual leader of some 1.5 million Greek Orthodox Christians, and exarch of the Ecumenical Patriarchate to the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. The interview came at the end of Pope Benedict’s visit to Ankara, Ephesus and Istanbul where he met with Muslims as well as with the Orthodox, with whom he celebrated their November 30th patronal feast day of St. Andrew. Though I did this in November 2006, much of what the archbishop explains as the realities of the Catholic-Orthodox dialogue and the differences between the Churches remain current. A CONVERSATION WITH ORTHODOX ARCHBISHOP DEMETRIOS: A PAPAL TRIP, CHRISTIANS IN TURKEY, CHRISTIAN UNITY | Joan’s Rome (


The focus of today’s episode of EWTN’s “At Home with Jim and Joy” is: “How may we celebrate and give thanks for the lives and contributions of grandparents and the elderly?”

For my weekly contribution to this show, I quoted some of Pope Francis’ words on January 31 when he announced that he had instituted the World Day of Grandparents and the Elderly (to be celebrated July 25).

I then spoke of my own grandparents: on Mom’s side we are Swiss and German and on Dad’s side, Irish and Welsh.

I explained that my German-born grandfather (who died when I was 10), Grandpa Bromann, came to America at the age of 18 months with his parents and 3 older brothers (more would be born in America) on a steamship called the Vandalia, sailing from Hamburg, Germany on its maiden voyage of June 28, 1871. And I was speechless when I realized that was 150 YEARS AGO TODAY!

Grandpa married my grandmother Theresa and his brother Charles married one of her sisters, Dora! Seven Bromann siblings and seven Blattner siblings. Sounds like someone should maker a movie!

My main message was to children and grandchildren: All the tools exist today for the younger generations to make video and audio tapes, to create legacy books with photos, to do Facebook live posts to share with other family members…maybe even cousins in a distant land! Ask a million questions and record every answer, every smile, every memory! Above all, be close to your grandparents and thank them for being your grandparents!


The Holy See and the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople exchange regular annual visits and send delegations for the feast days of their respective patrons. The Vatican celebrates the June 29 feast of Sts. Peter and Paul, Apostles and the Orthodox patriarchate marks the November 30 feast of St. Andrew, patron of the Ecumenical Patriarchate.   (photo Vatican media)

The Holy Father this morning greeted Metropolitan Emmanuel who led the delegation in the name of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, and noted, “This year we will celebrate Saints Peter and Paul in a world still struggling to emerge from the dramatic crisis caused by the pandemic. This scourge has tested everyone and everything. Only one thing is more serious than this crisis, and that is the risk that we will squander it, and not learn the lesson it teaches.  It is a lesson in humility, showing us that it is not possible to live healthy lives in an unhealthy world, or to go on as we were, without recognizing what went wrong.”

Francis said that Christians too “are called to reflect seriously on whether we want to go back to doing what we did before, as if nothing happened, or instead to take up the challenge of this crisis.  Crisis, as the original meaning of the word shows, always implies a judgement, a distinction between good and bad. … The present crisis calls us to distinguish, discern and sift, in everything we do, between what is enduring and what is passing.”

“We believe, as the Apostle Paul teaches,” said the Pope, “that what endures forever is love, because, while everything else passes away, “love never ends,” a love “that is concrete, modelled on that of Jesus.”

“In the end, the Gospel promises abundant fruit not to those who acquire riches for themselves, or to those who seek their own advantage, but to those who generously share with others, sowing abundantly and freely in a humble spirit of service.”

Pope Francis explained that, “For us Christians on the path to full communion, taking seriously the current crisis means asking ourselves how we wish to move forward.

“Dear brothers,” Francis asked, “has not the time come for giving further impetus to our efforts, with the help of the Spirit, to break down ancient prejudices and definitively overcome harmful rivalries?  Without ignoring the differences that need to be resolved through charitable and truthful dialogue, could we not begin a new phase of relations between our Churches, marked by walking more closely together, by desiring to take real steps forward, by becoming more willing to be truly responsible for one another?”

The Holy Father concluded by asking Metropolitan Emmanuel to tell Patriarch Bartholomew, “I joyfully await his visit here in Rome next October, an occasion for giving thanks to God for the thirtieth anniversary of his election.  Through the intercession of Saints Peter and Paul, Princes of the Apostles, and of Saint Andrew, the First-Called, may Almighty God in his mercy bless us and draw us ever closer to his own unity.”


I know Blinken is not a head of State or head of government but could more have been said about his meeting with the Pope? Here’s the terse statement by the head of the press office, in answer to questions from journalists on this morning’s meeting between Pope Francis and U.S. secretary of State Antony Blinken:

“This morning’s audience with US Secretary of State Antony John Blinken took place in a cordial atmosphere. It lasted about 40 minutes and was an opportunity for the Pope to remember the journey he made in 2015 and to express his affection and attention to the people of the United States of America.” (vatican media)

Click here for the CNA story and photos of Blinken’s tour of the Sistine Chapel and his morning meeting with Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican Secretary of State: Pope Francis meets Secretary Antony Blinken at Vatican (

A by-product of the visit were some traffic problems in and around the Vatican this morning (including just across from my apartment building) for some time, prior to and during Blinken’s arrival and departure, with numerous police motorcycles and escort cars as well as those of Blinken and his entourage.



My guest this week is Fr. Ryan Brady, a good friend and newly ordained priest for the archdiocese of Chicago. I was at Holy Name Cathedral for his ordination on that beautiful day, May 15, 2021. Ryan will tell us about his call to be a priest, the difference that having a vocation call later in life can make, the importance of the family in a vocation, and some of the experiences and ministries that are part and parcel of training for the priesthood, such as spending months as a hospital chaplain.

He’ll also explain how our lives became intertwined. It’s a story you might have read – A Chalice Goes Home – on my blog! Be sure to stay tuned for our conversation (Part I of two parts).

And by the way, pray every day for priests and for vocations to the priesthood.

Ordination Day

After Fr. Brady’s First Mass (I was a lector and in the sanctuary and did not take any photos – his folks will be sending me some pix)

Mass at St. Patrick’s in Rome

Breaking bread in Rome

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.



If your name is John, Joan or another derivative of John, today is your onomastico or name day! Congratulations and best wishes to everyone marking the June 24 feast of St. John the Baptist!


I did something I have wanted to do for a long time on the June 24th feast day of St. John the Baptist – I visited the Roman church that has part of his skull, San Silvestro in capite on the piazza named for St. Sylvester Pope. I had not been here in years and did not remember it well so I took a ton of pictures in order to share the great story of the church and the relic of St. John the Baptist.

This has always been a big feast day in Rome, especially at the Pope’s cathedral church of St. John Lateran (full name: Cathedral of the Most Holy Savior and of Saints John the Baptist and John the Evangelist in the Lateran). Among other events (though not recently because of Covid), there is usually a huge concert at St. John’s.

June 24 is in fact a big day in Italy and in several Italian cities whose patron saint he is, including Turin and Florence. This is a very old celebration – also known as Saint John’s Day in many countries in the world – as it was established by the undivided Christian Church in the 4th century A.D., to honor the birth of John the Baptist.

As we know from accounts of the Visitation, John was six months older than his cousin Jesus whom he baptized as an adult in the River Jordan. Jesus was born, according to tradition on December 25, so John’s birthday was presumed to be mid-summer.

Florentines celebrate the city’s patron saint, considering John the “symbol of moral rectitude and political correctness.” The daylong events include parades, boat rides on the Arno River and tables laden with local food and wine. An evening soccer match and rowboats carrying lit candles followed by fireworks traditionally end the day.

The relic of the head of St. John the Baptist has been venerated in San Silvestro in Capite since at least the end of the twelfth century, the year 1192 or 1194 being probably the earliest date at which the words ‘de Capo’ or ‘de Capite’ (referring to the Latin word for head) are found added to the church’s name. How it came to be here has not been recorded, nor can its previous history or provenance be, at present, ascertained.

Tradition holds that John was executed in the prison of the fortress of Machaerus, near the Dead Sea. It is said that Herodias, who prompted her daughter to ask King Herod Antipas for his head, afraid that if his body and his head were buried together he might come back to life, had the head hidden in Herod’s palace in Jerusalem, while John’s disciples removed the body to Sebaste in Samaria.

The chapel of the relic:

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There are two differing accounts of how the head was found in Jerusalem and made its long journey to Constantinople, but it is known with certainty that it was being venerated as the principal treasure of the monastery church of Saint John Baptist of Stoudios within the walls of that city in 873. It is not known if the head was entire at this time, or whether it had been broken into different fragments.

The relic in San Silvestro is not a full head, but the top part of a skull, which has been set into a wax skull. There is another relic in the Cathedral of Amiens in northern France, which is only the front part of a head, from the forehead down to the upper jaw, excluding the teeth.

The relic now venerated in San Silvestro as the head of Saint John the Baptist has been for centuries the focus of much devotion and prayer. It located in the chapel of the ‘Pietà’, accessible through a doorway immediately to the left on entering the church from the courtyard, or directly from Via del Gambero which runs along the side of the church. (Relic of John the Baptist (

The original church was built in the 8th century by the Popes Paul I and Stephen III, atop ruins of a pagan temple dedicated to Sol Invictus, to house venerated relics of early Christian saints who were buried in the catacombs. The church was rebuilt and the campanile with Romanesque arcades added in 1198 during the papacy of Innocent III, while in the 13th century the church was donated to the Poor Clares.

The wonderful courtyard:

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It was rebuilt by the architects Francesco Capriani da Volterra and Carlo Maderno during 1591–1601, and subsequently restored in 1681.[3] The relics of Pope Sylvester IPope Stephen I and Pope Dionysius were exhumed and re-enshrined beneath the high altar when the new church was consecrated in 1601. The church also contains the relics of Tarcisius.

The church:

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The church of San Silvestro was granted to the English Catholics by Pope Leo XIII in 1890, and is now served by Irish Pallottine Fathers. Mass is thus regularly celebrated in the English language. The church is the National Church in Rome of Great Britain, although the structures of the Catholic Church continue to be organized separately for England and Wales, Scotland and Ireland. The Scottish national church in Rome, Sant’Andrea degli Scozzesi, was deconsecrated in 1962. (San Silvestro in Capite – Wikipedia)





Today’s weekly papal general audience took place once again in the Vatican’s San Damaso courtyard on a warm, muggy day that did not discourage hundreds of faithful from climbing the great (and breathtaking!) staircase that brings you from St. Peter’s Square to the courtyard via the Bronze Gate.

There was one person present who was as recognizable as the pontiff dressed in his trademark white and that was Spiderman in his trademark red and blue body suit with grey webbing!   Pope Francis knew who he was and seemed to enjoy their encounter immensely!

It’s a terrific story and CNA’s Hannah Brockhaus tells us why Spiderman was at the general audience: Why was Spider-Man at Pope Francis’ general audience? (

Before starting his catechesis, Francis spent about 45 minutes walking around the San Damaso courtyard, greeting scores of people, blessing babies, men and women religious, the elderly – basically just about anyone leaning against one of the barriers. Hands flew out from all directions to simply touch the pope but many today also had pen and paper (or a book or anything the Pope could write on) and asked for – and received – an autograph!

You could sense the Pope’s joy at this encounter. Covid had snuffed out so many meetings since March of 2020 and these are always occasions that popes look forward to. Thus, being in the presence of the faithful is really a pick-me-up for the Pope.

The Holy Father began a new catechesis this week with reflections on St. Paul’s Letter to the Galatians. The Pope explains who the Galatians were and how they had settled in what is modern day Turkey. I found the catechesis especially interesting as it makes Paul and his travels and the people and nations to whom he brought the Gospel very alive and colorful. And I may have enjoyed it because I’ve travelled in his footsteps!

I went on a pilgrimage to Turkey “in the footsteps of St. Paul” a few years back and it was one of the most remarkable trips I’ve ever taken! I was also in Turkey for Pope Benedict’s trip years to Ankara, Istanbul and Mary’s House in Ephesus – more unforgettable days! My very first trip to Turkey was in June 1996 when I was a member of the Holy See delegation to the United Nations conference on Human Settlements “Habitat” in Istanbul. Several incredible weeks!


Pope Francis began the audience by explaining that, “after the long itinerary dedicated to prayer, today we begin a new cycle of catechesis. I hope that with this itinerary of prayer we have succeeded in praying a little better, praying a little more. Today I would like to reflect on some themes proposed by the Apostle Paul in his Letter to the Galatians. It is a very important Letter, I would even say decisive, not only for getting to know the Apostle better, but above all in considering some topics that he addresses in depth, showing the beauty of the Gospel.” (CNA photo)

“In this Letter,” said the Pope, “Paul makes many biographical references that allow us to understand his conversion and his decision to place his life at the service of Jesus Christ. He also deals with some very important themes for the faith, such as freedom, grace and the Christian way of life, which are extremely topical since they touch on many aspects of the life of the Church today. This letter is very topical. It seems to be written for our times.”

Francis noted that, “the first feature that emerges from this Letter is the great work of evangelisation carried out by the Apostle, who had visited the communities of Galatia at least twice during his missionary journeys. Paul addresses the Christians of that territory. We do not know exactly which geographical area he is referring to, nor can we state with certainty the date on which he wrote this Letter. We do know that the Galatians were an ancient Celtic population who, after many vicissitudes, had settled in the extensive region of Anatolia that had as its capital the city of Ancyra, today Ankara, the capital of Turkey.”

“Paul relates only that, due to illness, he was obliged to stay in that region (cf. Gal 4:13),” said the Holy Father. “Saint Luke, in the Acts of the Apostles, finds instead a more spiritual motivation. He says, ‘they went through the region of Phry’gia and Galatia, having been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the Word in Asia’ (16:6).”

However, explains the Pope, “the two facts are not contradictory: rather, they indicate that the path of evangelisation does not always depend on our will and plans, but requires a willingness to allow ourselves to be shaped and to follow other paths that were not foreseen. (CNA photo)

Francis pointed out that we see “in his indefatigable work of evangelisation, the Apostle succeeded in founding several small communities scattered throughout the region of Galatia. Paul, when he arrived in a city, in a region, did not construct a great cathedral immediately, no. He created small communities that are the leaven of our Christian culture today. He began by making small communities. And these small communities grew, they grew and they went forward. Today, too, this pastoral method is used in every missionary region. I received a letter last week, from a missionary in Papua New Guinea, telling me that he is preaching the Gospel in the forest, to people who do not even know who Jesus Christ was.”

He then highlights Paul’s “pastoral concern,” stating that, “after founding these Churches, he became aware of a great danger to their growth in faith – the pastor is like a father or a mother who immediately aware of dangers to their children. They grow, and dangers present themselves.”

“Indeed, some Christians who had come from Judaism had infiltrated these churches, and began to sow theories contrary to the Apostle’s teaching, even going so far as to denigrate him. They began with doctrine – “No to this, yes to that”, and then they denigrated the Apostle. It is the usual method: undermining the authority of the Apostle.”

“Not only that,” stressed Pope Francis, “those adversaries argued that Paul was not a true apostle and therefore had no authority to preach the Gospel. Let us think about how in some Christian communities or dioceses, first they begin with stories, and then they end by discrediting the priest or the bishop. It is precisely the way of the evil one, of these people who divide, who do not know how to build. And in this Letter to the Galatians we see this process.”

The faithful in Galatia thus “felt lost and uncertain about how to behave: “But who is right? This Paul, or these people who now come teaching other things? Who should I listen to?” In short, there was a lot at stake!!

The Holy Father concluded his first catechesis by noting that, “following the teaching of the Apostle Paul in his Letter to the Galatians will help us to understand which path to follow. The path indicated by the Apostle is the liberating and ever-new path of Jesus, Crucified and Risen; it is the path of proclamation, which is achieved through humility and fraternity – the new preachers do not know what humility is, what fraternity is. It is the path of meek and obedient trust – the new preachers know neither meekness nor obedience. And this meek and obedient way leads forward in the certainty that the Holy Spirit works in the Church in every age. Ultimately, faith in the Holy Spirit present in the Church carries us forward and will save us.”




At the Sunday Angelus, January 31st of this year, Pope Francis announced the institution of the World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly to take place each year on the 4th Sunday in July, close to the July 26 feast of Sts Joachim and Anne, the parents of Our Blessed Mother and grandparents of Jesus.

Francis said he wanted a World Day of Grandparents and the Elderly because “grandparents are often forgotten, and we forget this wealth of preserving roots and passing on what the elderly have received.” He said it is important for grandparents and grandchildren to get to know one another, because “as the prophet Joel says, grandparents see their grandchildren dream, … while young people, drawing strength from their grandparents, will go forward and prophesy.”

That day is now just over a month away and the Vatican this morning, in a press conference, presented a papal video about this new Church celebration and plans for the celebration in Rome and in dioceses throughout the world.

The World Day of Grandparents and the Elderly, prepared by the Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life, will take place on Sunday, July 25 on the theme “I am with you always” (cf. Mt 28:20). Pope Francis will preside at a Mass together with the elderly in St Peter’s Basilica at 10am.

When I posted the news of the papal announcement on February 1st, I thought immediately of two people, now very dear friends, who were in no small way behind the idea for such a day – Catherine Wiley who founded the Catholic Grandparents Association (CGA) in the UK and Marilyn Henry who founded the American branch of this association.

We spoke (and I interviewed them for Vatican Insider) when they were in Rome for the January 29-31, 2020 “The Richness of Many Years of Life” conference organized by the Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life that brought together 550 participants from 60 countries. Catherine told us how she came to found this Association and both women spoke about the work of CGA and how grandparents can join this unique, lively and loving association.

When the Holy Father held an audience for this group, Catherine was able to personally greet him and, taking advantage of that brief time with Pope Francis, asked him if he might consider the idea of a World Day for Grandparents!

It seems he listened to that proposal!

Here is a link to Pope Francis’ video message, made public today by the Vatican: Pope to the elderly: God sends his angels to console your loneliness – Vatican News

Lots of info and suggestions and good ideas here: Pastoral resources and other information: World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly (

Cardinal Kevin Farrell, head of the dicastery for Laity, Family and Life said at tofay’s press conference, “The World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly is a celebration. We really needed it: after such a difficult year we truly need to celebrate, grandparents and grandchildren, young and old. We should celebrate and rejoice.” (vatican media)

Noting that tenderness is a key word of Pope Francis’ message, the cardinal said, “Tenderness towards the elderly is needed because, as the Holy Father recalls in the message we present to you today, the Virus ‘has been much harsher with them’. For this reason, the Pope hopes that an angel will visit, and will come down to console them in their solitude, and he imagines that this angel looks like a young person who visits an elderly person.2

“On the other hand,” he added, “the Day also speaks to us of the tenderness that grandparents show towards their grandchildren, of the solid guide that the elderly can be for many disoriented children, especially in a time like the one we are living in, in which personal interaction has become rare. Tenderness is not just a private feeling, one that soothes wounds, but a way of relating to others, which should also be experienced in public. We have become accustomed to living alone, to not hugging each other, to considering the other as a threat to our health.

Cardinal Farrell explained that, “In a frayed and hardened society emerging from the pandemic, not only is there a need for vaccines and economic recovery (albeit fundamental), but also for relearning the art of relationships. In this, grandparents and the elderly can be our teachers. This is also why they are so important.” (CNS photo)

Princess Leonore, held by Sweden’s Queen Silvia, gives a papal key chain to Pope Francis during her grandmother’s private audience with Pope Francis in the Apostolic Palace at the Vatican in this April 27, 2015, file photo. The pope has chosen the theme, “I am with you always,” for the first World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly, which will be celebrated July 25, 2021. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

“I would like to focus on a theme dear to the Holy Father: the wisdom of the elderly,” said the cardinal. “Insisting on wisdom does not stem from the idea that elderly people are endowed with greater wisdom than others, rather they have an experiential wisdom – the wisdom of many years of life. The elderly are a great resource for getting out of a crisis, better and not worse. This is above all to help us understand that what we are experiencing is not the first crisis, nor will it be the last, and that the story of mankind is placed in a history that transcends them.”

He concluded: “I hope that the World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly helps us to grow in our love for the elderly and to discover them as teachers of tenderness, guardians over our roots and dispensers of wisdom. For our part, the whole Church repeats to every grandparent and to every elder: “we will be with you always”, until the end of time. (vatican media)

The Apostolic Penitentiary grants a Plenary Indulgence for this day, “under the usual conditions (sacramental confession, Eucharistic communion and prayer according to the intentions of the Supreme Pontiff) to grandparents, the elderly and all the faithful who, motivated by a true spirit of penance and charity, will participate on 25 July 2021, on the occasion of the First World Day of Grandparents and the Elderly, in the solemn celebration that the Most Holy Father Francis will preside over in the Vatican Papal Basilica or at the various functions that will be held throughout the world, who may also apply it as suffrage for the souls in Purgatory.”

“This Court of Mercy also grants the Plenary Indulgence on this same day to the faithful who devote adequate time to actually or virtually visiting their elderly brothers and sisters in need or in difficulty (such as the sick, the abandoned, the disabled and other similar cases).

“The Plenary Indulgence may also be granted to, provided that they detach themselves from any sins and intend to fulfill the three usual conditions as soon as possible, the elderly sick and all those who, unable to leave their homes for a serious reason, will unite themselves spiritually to the sacred functions of the World Day, offering to the Merciful God their prayers, pains or sufferings of their lives, especially during the transmission, through the means of television and radio, but also through the new means of social communication the words of the Supreme Pontiff and the celebrations.”

The Penitentiary requested “priests, equipped with the appropriate faculties to hear confessions, to make themselves available, in a ready and generous spirit, for the celebration of Penance.”


Today is the first day of summer and the first day of a kind of rebirth. The block-long apartment building in which I live has been shrouded in canvas-covered scaffolding since the start of October 2020 – the front and back façades and the two sides of the building, a huge undertaking. Today, for the first time since then I can see my beloved dome of St. Peter’s Basilica as 90 percent of the scaffolding on the front of the building has come down!

Serious work is now being done on the back of the building where all of our balconies are located. I have three rooms in the back of the building, each of which has a balcony. However, as lovely as that might sound, there is no great view to enjoy and balconies get dirty and dusty so fast that no one ever uses them for just sitting and visiting with friends or sharing a cappuccino or glass of wine.

A downside in the work on the back of the building is that the outside units of my AC have all been covered so, until the work is finished and scaffolding comes down, I can’t turn on the air conditioning. And today it was 92!

As the expression goes, this too will pass!   Another thing to offer the Lord for the poor souls in purgatory!

We did get new elevator in the building renovation process and if nothing else had been done to the building, that was worth the inconvenience! In the old elevator, you opened one outside door and two small doors to enter the cabin. You reversed that once inside. Then you repeated the entire procedure when you got to your floor. So, all told, you opened and closed 12 doors in one trip! And now it is all automatic! Welcome to the 21st century!

Will soon post some photos of the building before and after the reno.

THE POPE’S DAY: Shortly after 8:45 this morning at the Santa Marta residence, Pope Francis met a group of about 20 inmates from Rome’s Rebibbia prison. Accompanied by the prison director, the chaplain and some officials, the group subsequently went to visit the Vatican Museums. (from Holy See Press Office)


The Holy See’s humanitarian arm for the Oriental Churches kicked off its plenary meeting on Monday with ROACO’s attention going to the Holy Land, Ethiopia, Armenia, and Georgia in particular.

By Devin Watkins (Vatican news)

The Reunion of Aid Agencies for the Oriental Churches (ROACO) began its 94th plenary assembly on Monday afternoon at the Casa Bonus Pastor in Rome.

The annual meeting runs until Thursday.

In a press release today, the Congregation for the Oriental Churches laid out the schedule for the 4-day assembly.

Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, prefect of the Congregation and ROACO President, will preside over the opening Eucharist on Tuesday, during which all the agencies donor will be prayed for.

The Mass also serves to entrust “to the Lord and the intercession of the Blessed Mother of God the progress of the scheduled sessions and especially countries which continue to suffer because of violence and social and political instability made worse by the ongoing pandemic.”

Concern for Holy Land

Tuesday morning’s sessions will be dedicated to the situation in the Holy Land, as well as ROACO’s work to assist people in the area. (vatican media photo)

Church leaders presenting on the topic include the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, Archbishop Pierbattista Pizzaballa, the Custos of the Holy Land, Fr. Francesco Patton, and the Vice Chancellor of Bethlehem University, Br. Peter Bray.

Participants will also be informed about the 2020 Collection Pro Terra Sancta.

Ethiopia, Armenia, Georgia

In the afternoon, ROACO’s attention shifts to the situation in Ethiopia to be presented by the Apostolic Nuncio, Archbishop Antoine Camilleri.

Ethiopia’s Tigray region saw a devastating conflict near the end of 2020 and into this year. The UN recently reported that Tigray is home to some 30,000 children who are severely malnourished, with over 400,000 people facing famine in the region.

The afternoon session will also focus on Armenia and Georgia, through an intervention from Archbishop José Avelino Bettencourt, the Apostolic Nuncio to both nations.

Middle Eastern region

On Wednesday, participants in the plenary session will turn their focus to the entire Middle East, concentrating especially on Syria and Iraq.

Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher, the Vatican Secretary for Relations with States, will speak at the assembly, along with the Pope’s representatives in Syria (Cardinal Mario Zenari), Lebanon (Archbishop Joseph Spiteri), and Iraq (Archbishop Mitja Leskovar).



A Little Bit of This and A Little Bit of That….

English weekly edition of L’Osservatore Romano: ING_2021_025_1806.pdf (

The following was in my inbox today – the daily PAUSE AND PRAY reflection I get from Franciscan media. I was especially struck by ACT!


Gratitude is a spiritual practice that changes our littleness into abundance. It changes how we see our lives, situations, and experiences. We can always find something to be grateful for, even when life is hard or less than ideal.


Dear Jesus,
take all that is in me
and pour it out in a sacrifice of gratitude.
Teach me that gratitude is a way
to always come close to and experience your presence.
Practicing gratitude is an opportunity
to name all the ways you love and bless me in my life. Amen.


Set a timer for five or ten minutes. Begin to count and name all your blessings, all the things for which you are grateful; all the ways that God loves and cares for you.

Among my countless blessings, at the top of a long list, is my Dad, whom I remember with great love and cherished memories every Father’s Day, and hundreds of times in between! He and all Fathers will be in my prayers this weekend.

I paid tribute to him in this edition of At Home – go to the bottom 6 or so minutes: At Home with Jim and Joy – 2021-06-14 – Jim and Joy Call-in Show – YouTube


My guest this week in the interview is Paulist Fr. Matt Berrios. The Paulist Fathers have been in Rome 99 years, administering to the Catholic American community and other English-language Catholic residents or visitors. We now have two Paulist priests at St. Patrick’s – Fathers Steve Petroff, the rector and Joe Ciccone, vice rector – but a third Paulist is here, Fr. Matt. Ordained at the Paulist-run church of St. Paul the Apostle, in New York City on May 20, 2017, Fr. Matt served there as associate pastor until July 2020 when he moved to Rome to pursue advanced studies at the Pontifical Oriental Institute.

Also known as the Orientale, the Italian acronym is PIO. And that is what Fr. Matt will talk about this weekend – what are the Oriental Churches? What studies is he pursuing? What courses does the PIO offer? And much more.

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.



In the fall of 2005, a dream held for years by EWTN’s Mother Angelic was realized. This global network was finally going to open a Rome office and I had the honor, the great privilege, to be asked by the network to be the first EWTN Rome Bureau Chief.

On August 22, the very beautiful day I signed my contract in Alabama, I visited the shrine in Hanceville and met Mother Angelica, purely by chance! She was praying at the tomb of her mother in the lower chapel of the shrine. Though she had had a stroke and lost her ability to speak, when Doug Keck explained to her that I would be the EWTN Rome bureau chief – her dream! – she gave me her blessing and placed her hands on my eyes, ears, mouth and hands, moving her lips in prayer as she did so. I met her one other time in subsequent visits to EWTN offices in Irondale, Alabama.

To this very day, from starting the first office in my home, all the intervening years were heady times – papal trips, two conclaves, the canonizations of three Popes, Mother Teresa and Cardinal John Henry Newman, as well as a thousand front page stories about the Vatican, about Popes John Paul, emeritus Benedict XVI and Francis.

Alan Holdren came to Rome in 2009 and was soon bureau chief for CNA News and in 2016 succeeded me as Rome Bureau Chief. More heady years! Years of great growth in technology, in personnel and in opening offices in many cities and countries in Europe.

I was delighted when Alan was hired by EWTN and, in these past years, have been doubly delighted by his friendship and that of his wife Susanna and their four beautiful children.

Yesterday was Alan’s final day as head of the Rome office: here’s a glimpse of his story as he told it last night on EWTN News Nightly: Vatican Chief Bureau for EWTN Says Goodbye to the Network | EWTN News Nightly – YouTube

Andreas Thonhauser from Germany will succeed Alan in Rome, arriving in August with his wife and family. A formal announcement and welcome to come from EWTN.

In the meantime, here’s an historic photo, if I don’t say so myself! First EWTN bureau chief Joan Lewis, outgoing bureau chief Alan Holdren and the newest members of our global family, Andreas!

I love the photo and said, when I saw it: “You’ve heard of the Three Tenors? Well, we are the Three Tenured!”



Today’s general audience took place in a sun-splashed San Damaso courtyard in the Apostolic Palace in then presence of hundreds and hundreds of faithful. Today was Pope Francis’  21st catechesis of the year 2021 and the 362nd of his pontificate.

Francis announced at the start of the catechesis that “today we conclude our series of catecheses on prayer by turning once again to the prayer of Jesus. In the final hours of his life, Jesus’ constant dialogue with the Father becomes all the more intense, as he approaches his saving death and resurrection.”

Calling the Last Supper the “great priestly prayer,” he said “Jesus intercedes for his disciples and for all those who will believe through their word. In the agony in the garden, he offers his anguish to the Father and lovingly embraces his will. At the darkest hour of his suffering on the cross, Jesus continues to pray, using the traditional words of the Psalms, identifying himself with the poor and abandoned of our world.” (vatican media)

The Holy Father underscored that Jesus “was not a philanthropist who took care of human suffering and illness: He was and is much more,” offering us “total salvation, messianic salvation, that gives hope in the definitive victory of life over death.”

In those moments, the crucified Lord takes upon himself the burden of all the sins of the world. For our sake, he experiences the distance separating sinners from God, and becomes the supreme and eternal intercessor for all mankind.

Francis explained that “this is the final catechesis of this cycle on prayer: remember the grace that we do not only pray, but that, so to speak, we have been “prayed for”, we have already been received in Jesus’ dialogue with the Father, in communion with the Holy Spirit. Jesus prays for me: each one of us can take this to heart. We must not forget. Even in the worst moments.”

“We are already welcomed into Jesus’ dialogue with the Father in the communion of the Holy Spirit,” concluded the Pope. “We were willed by Christ Jesus, and even in the hour of His passion, death and resurrection, everything was offered for us. And so, with prayer and with life, there remains only to have courage and hope, and with this courage and hope, to feel the prayer of Jesus strongly and to keep on going: so that our life may be one of giving glory to God in the knowledge that He prays for me to the Father, that Jesus prays for me.”

Click here for video of entire audience: Pope at Audience: On the Cross, Jesus prayed for each of us – Vatican News