Who can forget hearing Pope Benedict announce his resignation of the papacy on February 11, 2013 and then, in one of the most moving, touching, memorable videos of a papacy, fly over Vatican City in a helicopter for Castelgandolfo where he would reside for several months.

The Sede vacante began at 8 pm, February 28, 2013.

Do you remember?

I certainly do because I reported on this momentous day in Church history for EWTN television. There were many moments when I was not sure I could control my emotions and a few when you could sense and see what I felt. I’ve seen this several times in years past and always tear up a bit. The Rome portions starts at about 5:40: (12) Pope’s Departure From the Vatican – 2013-02-28 – YouTube


In an interview with Vatican News, Cardinal Péter Erdő, Archbishop of Esztergom-Budapest, Hungary, discusses his “great joy” for Pope Francis’ upcoming Apostolic Journey to the nation from 28 to 30 April, while recognizing the significance of the visit taking place with the backdrop of the war in Ukraine.

By Deborah Castellano Lubov

Cardinal Peter Erdo says Pope Francis’ Apostolic Journey to Hungary will be a great joy for the nation.

In an interview with Vatican News, the Archbishop of Esztergom-Budapest, Primate of Hungary, expressed his delight about the Holy Father’s upcoming journey to the Eastern European country from 28 to 30 April, marking the Pope’s 41st Apostolic Journey abroad.

On Monday, the Director of the Holy See Press Office, Matteo Bruni, announced the Pope would make the visit after having accepted the invitation of the civil and ecclesial authorities to visit the country.

In the interview, Cardinal Erdo gives his personal reaction to, and his expectations for, the papal journey, also as it takes place with the backdrop of the war in Ukraine.

He also expresses why Pope Francis’ return to Hungarian territory is significant, and sheds light on the program itself, including the Holy Father’s planned meeting with children.

During his three-day journey, the Pope will visit with refugees and poor people, as well as with children of the Blessed László Batthyány-Strattmann Institute.

More than half of Hungarians are Christian, and at least 37 percent of the population identify as Catholic.

Since the start of the war in Ukraine, nearly 1 million Ukrainian nationals have travelled through Hungary as refugees, according to local sources.

The Holy Father had made a brief stop in the country’s capital of Budapest to celebrate Mass for the closure of the 52nd International Eucharistic Congress on 12 September 2021, on his way to Slovakia.

Pope Francis had also has shown his closeness to the Hungarian faithful during his visit to Romania, when celebrated Mass at the popular Hungarian pilgrimage site of Csíksomlyó (Șumuleu Ciuc) in Romania’s Transylvania region. Transylvania had once been part of Hungary, but became Romanian territory in 1920. Ethnic Hungarians in Romania total more than one million people.

Q: Cardinal Erdo, how do you comment on Pope Francis’ Apostolic Journey to Hungary, and what are your expectations for this visit?

With great joy we received the news of the Holy Father’s visit to Hungary. We invited him as the Hungarian Church, as the Church of Budapest, and we wanted to welcome him for a pastoral visit.

Last time, when he visited our city to participate in the closing Mass of the World Eucharistic Congress (September 2021, ed.), it was a lightning visit. Instead, a pastoral visit, a meeting with the community of the faithful, was something that had been desired for many years. So it is an immense joy.

Q: As you mentioned, this is not the first time the Holy Father has come to Hungary. Why is his return to the country important now?

Precisely because of the very fact of a meeting with the Hungarian faithful. The event of 2021 was an international event: pilgrims, bishops, priests, faithful were present from 83 countries. This time, however, Francis is addressing the Hungarians, our people, our local Church. This gives us great honour and joy.

Q: In the background of this trip, there is the war in Ukraine. How will this reality be important during the trip? We know Hungary helped so many Ukrainian refugees during this time of the invasion.

The news of the war that broke out a year ago and went on all this year means a lot of sadness for us. Sadness for the very fact of the war, because we have been praying for peace every day for a year, even in different communities. We also regularly hold peace processions and have consecrated Ukraine and Russia to Our Lady, as the Holy Father had invited us to do. We did this act in St Stephen’s Basilica in front of his relic, because St Stephen a thousand years ago was the first who, according to history, offered an entire country to Our Lady. And so, we felt a spiritual closeness to the two peoples.

And what do we do? First of all, we have to face the great challenge of refugees. We are a country of less than ten million inhabitants, and in the last year more than one and a half million refugees have arrived from Ukraine. Certainly not all of them wanted to stay in Hungary, but 10-15% of the refugees stayed.

So the first challenge was humanitarian aid. We received the refugees both at the border and in Budapest, through the national Caritas, the diocesan Caritas and the charity groups of the individual parishes. Then there were the Knights of Malta who did so much for those who arrived.

Q: And the faithful were rather involved in this assistance?

Then we had to organise the spontaneous help offered by the faithful, the hospitality of certain parishes and ecclesial institutions as well as private individuals. We also saw that there are many women and children who need schools, teaching. We could also organise this in Catholic schools. There were teachers who knew Russian, others among the refugees who spoke Ukrainian. And so we tried to organise the teaching according to the age of the groups of children.

There were also Hungarian-speaking refugees from the area bordering Hungary, so integration was easier for them. But we also try to integrate the others, offering them a job, a flat that they can use for a longer period of time… So I think it is a challenge that continues to be very great, but one that helps us to become aware of our Christian vocation.

Q: Looking at the programme released by the Holy See Press Office, one sees a meeting with children. Can you tell us more?

For several decades there has been an ecclesiastical institute in Budapest that takes in blind and disabled children. So they need a lot of affection and help from the entire Catholic community.

This institute will be visited in April by the Pope who always shows solidarity and tenderness towards these children.




Some years ago, when I was working for the Holy See at the Vatican Information Service, I wrote a piece on the history of papal retreats. Because there is generally so little news during such a retreat, given that Pope does not hold audiences in this period and the heads of Roman Curia offices are also involved in the retreat, we had to find something for our readers so I researched the history of papal retreats:

Pope Francis and ranking members of the Roman Curia are on a Lenten retreat this week, each person in a private, individual way. Retreat time ends Friday, March 3. This is the third year that the pope and curial officials will be doing individual retreats. In 2020, Francis had a bad cold that kept him from participating in a retreat and then, for two Covid-related years, 2021 and 2022, everyone followed individual retreat programs.

They previously spent retreat weeks in Ariccia at the Divine Master retreat center as they had been doing since 2014 when Pope Francis inaugurated the idea of a retreat outside Vatican City.

Annual retreats for the Pope and Roman Curia trace their origins to Pope Pius XI who, on December 20, 1929 marked the 50th anniversary of his priestly ordination by publishing the Encyclical “‘Mens nostra,’ On The Promotion of Spiritual Exercises” which he addressed to “Patriarchs, Primates, Archbishops, Bishops and Other Local Ordinaries in Peace and Communion with the Apostolic See.” In that encyclical, the Pope informed the faithful that he had arranged to hold spiritual exercises every year in the Vatican, a custom still practiced by the Holy Father and ranking members of the Roman Curia. In the early years this retreat was held during the first week in Advent but now takes place in the first full week of Lent. Cardinal Achille Ratti, archbishop of Milan, was elected to the papacy on February 6, 1922, and took the name of Pius XI. He died on February 10, 1939.

On January 6, 1929 feast of the Epiphany, Pius XI declared a Jubilee Year to mark the upcoming 50th anniversary of his ordination and asked the faithful to “share in the joy of their common father and to join with us in rendering thanks to the Supreme Giver of all good.” At the end of that year, in the Encyclical “Mens nostra,” he looked back at the “many and rich fruits” of the Jubilee and wrote that, as a way to “express our heartfelt gratitude, … we have deemed it fitting … to establish something most excellent which will, we trust, prove a source of many advantages to the Christian people. We are speaking of the practice of Spiritual Exercises, which we earnestly desire to see daily extended more widely, not only among the clergy, both secular and regular, but also among the multitudes of the Catholic laity.”

Pius XI then wrote at length on the history of “Sacred Retreats,” citing the words on this subject of his predecessors, of Doctors of the Church and founders of religious orders such as Don Bosco of the Salesians and, most especially of St. Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Jesuits, “whom we are pleased to call the chief and peculiar Master of Spiritual Exercises.”

The Pope in fact, on July 22, 1922 had “declared and constituted St. Ignatius of Loyola the heavenly Patron of all Spiritual Exercises and, therefore, of institutes, sodalities and bodies of every kind assisting those who are making the Spiritual Exercises.”   He underscored the “joy and consolation” he found in Spiritual Exercises and he announced: “And in order that we may secure this joy and consolation, both for ourselves and for others who are near us, We have already made arrangements for holding the Spiritual Exercises every year in the Vatican.” While highlighting the value of retreats, he admonished: “Nor should the priests of the Clergy, secular and regular, think that the time spent on the Spiritual Exercises tends to the detriment of the apostolic ministry.”


Posted March 3, 2014

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Less than a week before he was to take top Vatican officials and head out of town for a weeklong Lenten retreat, Pope Francis said retreats should renew the faith of participants, transforming their ministry and their relationships with others.

“Those who live a retreat in an authentic way,” the pope said, “experience the attraction and fascination of God and return renewed and transfigured in their daily lives, their ministry and their relationships.”

The pope met March 3 with an Italian federation of spiritual directors and those who run retreat houses throughout the country, offering Christians “space and time to listen intensely to the word of God in silence and in prayer.”

Pope Francis and senior members of the Roman Curia were scheduled to hold their annual Lenten retreat March 9-14. The Vatican had announced in October that rather than holding the daily Lenten prayers and meditations in the Vatican, Pope Francis had decided the retreat would be at the Pauline Fathers’ retreat and conference center in Ariccia, a town about 20 miles southeast of Rome.

The Vatican press office distributed copies of the 20th annotation from the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Jesuits. The note encourages people making a retreat to leave their home, their office and “all earthly care” to concentrate only on their prayer and meditation.

In an interview published March 5 by the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera, Pope Francis said he thought it was necessary to give the annual retreat more importance. “Everyone has a right to spend five days in silence and meditation,” he said, but when the retreat was at the Vatican, many of the participants would listen to the talks, then go back to their offices and work.

CNA   2020 pope had cold –  letter sent to Jesuit Fr Pietro Bovati.

In it, the Pope extended his prayer and blessings to the retreat director and the Roman Curia.

“I am accompanying you from here,” he wrote. “I will do the Exercises in my room, following Fr Bovati’s preaching, to whom I extend my gratitude. I pray for you. Please, pray for me.”

Fr Bovati, the Secretary of the Pontifical Biblical Commission, gave his first reflection on Sunday evening, introducing the theme: “The bush was on fire (Ex 3:2) – The encounter between God and man in light of the book of Exodus, the Gospel of Matthew, and the prayer of the Psalms.”


Pope St. Paul VI moved the annual meditations from Advent to Lent and was the first to select non-Italians to preach the spiritual exercises. He notably invited a young cardinal from Poland to lead the Lenten retreat: Cardinal Karol Wojtyła, who preached in 1976 on “Christ, a sign of contradiction” two years before he was elected pope.

Pope St. John Paul II invited Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the future Pope Benedict XVI, to preach the spiritual exercises in 1983 and in 2000 Msgr. François-Xavier van Thuân preached the year before he was made a cardinal.

Benedict XVI invited cardinals from Africa to preach the spiritual exercises, among them Cardinal Francis Arinze and Cardinal Laurent Monsengwo Pasinya.

Pope Francis was the first to move the spiritual exercises from the Vatican to a retreat house outside of Rome. For the past seven years, the retreat has taken place in a retreat house in the town of Ariccia in the Alban Hills southeast of Rome, although the Pope was unable to participate in 2020 due to a cold.

According to the Pauline priest who runs the Casa Divin Maestro retreat centre, where the papal retreat has taken place since 2014, a typical day during the retreat begins with Mass. After breakfast, the bishops and cardinals listen to the first meditation in the chapel.

The second meditation is heard after lunch. Other time is devoted to praye r. The retreat house also offers Internet access, so dicastery heads who wish to do some work during the week may do so.

This year, for the first time since the Second Vatican Council, the annual retreat did not take place as a time of communal prayer due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Instead, the Pope asked the members of the Roman Curia to make their own arrangements for a private Lenten retreat in February. All papal events, including the Wednesday general audience, were cancelled for the week.

Pope Francis gave each member of the Roman Curia a book to include in their spiritual reading. The book was written by an unnamed Cistercian monk in the 17th century and is entitled Abbi a cuore il Signore, which means “Keep the Lord in your Heart.” It was originally written to aid monks in the Italian monastery of San Bartolo.

In the text, the “Master of San Bartolo” wrote: “God will meet you where your humanity has descended all the steps of weakness and you will have reached the awareness of your limitation. If you yourself do not choose the path of abasement, life will take you where you would not want because, as the Lord teaches, only those who live their weakness with humility will be exalted.”


Though not LENT, Pope Francis was a retreat master in 2016 – EXTRAORDINARY JUBILEE OF MERCY –spiritual retreat given by his holiness pope francis on the occasion of the jubilee for priests -first meditation – basilica of saint john lateran – thursday, 2 june 2016


Hopefully things will start to move this week as I have finally received permission from my insurance company to see an orthopedic doctor and have an MRI. If I am able, I will keep you posted in some way or another. Say a prayer!

In my last column about an American priest who was in Rome for the general chapter of his religious Order, the Marians of the Immaculate Conception, I noted that his Ash Wednesday homily (posted on Youtube) started with him telling about the audience the MIC had with Pope Francis, at which Father was told by a member of the curia not to ask controversial questions of the Pope. I was very surprised at that remark, at the restrictions implied therein, and highlighted it in my post. Most everyone who responded to that post was equally surprised but I did hear from those who felt I should have presented another side of the coin. In fact, I probably should have added that we have no idea if the Holy Father is aware of restrictions that might be put on people he receives in audience and get a chance to talk to him. I have no idea if this might have been an isolated incident, and did not mention that. I had no intention of putting the papacy, Pope Francis, in a negative light and I could have done that by omission. Thanks for understanding!


In a statement from the Holy See Press Office, Director Matteo Bruni announced on Monday: “Accepting the invitation of the civil and ecclesial Authorities, His Holiness Pope Francis will make an Apostolic Journey to Hungary from 28 to 30 April 2023, visiting the city of Budapest.” The papal visit will mark Pope Francis’ 41st Apostolic Journey abroad and the 61st nation visited since the start of his pontificate. During his three-day journey, the Pope will visit with refugees and poor people, as well as with children of the Blessed László Batthyány-Strattmann Institute.

Cardinal Péter Erdő, Metropolitan Archbishop of Esztergom-Budapest and Primate of Hungary –

As is customary, the Holy Father will address authorities, civil society and the diplomatic corps; young people; bishops, priests, deacons, consecrated persons, seminarians and pastoral workers; and representatives of the academic and cultural world. More than half of Hungarians are Christian, and at least 37 percent of the population identify as Catholic. FOR MORE: Pope Francis to make Apostolic Journey to Hungary in April – Vatican News

St. Stephen’s Basilica in Budapest –


Pardon my infrequent appearances here but I’m still on home rest, having doctor’s visits and simply waiting for my insurance company to approve the MRI. Most every movement is painful and sitting for long periods is not that easy but I do my best to stay informed, write essential emails, watch Mass online, etc. And this afternoon I participated via streaming in an EWTN employee Lenten retreat with Birmingham’s Bishop Steven Raica, a friend from his many years in Rome.

Today, I saw something on Facebook that I felt compelled to share with you. I found it so incredible I had to check it out myself. I did and the link is below.


I am guessing that many, maybe most of you, know Marian Father Chris Alar, MIC, director of the Association of Marian Helpers. If you don’t know him, there are plenty of Youtube videos out there to meet him.

The one that will truly surprise you for what he says in his Ash Wednesday homily.

He starts the homily by first noting that he had just returned from Rome where the General Chapter of the Marian Fathers (MIC, Marians of the Immaculate Conception). The priests had a meeting during their time in Rome a meeting with Pope Francis. As Fr. Alar tells us of his encounter with Francis, “perhaps my reputation precedes me,” adding that a member of the Roman Curia came up to him and told him not to bring up any topics of conversation that are controversial.

Father Chris joked with the official, “well, I have a list….,” and the official said “no, you are not to bring up those topics,” and Fr. Chris said, “not even synodality?”

I was flabbergasted when I read the FB post and more so when I watched the video. What on earth are we to think? I had no idea of such restrictions – have never heard of such restrictions – but then I’ve never asked every priest I know who has ever met the Pope if they were restricted.

Maybe I’m making a big thing of this but it does seem extraordinary, a priest being limited in what he can say to or ask of the Holy Father.

When we read the papal interviews with the media, it certainly seems that no holds are barred.

P.S. The great news is that I learned from Fr. Chris’ homily that a very dear friend in Rome, Fr. Joe Roesch, is the new superior general of the Marians! You also know him from EWTN and specials relating to Divine Mercy

(31) Fr Chris Alar MIC – Homily Ash Wednesday Feb 22, 2023 – Preparation for Mercy Sunday Begins Now! – YouTube


Notwithstanding the issues I am having with bad back pain, a doctor’s order to not work for a week and the continuing search for solutions and tests for my problem, I could not let today pass in silence. I rested most of the day and felt comfortable enough to sit at my computer and prepare this column. By the way, thanks for the many prayers!

I keep up with Vatican news and when I saw today’s papal rescript on the TLM, I knew I had to bring a few things to light. Please, please read this when you have some quality time. Especially leave time for the radio interview with Bishop Thomas Paprocki of Springfield, Illinois, a canon lawyer.


To learn a LOT more about the papal rescript issued today at the Vatican as well as “Traditionis Custodes,” the papal document at the heart of the rescript, from a very knowledgeable and respected canon lawyer, you absolutely must read this piece by JD Flynn to understand the entire question about the Traditional Latin Mass: The rescript, Lent, and prayers for Bishop O’Connell (pillarcatholic.com). Scroll down almost half way and you will find the rescript story.

Please, please only read this when you have the time to digest it all – and pray over the matter, even one Ave Maria.

Pope Francis, as he has done in a number of time in the almost 10 years of his pontificate, single-handedly, once again, changed church law via today’s rescript. This is a new law, not another interpretation of what was written in “Traditionis Custodes,” The Vatican news story says the Pope “clarifies” two points in TC. That is made clear in The Pillar.

This is all very important for our Catholic faith, folks. It regards liturgy, the Eucharist, the Mass. The Catechism of the Catholic Church describes the Eucharist, i.e., the Sacrifice of the Mass, as “the source and summit of the Christian life” (CCC 1324).

The Traditional Latin Mass is one of two rites in our Church, the other being the novus ordo or Novus Ordo Missae, meaning the “new order of the Mass,” the Mass in modern languages that most of us attend, for example, during the week and on Sundays in our parishes. The novus ordo distinguishes the Mass promulgated by Pope Paul VI in 1969 from the Traditional Latin Mass promulgated by Pope Pius V in 1570.

Since 2021, with Pope Francis’ “Traditionis Custodes,” the TLM has been continually restrained and limited by Rome to the point of puzzling, saddening, worrying and even creating anguish for the countless number of faithful who love and faithfully live this Mass, as they love and faithfully live the teachings of the Catholic Church as found in her Magisterium.

Today’s rescript came out as a further restriction on this Mass, actually more of a restriction on bishops and what they can or must do (or cannot or must not do) vis-a-vis the TLM .

And now, let’s look at the behind the scenes, the genesis of “Traditionis Custodes.” It’s all about a survey that Pope Francis asked the then Congregation (now Dicastery) for the Doctrine of the Faith to undertake to get the opinion of the world’s’ bishops on the TLM: Is it OK? Are there problems in their diocese with people attending this Mass? Are TLM attendees faithful Catholics who respect the decrees and teachings of Vatican Council II?

Read on. And please share all you have learned today…


This report on “Traditionis custodes” at the Remnant by Diane Montagna, The Remnant Newspaper – TRADITIONIS CUSTODES: Separating Fact from Fiction, is a blockbuster. I can already hear a few intakes of breath as you read that she learns and then shares with us the actual number of the world’s bishops who responded to the CDF survey! TC implies that the document had to be written because so many bishops were opposed to the TLM. Read on…

You will also want to listen to this: an audio interview with Bishop Paprocki of Springfield, a noted canon lawyer. He talks about TC and refers to the Montagna article and statistics at minute 35:48, answering a question: Changes to the Latin Mass | Catholic Answers   I found this here:  News – Latin Mass Directory


Pope Francis publishes a rescript related to the motu proprio “Traditionis custodes”, and clarifies that bishops must obtain authorization from the Holy See before granting permission for parish churches to be used for Eucharistic celebrations with the preconciliar rite and before allowing priests ordained after 16 July 2021 to use the 1962 Roman Missal. Pope Francis clarifies two points of ‘Traditionis custodes’ – Vatican News




TGIF, indeed! A week I’d like to cancel from my agenda. I awoke a couple of days ago with wrenching back pain, totally unexpected. Nothing helped that day or yesterday, including a multi-hour visit to a local hospital emergency room where, by 8:30 pm, there were still 12 to 15 people ahead of me on the wait list and I actually came home. Today was spent trying to see a doctor and get tests done as well as solve several issues with both my private insurance company and the Vatican health care center because, not being a full Vatican pensioner, I have only partial access.

The pain limits walking and the time I spend sitting so this column might be quiet for a few days until I find out what is wrong and we solve the problem. Say a prayer that happens soon!

VATICAN INSIDER will air as usual but this week it will be a “best of” prepared by my Alabama EWTN colleagues. My appearance Monday afternoon on “At Home with Jim and Joy” is up in the air at this moment. If I’m able to prepare a video segment at home on my iPad, I will do so.

One spiritual moment: As I started to say the rosary this afternoon, I realized it was Friday and that means the Sorrowful Mysteries, the first of which is the Agony in the Garden. While not agony like Our Lord suffered – or even agony suffered by so many in the world today – my pain made this a mystery that hit home. As were the other four mysteries, Lots of reflection today on pain and suffering and doing – or accepting – the Lord’s will!

TGIF has a new meaning for me: “Thank God I’m faith-filled!”

Until next time – Cheers!



On March 13, Pope Francis will be celebrating ten years of his pontificate. To highlight this milestone anniversary in a “viral” manner, the Digital Synod has launched a special online map featuring virtual lighted candles representing the prayers of the faithful worldwide for him.

According to a press release, “The Petrine ministry is a great grace that Jesus granted to His Church and we must always be grateful for it. Therefore, prayer must be our best gift, so that God may support the service of the one He has chosen for this ministry because on this rock He builds His Church in time and history.”

Anyone who wishes to join the initiative will find an invitation on the website to pray one or more Hail Marys. “In the end we will send the Holy Father the map with the  ‘little candles’ that represent the Hail Marys that are prayed for him, thanking God for His Mercy.” Say a prayer (decimus-annus.org) Change language in upper right corner. (Vaticannews)



Do you have evangelizing passion?  Apostolic zeal? What are you passionate about and how do you transmit that passion and enthusiasm?


The Holy Father began today’s general audience catechesis by noting the theme, “The passion of evangelizing, apostolic zeal.” Evangelizing is not saying, ‘Look, blah, blah, blah’ and nothing more. There is a passion that involves everything: the mind, the heart, the hands, going out… everything, the whole person is involved with this proclamation of the Gospel, and for this reason we talk about the passion for evangelizing.

Today, he went on, “we now consider the calling of the twelve apostles, whom Jesus chose “to be with him and to be sent out to proclaim the Good News.” Both aspects of that call are essential, for only by closeness to Jesus do we learn to proclaim him and not ourselves, his word and not our own.”

Jesus tells the apostles “to share the gift that they themselves received, the unmerited gift of God’s redeeming love. Their message must be his own: that the kingdom of God is at hand and requires only that we receive it with open hearts.”

Francis explained that He also “addresses a discourse to them, known as the ‘missionary discourse’—this is what it is called in the Gospel. It is found in chapter 10 of Matthew’s Gospel and is like the ‘constitution’ of the proclamation. From that discourse, which I recommend you read today—it is only one page in the Gospel—I draw out three aspects:  why proclaim, what to proclaim and how to proclaim!

“Jesus also tells the apostles that they are sent forth like sheep among wolves, to propose the Gospel above all by their witness of meekness, innocence and personal conviction, proclaiming Christ more by their actions than by their words.”

Citing St John Chrysostom’s Homily 33 on the Gospel of Matthew, Francis said this Church Father wrote: “As long as we are lambs, we will conquer, and even if we are surrounded by many wolves, we will overcome them. But if we become wolves—‘Ah, how clever, look, I feel good about myself’—we will be defeated, because we will be deprived of the shepherd’s help. He does not shepherd wolves, but lambs’ If I want to be the Lord’s, I have to allow Him to be my shepherd; and He is not the shepherd of wolves, He is the shepherd of lambs, meek, humble, kind as the Lord is.”

The Church, as “apostolic”, is entirely missionary; each of us, in Baptism, is called by Jesus to live in closeness to him and to be sent forth, in union with all our brothers and sisters, to bear witness to his Gospel before the world.


Following the catastrophe caused by the earthquakes that struck Syria and Turkey on 6 February, Pope Francis appealed for closeness and concrete support to alleviate the pain of those who are suffering from the disaster. Nine days after the powerful earthquakes, the rising death toll has topped 41,000. Millions of people have been left without a home and a livelihood.

While the Pope issued his appeal during Sunday’s Angelus, he too put words into action through the Dicastery for the Service of Charity.

Crates of aid departed from the Port of Naples on Wednesday morning aboard the MSC Aurelia Cargo ship that is scheduled to dock in Iskenderum, Turkey in two days’ time.

As well as aid from the Italian government and other NGOs, the ship carries 10,000 thermal jumpers delivered personally by Cardinal Konrad Krajewski, the Papal Almoner. The thermal garments are destined for the Kilis refugee camp in Turkey, 50 km from Gaziantep and 60 km from the Syrian city of Aleppo.

The distribution of aid will be entrusted to operators of the Rava Foundation, which has been present in the area for some time and provides food and shelter to thousands of homeless people.

Following the outbreak of war in Syria, the camp has expanded to accommodate some 60,000 refugees, but it is also home to many others who live in makeshift tents. As expected, the earthquake has aggravated the situation and hundreds of people are joining the refugee families. (Vaticannews)



A man I am delighted to call a friend is Bishop Emmanuel Badejo of Oyo, Nigeria. We met a number of years ago during a synod and also for an interview for Vatican Insider and have corresponded since. He is a dynamic person, full of the love of which he writes below, and especially full of love for young people. He is a great communicator and Pope Francis appointed him a member of the Vatican’s Dicastery for Communication.

If his dynamism and charism were not enough, he plays a mean guitar. I think you’ll enjoy the following EWTN/Aci Africa article: Singing Bishop Breathes Life, Hope in Nigerian Households amid Suspension of Public Mass (aciafrica.org)

The Church is dynamic in Africa and that is due to priests and bishops and men and women religious like Bishop Badejo, full of love for the Lord and His Church. But know that you should pray for the Church in Nigeria as it also suffers persecution.

Let’s do as Bishop Badejo says: Let Love Heal the World!


Valentine’s Day, a time to show love, is a welcome celebration for today’s world, which is so lacking in compassion and selfless love, according to Bishop Emmanuel Adetoyese Badejo of the Diocese of Oyo, in Nigeria.

Bishop Emmanuel Adetoyese Badejo – Diocese of Oyo, Nigeria.

Saint Valentine, with whom the celebration is associated, lived a life of selfless and sacrificial love beyond flowers, material gifts, kisses and sex.

Love keeps the world sane

All who celebrate Valentine’s Day should really become agents of authentic, life-giving love in all forms. If Valentine’s Day is about showing and spreading true love, then we all need it. Children, youth, adults, the elderly, the dying and even the dead all need love. No matter who we are, Bishops, priests, pastors, politicians, people in business, civil servants, traders, entertainers, athletes and artisans, young or old, we all need love to remain sane and make everyday life meaningful.

I have not found a better description of love than what Saint Paul wrote in the Bible, in his letter to the Corinthians: “Love is always patient and kind; love is never jealous; love is not boastful or conceited, it is never rude and never seeks its own advantage, it does not take offence or store up grievances. Love does not rejoice at wrongdoing but finds its joy in truth. It is always ready to make allowances, to trust, to hope and to endure whatever comes. Love never ends” (1 Cor. 13: 4-8).

The healing power of love

That kind of Valentine love is needed in the world today. We need it in our homes; we need it in our churches, mosques and shrines. We need it in our schools; we need it in our streets. We need authentic agents of love in our markets, and we need them in our parks. We need them in our filling stations, businesses, and playgrounds. We need them in our banks where people now suffer for no fault of theirs. We need authentic love in every heart so that our country and world can heal from all our hurts and be sane again.

Paul also said: “If I am without love, I am nothing” (1 Cor 13: 2). Can we ourselves achieve anything worthwhile and enduring without love? I doubt that we can. This is why I call on everybody to welcome and celebrate Valentine’s true authentic love that is selfless, forgiving, empowering, affirming and life-giving.

Celebrate love every day of the year

Valentine is not just about lovers hanging out in pairs. Valentine is also parents who selflessly care for their children with love. Valentine is celebrated in soldiers and security agents who lay down their life to protect others and their nation. It is Valentine when civil servants serve the public with a genuine sense of duty. Yes, it is Valentine when politicians work to address the true needs of the citizens under their care. Authentic Valentines make a difference in homes, families and in society.

We thus need to celebrate such Valentine Days not only in February but every day of the year to help remake a more just, compassionate, and more loving world. That manner of love will conquer all our greed, selfishness, wickedness, hate, and such love never ends!

So, get right ahead, celebrate a good Valentine’s Day and light up the world, for God is love!



Don’t forget that tomorrow is the 31st World Day of the Sick. Instituted by St. John Paul on May 13, 1992 as a way for believers to offer prayers for those suffering from illnesses, this world day is marked on the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes. The theme this year is “Take care of him” from the Gospel according to St. Luke.

If you know someone who is ill or somehow suffering, February 11 is the perfect day to let them know you care and are praying for them. You might want to send an ecard, perhaps an email, maybe even make a phone call, something to raise their spirits and make them smile!


My guests this weekend in the interview segment of “Vatican Insider” are Fr. Ramil Fajardo, rector of the National Shrine of St. Frances Xavier Cabrini in Chicago, sculptor Lou Cella and Carol Christiansen, a St. Cabrini fan, follower and enthusiast and the inspiration for this week’s story.

The four of us are united by our faith, by the fact we are all Chicagoans and by our common love for St. Frances Xavier Cabrini, better known to millions as Mother Cabrini. You’ll hear a bit about Mother Cabrini’s life in this four-way conversation but more importantly what brings a small delegation from Chicago to Rome for a week. Don’t miss this!

Fr. Ramil (L), Lou Cella (in camel jacket) and Carol (holding the miniature of Mother Cabrini) in the cathedral courtyard

The Mother Cabrini in miniature –

The original, just over life-size statue of St. Frances Xavier Cabrini is in the main courtyard of Holy Name cathedral in Chicago!

Lou Cella’s work studio

(CORRECTION ON PHOTO ID: The woman in the picture on the ladder is Jessica LoPresti, the artist who worked with Lou on the project. Not only was she dedicated to this project, she was the model/muse for the statue!)

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And here is why the delegation came to Rome! They presented a copy in miniature of a statue of Mother Cabrini to Pope Francis at the end of a weekly general audience. I saw but do not have the Vatican photo showing a close-up of the Pope with the statue.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if Mother Cabrini, in all her bronze, life-size glory, could come to Rome to celebrate the 2025 Holy Year, to welcome visitors and migrants as she did during her life!  Maybe we could persuade her to stay and continue to welcome visitors and migrants!

IN THE UNITED STATES, you can listen to Vatican Insider (VI) on a Catholic radio station near you (stations listed at www.ewtn.com) or on channel 130 Sirius-XM satellite radio, or on http://www.ewtn.com. 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 www.ewtnradio.net ALWAYS CHECK YOUR OWN TIME ZONE! For VI archives: go to https://www.ewtn.com/radio/audio-archive 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.


According to a press release from the Dicastery of Charity, Cardinal Konrad Krajewski, the Apostolic Almoner and head of the charity office, has, in the name of the Holy Father, invited 2000 people to the Rony Roller circus tomorrow, Saturday, February 11. Among those invited are refugees, the homeless, prisoners, and families with children from Ukraine, Syria, Congo and Sudan. There will also be some families who live in occupied buildings in Rome and more than 150 people from the streets of Torvaianica and various dormitories, accompanied by volunteers, including the Sisters of Mother Teresa.

The circus, says the communique, quoting Pope Francis in a meeting with artists and entertainers, “puts us in touch with the beauty that always lifts us up and makes us go further, it is a way to reach the Lord. … Making it possible for people to attend the circus is one way to give a few hours of serenity to those who face a hard life and need help to fuel hope. The show also reminds us that behind this art and this beauty there are hours and hours of training and sacrifice in order to reach the finish line: the Circus artists are the confirmation that persevering can make the impossible possible.”