I have two stories for you today – good news and bad news – that I hope you find interesting.

The first story – as you can see by the title – is about a Catholic Church in Amman that, on the side, serves pizza! It’s a great story, especially because St. Joseph’s is one of a number of Catholic churches with thriving communities in Amman, the capital of a Muslim-majority country. I’d have to look back at my travel diary to confirm if this is where I attended Mass one Sunday in Amman (before the pizza arrived, however!).

I have a number of very good friends in Amman and am always on a learning curve about the country’s history and culture and cuisine when I am with them. We’ve shared some very wonderful times (and meals!), including a visit to the Baptism site in the Jordan River. My visit to Petra (this should be on every travel bucket list) was made by possible through these friends. The official name of the country, by the way, is The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.

The second story from AsiaNews, the press agency of the Church’s Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions, is the bad news story. As any of you know who’ve been with me even a short period of time, you know I follow events involving the Church in China. I’ve been to both mainland China and Taiwan. In 2018 when the Vatican signed a deal with the China’s communist government regulating the nomination of Catholic bishops, I was truly perplexed.

How many times have I posted stories about the persecution of Christians in China, the arrests and imprisonment of bishops and priests, the closing of churches, government laws that ban anyone 16 and under from going to church and if they are found to be present, that church will be closed. And on and on.

I was perplexed because I felt the Vatican had to know all this. And yet the powers to be felt comfortable signing an agreement (and renewing it in 2020 and 2022) with the communist government allowing them to have a word in crucial Church business, the naming of bishops!

When you read the China story, you will see why I called it the “bad news” story!


It isn’t that often that a church greets its parishioners with smells of fresh basil and sizzling cheese. Yet inside a tree-lined courtyard in Amman, Jordan, that’s exactly what happens. Over the last six years, St. Joseph Parish, a Catholic church in the historic Jabal Amman neighborhood, has earned an entirely new moniker: the “pizza church.”

Passers-by and locals have flocked to St. Joseph’s since October 2017, when a spur of interest by international aid organizations helped the church convert an old kitchen in its basement into a pizzeria. That laid the groundwork for what is now known as Mar Yousef’s Pizza, an Italian restaurant whose guiding mission is to train Iraqi refugees in culinary arts.

St. Joseph’s parish was founded in Jabal Amman by German Christians who came to the city in 1959. But when Father Mario Cornioli, one of the leaders of St. Joseph’s, first came up with the idea of a restaurant in 2017, it was for an entirely different group of immigrants. The Islamic State was devastating large swaths of Iraq, and Iraqi Christians streamed into Jordan to seek refuge.

FOR MORE INFO AND PHOTOS: Inside the ‘Pizza Church’ of Amman – Gastro Obscura (


Beijing (AsiaNews) – Outgoing Chinese Premier Li Keqiang last Friday opened the annual session of the National People’s Congress (NPC).

In his address, Li made the key point that, “The basic policy of the [Chinese Communist] Party on religious activities has been implemented and the ‘sinicization’ of religions has been carried out gradually.” He added that it is necessary to “actively guide religions to adapt to socialist society”.

In Henan, the authorities have followed the order with great zeal. As the China Christian Daily reports, religious believers of every creed are now required to register in order to attend religious services in churches, mosques or Buddhist temples.

In Henan, believers must fill out a form available on the “Smart Religion” application, developed by the Provincial Commission for Ethnic and Religious Affairs, in which they must provide name, telephone number, identity card details, permanent residence, occupation and date of birth.

TO CONTINUE: CHINA ‘Two Sessions’: Beijing ‘sinicises’ religions (forcing their members to register for services) (