My guest this week in Vatican Insider’s interview segment is Jesuit Fr. Tom Smolich, the international director of JRS, Jesuit Refugee Service. He has riveting stories about the JRS, explaining its history, where it serves, who the Jesuits and their countless volunteers help and how we should get to know and better understand who refugees actually are. Do you know, for example, that many men and women classified as refugees today are degreed people – doctors, teachers, etc. So listen and learn a lot!

Father Smolich also tells us about JRS’ recent a campaign to help a religious minority in Iraq and so much more. I ask Father about his great challenges and his greatest joys – memorable answers!

I took these photos at the JRS center in Rome, not far from the Jesuit international headquarters on Borgo Santo Spirito. I may have to go back and do an interview just about the crosses and crucifixes on one wall in Father’s office as the stories linked to each cross are also JRS stories – stories of refugee’s lives, dreams and hopes.

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In a meeting on Friday with representatives of Italy’s surgeons and dentists, Pope Francis spoke about encountering in their patients, persons who are unique in their dignity and fragility, and not just their illness.
By Robin Gomes (vatiannews)

Pope Francis on Friday urged doctors to reject the temptation to assist and support suicide and euthanasia, reminding them of the Hippocratic oath that calls on them to commit themselves to absolute respect for human life and its sacredness.

“Medicine, by definition, is a service to human life, which involves an essential and indispensable reference to the person in his spiritual and material integrity, in his individual and social dimension. …Hence medicine is at the service of man, of the whole man, of every man,” Pope Francis told some 350 representatives of the National Federation of the Orders of Medical Surgeons and Dentists of Italy.

Vision of the human person
He told them that illness is not a mere clinical fact restricted to medicine alone, but includes the condition of a person, the sick. In this human vision, he said, doctors are called to relate to the patient, taking into consideration his singularity as a person who has an illness, and not just the case of the illness the patient has.

This is why, the Pope said, it is important that “the doctor does not lose sight of the uniqueness of each patient, with his dignity and his fragility. …A man or a woman should be accompanied with conscience, intelligence and heart, especially in the most serious situations.”

Suicide, euthanasia
“With this attitude,” stated Francis, “we can and must reject the temptation, also induced by legislative changes, to use medicine to support a possible willingness of the patient to die, providing assistance for suicide or directly causing death by euthanasia.”

The Pope said that these are hasty ways of dealing with choices that are not, as they might appear, an expression of the person’s freedom, when they include getting rid of the patient as a possibility, or false compassion in the face of the request to be helped to anticipate death.

Sacredness of human life
In this regard, Pope Francis recalled the “New Charter for Health Care Workers” of the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Pastoral Assistance to Health Care Workers that says: “There is no right to dispose arbitrarily of one’s life, so no doctor can become an executive guardian of a non-existent right.”

He also recalled his predecessor, Pope Saint John Paul II, who pointed to the intrinsic and indispensable ethical dimension of the health care profession of the Hippocratic oath, according to which “every doctor is asked to commit himself to absolute respect for human life and its sacredness.”



Pope Francis on Thursday received in audience participants in the congress of the Society for the Law of the Eastern Churches.
By Robin Gomes (vaticannews)

The work of the , which brings together experts from the Eastern Catholic, Orthodox and Oriental Churches, is of fundamental assistance to ecumenical dialogue, Pope Francis said on Thursday.

Speaking to some 80 participants in the 24th International Congress of the Society for the Law of the Eastern Churches, underway in Rome from September 16 to 20, he said that they can learn from one another in all areas of ecclesial life, such as theology, the experience of spirituality and liturgy, pastoral activity and canon law.

The Society aims at promoting better international and inter-confessional scholarly collaboration among specialists of the Law of the Eastern Churches and of the Civil Law on Eastern Churches, It is marking its 50th anniversary.

According to the Pope, “Canon law is essential for ecumenical dialogue.” Many of the theological dialogues pursued by the Catholic Church, especially with the Orthodox Church and the Oriental Churches, he said, are of an ecclesiological nature. Since ecclesiology finds expression in the institutions and the law of the Churches, theological dialogues, he said, also have a canonical dimension. Ecumenical dialogue also enriches canon law.

The Holy Father particularly focused on synodality, explaining that, when translated into established institutions and procedures of the Church, it expresses the ecumenical dimension of canon law. The Catholic Church can learn from the synodal experience of other traditions, especially the Eastern Churches, and its own experience of synodality is important for its relations with other Christians.

Synodality, he said, is a challenge for ecumenism. The commitment to build a synodal Church, to which all are called has significant ecumenical implications. In this regard, the Pope said that the current theological dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church seeks precisely a common understanding of primacy and synodality and their relationship in the service of the unity of the Church.

That they may be one
The work of the Society for the Law of the Eastern Churches also has a synodal dimension as they walk together and, in mutual listening, evaluate their traditions and experiences to find ways to full unity as wished by the Lord in His prayer: “that they may all be one; […] so that the world may believe.”


The Council of Cardinals, a group of nine cardinals from different parts of the world chosen by Pope Francis at the start of his pontificate as papal advisors, met this week at the Vatican for the 31st time. Now only 6 cardinals and two bishops who act as secretaries, the group met Tuesday through Thursday, with Pope Francis participating when his schedule allowed.

There was no press conference this time to explain the work sessions to the media but the press office did issue a note today, stating that “the activity of this Council meeting focused on re-reading and modifying the draft of the new Apostolic Constitution on the basis of the many contributions that have arrived from Episcopal conferences, the precise observations of the dicasteries of the Roman Curia and the suggestions provided by the interested bodies. This first re-reading, which has come to an end, was a passage of listening and reflection that responds to the indications of the Holy Father in the sense of communion and synodality.”

The Council has set the calendar of meetings for 2020. The next meeting for 2019 will be December 2, 3 and 4.



Pope Francis this morning continued his weekly general audience series of catecheses on the Acts of the Apostles, telling the faithful in St. Peter’s Square, “we now reflect on how Saint Peter and the Apostles respond with courage to those who wanted to stop the spread of the Gospel.” He said that, “strengthened by the experience of Pentecost, the Apostles become the ‘megaphone’ of the Holy Spirit, proclaiming the saving word of God that cannot be silenced.” (photo Vatican media)

The Holy Father explained that, “in the midst of the Sanhedrin, which feels threatened by the Apostolic preaching, a different voice is heard. The highly regarded doctor of the Law, Gamaliel, demonstrates the ‘art of discernment’. Filled with prophetic wisdom, he invites the leaders of the people not to give in to haste, but to wait for developments over time. This kind of discernment is valuable for the Church because it invites us to be farsighted, to contemplate events and not to make hasty judgments.”

“Discernment,” emphasized the Pope, “is an art that does not provide standardized solutions. It is an exercise of spiritual intelligence carried out by the children of God who learn to see traces of the Father’s presence within history. Let us ask the Holy Spirit to help us acquire the habit of discernment in order to learn that both time and the faces of our brothers and sisters are messengers of the living God.”

At one point in his talk, the Pope recalled the 21 Coptic Orthodox Christians – Egyptian construction workers – who were martyred for their faith in 2015 on a beach in Libya at the hands of the so-called Islamic State. “Their last word was ‘Jesus, Jesus’. They did not deny their faith, because the Holy Spirit was with them. Modern martyrs,” he said.

After the various language greetings at the end of the audience, Francis remembered those affected by Alzheimer’s disease, urging prayers for them, especially with the approach of World Alzheimer’s Day on Saturday, September 21. The Pope noted that Alzheimer’s “is a disease that affects many men and women who often become victims of violence, maltreatment and abuse that trample their dignity. We pray for the conversion of hearts and for those affected by Alzheimer’s, their families and those who care for them with love,”


Late yesterday afternoon the Vatican released the following communiqué: “The Promoter of Justice of the Vatican City Tribunal, following provisions of September 16 and 17, requested the indictments of, respectively Fr. Gabriele Martinelli on charges of sexual abuse that would have taken place in the Saint Pio X pre-seminary in years before 2012 , and Fr. Enrico Radice, rector of the pre-seminary at the time of the facts, on charges of aiding and abetting (the abuse).

“The investigations were started in November 2017 following news released by the press. Although the reported facts date back to years in which the law in force at the time prevented the trial in the absence of a complaint by the injured person to appear within a year of the disputed facts, the postponement was made possible by virtue of a special provision of the Holy Father of July 29 (2019), which removed the ban on proceeding.”


(Tuesday, September 17, late afternoon) From Holy See Press Office Director Matteo Bruni: “As scheduled, the Holy Father met Patriarch Bartholomew. The meeting took place in a fraternal atmosphere and was followed by lunch together with the respective delegations at Santa Marta residence. Before the meeting, at the invitation of Bishop Marcel Semeraro, Secretary of the Council of Cardinals, the Patriarch briefly greeted the Cardinals members of the Council and emphasized the value of synodality in the Church and assurances of his prayer.”

You will recall that, on the June 29th feast of Sts. Peter and Paul, Apostles, Pope Francis gave the Orthodox delegation that was in Rome to attend the June 29 events honoring the Apostles, a reliquary containing 9 fragments of bones of St. Peter that had been found in the Vatican scavi leading to his tomb. The 9 fragments were chosen from among many fragments by Paul VI to be put in a container to rest of the chapel of the private apartments of the Pope in the Apostolic Palace.

The Vatican wrote at the time: “Of those bones now preserved in the necropolis under St. Peter, Paul VI had nine fragments handed over to keep them in the private chapel of the papal apartment, inside a bronze box bearing this inscription: “Ex ossibus quae in Arcibasilicae Vaticanae hypogeo invents Beati Petri Apostoli esse putantur “(From the bones found in the hypogeum of the Vatican Basilica, which are believed to be of Blessed Peter the Apostle).”

The Vatican note on Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I’s visit to Francis never gave a reason for the visit but it can be presumed that it was to thank the Holy Father for his remarkable and historical gift.



I had a truly wonderful experience of the Catholic Church – the word ‘catholic’ meaning universal – during my recent vacation in Hawaii and I’d like to share that special event with you today.

One of my many close friends in Honolulu is Sr. Davilyn ah Chick, OSF, a Franciscan of the same Order as St. Mother Marianne Cope. In fact, Sr. Davilyn had a role in the 2012 canonization of Mother Marianne and in the return in 2014 of her remains to Honolulu’s Our Lady of Peace cathedral from the Franciscan motherhouse in Syracuse, New York.

During every visit I make to Hawaii, Sister Davilyn has always filled my mind and heart with many stories of the island, of Saints Damien and Marianne and of the small Catholic school where she is now principal – Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Ewa Beach on the island of Oahu.

I can’t tell you how many times she has met my flights from the mainland when I come for my annual visit. On several occasions I did not know in advance that she was coming and I was surprised to find her at luggage claim, wearing a big smile and bearing a beautiful floral lei!

On my visit last year, Sister mentioned an upcoming anniversary and wondered if I could arrange for a papal blessing. I assured her that was possible and she gave me some dates for the school and parish. I went to the office of papal charities and ordered a beautiful, hand-made blessing dedicated to the 50th anniversary of the Church of Our Lady of Perpetual Help and the school that is the focus of this story.

I was so excited to see Sister Davilyn and my special friend and host in Honolulu, Jan McKinney, at the airport that I completely forgot to give her the blessing the day I arrived. However, two days before my departure Jan called Sister to ask if she would be at the school that day as I had a gift for her. Jan said we’d arrive about 11:30.

When we got to OLPH, we discovered that Sister Davilyn, in the half hour that had elapsed between Jan’s phone call and our arrival, had arranged an all-school assembly! If anyone could do that in 30 minutes, it would be Davilyn.

Sister accompanied us outside to a small stage area where she introduced Jan and me, asking me to say a few words about living in Rome, covering the Vatican and meeting Popes. I gave a nutshell presentation, after which Sister announced that I had brought a papal blessing from Rome for the church and school, holding up the blessing for all to see.

I explained how papal blessings are made, how the office of papal charities works and spoke briefly about a man I’ve known for years, the papal almoner, Cardinal Konrad Krajewski, whose signature is on every papal blessing.

I told the students how Cardinal Krajewski knows the names of over 300 homeless people
and has a great dedication to them. On countless occasions he and several Swiss Guards
(who wear regular street clothes, not their fancy uniforms) leave the Vatican with items for
the homeless such as food, backpacks, sleeping bags and so on. Once, the cardinal got 400
umbrellas left behind at the Vatican Museums and brought them to the homeless during a
very rainy winter.

It was wonderful to see the delight on the faces of students and staff but for me, the best part was yet to come. I still marvel that Sister Davilyn organized everything in 30 minutes!

The sixth grade class joined us onstage and gave us a wonderful gift as they led the school in reciting the Prayer of St. Francis, delivering the school mission and singing the school song. I was sure people in Honolulu heard the choir of voices from Ewa Beach!

Following that presentation (and I could not help but see how Sister Davilyn was beaming with pride), teachers and several students from each class came onstage and gifted Jan and me with lovely leis – dozens of leis as you will see from the photos! It was fun to receive a hug from each student and bend over so they could place the leis on my shoulders, returning the hug.

The final act of this wonderful and unexpected school assembly was the group photo. Sister Davilyn, holding the blessing, and Jan and I were in the center, and the longer the staff took photos, the louder the students cheered. At one point I joked, telling the students that I had just received a phone call saying they heard the cheering in Rome.

I will never forget this very special morning and I fully intend to share a group photo and a lei with Cardinal Krajewski. If he lets me take a photo, I will post that as well.

In the meantime enjoy these photos taken by OLPH staff:

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Two papal stories that surely will affect everyone reading this column. Chances are you watch TV for news (local, regional and international) and that you have been on a train some time in your life – perhaps frequently, perhaps as a daily commuter.


Pope Francis addresses journalists and technical staff from Italian RAI Television’s local news channel to mark 40 years of its activity. Regional information, he tells them, communicates “the voice of the people”.

By Vatican News

Pope Francis overturned a frequent cliché in the world of journalism when he told local Italian television journalists, producers and technical staff during an audience in the Vatican that, “local news is no less important than national news”.

The importance of local news
Local news and information, said the Pope, is actually more genuine and authentic because it communicates “the voice of the people”, in all aspects of peoples’ social, cultural and spiritual life. Local information gives space to local realities and cultures, he said, to news that would not be broadcast otherwise. More than ever, said the Pope, we need news to be communicated completely and thoughtfully, “so as to encourage reflection”.

Different kinds of globalization
Pope Francis explained the difference between what he called “harmful globalization and good globalization”. The latter “unites us, and can help us to be members of one another”, he said. Harmful globalization, on the other hand, ”makes everyone the same, rather than valuing diversities, cultures, histories and traditions”.

The sphere and the polyhedron
Here the Pope returned to the image of the sphere and the polyhedron: “in the sphere everything is equal, uniform, each point is equidistant from the centre, there are no differences”, he explained. In the polyhedron “there is coherence but there is also diversity, a variety of positions”.

The importance of regional information
The polyhedron, said the Pope, best reflects the nature and variety of regional news. “Regional information comes from the territory with a very precise mission, which is expressed in two directions”, continued Pope Francis. “The first is to immerse itself in the everyday, in local reality, made up of people, events, projects, problems and hopes”.

The second, he said, is to transmit that reality to a wider audience. It also means giving “voice to poverty, challenges, and local emergencies”, as well as to “testimonies of faith”.

Telling the stories
Pope Francis concluded by encouraging television journalists and staff to continue telling the stories, and making known “those authentic realities that are still found in many corners of Italy: realities that do not give in to indifference, that do not remain silent in the face of injustice, that do not follow fashions. There is a “submerged ocean of goodness”, said the Pope, “that deserves to be known”.


Pope Francis on 14 September received in audience in the Vatican, some 400 managers and employees of the Italian State Railways.
By Robin Gomes (vaticannews)

Pope Francis on Monday encouraged the Italian State Railways to be even more attractive and sustainable in a show of greater solidarity. He made the exhortation to some 400 managers and employees of the Italian holding group led by their CEO and Managing Director, Gianfranco Battisti. According to the Pope, trains are a fundamental means of transport and connection, and also provide an incentive for economic and social development of the nation.

The Pope explained that the railways need to be appealing in order to attract investment, improve quality, encourage trade and generate new businesses. The railways need to be beautiful and attractive, so people feel welcomed, at ease and want to come back to use their services.

Rail transport, the Pope noted, is also becoming increasingly sustainable because it is economical for the business world and for individual citizens, and it also respects the territory it passes through and the communities it involves.

Regarding environmental sustainability, the Pope appreciated the railways’ efforts in ensuring its impact is very minimal and that carbon dioxide emissions, which are very harmful to the ecosystem and its equilibrium, are reduced to a minimum. He commended the State Railways for making precise structural choices in this regard, making the train a vehicle with very low carbon footprint as compared to the car or the airplane.

Speaking about the near future, the Pope wished that the railways grow more in solidarity, favouring families and those in need because of old age, physical limitations or low income. The railways should also be more supportive in making their services and their quality available to various parts of Italy and on different types of trains.

The railway network, he said, is responsible for connecting and keeping alive the different areas of Italy, even the most remote, and like veins and capillaries should bring life to the members farthest from the heart, ensuring no centre is excluded, marginalized and impoverished.

The Pope also thought of those who travel in trains regarded as “secondary”, saying they should not be made to face the struggle against overcrowding or the difficult environmental conditions of carriages every day.

Equality and non-discrimination
The Holy Father commended the commitment of the Italian State Railways to the principles of equality and non-discrimination, ensuring its services don’t discriminate between the fortunate and those who cannot afford a more dignified and comfortable journey.

The Pope also recalled several responsibilities of the Italian State Railways managers, such as overseeing the employees, safety at the workplace, handling tender contracts, environmental sustainability and contributing to the economic and social development of the nation.



Two Notre Dame Fighting Irish football tickets from 1929!! They were in what we call a “box of things” in our family (Mom’s box of things, Joan’s box of things, etc). These were large boxes that contained baby albums, scrapbooks, photos, letter, birth announcements, World War II Ration Books (I have Ration Book Four for my Mom) and much more – like these tickets!

1929 was a 9-0 Season for the Irish!

Tickets were only $3! I wonder how many were sold after the crash on Wall Street!

Irish vs. Wisconsin, October 19, 1929    (19-0)

Irish vs. USC, November 16, 1929    (13-12 – score was written on back of ticket in by my maternal grandmother. My Dad went to Notre Dame, class of 34, and Mom graduated St Mary’s of Notre Dame, ‘35)

Notice Gate, Section, Row and Seat numbers ( USC is seat 30)

Check this out:




From Holy See Press Office Director Matteo Bruni:

Today, the Holy Father met the President of Lamborghini and the heads of the OMAZE Foundation, who oversaw the auction for charity purposes, of the “Huracan Lamborghini” car made available by the car manufacturer and signed by Pope Francis on November 15, 2017. The winner of the car, a citizen of the Czech Republic, was also present.

During the meeting, the Holy Father was given a symbolic check of the operation of around 900,000.

The final part of the proceeds, about € 200,000, will be used for the reconstruction of the seminary and a nursery school in Haiti, which were destroyed by the 2010 earthquake.

The Holy Father cited the Gospel of Matthew in chapter 25 and emphasized how the generosity of this gesture of charity, which directly reaches the poorest, corresponds to the words of the evangelical passage.

Previously, the following amounts were given to:
– the Pope John XXIII Community (women victims of trafficking and prostitution) on the 10th anniversary of the death of Don Oreste Benzi and on the 50th anniversary (in 2018) of the Community Foundation (Euro 300,000.00);
– the “Help to the Church in Need” Foundation for the reconstruction of the Plain of Nineveh (Euro 200,000.00);
– two Associations indicated by the car manufacturer: Amici Centrafrica Onlus and GICAM (Euro 160,000.00).