Nine days after the 9-11 attacks on New York and Washington, I wrote an email to everyone in my address book at that time, family and friends alike. Today, as we commemorate the 20th anniversary of those attacks, I thought about that letter and how I described my feelings, the reactions in Rome and in Europe, and how people marked September 11th, one of the blackest days in American history.

I am in California on vacation with family and friends as I write. I went back to read that email, although I almost know it by heart and have posted it several times since 2001, a time when I was working at the Vatican Information Service. I titled it “Forever Changed” and I’d like to share it with you.

In 2018 I visited Ground Zero and the amazing Museum erected to memorialize that event and the lives of the 2,977 people who died. The memorial fountains honor 2,983 people as they added the names of the 6 people killed in an attack on the Twin Towers in 1993.

I offer two slideshows of photos from Ground Zero –

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Dear Family and friends,

I had all the best intentions of writing to you last week, following the horrific, unspeakable events in our nation, but too many things got in the way and time just ran out each day. I had just returned to Rome from the States on September 10th so there was some jet lag, but mainly a great deal of work as soon as I came back. And then our days became filled with and dominated by nonstop TV coverage of doubtless the most incredible week in our nation’s history. I am not sure the magnitude of that terrorist attack is truly implanted in my brain yet.

Please sit down and have a second cup of coffee for this will be a long letter. Today I wanted to share with you not only my feelings but life in Rome as of 2:46 p.m. (local time on Black Tuesday.

On September 11, just before 3 p.m. Rome time (9a.m. in NYC), my colleague Alfonso called from his office next to mine and told me to turn my TV on CNN to see something horrendous. I did so and thought for about one minute that I was looking at a horrible plane accident. And then I saw – right there on my screen, bigger than life – a second plane directly hit the other Twin Tower – and I knew it was terrorism. I was riveted to the screen, my brain not yet totally processing what my eyes had seen – and then the news that the Pentagon was burning! And then that a fourth plane, with terrorist commandos, had crashed in the Pennsylvania countryside. Real became surreal.

The impossible became possible.

I watched TV in the office for a few hours and then went home. Since my satellite dish has not been working since July, I watched a bit of Italian news and then took a nap, trying to shake off jet lag, and later joined American friends for dinner that night at their house. These were times when one craved the company and comfort of friends, especially American friends.

The next hours and days the TV became like another limb on my body – I could not get through the days without it – especially because we were cut off from America. For a day or two it was tough or impossible to reach New York and Washington via phone and for a number of days there was no physical way to get to the United States from Rome – or anywhere else in the world. You’ll never understand that feeling – although some of you to whom I’m writing live in Rome or abroad so you DO understand.

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I know all of you have been watching TV and I am sure you are fully aware of the support for the U.S. around the world – the candlelight vigils and processions, the myriad church services, the flying of flags at half mast, the countless bouquets of flowers laid near embassies or consulates, the Europeans who stopped their American friends – or even strangers – to pat their arms, express their condolences, give them a hug, buy them a meal or ask if they needed someone to be near them.

The three young children of an American colleague of mine in the press office all asked Joy if they could donate blood to help the wounded Americans. My friends at Zi Gaetana’s restaurant in Rome helped some of the Americans stranded here last week by offering them their meals. I am sure such stories were repeated throughout Italy – and the world.

I am also sure you saw the extraordinarily moving images of how Europe mourned last Friday when everyone and everything stopped for 3 minutes at noon and stores kept their doors closed for 10 minutes starting at noon.

Whoever they were – simple citizens, government leaders, tourists, salespeople, business men and women – alone, in twos, groups of 10, 100 and 100,000 – and wherever they were at noon – at outdoor markets, in churches, touring, eating lunch in a fancy restaurant or a fast food place, at work in factories, offices and stores – they simply stopped, frozen in their tracks, silent in prayer and reflection for 3 minutes. It was like the biblical story of Lot’s wife being turned into a pillar of salt.

To see the images on the Italian news that afternoon and evening was remarkable, moving and unforgettable. One station played “Amazing Grace” for 3 minutes and simply showed images of how Europeans stopped, put their lives on hold for 3 minutes and mourned.

Here in the Vatican the staff members of each office in the Roman Curia prayed the angelus at noon and sang the requiem. I sincerely hope you all saw the unforgettable pictures of an anguished Pope John Paul praying in his private chapel at Castelgandolfo. And, in a first in the history of weekly general audiences, the Holy Father dedicated his weekly catechesis during the September 12 audience in St. Peter’s Square, not to a religious or spiritual theme, but entirely to the attack in the United States. And that is what my show on Vatican Radio that Wednesday was dedicated to – as were many shows in many languages.

Italians have called and written me (and just about every American living in this great country) to express their condolences, horror, indignation, disbelief, anger and support for our country. They have also expressed in recent days their fears that the U.S. will retaliate in such a way that they will stoop to the level of the terrorists and ending up killing innocent people. Europeans, to a man, woman and child, have said they are all Americans now. Every Italian who has spoken to me has said how well they know that their country, that Europe, would not be what it is today had it not been for America during and after World War II – especially the Marshall Plan. “For once in our lives, we can now help America,” is what they tell me.

As the hours, then the days, then the first week passed, feelings have changed very little. If anything they are more profound. The mourning will be lengthy, the anger deep, the revulsion everlasting. All of us STILL want to wake up – because we know this was all just a terrible nightmare and things will be right when dawn comes and the sun rises and warms us and dissipates the darkness that surrounds us.

We have, like it or not, awakened – only to discover that this has not been a dream or a nightmare but rather our worst nightmare come true. And the full impact will come in small ways and large: a greater police presence at monuments, embassies, government buildings, military bases and “symbols” such as the Eiffel Tower, the Colosseum, St. Peter’s, etc. There will be more requests for IDs as we move about, and also a terrific impact on the world of travel – passengers, airline employees, travel agents, airport employees and so on.

I’d  like to interject two personal notes here: 1. I don’t mind if some of my rights are abbreviated if the new measures being enacted will help to eradicate terrorism in the world; 2. I do not agree with the media who feel that the public “has a right” to know everything that is going on. We do not have a right – nor do we need to know what the government is planning. I don’t want America to cease being an open society – but we don’t have to know what the CIA, FBI, etc., etc., are doing to entrap and/or capture terrorists, to infiltrate their organizations, to destroy their economic base.

This past Sunday at 10:30 at the church of Santa Susanna here in Rome, the parish for Americans which has been run by the Paulist Fathers since 1922, there was an extraordinarily touching and beautiful Mass for the victims and families and friends of the victims of this attack. American Cardinal Edmund Szoka presided, about 50 priests (one of whom lost a relative) concelebrated and I was honored to be one of the three lectors. There were so many people that they flowed out of the church and onto the adjacent piazza. The new ambassador to the Holy See, Jim Nicholson was there with his wife Suzanne, as well as former Ambassador Thomas Melady and his wife, Margaret. A surprise guest, who found himself stranded in Rome after the attacks, was Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia and his wife.

Father Paul Robichaud, our rector, gave a beautiful homily and tried to answer the questions “Where was God?” and “Why did God allow this to happen?” Half of Sunday’s collection will be sent to New York to help the families of the victims.

At the end of Mass Cardinal Szoka offered some stirring reflections in both English and Italian and then Ambassador Nicholson spoke. He had paper in front of him but rarely looked at it – the words came straight from his heart. As we processed out of church, we three lectors were last and Richard Zaccaroli carried the U.S. flag – which received an enormous round of applause. We stood outside the church and sang patriotic songs, reluctant to leave each other.

I know that what we did here in Rome was repeated thousands of time, in tens of thousands of churches, all around the world. Our fears, our hurt and anger, our pride, our solidarity, our patriotism, our hopes, our prayers – the entire spectrum of emotions – you felt and lived these and so did we.

Well, dear family and friends, I think that is it for now. I’m sure I will think of things I missed, but thanks for hanging in there.

A closing note before I leave you: I have a colorful sign on my desk that I’d like to share with you: “Don’t just live the length of your life, Live the width of it as well.”

God bless you one and all! May He protect you and yours – and may He give you an extra big hug today!



I will try to find time today or tomorrow to post one of my summer “Specials,” a blog that takes the place of my daily reports when I am away on vacation. I’ve only been off 15 days in the last 20 months so am leaving Sunday for some time with family and friends and, who knows, maybe even a visit to EWTN! The last weekend of September, I’ll give the keynote address at a gala weekend celebration in Cincinnati of the Order of the Holy Sepulchre. I am blessed to be a Dame of this Order and honored to have been asked to speak!

Following is the link to the weekly English-language edition of L’Osservatore Romano. There are some really fascinating stories and articles this week, including all of page 1 and page 4 and following on How the Paralympics came to the Vatican over a century ago! Some great photos! ING_2021_035_2708.pdf (


A heads up today to tell you that, as of Sunday, August 29, God willing, I’ll be away for a bit on vacation but my terrific colleagues and friends at EWTN radio will be preparing a “BEST OF” in my absence so sit back in coming weekends and enjoy a Special listening adventure.

This week, however, once again my guests in the interview segment are from the hugely successful crowd-funded TV mini-series on the life of Christ, The Chosen! Two weeks ago I interviewed Jonathan Roumie who portrays Jesus in this multi-year series. This week, in Part II of my conversation with Dallas Jenkins, writer, producer and director of The Chosen and Neal Harmon, CEO of Angel Studios, we hear more great stories, including where they are filming this exceptional series and how they discovered Jerusalem! Like Jonathan Roumie, both are men of great faith and even greater passion for what they are doing.

I observe in our conversation that the Bible stories, parables, miracles that are featured in The Chosen are often fairly short accounts in the Bible but become expanded stories in the TV series – expanded conversations, expanded circumstances, expanded scenery, so to speak. I ask: how is that done so that The Chosen remains faithful to the Bible? Listen to their answers! Believe me, you will be riveted by their stories and insights.

There’s also an unusual ending – as you will hear!

Here we are with Jonathan –

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.





(CNA Rome Newsroom, Aug 26, 2021)

Religious sisters from the Missionaries of Charity and 14 disabled children from an orphanage in Afghanistan arrived safely on Wednesday at Rome’s international airport.

A Catholic priest and five sisters from the order founded by Mother Teresa arrived on one of two evacuation flights from Kabul that landed in Rome on Aug. 25 carrying a total of 277 people.

Fr. Giovanni Scalese, the ecclesiastical superior of the Catholic mission in Afghanistan, also arrived on the flight. He spent eight years in Kabul, offering daily Mass for foreign residents in the city at the only Catholic church in Afghanistan, located inside of the Italian embassy.

“I would never have returned to Italy without these children,” Fr. Scalese told the Italian newspaper La Repubblica.

“We could not leave them there.”

The children, aged between six and 20 years old, were residents of an orphanage founded in 2006 by the Missionaries of Charity in Kabul, which has now been forced to close due to the Taliban’s takeover of the city.

Sr. Bhatti Shahnaz, another Catholic religious sister who arrived in Rome on the evacuation flight, also worked with disabled children in Afghanistan with her community, the Sisters of Charity of St. Jeanne Antide.

“The 50 intellectually disabled children we looked after are still there,” she said with tears in her eyes.

Accompanying this article was a photo and description from Fr. Doriano Vincenzo De Luca from his Facebook page: (1) Doriano Vincenzo De Luca | Facebook

Fr. De Luca: The small Catholic community in #Afghanistan arrived in Rome. They arrived yesterday afternoon in Fiumicino with one of the many flights from Kabul Father Giovanni Scalese, five nuns and fourteen disabled children.



You didn’t know I could communicate in the Slovak language, right?

Neither did I, but there is an article in a Slovak paper called The Standard about Pope Francis’ trip to that country in September after a stop in Budapest to preside at the closing Mass of the International Eucharistic Congress.

Bohumil Petrik, who used to be with EWTN in Rome, was back in town for a while over the summer and asked me for an interview for a Slovakian publication.  It was specifically on the making of a papal trip, the behind-the-scenes part, in view of Francis’ September trip.

I had researched papal trips years ago and have done radio shows and blogs on the result of that research: Of the many invitations a Pope receives, how is a destination chosen? How is a date chosen? What duties does an advance team have? What do they explore? How is transportation arranged? Is there a separate team that researches liturgical events? Where do Popes reside? Are there dietary needs? Etc, etc…

He sent me the following link a few days ago and told me the editor really liked the story. He had asked for a photo of me shaking hands with either Pope John Paul or Francis and, of the various pictures I sent, he chose one of me with John Paul II taken in Denver, Colorado at the 1993 World Youth Day!

Obviously I remember what I was asked and remember my answers and see they are faithfully recounted (the part I could translate). We spoke at length and I am guessing not everything is included but then I could not read the entire piece. As I read on, I got the impression you had to be a subscriber to read the whole article – at least that is what the graphics suggested that to me.

Using Google translator, I translated the title, the first paragraph and first Q&A. With one exception (I changed the pronoun he to she when it referred to me), this is what Google wrote:

HEADLINE: A special diet and perhaps unannounced meetings await the Pope in Slovakia, says an expert on apostolic journeys

What does the preparation of the apostolic visit look like? How is the pope’s liturgical garment transported? What will the Pope eat in Slovakia? In an interview with the newspaper Standard, Joan Lewis, who worked in the Vatican in the 1990s and saw the preparation of the apostolic journeys, answers this. The American journalist has lived in Rome for a long time and writes books, articles, and blogs about the Vatican, and comments on the pope’s life on television. She says that Pope Francis in Slovakia will certainly have a special diet and possibly private, unannounced meetings.

What is the significance of Pope Franciskov’s visit to Slovakia in September?

Every visit of the Pope is important because he comes to establish his brothers and sisters in the faith. This is very important at the moment, because after a year and a half of travel restrictions and after his visit to Iraq in March, he is traveling again. His arrival in Slovakia will be important to him, to the Church, to Catholics and to all citizens, because the Pope’s words and prayers are often good for all.

In any case, I hope the people of Slovakia found the piece interesting and informative!



Maria Antonietta Calabro, a Rome-based, well-respected journalist at the highly-esteemed Italian newspaper, Corriere della Sera, tweeted yesterday a link to her piece in Italian in the Huffington Post entitled, “Francis could promulgate a norm on the status of “pope emeritus.” Subtitle: “New rumors about a resignation by Bergoglio said to be working on a discipline of a role after resignation.”* Tweets with replies by M.Antonietta Calabrò (@maria_mcalabro) / Twitter

She also quoted Antonio Socci who on August 23 wrote a piece on a possible papal resignation in**   English translations of both are below.

These are indeed interesting times!

It is not the first time in the past 8 years that a resignation by Pope Francis was “imminent” or “on the horizon.” The resignation of a Pope, a new conclave, the existence together of two possible emeritus popes, all of this is an amazing hypothesis. Now, some are saying this is a hypothesis closer to reality.

Pope Francis has spoken often about his papacy being “a brief one.” What does ‘brief’ mean to Francis?   A couple of years? Something less than 10 years?

Obviously, Pope Francis’ July 4 colon surgery led a lot of us, media and faithful alike, to look at the Holy Father in a new way. I will confess that I, in particular, followed his surgery and post-op period with a great interest because I had a similar, though far more serious, operation a number of years ago. I remember what followed that operation for many, many months. Even now, all these years later, certain affects of that operation remain.

However, if you look at Pope Francis now, we see a Pope that has, at least outwardly, recovered well. Remember this photo from last week’s general audience?

We see plans for travels in September. We see him at the Wednesday general audiences and at the Sunday Angelus, and all seems well. There are very few other public appointments during the week but we have seen him make numerous videos in recent weeks with messages for various groups. He will be 85 in December and that is obviously a huge consideration in looking at his health, his energy level, etc.

Could the Pope be considering resignation? I have learned not to be surprised by things that Francis is predicted to do or write. He is known to be his own man and make his own decisions.

One answer to ‘could he resign?’ is ‘yes, that is very possible.’

Every time I’ve heard the word ‘resign’ linked to his name, I’ve told people I felt it would not happen while Pope emeritus Benedict XVI was still alive. And yet, those very words….if Benedict was still alive…. make it seem more possible than hypothetical that Francis would think of writing something on emeritus Popes!

If indeed he is envisioning both a resignation and especially a document on Popes emeritus, I might feel better about both if I thought he had consulted with either the College of Cardinals or the bishops of the world (especially on a document). In particular the College of Cardinals because that is always where a new Pope comes from.  Hopefully Francis is not envisioning doing either one alone.

I only have three words at this point: Only God knows!

* The following English translation of the Calabro piece was provided by Bob Moynihan of The Moynihan Letters:

“Stay tuned, state sintonizzati.” On August 1, 2021, the dean of American Vaticanists John Allen urged his readers to keep their ears open and alert for a possible August surprise, the Vatican equivalent of the October surprise that in American politics falls the month before the vote to choose the new president of the United States.

Perhaps this article is the origin of the assumptions and rumors — as Antonio Socci writes today in Libero (link; and published in its entirety below) — of the imminent resignation of Pope Francis.

So what is going on? Clearly, a climate is being recreated (but strongly still among a minority today, compared to what happened with Ratzinger, even in the mass media) similar to the climate that was created in the last year of Benedict XVI’s pontificate [Note: in 2012; Benedict resigned on February 11, 2013].

This takes place against a backdrop: a major financial scandal, that of the London palace which even involved the Vatican Secretariat of State (in 2012, the scandal looming in the background was “only” the IOR, the Vatican’s bank), with a trial just opened against 10 defendants, including Cardinal Angelo Becciu.

Death threats [against Pope Francis] have also arrived — as happened for Ratzinger: two different mailings of envelopes with bullets addressed to Pope Francis, the first intercepted on 9 August.

All seasoned with speculations on Bergoglio’s state of health, given that he underwent a colon operation on July 4th.

The pontiff’s “frail health” despite his “iron constitution” however, disappointed those who expected the discovery of cancer: the surgery was “decisive” and it is not enough – for those who are predicting an imminent physical collapse – to speculate on the fact that the Pope’s (post-operative July health) bulletins were issued by the Vatican Press Office and not from the Gemelli Polyclinic hospital, where the surgery was performed.

Of course, Pope Francis is an elderly man, who will turn 85 in December, but who also openly said in a (February 27) interview that he will never leave Rome (“I spent seventy-eight years in Argentina”).

In reality, a legislative change could soon occur that, yes, greatly worries the supporters of the “Pope Emeritus.” [Note: Pope Emeritus Benedict]

Pope Francis could soon promulgate a new law (in the form of an Apostolic Constitution) to regulate the resignation of the Pope, and especially the status following the resignation of a Pontiff.

This is also to avoid a whole series of misleading interpretations on the existence of two Popes, on their cohabitation, on the thesis of “an enlarged papacy” and on other issues that, although not having touched the vast majority of the faithful, have fed the underground poisons of the so-called “Pope-vacantists,” [Note: “Pope” or “Papacy Vacantists”] who have come to hypothesize that the only true Pope is Ratzinger.

In short, it is not even excluded, although it would be sensational, that for the new law there has been no Pope Emeritus at all.

** Moynihan also translated the Socci piece: Scroll down to half-way point on page: Letter #92, 2021, Monday, August 23: Calabrò – Inside The Vatican



( – In the New Testament, Bartholomew is mentioned only in the lists of the apostles. Some scholars identify him with Nathanael, a man of Cana in Galilee who was summoned to Jesus by Philip. Jesus paid him a great compliment: “Here is a true Israelite. There is no duplicity in him” (John 1:47b). When Nathanael asked how Jesus knew him, Jesus said, “I saw you under the fig tree” (John 1:48b).

Here is a video I did for “Joan’s Rome” on the Roman basilica named for this Apostle: (10) Joan’s Rome – St. Bartholomew – YouTube

Whatever amazing revelation this involved, it brought Nathanael to exclaim, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel” (John 1:49b). But Jesus countered with, “Do you believe because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than this” (John 1:50b).

Nathanael did see greater things. He was one of those to whom Jesus appeared on the shore of the Sea of Tiberias after his resurrection (see John 21:1-14). They had been fishing all night without success. In the morning, they saw someone standing on the shore though no one knew it was Jesus. He told them to cast their net again, and they made so great a catch that they could not haul the net in. Then John cried out to Peter, “It is the Lord.”

When they brought the boat to shore, they found a fire burning, with some fish laid on it and some bread. Jesus asked them to bring some of the fish they had caught, and invited them to come and eat their meal. John relates that although they knew it was Jesus, none of the apostles presumed to inquire who he was. This, John notes, was the third time Jesus appeared to the apostles.


Bartholomew or Nathanael? We are confronted again with the fact that we know almost nothing about most of the apostles. Yet the unknown ones were also foundation stones, the 12 pillars of the new Israel whose 12 tribes now encompass the whole earth. Their personalities were secondary—without thereby being demeaned—to their great office of bearing tradition from their firsthand experience, speaking in the name of Jesus, putting the Word Made Flesh into human words for the enlightenment of the world. Their holiness was not an introverted contemplation of their status before God. It was a gift that they had to share with others. The Good News was that all are called to the holiness of being Christ’s members, by the gracious gift of God.

The simple fact is that humanity is totally meaningless unless God is its total concern. Then humanity, made holy with God’s own holiness, becomes the most precious creation of God. (franciscan media image)

(JFL: His depiction in “The Chosen” is very interesting, if you have followed this TV series – he is called in Season Two)




Respect for human dignity and inclusive dialogue marked two key concerns brought up by the Holy See representative in Geneva at the 31st Special Session of the Human Rights Council, “On the serious human rights concerns and situation in Afghanistan.”

Vatican News staff writer

The Holy See continues to follow the developments in Afghanistan “with great attention and deep concern,” and has renewed the appeal launched by Pope Francis on August 15 calling on all people to pray with him “to the God of peace so that the clamour of weapons might cease and solutions can be found at the table of dialogue.”

Only in this way, he said at the time, “can the battered population of that country – men, women, elderly and children – return to their own homes, and live in peace and security, in total mutual respect.” (Vatican media: EUCOM Afghan Evacuation Operations  (Public Domain)

This message was reiterated on Tuesday morning by Msgr. John Putzer, chargé d’affaires of the Holy See’s Permanent Mission to the UN and other international organizations in Geneva. Speaking at the 31st Special Session of the Human Rights Council, the Vatican representative urged all parties “to recognize and uphold the respect for the human dignity and fundamental rights of every person, including the right to life, the freedom of religion, the right to freedom of movement and the right to peaceful assembly.”

“At this critical time,” he added, “it is of vital importance to support the success and safety of humanitarian efforts within the country, in a spirit of international solidarity, so as not to lose the progress that has been made, especially in the areas of healthcare and education.” He expressed hopes for a “peaceful and swift resolution to the ongoing tensions,” and the conviction that “inclusive dialogue” represents “the most powerful tool” to achieve the goal of peace.

In conclusion, the statement urged the entire international community to “move from declaration to action” by welcoming refugees ” in a spirit of human fraternity.”

According to the UNHCR, the UN refugee agency, there are 2.5 million registered refugees from Afghanistan, comprising the largest protracted refugee population in Asia, and the second-largest refugee population in the world. In recent weeks, thousands have been attempting to flee the country, especially at Kabul airport through the airlifts underway for foreigners and Afghans. Surrounding countries are worried about an exodus across their borders given the current tensions.



I think each of us can well remember what it was like when Mass could not be celebrated in our parishes but only online during Covid lockdowns last year. Churches were closed to liturgy in Italy at the time but had to be open during the day for people who simply wanted to stop in for a quick prayer or a rosary.

I think we all remember personally attending our first post lockdown Mass, even with social distancing, no holy water, hand sanitizer everywhere and little (or big) stickers on the pews, showing us where we could sit.

However, none of that mattered as much as finally attending Mass in person, as finally receiving the Eucharist, having the Lord Himself nourish us!

The Pope mentions the lockdown in his remarks on liturgy….


Pope Francis sent greetings to participants in an Italian liturgical conference, and said last year’s Covid-lockdown can help the Church rediscover the importance of the Sunday Eucharistic assembly.

By Devin Watkins

As part of the 71st National Liturgical Week, Italian clergy and laypeople are gathered in the northern city of Cremona for a conference organized by the Center for Liturgical Action.

Pope Francis kicked off the 4-day event with a message signed by Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin. (Vatican media photo)

In his message, the Pope thanked God that the conference could be held this year in-person, “following last year’s disheartening moment” caused by the pandemic. “The painful decision to postpone the event,” said Francis, “has however confirmed in a new light the chosen theme which seeks to deepen reflection on various aspects of ‘celebrating’, which was put to the test by the spread of Covid-19 and the necessary restrictions to contain it.”

Liturgy and Christian identity

The conference’s theme to which the Pope was referring is “’Where two or three are gathered in my name’: Community, liturgies, and territories.”

He noted that Christians have always come together weekly in Jesus’ name, an act that is closely tied to the Church’s identity.

However, he lamented, weekly Masses were “harshly limited during the most acute phase of the pandemic.” “Yet, love for the Lord and pastoral creativity pushed pastors and lay faithful to experiment with new ways to nourish the communion of faith and love with the Lord and our brothers and sisters, in the expectation of returning to the fullness of the Eucharistic celebration in safety and tranquility.”

Lockdowns worsened existing trend

Pope Francis said last year’s “liturgical fast” was painful, but also illuminated by the mystery of the Cross of Christ and was made fruitful by many “works of charity, fraternal love, and service to those who suffered the most.”

Privation from the Mass, he added, has led the Church to reflect on the importance of the liturgy in the lives of Christians, since “we must also pray with the body.”

The shutdown of churches also highlighted a trend already underway on the Italian peninsula that has seen declining Mass attendance among certain age groups.

“We observe that people’s perception of time and Sunday itself has changed, with consequences on ways of living and feeling part of a community, people, and family,” he said. “The Sunday assembly is therefore misbalanced in terms of generational and cultural presence”.

Mass at center of faith

The Pope then expressed his hope that the liturgical conference might enkindle new ideas and pastoral guidelines to offer to parishes throughout Italy.

“May Sunday, the Eucharistic assembly, the ministries, and the rite emerge from the marginalization toward which they seem to tend inexorably, while rediscovering the centrality of faith and spirituality of the faithful,” he prayed.

Pope Francis concluded his message assuring his prayers for the Church in Italy as it seeks to keep Christ at the center of its liturgical life.


Weekly English edition of L’Osservatore Romano: ING_2021_034_2008.pdf (


It is with great joy that my guests this week on Vatican Insider are again from the hugely successful crowd-funded TV mini- series on the life of Christ, The Chosen! Last weekend I interviewed Jonathan Roumie who portrays Jesus in this multi-year series. This week, in Part I of our conversation, you will hear from Dallas Jenkins, writer, producer and director of The Chosen and Neal Harmon, CEO of Angel Studios, distributor of this TV miniseries on the life of Jesus.

Both, like Jonathan Roumie, are men of great faith and even greater passion for what they are doing. In Part I we learn the story of Dallas’ Christmas production for his church that led to a meeting between him and Neal. We learn how The Chosen was born, how crowd-funding works, how Angel Studios got its name and much more!

With Jonathan:

In EWTN studios: L-R Neal, Joan, Dallas:

I observe in our conversation that the Bible stories, parables, miracles that are featured in The Chosen are often fairly short accounts in the Bible but become expanded stories in the TV series – expanded conversations, expanded circumstances, expanded scenery, so to speak. I ask: how is that done so that The Chosen remains faithful to the Bible?

Believe me, you will be riveted by their stories and insights

IN THE UNITED STATES, you can listen to Vatican Insider (VI) on a Catholic radio station near you (stations listed at or on channel 130 Sirius-XM satellite radio, or on OUTSIDE THE U.S., you can listen to EWTN radio on our website home page by clicking on the right side where you see “LISTEN TO EWTN.” VI airs at 5am and 9pm ET on Saturdays and 6am ET on Sundays. On the GB-IE feed (which is on SKY in the UK and Ireland), VI airs at 5:30am, 12 noon and 10pm CET on Sundays. Both of these feeds are also available on the EWTN app and on ALWAYS CHECK YOUR OWN TIME ZONE! For VI archives: go to and write the name of the guest for whom you are serarching in the SEARCH box. Below that, will appear “Vatican Insider” – click on that and the link to that particular episode will appear.





I took these photos of the front page of today’s online edition of L’Osservatore Romano, the Vatican newspaper. I had a huge intake of breath and my eyes filled with tears when I saw the photo of these three beautiful little children under the caption “Small gestures of solidarity”! How many tears have we shed these days!

The article highlighted how international organizations that once worked on the ground in Afghanistan can no longer do so. It spoke to how dioceses and other institutions and organizations in Italy are getting ready to step in and offer to receive Afghani refugees and offer assistance in their stead.

How much can any one country do in the face of such a colossal tragedy? No matter how overwhelming the demand will seem or the numbers of people seeking asylum, countries, dioceses, churches, religious and civil and humanitarian organizations – must at least try to help.

How many more children are there whom we will never see in photos? How many will be successful in getting out of their native country?   How many will be forced to stay and to perhaps live unspeakably horrible lives, if they are allowed to live!

Where are these three siblings today? Where will they be tomorrow?

I so wanted to reach out and hug them, to hold them, to say something that would bring an expression of hope to their faces. But I feel bereft, unable to do anything in the face of such tragedy, such anguish.