I last visited Siena in June 2016 with a group of women from WINE, Women in the New Evangelization, and wrote the following account of our visit. We had a truly memorable day in this picturesque, historic, medieval Tuscan hill town, as you will see in some of my photos. And you just have to love Catherine of Siena! Here I am with Kelly Wahlquist, founder of WINE, and Teresa Tomeo!


Saint Catherine of Siena (1347-1380), Third Order Dominican, scholar, philosopher, theologian, mystic, spiritual writer, co-patron of Italy with St. Francis of Assisi and a Doctor of the Church.

What an astonishing, wonderful story, what a remarkable and inspirational woman was St. Catherine. I truly felt her presence everywhere we visited in Siena and am now starting to read the two books I bought – her “Letters” and also “The Dialogues,” her spiritual legacy.

Catherine was the 23rd child of Jacopo and Lapa Benincasa, a well off couple – Jacopo was a fabric dyer – of Siena. A number of her siblings, including a twin sister, did not survive to adulthood. (from Franciscan media: Painting of Saint Catherine of Siena | Siena Cathedral Choir | photo by Sailko)

They lived, as you will see, in a very large home in hilly Siena with fabulous views of the city and outlying countryside.

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Her home –

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One of the plaques I photographed points to the fact that St. Therese of Jesus and St. Catherine of Siena were the first two women whom Popes named as Doctors of the Church.

Two other photos show a very ornately decorated room – the Benincasa family dining room!

Biographies state that Catherine was lively, curious, cheerful, fun-loving and intelligent and very religious.

From an EWTN bio: When Catherine was twelve, her mother, with marriage in mind, began to urge her to pay more attention to her appearance. To please her mother and sister, she dressed in the bright gowns and jewels that were fashionable for young girls. Soon she repented of this vanity, and declared with finality that she would never marry. When her parents persisted in their talk about finding her a husband, she cut off the golden-brown hair that was her chief beauty As punishment, she was now made to do menial work in the household, and the family, knowing she craved solitude, never allowed her to be alone.

Catherine bore all this with sweetness and patience. Long afterwards, in “The Dialogue,” she wrote that God had shown her how to build in her soul a private cell where no tribulation could enter. Catherine disappointed her mother by cutting off her hair as a protest against being overly encouraged to improve her appearance in order to attract a husband. Her father ordered her to be left in peace, and she was given a room of her own for prayer and meditation.”

“…..In the small, dimly-lighted room now set apart for her use, a cell nine feet by three, she gave herself up to prayers and fasting; she scourged herself three times daily with an iron chain, and slept on a board. At first she wore a hair shirt, subsequently replacing it by an iron-spiked girdle. Soon she obtained what she ardently desired, permission to assume the black habit of a Dominican tertiary, which was customarily granted only to matrons or widows. She now increased her asceticism, eating and sleeping very little. For three years she spoke only to her confessor and never went out except to the neighboring church of St. Dominic, where the pillar against which she used to lean is still pointed out to visitors.”

“….The years of solitude and preparation were ended and soon afterwards she began to mix with her fellow men and learn to serve them. Like other Dominican tertiaries, she volunteered to nurse the sick in the city hospitals, choosing those afflicted with loathsome diseases—cases from which others were apt to shrink. There gathered around this strong personality a band of earnest associates….”

“….Her pity for dying men was not confined to those who were sick. She made it a practice to visit condemned persons in prison, hoping to persuade them to make their peace with God. On one occasion she walked to the scaffold with a young Perugian knight, sentenced to death for using seditious language against the government of Siena. His last words were: ‘Jesus and Catherine!’”

And Popes listened to this singularly remarkable woman…

“….Many of the troubles which then afflicted Europe were, to some degree at least, due to the seventy-four-year residence of the popes at Avignon, where the Curia was now largely French. Gregory had been ready to go back to Rome with his court, but the opposition of the French cardinals had deterred him. Since in her letters Catherine had urged his return so strongly, it was natural that they should discuss the subject now that they were face to face. “Fulfill what you have promised,” she said, reminding him of a vow he had once taken and had never disclosed to any human being. Greatly impressed by what he regarded as a supernatural sign, Gregory resolved to act upon it at once.

“On September 13, 1376, he set out from Avignon to travel by water to Rome, while Catherine and her friends left the city on the same day to return overland to Siena. On reaching Genoa she was detained by the illness of two of her secretaries, Neri di Landoccio and Stephen Maconi. The latter was a young Sienese nobleman, recently converted, who had become an ardent follower. When Catherine got back to Siena, she kept on writing the Pope, entreating him to labor for peace. At his request she went again to Florence, still rent by factions, and stayed there for some time, frequently in danger of her life. She did finally establish peace between the city governors and the papacy, but this was in the reign of Gregory’s successor.

“After Catherine returned to Siena, Raymund of Capua tells us, ‘she occupied herself actively in the composition of a book which she dictated under the inspiration of the Holy Ghost’. This was the mystical work, in four treatises, called The Dialogue of St. Catherine. Her health was now so impaired by austerities that she was never free from pain; yet her thin face was usually smiling. She was grieved by any sort of scandal in the Church, especially that of the Great Schism which followed the death of Gregory XI. Urban VI was elected as his successor by the cardinals of Rome and Clement VII by the rebellious cardinals of Avignon.

“Western Christendom was divided; Clement was recognized by France, Spain, Scotland, and Naples; Urban by most of North Italy, England, Flanders, and Hungary. Catherine wore herself out trying to heal this terrible breach in Christian unity and to obtain for Urban the obedience due to the legitimate head. Letter after letter was dispatched to the princes and leaders of Europe. To Urban himself she wrote to warn him to control his harsh and arrogant temper. This was the second pope she had counseled, chided, even commanded. Far from resenting reproof, Urban summoned her to Rome that he might profit by her advice. Reluctantly she left Siena to live in the Holy City. She had achieved a remarkable position for a woman of her time. On various occasions at Siena, Avignon, and Genoa, learned theologians had questioned her and had been humbled by the wisdom of her replies.

“Although Catherine was only thirty-three, her life was now nearing its close. On April 21, 1380, a paralytic stroke made her helpless from the waist downwards, and eight days later she passed away in the arms of her cherished friend, Alessia Saracini. The Dominicans at Rome still treasure the body of Catherine in the Minerva Church, but Siena has her head enshrined in St. Dominic’s Church.” (Saint Catherine of Siena, Virgin | EWTN)



The Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization, led by Archbishop Rino Fisichella, is behind the organization of the month-long initiative of Pope Francis to have a worldwide prayer marathon during the entire month of May for an end to the pandemic.

The theme is: “Prayer by the Church was fervently being made to God” (Acts 12:5).

A press release by the council explains that, “the Holy Father will open and close the prayer, along with the faithful around the world, from two significant locations within the Vatican City State.

“On Saturday May 1, Pope Francis will pray at Our Lady of Succor (Our Lady of Help), an icon venerated as early as the seventh century depicted in a fresco above the altar of Saint Leo, near the southern transept of the primitive Vatican Basilica, afterwards placed, where it still stands today, inside the new Saint Peter’s Basilica erected by Pope Gregory XIII in 1578, at the Gregorian Chapel, where, the relics of Saint Gregory of Nazianzus, Doctor and Father of the Church, are also kept.

“In 2013, during the Year of Faith, the icon underwent a new restoration. Since it was the first restoration carried out in the pontificate of Pope Francis, at that time newly elected, the words SVCCVRRE NOS and FRANCISCVS PP. A. I., were engraved below the icon, thus entrusting the Pope to Our Lady of Succor. ***

“On this occasion, the Holy Father will bless special Rosaries used particularly for this event, which will then be sent to the thirty Shrines directly involved. A number of families from parishes in Rome and Lazio will take part by reading and leading the recitation of the Holy Rosary, along with young people representing some of the New Evangelization Movements.

“On May 31, Pope Francis will conclude this prayer marathon from a significant place in the Vatican Gardens, of which further information will be given. Both of these moments will be accessible to persons without hearing.

*** (JFL: If you want to visit an amazing site about St. Peter’s Basilica – here it is: St Peter’s Basilica Info – Click here for Our Lady of Succour (go to Floorplan, No. 71): St. Peter’s – Altar of Our Lady of Succour (



The Pope’s Motu proprio requires a declaration on the part of senior management and administrators that they are clear of convictions or investigations regarding terrorism, money laundering or tax evasion. They will also be prohibited to place assets in tax havens or to invest in companies whose principles are against the Church’s doctrine. All employees are prohibited to receive gifts worth more than 40 Euro.

(Vatican News)

According to Scripture, faithfulness in matters of little consequence is related to faithfulness in more important ones”.

These words introduce Pope Francis’s new Motu proprio on transparency through which the Pope will require everyone in a management position in the Holy See, and all who carry out administrative, judicial or supervisory functions, to sign a declaration stating they have never received a conviction, that they are not subject to any pending criminal trials or investigations regarding corruption, fraud, terrorism, money laundering, exploitation of minors, or tax evasion. The declaration also covers cash holdings or investments in countries at high risk of money laundering or the financing of terrorist activities, in tax havens or in companies whose policies are against the Church’s social doctrine.

The crackdown follows that of 19 May 2020 when Pope Francis promulgated the new regulations regarding procurements. This was necessary, the Pontiff explains, because corruption “can be manifested in different manners and forms even in various sectors other than that of procurement. Because of this, internationally accepted regulations and best practices require transparency from those holding key roles in the public sector for the purpose of preventing and combatting conflicts of interest, patronage practices and corruption in general”. Therefore, the Holy See, which has adhered to the United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC), “has decided to conform itself to these best practices to prevent and combat” this phenomenon “in its various forms”.

Along these lines, the Pope has decided to add some articles to the General Regulations of the Roman Curia, with a provision that concerns all those whose roles fall under the categories C, C1, C2 and C3 (that is, from Cardinal heads of Dicasteries to deputy directors holding five-year contracts), and all those who carry out administrative, judicial or supervisory functions. They will have to sign a declaration when they are hired, and every two years thereafter.

They will be required to declare that they have never been convicted either in the Vatican or in another country, that they have never received a pardon or amnesty, and that they were never pardoned due to statute of limitation; that they are not subject to a criminal trial or are being investigated for participation in organized crime, corruption, fraud, terrorism, laundering money from criminal activity, exploitation of minors, human trafficking or the exploitation of human persons, or tax evasion.

They will also be required to declare that they do not hold, even through third parties, cash or investments or stakes in corporations or companies in places included in the list of countries at high risk of money laundering (unless their relatives are residents or domiciled for valid reasons including family, work or study). They must ensure, that, to their knowledge, all asset or movable and immovable goods owned or held by them, as well as remuneration of any kind, originate from licit activity. Also significant is the requirement “not to hold” shares or “interests” in companies or businesses whose policies are contrary to the Church’s social doctrine.

The Secretariat for the Economy (SPE) will have the capacity to verify the veracity of the written declarations. The Holy See, in the event of false or mendacious declarations, can dismiss the employee and require the payment of damages incurred. Finally, something new concerning all employees working in the Roman Curia, Vatican City State and related entities, is the prohibition to accept gifts in connection to their employment, whose value is greater than 40 Euro.



You may recall that on April 22 the Vatican announced that Pope Francis has designated the month of May, traditionally dedicated to Mary and praying the rosary, as a month that will be entirely dedicated to prayer for an end to the current pandemic – a veritable marathon of prayer.

The initiative will involved shrines throughout the word, 30 of which will participate in televised broadcasts of the nightly rosary that will be featured at 6 pm Rome time on News from the Vatican – News about the Church – Vatican News and other media. Each day of May will feature a special shrine from around the world (30 countries, 30 shrines), during which faithful will gather to pray the rosary. Each shrine will be offering the rosary for a specific intention.

Pope Francis will both open and close this prayer marathon. The opening event will be in the St. Gregory Chapel of St. Peter’s Basilica and the closing one will take place in the Vatican gardens.

Faithful can visit a local shrine during May as well as tuning in daily to the Vatican live-streamed event. The theme for the entire month is the theme, “The whole Church was fervently praying to God.”

Tomorrow and Friday I will be providing a list of all the shrines that will be featured each evening, some background material on this initiative and the small, online prayer book as a guide to the celebrations. The booklet also includes the list of shrines.

The Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization has put together this prayer initiative.


Pope Francis held the general audience in the papal study in the Apostolic Palace and it was, as usual, live-streamed. He began his weekly talk by stating, “in our continuing catechesis on Christian prayer, we now consider the importance of meditative prayer. Everyone needs moments of recollection amid the busyness of our daily lives.”

“We all need to meditate, to reflect, to find ourselves,” said Francis. “Especially in the voracious Western world, people seek meditation because it represents a high barrier against the daily stress and emptiness that is everywhere. … It is a phenomenon to be welcomed, because we possess an interior life that cannot always be neglected.” (vaticannews photo)

The Pope explained that, “for Christians, meditation is not simply a matter of introspection but a method of prayer, a means of encountering Christ, above all in the mysteries of his earthly life. While there are many methods of meditation in the Church’s rich spiritual tradition, all have a single aim: to enable us to grow in our relationship with Jesus our Savior.”

He noted that, “by the grace of the Holy Spirit, our union with Christ in faith is nurtured through the use of our intellect, imagination, emotions and desires. The Catechism teaches that meditation on the mysteries of Christ deepens our faith, prompts the conversion of our hearts, and strengthens our will to follow in his footsteps (cf. No. 2708).”

In concluding remarks, Pope Francis said, “Our Lord’s every word and action can thus touch us and become a part of our own lives. On every page of the Gospel we are invited to encounter Christ and to discover in him the source of our salvation and our true happiness.


“South Sudan, a Shepherd and the Search for Peace “– this is my title for the sad story of an attack on a bishop in a country where every day life is precarious, where people want peace but do not have the power to create it and those in power try at best to keep a truce alive. South Sudan became independent from the Republic of Sudan in 2011. Civil way broke out in 2013. A peace deal was agreed to by opposing leaders in February 2020 when a national unity government was formed. Read on…


According to a Holy See Press Office statement Pope Francis was immediately informed of the attack against the bishop-elect of Rumbek, Fr Carlassare, on Sunday night and is praying for him.

By Paul Samasumo – Vatican News

Unknown armed men have shot and wounded the Bishop-elect of South Sudan’s Rumbek Catholic Diocese. The Italian-born Fr. Christian Carlassare, a Comboni Missionary, was attacked on Sunday night in Rumbek.

The gunmen went to his residence, shot at his bedroom door till it opened, and when Fr. Carlassare came out, they shot him on both legs.

They started shooting low at my legs

“In the night at around 1 am, some people came at my door, and they were trying to enter. They shot at my door. When the door was open, I came out and asked what they wanted and then they started shooting low at my legs,” Fr Carlassare told local media.

The bishop-elect has since been flown to Nairobi for treatment. “You pray for me and pray and pray for the people of Rumbek. We also forgive those that commit these kinds of actions. We do not carry any grudges,” said Fr Carlassare. (vatican photo)

No one in South Sudan seems to know exactly the real motives of the shooters. Suffice it to say, ironically, things in South Sudan have slowly been looking up. Slow, but there has been some progress.

The director of the Vatican press office, Matteo Bruni, confirmed to Vatican News that Pope Francis was aware of the shooting and praying for Fr. Carlassare and the people of South Sudan.

Silent guns help bring about progress

The director of the La Salle School of Rumbek, Brother Joseph Alak, recently told Vatican News: “There is no fighting at the moment. The truce is holding. We hope that the peace will hold for a long time. The lack of armed conflict is better than a return to war. The guns are silent, and we are hopeful for the future.”

The Brothers of La Salle and the community of Rumbek opened a school for boys -thanks to the end of the war. Unfortunately, there are so many guns in the hands of many young South Sudanese men.

An Easter of forgiveness

On Easter Sunday this year, just as South Sudan made tentative steps towards vaccinating some of its health workers against Covid-19, Archbishop Stephen Ameyu Martin Mula of Juba Archdiocese prayed that Easter would bring to South Sudan a spirit of forgiveness.

“Forgiveness is Easter itself, and Easter is forgiveness,” Archbishop Ameyu told Vatican News. “This forgiveness must begin with us. We must forgive each other from the bottom of our hearts. Forgiveness is complete when we have forgiven others. Through the cross and the resurrection of Christ, we too can experience paradise here in our lives.”

Pope Francis’ concern for South Sudan

For his part, on April 11, 2019, at the end of a Spiritual Retreat organised by the Vatican for the political leaders of South Sudan, Pope Francis knelt at the feet of the leaders of South Sudan, kissed their feet and implored them to definitely end the war.

“You have begun a process. May it end well,” Pope Francis told them. “There will be disagreements among you. May these take place in the confines of your offices while, in front of your people, you hold hands. In this way, you will be transformed from mere citizens to Fathers of the nation. As a brother, I ask you to stay the course of peace. I ask you from the bottom of my heart, let us go forward. There will be many challenges, but do not be afraid.” Pope Francis then kissed the feet of the leaders. (photo by ANSA, posted on vaticannews)

A Christmas Letter of December 24, 2020 from Pope Francis, Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, and (Presbyterian) Church of Scotland Moderator, Martin Fair, to South Sudan’s Political Leaders encouraged them to stay the course of peace. “We have been glad to see the small progress you have made, but know it is not enough for your people to feel the full effect of peace. When we visit, we long to bear witness to a changed nation,” read the Christmas message.

The many guns and the “small progress” observed by Pope Francis and the two other leaders in the Christmas message could be the devil in the detail at the heart of South Sudan’s peace challenges. South Sudan’s leaders need to do more. As observed by the United Nations, the slow progress is creating a vacuum open for exploitation by spoilers.

The cost of the slow implementation of the peace

David Shearer, the former Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), told the Security Council at the end of March 2021 that there was need to do more in South Sudan and to build on the gains already obtained.

Shearer told the Security Council, in his final briefing, that after his four-year tour of duty, he was confident that some progress was being made but more needed to be done.

While welcoming the formation of the presidency and Council of Ministers, instalment of a full complement of State leaders and announcement of lower-level officials, Shearer said the Transitional National Legislature had not yet been reconstituted.

There has been minimal progress on constitution-making, transitional justice and economic reform and – perhaps most significantly – the unification of forces was yet to occur. Thousands of troops were just languishing in cantonment sites without shelter, health care or food, said the former UN representative. The slow implementation of the peace agreement was dangerous. It created a power vacuum at the local level, which opened opportunities for spoilers to exploit regional tensions and was fuelling violence.


There’s rejoicing in Rome today! Most of Italy became a low risk Covid yellow zone today, and one of the best stories of that re-opening is that restaurants and coffee bars and the like may actually serve clients seated at tables – no more take away! I had several appointments this morning and as I travelled around by bus and taxi, it was a joy to see so many tables finally placed outdoors and so many people – all at safe distances, with hand sanitizer available – enjoying a mid-morning cappuccino and cornetto!

After months of very difficult restrictions, restaurants can once again serve dinner even though the 10 pm curfew remains in place. The last time restaurants were allowed to be open for dinner was October 2020! Since then, restaurants have either been closed completely or open only until 6 pm (so lunch only) for take-out. However, take-out still meant being closed for many places as that is just not the Italian way: you dine out or you dine at home or are the dinner guest of friends. Pizza is probably the only exception for take out!

It is a re-opening but there is a limitation: restaurants can only serve outside (so we all have to pray for great weather every day!). That’s good news for many but there are also countless restaurants that have no outdoor space. A friend in St. Patrick’s parish owns a wonderful Japanese restaurant but does not have a square foot of space for outdoor tables so she still suffers.

I celebrated the re-opening by having lunch at Homebaked and will go to La Vittoria for dinner tonight!   It is hard to fathom that tonight will be the first time since October that restaurants are open for dinner!

For more: What changes from Monday in Italy’s Covid ‘yellow’ zones? – The Local

And many Americans will probably be toasting to this news tonight! Vaccinated Americans will be able to travel to Europe this summer, says EU chief – The Local


Pope Francis meets with a group of Poor Clare nuns whose convent in the Italian town of Paganica was destroyed in a 2009 earthquake in L’Aquila, and says they have offered a sign of hope amid tragedy.

By Fr. Benedict Mayaki, SJ (vaticannews)

Pope Francis on Monday met with the religious sisters of the Poor Clare Convent of St. Clare of Paganica, outside the Italian city of L’Aquila.

In his greetings to the nuns, the Holy Father thanked them for the support they give him through their prayers, and also expressed gratitude for the gift of the Easter Candle that they decorated for the Chapel of Casa Santa Marta.

He highlighted that the nuns are spiritually present at the celebrations taking place at the chapel through their gift of “the symbol of Christ, the light of the world.”

God’s loving care and solidarity amid tragedy

Pope Francis recalled the April 2009 earthquake that rocked the Poor Clare community in Paganica, injuring several nuns and causing destruction to the monastery.

He also remembered that among the quake’s victims was Abbess Mother Gemma Antonucci, who died under the rubble.

In spite of that, the Pope noted, “God made you emerge from that tragedy strengthened and, like the grain of wheat that must die in order to bear fruit, so it was also for your monastic community.”

“You experienced great pain, but also the loving care of your heavenly Father and the solidarity of many people,” he said.

He pointed out that on that night of the incident, the nuns lost everything “except God and fraternity.” From these points, they set out again with courage, first establishing a temporary structure, before reconstructing the monastery ten years after.

A fresh start

Now, he said, “your community is flourishing, composed of twelve nuns, all young.” Pope Francis added that, in the face of tragedy, the message the nuns have given is to “start afresh from God and from fraternal solidarity.”

The Holy Father went on to encourage the Poor Clares never to tire of being a prayerful and consoling presence in support of the people who have been sorely tried by the terrible experience and are still in need of comfort and encouragement.

“May the example of Blessed Antonia help you always to be poor and joyful women for love of the poor Christ,” the Pope prayed, urging them at the same time, to respond with generosity to the desire that God has placed in their hearts as consecrated women in adherence with the Gospel, in fidelity to the charism received from St. Clare and St. Francis.

The Holy Father concluded the audience by imparting his Apostolic Blessing and invoking the light and strength of the Holy Spirit upon the nuns. He also enjoined them to pray for him and for the whole Church.


POPE GIFTS AMBULANCE TO ARMENIA – Pope Francis expresses his affection for the people of Armenia with a gift of medical equipment, including a new ambulance. The Pope’s representative in Armenia, Archbishop Jose Bettencourt, delivered a concrete sign of the Holy Father’s care and concern on Sunday. The Apostolic Nuncio blessed a gift from Pope Francis for the Catholic “Redemptoris Mater” Hospital in the northern Armenian town of Ashotsk. According to a statement from the Holy See Press Office, the gift consisted in a new ambulance equipped with the latest mobile medical equipment and emergency respirators to assist patients with Covid-19. Pope Francis donates medical equipment to Armenia – Vatican News

POPE ANNOUNCES CONSISTORY FOR VOTE ON CANONIZATIONS – Cardinals will vote on proceeding with the canonizations of seven Blesseds, including those of Blessed Charles de Foucauld and of the first Indian layperson to be elevated to that rank. Pope Francis has called an Ordinary Public Consistory for a vote on several causes for canonization. The Consistory will take place on Monday, 3 May at 10 am Rome time, in the Consistory Hall in the Apostolic Palace, where he will preside at the celebration of Terce (Mid-Morning Prayer), with the Consistory following immediately. Pope announces Consistory for vote on Canonizations – Vatican News

PORTRAIT OF VATICAN CONGREGATION THAT SELECTS BISHOPS. The process is explained here but basically, when a diocese remains vacant, names are sent in to Rome as potential candidates. They are studied and vetted. Three names – a terna – are sent to the Pope who usually chooses from those names. If none suit him, a second terna is given to him. Read on…. To choose a bishop: a man for the Church, not a “ladder-climber” – Vatican News


Celebrating one’s onomastico or name day is big in Italy – for some Italians, bigger than a birthday! – and is celebrated by those named for a saint (What! Cosa! You weren’t named for a saint!). Thus, if your name is George (or Jorge in Spanish or Giorgio in Italian) or Georgia, today, April 23, is your onomastico! Another example: the feast day of St. John the Baptist is June 24 and feminine derivatives of that name such as Joan also celebrate their name day in June.   Start the search for your saint’s feast day and starting celebrating that as your very own name day!


This week on “Vatican Insider,” after the news segment and the Q&A on scapulars, I bring you a Special I’ve prepared on the Via Lucis, the Way of Light, basically a post-Easter journey through 14 stations of light, the light that fills our life because of the Resurrection. Also known as the Stations of the Resurrection, this devotion encourages the faithful to meditate not only on the Resurrection itself but on Jesus’ post-Resurrection appearances to the disciples and others.

If you don’t know this devotion, be sure to tune in. I know you’ll enjoy every minute! How great it would be to incorporate this devotion into pilgrimages to the Holy Land, to visit these 14 “new” stations! (photos from

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 posted this story earlier on Facebook and Twitter but if you did not see those posts, you may want to know that the Pope spent part of his onomastico or name day – Jorge is George in Spanish – in the Paul VI Hall with the poor and homeless receiving their second dose of the Covid-19 vaccine. He thus showed his support for the project created by Cardinal Konrad Krajewski, the papal almoner, to provide free Covid-19 vaccines to vulnerable people.

They were part of the larger group of poor receiving the Pfizer BionTech vaccine thanks to the Vatican and to Spallanzani hospital, Italy’s center for contagious diseases. The first vaccination occurred during Holy Week. The Pope spent around half an hour with those present, walking through the hall, greeting people as he walked along, even offering a large chocolate Easter egg that was distributed to the volunteers, while respecting all health norms. Those present then sang a song for the Pope’s name-day.


Pope Francis, in a message signed by Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin, expressed his “spiritual closeness” to those affected by the eruption of the La Soufrière volcano that is located in the Caribbean island of St Vincent and the Grenadines, situated in the Lesser Antilles. His thoughts and prayers are addressed in particular to “the many displaced persons forced to evacuate their homes and seek shelter from the effects of this disaster.” The Pope said he is “praying in a particular way for the emergency personnel and volunteers providing relief assistance.” (vaticannews)



Weekly edition in English of L’Osservatore Romano:ING_2021_017_2304.pdf (

Pope Francis will be a special guest speaker today when the website starts coverage at 12 noon ET of events and special speakers: Earth Day: The Official Site | EARTHDAY.ORG   He tweeted about Earth Day this morning: “We have broken the bonds of our relationship with the Creator, with out fellow human beings and with the rest of creation. We need to heal the damaged relationships that are essential to supporting us and the entire fabric of life. #EarthDay”


From Holy See Press Office Director Matteo Bruni: “I can confirm that this morning the Holy Father met in a private audience with the Prime Minister-designate of Lebanon, Saad Hariri. During the talks, which lasted about thirty minutes, the Pope wanted to reiterate his closeness to the Lebanese people, who once lived of great difficulty and uncertainty, and recalled the responsibility of all political forces to urgently commit themselves to the benefit of the nation. In reaffirming their desire to visit the country as soon as the conditions are right, Pope Francis expressed the hope that Lebanon, with the help of the international community, returns to incarnate “the fortress of the cedars, the diversity that from weakness becomes strength in the great reconciled people”, with its vocation to be a land of encounter, coexistence and pluralism.” (vaticannews photo)


A communique today from Cardinal Konrad Krajewski, papal almoner, noted the Vatican’s continuing campagn to vaccinate the poor and marginalized and announced that tomorrow, Friday April 23, liturgical memorial of St. George martyr, Pope Francis’s name day, the poor will again be at the center of the Holy Father’s attention. The communique explained that “a group of 600 people, among the most fragile and marginalized, will receive the second dose of the vaccine against Covid-19 in the Paul VI Hall in the Vatican. These women and men are part of the approximately 1,400 beneficiaries of the vaccination campaign started during Holy Week by the Apostolic Almoner in collaboration with other associations.” (vaticannews photo)

“In addition to receiving the vaccine, people will participate in festivites for the Holy Father’s name day with a surprise offered by the Pope. “The Apostolic Almoner takes this opportunity to thank those many people and realities who participated in the “Suspended vaccine” initiative for their generosity that allowed, with a small gesture of closeness, countries otherwise unable to access the vaccine.”


The Diocese of Rome and the Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life today presented the official prayer for the 10th World Meeting of Families to be held in Rome from June 22 to 26, 2022. The official hashtag is also ready: #WMOF2022.

Cardinal Kevin Farrell, prefect of the dicastery, made the point in a note on the website that “praying is a way to enter into the heart of the Amoris Laetitia Year and the preparation for the event in Rome.” He added that, “many families and communities have been waiting a long time to be able to set out on their way, at least spiritually, to Rome. Prayer will accompany them and help them to grasp the message of the gathering.”

For the prayer and other news: Family love: a vocation and a path to holiness. The official prayer of the 10th World Meeting of Families (




A communique this afternoon from the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization announced that “it is the Holy Father’s heartfelt wish that the month of May be dedicated to a marathon of prayer on the theme “From the whole Church the prayer to God went up incessantly (Acts 12,5).”

The council notes that, “this initiative will involve in a special way all the shrines of the world, so that they become promoters for the faithful, families and communities of the recitation of the Rosary to invoke the end of the pandemic.

Thirty representative shrines from around the world will lead the Marian prayer, which will be broadcast live daily on the official channels of the Holy See at 18:00 (6 pm Rome time).”

Pope Francis will open this great prayer on May 1st and end it on May 31st.


At today’s general audience live-streamed from the papal library, Pope Francis explained that, “in our continuing catechesis on Christian prayer, we now consider the importance of vocal prayer. In our dialogue with God, He first spoke to us through His own Word made flesh. He invites us in turn to speak to him in words that embody our deepest thoughts, emotions and experiences. Words do not only express our ideas, they also shape us and often reveal us to ourselves.”

Francis said, “the prayer of the heart and the prayer of our lips can never be separated. As the Catechism tells us, “vocal prayer is an essential element of the Christian life” (No. 2701). Through our spoken or chanted prayer, alone or in common, we find the words that enable us to grow daily in our relationship with God. Prayer thus quietly becomes an essential part of our lives, like the air we breathe. When the disciples asked Jesus to show them how to pray, he responded by teaching them, and us, the words of the Our Father.

In evocative terms, the Holy Father noted that, “We should all have the humility of certain elderly people who, in church… recite softly the prayers they learned as children. That prayer does not disturb the silence, but testifies to their fidelity to the duty of prayer practised throughout their lives, without fail.” These “practitioners of humble prayer … are often the great intercessors of our parishes.”  They too, like all of us, sometimes face dark nights, and “empty moments.” But, the Pope said, “one can always remain faithful to vocal prayer.”

Therefore, Pope Francis concluded, “we must not despise vocal prayer,” which is the only “sure” way “to direct to God the questions He wants to hear.” (source: Vatican media)


10:40 AM TODAY:  Conviction announced in George Floyd murder case. Ex-officer Derek Chauvin is convicted for the murder of George Floyd. Almost a year since his murder, jurors have found Derek Chauvin guilty of all three charges on George Floyd’s death. These are: second degree murder, third degree murder and manslaughter. In May last year, the ex-police officer was filmed kneeling on George Floyd for over nine minutes as he arrested him.

We will be bringing you more updates on this story including reactions from the US bishops. (

That update came at 11:30 am with a report on statements by the USCCB (United States Conference of Catholic Bishops) and by the bishops of Minnesota: US Bishops call for racial healing in wake of Chauvin verdict – Vatican News