My guest this week on Vatican Insider is Chris Altieri, a former colleague at Vatican Radio. For years, you, my listeners, probably read Chris’ stories on the webpages of English Vatican Radio and heard his voice as he did wonderful commentaries for papal Masses and other events.

This weekend, in the first of two parts, we look at the reform of Vatican communications – what has happened so far, the low morale in the Vatican, what reform means for Vatican personnel in the communications area and what it means for people around the world who listen to a greatly changed Vatican radio – except we are not supposed to use that name anymore!

In the United States, you can listen to Vatican Insider (VI) on a Catholic radio station near you (there is a list of U.S. stations at or on channel 130 Sirius-XM satellite radio. 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.” Vatican Insider airs Saturday mornings at 9:00am (ET). On the SKY satellite feed to the UK and parts of Europe, VI airs on audio channel 0147 at 11:30 am CET on Saturdays, and 5:30am and 10pm CET on Sundays. It’s also available on demand on the EWTN app and on the website. CHECK YOUR TIME ZONE. Here’s a link to download VI to your iTunes library: For VI archives:


When I learned Wednesday morning of the sudden and tragic death in Rome a day earlier of the archbishop of HoChiMinh Ville (Saigon), Vietnam. I immediately thought of my very good friend, Msgr. Cuong Pham, who works in the Roman Curia at the Council for the Interpretation of Legislative Texts. I thought of Cuong because he is the first Vietnamese priest I ever knew and I was sure he knew all of Vietnam’s bishops.

Cuong was born in Vietnam but he is now a U.S. citizen. When he was studying in Rome and living at the Casa Santa Maria, part of the North American College, we met and became fast friends. His life story was so incredibly fascinating that I did a two- part interview with him for Vatican Insider – from the shores in Vietnam with the “boat people” to the shores of the United States to the doors of the Vatican! If his story, his family’s story, was made into a movie, it would be at the top of the charts for weeks!

I was blessed a few years ago to meet his parents and one of his brothers when they were in Rome and offered the hospitality of my home to meet these people who had become heroes to me.

When I was in Vietnam a few years ago, visiting both DaNang and Saigon, Cuong’s relatives and priest friends made my trip exceptional, unbelievably memorable. I’ll never forget our meals together, their help, their stories, their lives, especially the young men studying for the priesthood or those who had been recently ordained.

Something you should know, by the way: Vietnam is second only to the Philippines for the percentage of Catholics in the country. There is a very large Vietnamese presence in Rome including many priests, a number of seminarians and untold numbers of lay faithful.

In any case, after learning of Archbishop Paul Bùi Văn Đọc’s death, I sent Cuong an email to express my condolences to him and, through him, to all the bishops of Vietnam, including Cardinal Pierre Nguyen Van Nhon, archbishop of Hanoi, created a cardinal in 2015 by Pope Francis, the sixth cardinal ever from Vietnam. I briefly met the cardinal at the courtesy visits the afternoon of the consistory in which he became a cardinal and told him I had recently been to his country, but not to Hanoi.

The Vietnamese bishops have been in Rome this week on the mandatory “ad limina apostolorum” (to the threshold of the Apostles) visit all bishops must pay to Rome – usually every five years. During these visits, they meet with the Pope and visit various offices of the Roman Curia.

Here is a video of their meeting with Pope Francis on Monday. You will see the cardinal to the right of the papal chair and then you see the first person to greet Pope Francis and kiss his ring – he announces him name, saying he is the archbishop of Hochiminh Ville:

This video was all the more poignant for me after a long phone conversation last night with Fr. Cuong.

I learned that, because he is one of two Vietnamese priests in the Curia, he was put in charge of arranging the entire ad limina visit for the Vietnamese bishops. Obviously he knows Vietnamese, English and Italian and is very familiar with the Vatican, its offices and Vatican City, as he is with the city of Rome. All of that served him well so he could serve the bishops well.

Cuong arranged for lodgings, transport to the Vatican and basilicas of Rome, and coordinated all the meetings with the Holy Father and various officials of the Roman Curia. Working at his own job in the legislative texts council in the meantime!

Because the late archbishop’s name was Paul, Fr. Cuong thought it would be a lovely experience for the Vietnamese prelates to celebrate Mass at the papal basilica of St. Paul’s Outside the Walls and arranged for that to happen Tuesday morning.

It was during Mass, Cuong said, that everyone could see something was obviously very wrong with the archbishop, although he said he could finish Mass. A reception had been planned after Mass with the presence of hundreds of Vietnamese Catholics.

The vans that had brought the prelates to Mass were not parked close to the basilica so the archbishop was brought in a private car to San Camillo hospital, noted for its cardiac unit, where he died after three attempts to revive him when his heart stopped.

Fr. Cuong was at his side when he died. As we spoke last night, we both agreed how extraordinarily beautiful it has to be for a priest to die right after celebrating the Eucharist – after turning the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ!

Cuong told me he had eaten dinner with Archbishop Văn Đọc on Monday night and they were celebrating all the beautiful moments up to that point with the Holy Father and others in the Vatican. The archbishop was a contented person.

The archbishop is still at San Camillo hospital as I write, and Cuong is in the throes of dealing with officials at the Vietnamese embassy and in Italy to see to his transfer back to Vietnam. Hochiminh Ville diocese has two auxiliaries and, according to Canon Law, it would be the first appointed of the two to accompany the late archbishop back to Vietnam.

Fr. Cuong wanted me to know above all what an extremely wonderful priest and human being Archbishop Văn Đọc was.

“He was generous to a fault,” said Cuong. “He was a man of great empathy, of compassion, of mercy – a priest ‘of the peripheries’ as Pope Francis likes to say. The ‘least of these’ are the people he gravitated to, in particular orphans and those with disabilities. He was unique in so many ways and will be sorely missed. God rest his beautiful soul.”

Pope Francis invited Vietnam’s bishops to Mass in the chapel of the Santa Marta residence on Wednesday and shared some special time with them.

Cardinal Pietro Parolin, secretary of State, will celebrate a memorial Mass in the Canon’s Chapel of St. Peter’s Basilica tomorrow, Saturday, March 10. A large number of Vietnamese faithful are expected to attend and there will probably be an overflow crowd as this lovely chapel (right across from the Blessed Sacrament Chapel in the basilica) cannot accommodate hundreds.

One Vietnamese bishop whom I do know but have not yet seen in Rome is Bishop Joseph Chau Ngoc Tri, now of Lạng Sơn et Cao Bằng, but he was the bishop of DaNang when we met. He was a wonderful guide, friend and host for a number of meals in his residence, just yards from the DaNang cathedral.

I have followed the cause for canonization of Fr. Vincent Capodanno for a number of years and have participated in events in Italy and in Vietnam where he died on a battlefield near DaNang on September 4, 1967, trying to minister to “his men” when he was a chaplain in the Navy. A celebration in DaNang was the reason for my first ever Vietnam trip.


When I got up this morning I wondered why it was so delightfully quiet outside and then I realized that it’s April 25, Italy’s Liberation Day, a national holiday that commemorates the end of the Fascist regime and the end of the Nazi occupation of Italy This is the 72nd such celebration of the Festa della Liberazione. In Rome this holiday starts with a ceremony at the Altare della Patria, commonly known as the Victor Emanauel monument or Vittoriano, in the presence of the Italian president.  State schools, some private schools, offices and many stores are closed and transportation is reduced. Many places also closed yesterday, Monday, the ponte or bridge, between the two-day weekend and today’s holiday.

Yesterday afternoon in St. Peter’s basilica, Pope Francis celebrated the funeral rites for Cardinal Attilio Nicora, the former president of the Vatican’s Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See (APSA), who died on Saturday at the age of 80. The funeral rites and homily were delivered by Cardinal Angelo Sodano, Dean of the College of Cardinals. The Holy Father presided at the rites of Commendatio and Valedictio. There are now 221 members of the College of Cardinals, 117 of whom are cardinal electors (those under the age of 80) (photo:

Today the Holy Father received in audience 22 prelates of the Assembly of Catholic Bishops of Ontario on their “ad Limina Apostolorum” visit. Canadian bishops are fulfilling the ad limina obligation by region.


(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis offered the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass on Tuesday for the intentions of his “brother,” Coptic Patriarch Pope Tawadros II, whom he will be meeting in three days’ time as he makes an apostolic voyage to Egypt.

The day’s Mass commemorates Saint Mark the Evangelist, who is recognized as the founder of the patriarchate of Alexandria. “I offer this Mass for my brother, Pope Tawadros II, Patriarch of Alexandria of the Copts,” Pope Francis said. He prayed for “the grace that the Lord might bless our two churches with the abundance of the Holy Spirit.

The Cardinal counsellors who make up the C-9 advisory group were among the faithful taking part in the Pope’s daily Mass.

In his homily during the liturgy, Pope Francis said the Gospel must be proclaimed with humility, overcoming the temptation of pride. He spoke about the necessity for Christians to “go out to proclaim” the Good News. A preacher, he said, must always be on a journey, and not seek “an insurance policy,” seeking safety by remaining in one place.


Following is the text of Pope Francis’ video message to the people of Egypt on the vigil of his April 28-29 apostolic voyage:

Dear people of Egypt! Al Salamò Alaikum! Peace be with you!

With a joyful and grateful heart I will come in a few days’ time to visit your dear homeland: cradle of civilization, gift of the Nile, land of sun and hospitality, where Patriarchs and Prophets lived and where God, Clement and Merciful, the One and Almighty, made His voice heard.

I am truly happy to come as a friend, as a messenger of peace and as a pilgrim to the Country that gave, more than two thousand years ago, refuge and hospitality to the Holy Family fleeing from the threats of King Herod (cfr. Mt 2:1-26). I am honoured to visit the land visited by the Holy Family!

I greet you cordially and thank you for having invited me to visit Egypt, which you call “Umm il Dugna” / Mother of the Universe!

I warmly thank Mr. President of the Republic, His Holiness the Patriarch Tawadros II, the Great Imam of Al-Azhar and the Coptic Catholic Patriarch who have invited me; and I thank each one of you, who make space for me in your hearts. I also thank all those people who have worked, and are working, to make this trip possible.

I hope that this visit will be an embrace of consolation and of encouragement to all Christians in the Middle East; a message of friendship and esteem to all inhabitants of Egypt and the region; a message of fraternity and reconciliation to all children of Abraham, particularly in the Islamic world, in which Egypt occupies a primary position. I hope that it may also offer a valid contribution to interreligious dialogue with the Islamic world, and to ecumenical dialogue with the venerated and beloved Coptic Orthodox Church.

Our world, torn by blind violence, which has also afflicted the heart of your dear land – needs peace, love and mercy; it needs workers for peace, free and liberating people, courageous people able to learn from the past to build a future without closing themselves up in prejudices; it needs builders of bridges of peace, dialogue, brotherhood, justice, and humanity.

Dear Egyptian brothers, young and elderly, women and men, Muslims and Christians, rich and poor … I embrace you warmly and ask God Almighty to bless you and protect your country from every evil.

Please, pray for me! Shukran wa Tahiaì Misr! / Thank you, and long live Egypt!


I bought this parchment years ago in Egypt when I visited the site of this celebrated church, Abu Sargah, which is the oldest church in Egypt dating back to the 5th century A.D. In Coptic Cairo, this church (also spelled Abu Sarga) was constructed upon the crypt of the Holy Family during their sojourn in Egypt. On our visit, we could not descend into the crypt as there had been water damage and it was flooded. I framed the parchment between two pieces of glass as this show the details of the work.

The church is dedicated to Saints Sergius and Bacchus who served as soldiers in the Roman Army. They were faithful followers of Jesus, and were martyred in Syria in 296 for refusing to worship the Roman gods.

The Abu Sargah website notes that the church once housed Egypt’s oldest altar which was transferred to the Coptic Museum. The roof is one of the most interesting features of the church and said to have been constructed in the shape of Noah’s Ark.

We read in Matthew 2 about the Flight into Egypt when St. Joseph was warned in a dream after the visit of the Three Magi:

7 Then Herod summoned the wise men to see him privately. He asked them the exact date on which the star had appeared  8 and sent them on to Bethlehem with the words, ‘Go and find out all about the child, and when you have found him, let me know, so that I too may go and do him homage.’

9 Having listened to what the king had to say, they set out. And suddenly the star they had seen rising went forward and halted over the place where the child was. 10 The sight of the star filled them with delight, 11 and going into the house they saw the child with his mother Mary, and falling to their knees they did him homage. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts of gold and frankincense and myrrh.

12 But they were given a warning in a dream not to go back to Herod, and returned to their own country by a different way.

13 After they had left, suddenly the angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, ‘Get up, take the child and his mother with you, and escape into Egypt, and stay there until I tell you, because Herod intends to search for the child and do away with him.’

14 So Joseph got up and, taking the child and his mother with him, left that night for Egypt, 15 where he stayed until Herod was dead. This was to fulfil what the Lord had spoken through the prophet: I called my son out of Egypt.


As I write, I am awaiting the visit of one of the neighborhood parish priests who is scheduled to visit our building between 6 and 8 pm to bless each home. This is a traditional event during either Lent or at some point in the Easter season. There are two churches that are equidistant from my home so I do not know if it will be a priest from St. Gregory the Great or St. Mary of Graces alle Fornaci. Accompanied by a parishioner, the priest prays with he occupants of the house, gives the blessing and then you chat but very briefly as he has miles to go and many homes to bless before he sleeps tonight. My doorbell is broken so I hope he knocks with energy!

An interesting day for vaticanisti: Pope Francis received Nechirvan Barzani, president of the Council of Ministers of the Regional Government of Iraqi Kurdistan. There was no official press office statement on this audience but it had to be a fascinating visit. Barzani is from the region that I visited on two occasions, staying at the Chaldean seminary in Ankawa, near Erbil,on both occasions.

Pope Francis talks with Iraq's Kurdistan Prime Minister Barzani during a private audience at the Vatican

Almost simultaneously with the papal audience in the Apostolic Palace, there was a preview for the media at a nearby religious house of the Liana Marabini film, “Shades of Truth,”a film about Pope Pius XII, whom Marabini greatly admires. Pius XII, whose cause for beatification took a positive step forward when Pope Benedict approved his predecessor being named “venerable” in 2009, has been maligned by many for decades for supposedly not saying or doing enough during World War II to save the Jews.

In fact, the opposite was true. In this film, we follow the journalist David Milano who, assigned to produce a documentary on the war-time Pope for whom he has always and only felt deep antipathy, takes both a physical journey, visiting Rome, Israel, Germany and Portugal, and a spiritual journey. Written and directed by Marabini, “Shades of Truth” is also a love story between David and Sarah that seems to be taking a bad turn, a story that will be affected by his research on Pope Pius.

The film was inspired not only by Marabini’s love and respect for Pope Pius XII, but also by the work of a close Jewish friend of hers – and mine – Gary Krupp who, with his wife Meredith, has spent years researching documents in the Vatican Archives, talking to fellow Jews who were saved through Pius’ efforts and meeting church men and women who followed the late Pope’s instructions to do all they could to save the Jews fom Hitler and from extermination.  All of this is documented on Gary’s site (PTWF stands for Pave the Way Foundation). I’ve interviewed Gary a number of times on “Vatican Insider.”

If you have heard Liana Marabini’s name before, I’ve also interviewed her for “ Insider Insider” and written about her on these pages, especially when she is in Rome for the gala awards dinner each year for the International Catholic Film Festival that she founded.

Marabini calls Pius XII “the Schindler of the Vatican,” noting that he saved over 800,000 Jews. “Shades of Truth” will be presented outside competition at the Cannes Film Festival in May and will be shown in the United States in September at the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia.

EWTN – especially its theology department – played a consultant role on the film.

For a trailer and in-depth look at the film and cast, click here:

(It is 8:20 pm and my home and person were just blessed by a priest from Santa Maria delle Graze – the assistant pastor, from Vietnam. After the prayers and blessing with holy water, we spoke briefly. I told him of my trip to Vietnam last year and we also disovered we have mutual Vietnamese friends in the Vatican!).


His general prayer intention is: “That those involved in scientific research may serve the well-being of the whole human person.”

His mission intention is: “That the unique contribution of women to the life of the Church may be recognized always.”


The weekend Lenten station churches of Rome were St. Peter’s Basilica and Santa Maria in Domnica.


Saturday’s station church was St. Peter’s Basilica.  I have tons of photos of the basilica and have been to scores and scores of Masses and papal events there over the years. If time allows tonight, I’ll post some of those photos on Facebook but for now I have a real treat for you!  I am sure you have gone to the Vatican web site ( and clicked on Papal Chapels and Basilica for information about Mass times, irtual tours, etc. of the papal basilicas. Great stuff…..

….BUT here is the most amazing site you will ever find! It has everything you wanted to know or did not know you could know about St. Peter’s Basilica!

A friend of mine, Alan Howard, put this site together a number of years ago and I’ve interviewed him for Vatican Insider (vi_01302010.mp3)

The Sunday station church was Santa Maria in Domnica, whose titular cardinal is American Cardinal William Levada, former prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

For the church history, click here:

And for some pretty amazing photos, click here:


This stunning church, with layers and layers of history, is everyone’s favorite here – Romans, expats who live here and visitors alike.  As you have seen on this page, many of the station churches in Rome do not have their own website – or, if they do, it is naturally in Italian. However, San Clemente does have its own wonderful site, so click here for an official tour!

We can also visit this jewel with Brian Lenz of NAC – here is his story (reprinted with his permission) from the 2014 pilgrimage by the NAC priests, deacons and seminarians:


THE TRANSFIGURATION, A GLIMPSE OF JESUS’ GLORY VIS) – “On this second Sunday of Lent, the Church shows us the ultimate goal of this itinerary of conversion, or rather, participation in the glory of Christ,” said the Pope before this Sunday’s Angelus prayer upon returning from the week of spiritual exercises. He also recalled that last Sunday’s Gospel passage presented Jesus resisting Satan’s temptations in the desert.

“Today’s Gospel tells us of the event of the Transfiguration, which takes place at the culmination of Jesus’ public ministry. He is on the path to Jerusalem, where the prophecies of the Servant of God will be fulfilled and His redemptive sacrifice will be consummated”. Francis remarked that neither the multitude nor the apostles understood that the outcome of Jesus’ mission of suffering would be His glorious passion, and so He decided to show a glimpse of His glory to the apostles Peter, James and John, to confirm them in their faith and to encourage them to follow him on the path of trial, on the way of the Cross. (For more:

FRANCIS SPEAKS OF “INTOLERABLE BRUTALITY” AGAINST FAITHFUL IN SYRIA AND IRAQ (VIS) – Following today’s Angelus prayer the Pope made an appeal regarding “the dramatic situation in Syria and Iraq, involving violence, abduction and abuse of Christians and other groups. I wish to assure those involved in these situations that we have not forgotten them; rather, we are close to them and pray ceaselessly for a swift end to the intolerable brutality they are subjected to.” He also commented that, along with the members of the Roman Curia, he offered the second Holy Mass of the spiritual exercises (last week) for this intention. He asked all persons, as far as possible, to work to alleviate the suffering of those afflicted, often merely because of the faith they profess. Let us pray for these brothers and sisters who suffer for the faith in Syria and Iraq.”

The Pontiff also commented on the acute tension that Venezuela is experiencing at present. “I pray for the victims and, in particular, for the boy who died a few days ago in San Cristobal. I urge all involved to reject violence and to respect the dignity of every person and the sacredness of human life, and encourage them to undertake a joint path for the good of the country, reopening space for sincere and constructive encounter and dialogue.” (For more:

HOLY FATHER WELCOMES BISHOPS OF NORTH AFRICA  (VIS) – This morning, the prelates of the Regional Episcopal Conference of North Africa (C.E.R.N.A), which encompasses the dioceses of Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia and Libya were received in audience by the Pope at the end of their “ad limina” visit. The Holy Father handed them a written address in which he recalls that the history of the region has been marked by many saintly figures from St. Cyprian and St. Augustine, a “spiritual patrimony for all the Church,” to Blessed Charles de Foucauld, who died 100 years ago next year.

“For several years your region has been experiencing significant changes, which offer hope that aspirations to greater freedom and dignity may be fulfilled and which favour greater freedom of conscience”, continues Francis. “But at times these events have led to outbursts of violence. I wish to mention, in particular, the courage, loyalty and perseverance of the bishops of Libya, as well as the priests, consecrated persons and laypeople who stay in this country despite the many dangers. They are genuine witnesses of the Gospel. I thank them with all my heart and encourage them to continue their efforts in contributing to peace and reconciliation throughout the region.” (For more:




On this, the first weekend of Lent, I bring you a story about the Lenten station churches of Rome, a special I first aired last year at this time.  I exchanged emails at the time with Msgr. Jim Checchio, the rector of the North American College and three young men at NAC, the national seminary in Rome, about the station churches and their daily pilgrimage to morning Mass at these churches. Two of those young men were deacons last year and are now priests – Fathers David Rider of the archdiocese of New York and Kyle Sahd of Harrisburg. Seminarian Donato Infante of Worcester is now in his 4th year at NAC.

In addition, I mention Blessed John XXIII – he is now, of course Saint John XXIII.

We will go on a mini-pilgrimage of sorts as we visit these very special churches – many of which are basilicas – that tell a beautiful story over the 40 days of Lent, a story found only in Rome.

You will want to click on the following link at some point during Lent (why not start today!) because the North American College has created a wonderful page on its website about these churches, helping us visit them, learn their history and see their beauty. And, as you know (see following story) I am bringing you one of these churches each day in this column so this link will be equally helpful:

As you know, in the United States, you can listen to Vatican Insider on a Catholic radio station near you (there is a list of U.S. stations at or on Sirius-XM satellite radio. If you live 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.” Vatican Insider airs Saturday mornings at 9:30 am (Eastern time) and re-airs Sundays at 4:30 pm (ET). Check for your time zone. Past shows are found in Vatican Insider archives:


The station church for today’s Mass is Saints John and Paul – Santi Giovanni e Paolo – one of the oldest in Rome (I know that seems like an impossible statement about a church in this city of old and very old churches!). I first visited this church about a dozen years ago when Cardinal Edward Egan of New York celebrated Mass there. Santi Giovanni e Paolo is his titular church as a cardinal. In fact, since 1946 this has been the titular church of the cardinal archbishops of New York – except for the current archbishop, Cardinal Timothy Dolan and this because because Cardinal Edward Egan, the first-ever archbishop emeritus of New York, still had the title of Santi Giovanni e Paolo.


Interestingly enough, the first New York archbishop to hold the title to this church was Francis Spellman: he received this when he became a cardinal in 1946. His predecessor to that title was Eugenio Pacelli, made a cardinal in 1929 and elected Pope in 1939 when he had to relinquish the title to Santi Giovanni e Paolo.

During his homily, Cardinal Egan mentioned that the magnificent chandeliers in the basilica were Waterford crystal and came from New York! He said they were donated to Saints John and Paul by the Waldorf Astoria Hotel when it underwent renovation. (JFL photos)

Courtesy visits - Vatican halls 006 Courtesy visits - Vatican halls 001

Here is a link to a blog you will want to read every day during Lent– not only to visit the station church of the day but to get to know a friend of mine and a wonderful young man, Brian Lenz, a seminarian at the North American college. He wrote this a year ago, after the NACers attended Mass here on the Friday after Ash Wednesday.

Two more links for this church:,_Rome  (skip the ad at the start)


Pope Francis Friday received the bishops of Ukraine who have been at the Vatican since Monday for their ad limina visit. They were led by Major-Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk of Kyiv-Halych, the head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church; and Archbishop Mieczyslaw Mokrzycki of Lviv of the Latins. Archbishop Mokrzycki spent some years in Rome as secretary to both St. John Paul II and Benedict XVI. The Pope gave his prepared remarks to the bishops at the start of the audience, and then spoke personally with the prelates.

Francis began by noting, “You find yourselves, as a country, in a situation of grave conflict, which has been going on for several months and continues to claim numerous innocent victims and to cause great suffering to the entire population.” He said he was close to them through “prayers for the dead and for all those struck by violence, with the prayer to the Lord that He might speedily grant peace, and with the appeal to all the interested parties that they might apply the agreements reached by mutual accord and might be respectful toward the principle of international legality; in particular, that the recently signed truce might be observed and all the other commitments, which are the conditions for avoiding a resumption of hostilities.”

The Pope said he recognized “the historical events that have marked your land and are still present in the collective memory. They deal with questions that have a partially political base, and to which you are not called to give a direct response; but they are also socio-cultural realities and human tragedies that await your direct and positive contribution.”

“On the national level,” said the Holy Father, “you are full citizens of your country, and so you have the right to express, even in the common way, your thought on its destiny — not in the sense of promoting a concrete political action, but in the indication and re-affirmation of the values that constitute the coagulating element of Ukrainian society, persevering in the tireless pursuit of harmony and of the common good, even in the face of grave and complex difficulties.”

He also highlighted the new juridical questions. By March, all parishes of the Russia-annexed peninsula of Crimea must be registered in accordance with Russian law.

Francis highlighted the ongoing crisis in Ukraine with its “serious repercussions in the life of families.” He spoke of the “misguided sense of economic liberty that has allowed the formation of a small group of people that are enormously enriched at the expense of the great majority of citizens. The presence of such a phenomenon has, unfortunately, contaminated in various ways even the public institutions. This has generated an unjust poverty in a generous and rich land.”

The Pope then spent some time talking about the relations between the Greek Catholic and the Roman or Latin Catholic Churches of Ukraine:

“I would like, too, to leave you a further reflection on the relations between you brothers in the episcopate. I recognize the complex historical events that weigh on mutual relations, as well as some aspects of a personal nature.

“The fact that both episcopates are Catholic and are Ukrainian is indisputable, even in the diversity of rites and traditions. It is painful for me personally to hear that there are misunderstandings and injuries. There is need of a doctor — and this is Jesus Christ, whom you both serve with generosity and with your whole hearts. You are a single body and, as was said to you in the past by Saint John Paul II, and by Benedict XVI, I in my turn urge you to find among yourselves a manner of welcoming one another and of sustaining one another generously in your apostolic labours.

Francis added that, “the unity of the episcopate, as well as giving good witness to the People of God, renders an inestimable service to the Nation, both on the cultural and social plane and, above all, on the spiritual plane. You are united in fundamental values and you have in come the most precious treasures: the faith and the people of God. I see, therefore, of paramount importance the joint meetings of the Bishops of all the Churches sui iuris present in Ukraine. May you always be generous in speaking among yourselves as brothers!”

“Both as Greek-Catholics and as Latins,” concluded the Hoy Father, “you are sons of the Catholic Church, which in your land too was for a long time subject to martyrdom. The blood of your witnesses, who intercede for you from heaven, is a further motive that urges you to true communion of hearts. Unite your forces and support one another, making historical events a motive of sharing and unity.”


(VIS) – The following is the full text of the communique issued today by the Managing Board and the College of Auditors of the Vatican Pension Fund:

“Since for some months, and amplified by press reports, alarming data has been circulating regarding the situation of the Vatican Pensions Fund and on the sustainability of honouring the commitments undertaken towards present and future subscribers, the Managing Board of the Fund and the College of Auditors consider it opportune to officially communicate the actuarial situation, assets and income of the aforementioned Fund, as it appears in the actuarial Technical Financial Statements drawn up by the actuary and the Financial Statements regularly approved by the Secretary of State.

With regard to the actuarial aspect, there is a substantial balance between available resources and commitments to current and future employees, due also to interventions (approved by the Secretary of State following proposals by the Managing Board) both in terms of contributions (increase of rates throughout the years up to the current rate of 26% on the total of taxable income) and in relation to performance (increase of two years of working life, raising the age of retirement to 67 for laypersons and 72 for clergy and persons religious.

The Statements also show, throughout the years, the solidity of the assets and financial structure of the Fund itself. The funding ratio of the Pensions Fund is 0.95%. From a strictly income-based perspective, the economic and financial situation of the institution records a gradual increase of financial and real estate resources both in terms of capital resources which, from 1993 to 2013 increased on average from € 22,256,196 per year, and in terms of the upward trend in net profit, which during the last 6 years has passed from € 23,583,882 to € 26,866,657, sums sufficient to cover the current costs of pensions.

To complete the picture, the Fund’s assets on 31 December 2014 were recorded at €477,668,000. Adding the budget surplus for 2015, estimated to be around €27,140,000, a net worth by 31 December 2015 of over 504 million euros may be hypothesised, confirming the real solidity of the Fund, which has progressed from an initial budget of 10 billion of the old Italian lire in 1993 to over 500 million euros in little more than twenty years”.