Here is a link to the lengthy but very interesting press conference held aboard the papal plane last night as it brought Pope Francis, his entourage and members of the media back to Rome from Africa at the end of the Pope’s three-nation, six-day visit. Many a media summary has been offered of the Pope’s answers to questions on the plane, and a careful reading of this Vatican news report can be helpful in separating the wheat from the chaff. https://www.vaticannews.va/en/pope/news/2019-09/pope-francis-inflight-press-conference-full-text.html


Barely resting up after his return to Rome last night from a six-day trip to Africa – his fourth to that continent – Pope Francis presided at the weekly general audience in a sun-splashed St. Peter’s Square this morning. As is traditional upon returning from an apostolic voyage, the Pope dedicated the general audience catechesis to a summary of that trip. (photo Vaticannews)

“Dear Brothers and Sisters,” he began, “Last night I returned to Rome from my apostolic journey to Mozambique, Madagascar and Mauritius. I went as a pilgrim of peace and hope to share the message of Christ as the true foundation of fraternity, freedom and justice in our world.”

He noted that, “in Mozambique, I encouraged the authorities to work together for the common good, the young to play their part in building up their country, and bishops, priests and religious to give a generous ‘yes’ to God. In Madagascar, I shared my hope that people there, with their traditional spirit of solidarity, will be able to contribute to a future of development, combined with respect for the environment and social justice. I also encouraged many contemplative nuns, bishops, priests, religious and young people to respond generously to God’s call.”

Then, speaking of his penultimate day in Africa, Francis said, “in Mauritius, a land of diverse cultures, I expressed to all my appreciation for their efforts to foster harmony between different groups. The Gospel at our final Mass reminded us how the Beatitudes – the identity card of Christ’s disciples – are the source of peace and hope. Let us pray that, from the seeds sown during this visit, God will bring forth abundant fruit for the people of Mozambique, Madagascar and Mauritius.”

Interestingly enough, according to a study by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate, since 1980 the Catholic population in Africa has risen by 238%, the largest growth anywhere in the world.


A communiqué this morning from the Israeli Embassy to the Holy See announced that “Israel’s ambassador to the Holy See Oren David was at this morning’s weekly general audience at which he met with Pope Francis and presented a stamp jointly issued by the Israeli philatelic service and the Vatican Post Office to mark the 25th anniversary of diplomatic relations. The stamp depicts the church of Saint Peter and the synagogue of Capernaum in Galilee, an image that well represents the close ties between Judaism and Christianity and between the state of Israel and the Holy See. On this occasion Ambassador David invited Pope Francis to visit Capernaum and the holy places of Galilee.”

(JFL: On June 15, 1994, the Holy See established full diplomatic relations with Israel, setting up an apostolic nunciature in Tel Aviv, and naming Archbishop Andrea Cordero Lanza di Montezemolo as the first apostolic nuncio or ambassador.)



Tune in this weekend to Vatican Insider for a special I have prepared on a wonderful, multi-century tradition in Rome during Lent – the celebrated Lenten Station Churches, What are they? What is their history? Why are they special in Lent? You will definitely want to come to Rome some year to participate, even for a few days, in this tradition but this weekend you can visit with me!

IN THE UNITED STATES, you can listen to Vatican Insider (VI) on a Catholic radio station near you (stations listed at http://www.ewtn.com) or on channel 130 Sirius-XM satellite radio, or on http://www.ewtn.com. 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 http://www.ewtnradio.net ALWAYS CHECK YOUR OWN TIME ZONE! For VI archives: http://www.ewtn.com/multimedia/audio-library/index.asp (write Vatican Insider where it says Search Shows and Episodes)


The following telegram was sent to Mosul, Iraq by Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin in the name of Pope Francis for the victims of a ferry boat accident in Mosul:

“His Holiness Pope Francis was deeply saddened to learn of all who lost their lives following the tragic sinking of a ferry in the Tigris River in Mosul. Expressing his prayerful solidarity with those who mourn, His Holiness commends the deceased to the mercy of the Almighty, and prays for the local authorities and emergency personnel. Upon the whole Iraqi nation Pope Francis invokes the divine blessings of healing, strength and consolation.”

From AsiaNews and other agencies: The Iraqi Prime Minister has decreed three days of national mourning, after visiting the place where a ferry going across the Tigris sank yesterday afternoon near Mosul, killing nearly 100 people. According to state television, PM Adel Abdel Mahdi visited the injured in a hospital in the former “Caliphate” stronghold and the morgue where the bodies of the victims are held.

The ship, used for transporting people, was packed with families and tourists who celebrated the Nowrūz (Kurdish New Year).. First reports say there were around 200 people on board, more than the boat could contain.

The ship was heading towards the island of Umm Rabaen, a tourist resort about 4 km north of the center of the city of Mosul, one of the many stops planned for the trip organized in conjunction with the new year. According to some videos, the ferry suddenly tilted to the right, began taking on water, then capsized and was dragged downstream of the river.


A note today from the Vatican’s Dicastery for Integral Human Development stated that during the last week the floods caused by the cyclone Idai have devastated entire areas between Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi. The death toll – constantly increasing – refers to at least 300 confirmed victims, thousands of wounded and hundreds of thousands of displaced people. At least one million would be the people involved in the disaster.

Pope Francis, through this dicastery, has decided to send a first contribution of 150,000 euros (50,000 for each country) for the relief of the population in this first phase of emergency.


Keep your eyes and ears open in coming days as we might have an important announcement or two regarding some papal appointments, including the name of the new archbishop of Washington, D.C. Some red hats who are members of the Congregation for Bishops are in town and if I recall correctly, the congregation meets on the third Thursday of each month (which would be tomorrow) for some nominations.


At the General Audience on Wednesday, Pope Francis continued his catechesis on the Our Father, focusing on the third invocation, “Thy will be done”.

By Christopher Wells

“God is not ambiguous, He is not hidden behind riddles, He has not planned the future of the world in an indecipherable manner.” In his catechesis on the third petition of the “Our Father,” Pope Francis said that we can see the will of the Father expressed in the words of Jesus: God wills “to seek and to save that which was lost.” This, the Pope said, “without any shadow of doubt, is the will of God: the salvation of all human beings,” of each one of us individually.

Because of His love for us, God “knocks on the door of our heart” in order “to draw us to Himself, to lead us forward along the path of salvation.” The Pope said, “God is close to each one of us with His love, in order to lead us by the hand to salvation.”

“And we, in prayer, ask that God’s seeking might come to a good end, that His universal plan of salvation should be accomplished,” Pope Francis continued, “first, in each one of us, and then in the whole world.”

God’s desire for the salvation of human beings, and of the whole world, means that our prayer that His will be done does not mean “bowing our heads,” like slaves, to an unalterable fate. On the contrary, “God wants us to be free,” the Pope said. “It is His love that frees us.”

“Thy will be done,” he said, is “a courageous, even combative prayer” precisely because there is so much evil in the world, which is not according to God’s [antecedent] will.

The Our Father, Francis continued, “is a prayer that kindles in us the same love [that] Jesus has for the will of the Father, a flame that impels one to transform the world with love.” There is nothing of random chance in the faith of Christians, the Pope explained: “Rather, there is a salvation that waits to manifest itself in the life of each man and woman, and to be fully accomplished in eternity.” If we prayer, he said, “it is because we believe that God is able and desires to transform reality, overcoming evil with good.”

Pope Francis pointed to the example of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, when the Lord prayed, “Father, if you are willing, remove this chalice from me; but not my will, but yours, be done!” Although He is “crushed” by the weight of evil in the world, Jesus “confidently abandons Himself to the ocean of love of the will of the Father.”

In His love, God will never abandon us, the Pope insisted: “He will always be with us, beside us, within us. For a believer, more than a hope, this is a certainty.”

Concluding his catechesis, Pope Francis invited all those present in the Square to pray together the Our Father, each in their own language.


Pope Francis is urging prayers and support for the many victims of Cyclone Idai, which has caused widespread destruction and flooding in the southeast African nations of Mozambique, Zimbabwe, and Malawi.
By Devin Watkins

“In recent days, great floods have sowed mourning and devastation in various areas of Mozambique, Zimbabwe, and Malawi. I express my pain and closeness to those dear people.”

With these heartfelt words, Pope Francis expressed his condolences for the families of the more than 350 people killed by Cyclone Idai, as well as his solidarity with the millions of people affected. The powerful storm made landfall on the coast of Mozambique last Thursday before spreading death and destruction halfway across southeast Africa.

Pope Francis made the appeal at the Wednesday general audience held in St. Peter’s Square.

“I entrust the many victims and their families to the mercy of God, and I implore comfort and support for those affected by this calamity,” he said.

Hundreds dead in Mozambique
Cyclone Idai struck Mozambique’s port city of Beira with winds of up to 170 kph on Thursday last week. Drone footage taken by the Red Cross showed the devastation wreaked upon one area, with empty plots seen where winds had blown entire buildings from their foundations.

Mozambique started three days of national mourning on Wednesday for the victims, who currently number in excess of 200. President Filipe Nyusi says the death toll may reach 1,000 as rescuers continue to recover bodies and hundreds remain missing.

Officials say the full extent of the damage will only emerge when floodwaters recede, and forecasters predict persistent rains through Thursday.

Zimbabwe mourns
In neighboring Zimbabwe, the remnants of Cyclone Idai also caused massive flooding, killing at least 98 people. The number of victims may rise to around 300, say officials.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa visited the hard-hit mountain community of Chimanimani. The bodies of some flood victims may have been swept down the mountainside into nearby Mozambique.

A local resident took a video at Chimanimani’s Catholic Church, where funeral services were held and women wailed in mourning. “Lots of people suffering. People didn’t stand a chance here,” he said.

Unknown destruction in Malawi
Malawi has yet to release details of any casualties from the storm. But the UN’s World Food Programme said Tuesday that projections from satellite images indicate that Cyclone Idai affected some 920,000 people in Malawi. More than 1.7 million were in its direct path in Mozambique.

The United Nations has directed $20 million from its emergency response fund to help people suffering in Mozambique, Zimbabwe, and Malawi.


I would like to wish all of you – my family, my friends, my online family of blog and Facebook readers, my radio listeners and television viewers – a blessed, happy and healthy Thanksgiving! And I wish safe travels for all who will be driving or flying to join family for this beautiful holiday!

I’ll be off for two days, Thanksgiving and “Black Friday,” but check these pages anyway! You never know when there may be breaking news or a wonderful story or some great photos!


Tune in this weekend to “Vatican Insider” for Part II of my conversation with Dr. Dan Guernsey, director of K-12 programs at the Cardinal Newman Society. He is an educator who has worked at every level of Catholic education for 25 years from K-12 to university president. We spoke when he was in Rome for the World Congress organized by the Congregation for Catholic Education to commemorate two Vatican Documents on Education. The congress theme was “Educating today and tomorrow: a renewing passion.”

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 www.ewtn.com) 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: http://www.ewtn.com/vondemand/audio/file_index.asp?SeriesId=7096&pgnu=


Tuesday evening, the vigil of his 11th foreign apostolic trip and his first ever trip to Africa, Francis traveled to St. Mary Major Basilica to pray for the success of his trip to Africa.  As is customary before he travels, he prayed before the ancient image of image of Mary, Salus Populi Romani, invoking the protection of the Virgin Mary on his travels and upon the peoples he will visit in Kenya, Uganda and the Central African Republic. His most recent visit to this Roman Basilica was on September 28, 2005, upon return from his apostolic visit to Cuba and the United States. This is his 27th visit to St. Mary Major

Wednesday morning, at the Santa Marta residence, shortly before going to Fiumicino Airport, the Holy Father received eleven women and six children from a refuge house for victims of domestic violence and trafficking for the purposes of prostitution. According to the announcement from the Apostolic Almoner, the women were Italian, Nigerian, Romanian and Ukrainian. They are currently housed in a structure managed by a religious congregation in a village in the Lazio region.

At 8 am this morning, Pope Francis and his entourage boarded an Alitalia plane at Rome’s Fiumicino Airport amid tight security and departed shortly thereafter. The plane arrived at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi, Kenya at 3:00 p.m. (Rome time) for the beginning of Pope Francis’ six-day Apostolic Visit to three African nations. One in six of the world’s Catholics are in Africa.

Jomo Kenyatta International Airport is named after Kenya’s first president. Kenya’s current President Uhuru – whose name means “freedom” in Swahili – is Jomo Kenyatta’s son and he was on the tarmac to meet the Pope, together with Nairobi’s Archbishop, Cardinal John Njue, the president of the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops and a small group of faithful who sang and danced for the Pope as he set foot for the very first time on African soil.


After the brief welcome ceremony at the airport, Pope Francis was taken to the State House, where he was formally and officially welcomed with full military honors and the twenty-one gun salute.

Afrter a greeting by President Uhuru, Pope Francis spoke to the Kenyans, addressing them in English.

Thanking the president and people for their warm welcome, Francis said, “I look forward to my stay among you. Kenya is a young and vibrant nation, a richly diverse society that plays a significant role in the region. In many ways, your experience of shaping a democracy is one shared by many other African nations. Like Kenya, they too are working to build, on the solid foundations of mutual respect, dialogue and cooperation, a multiethnic society that is truly harmonious, just and inclusive.”

To great applause the Pope said, “Yours too is a nation of young people. In these days, I look forward to meeting many of them, speaking with them, and encouraging their hopes and aspirations for the future. The young are any nation’s most valuable resource. To protect them, to invest in them and to offer them a helping hand, is the best way we can ensure a future worthy of the wisdom and spiritual values dear to their elders, values which are the very heart and soul of a people.”


Addressing one of the main topics of his encyclical Laudato si, He noted that, “Kenya has been blessed not only with immense beauty, in its mountains, rivers and lakes, its forests, savannahs and semi-deserts, but also by an abundance of natural resources. The Kenyan people have a strong appreciation of these God-given treasures and are known for a culture of conservation that does you honor. The grave environmental crisis facing our world demands an ever-greater sensitivity to the relationship between human beings and nature.”

“In effect,” added Francis, “there is a clear link between the protection of nature and the building of a just and equitable social order. There can be no renewal of our relationship with nature, without a renewal of humanity itself. To the extent that our societies experience divisions, whether ethnic, religious or economic, all men and women of good will are called to work for reconciliation and peace, forgiveness and healing. In the work of building a sound democratic order, strengthening cohesion and integration, tolerance and respect for others, the pursuit of the common good must be a primary goal.

“Experience shows that violence, conflict and terrorism feed on fear, mistrust, and the despair born of poverty and frustration. Ultimately, the struggle against these enemies of peace and prosperity must be carried on by men and women who fearlessly believe in, and bear honest witness to, the great spiritual and political values that inspired the birth of the nation.”

The Pope concluded his talk by referring to the Kenyan “tradition for young schoolchildren to plant trees for posterity. May this eloquent sign of hope in the future, and trust in the growth which God gives, sustain all of you in your efforts to cultivate a society of solidarity, justice and peace on the soil of this country and throughout the great African continent. Mungu abariki Kenya! God bless Kenya!



So much bad news these days – growing security concerns in Europe and around the world, terrorism rearing its ugly head day after day, violence and conflict in a nation soon to be visited by Pope Francis. With that in mind, I thought I’d start this column with a good news story, an illuminating one, to say the least”


ACEA, one of the companies in Rome that furnishes electricity and gas, has taken on an important assignment for the Jubilee of Mercy: replacing the current lighting on the 28 obelisk-like street lights on Via della Conciliazione, the broad avenue leading from the Tiber river to St. Peter’s Square.


The new lamps will feature LED lighting, such as that revealed last December on the facade and dome of St. Peter’s Basilica and on the dome of St. Mary Major, illuminated just before the January 6 Epiphany. The intention is to improve visibility, reduce energetic consumption and costs and to underline the beauty of this entire monumental and historical area. All new fixtures are expected to be up by the end of November.

Neighborhood storekeepers and residents were initially worried when they saw the beautiful lamp tops being removed (seen in the first photo) and replaced by what they described as “rather ugly” street lights that “ruined the aesthetic look of the entire neighborhood.”  (second photo)



Not to worry folks! The original lights will soon be back, more beautiful than ever with improved lighting!


Sunday, amid massive security, including police cars circling St. Peter’s Square, uniformed officers, plainclothesmen and additional airport-style security machines, Pope Francis presided at the Angelus from his study overlooking St. Peter’s Square. Sunday was the feast of Christ the King. Pope Francis noted that, “The kingdoms of this world sometimes build themselves on arrogance, rivalry, oppression, and conytrasted that to the kingdom of Christ which is, he said, is ‘a kingdom of justice, love and peace’. … To reign as Christ does means serving God and our brethren.”

The Holy Father called for all the faithful everywhere to pray for persecuted Christians, highlighting Saturday’s beatification in Barcelona of 26 including priests, friars awaiting ordination, and Franciscan lay brothers who were martyred during the Spanish Civil War in the 1930s, The Pope said, “let us entrust to their intercession our many brothers and sisters who, sadly still today, in many different parts of the world, are persecuted because of their faith in Christ.”

Pope Francis also asked the faithful to pray for the success of his visit to Kenya, Uganda and the Central African Republic, starting Wednesday. He sent a video message to the faithful of Kenya and Uganda, and a separate one to the Central African Republic in which he noted how this country “has for too long been affected by a violent situation and by insecurity of which many of you have been innocent victims.” He said he hopes to bring “consolation and hope” and that his visit “may contribute, in one way or another, to alleviate wounds and to favor conditions for a better, more serene future for Central Africa.”

Closely studying the situation in the CAR, Vatican security officials will decide the night before Francis’ scheduled departure for Central Africa if the trip will go as planned.


(Vatican Radio) The director of the Holy See Press Office, Father Federico Lombardi, SJ, said on Monday he has “utmost confidence” in the Italian authorities to ensure the safety of Rome and St. Peter’s Square during the upcoming Jubilee of Mercy.

“On the part of the Vatican, there was not a specific demand to increase security measures during the Jubilee,” Fr. Lombardi said. “It depends on the Italian authorities, and how they rate the situation.” He was speaking at a press conference at the headquarters of the Province of Rome, explaining the “InfoJubilee” initiative, a collaboration of Vatican Radio, Roma Servizi per la Mobilità, ACI Infomobility and the Italian State Railway.

The collaborative initiative will include radio programs, announcements at train stations, online services tracking street traffic, and other services helping pilgrims make their way around the city.

Also attending the press conference was the prefect of Rome, Franco Gabrielli, who said Italian authorities had already been putting measures in place to increase security for the Jubilee before the Paris terrorist attacks on November 13.

“The difference is not made by the numbers of military and police officers put into the field, but by the ability to arrange them so you can control the territory, and for activities of prevention,” Gabrielli said. “The things you see are not the most important,” he added. “The most important activities are invisible, such as intelligence.”

Gabrielli said measures will be decided based upon the events taking place, with the most difficult period being the Spring, beginning with the Easter celebrations.

“The Spring season is the time of year in Rome which brings in the most tourists, with school children on field trips and pilgrims, which will be even more numerous in the Jubilee,” he said. Gabrielli said during this period the police presence will be especially visible, but added care was being taken to not infringe on the rights of citizens.

Father Lombardi also took the opportunity to say the Jubilee will not “succeed or fail” based on the number of pilgrims who come to Rome.

“The spirit of the Jubilee extends throughout the world,” Fr. Lombardi said. “You do not have to come to Rome to access the spiritual benefits of the Jubilee… Everyone can celebrate in their (home diocesan) cathedral. There will be many Holy Doors opened, and anyone who wants to receive the fruits of the Jubilee Holy Door can do so in their own city, and with the same spiritual benefits.”

Father Lombardi added, “this is not to say do not come to Rome.” “For those who are comfortable coming, come if you like to, and be happy to see the Pope. There is total freedom in living the Jubilee.”

The Holy Year begins on December 8, 2015, and ends November 20, 2016, the Feast of Christ the King.


ANSA news agency reports that over 2,000 security agents are to be deployed in Rome as part of tougher security measures for the upcoming Jubilee made necessary after last Friday’s terrorist attacks in Paris, Rome police commissioner Nicolò D’Angelo said Friday. The new measures will come into effect on Monday, two weeks ahead of the start of the Holy Year on December 8.

The security plan provides for police patrols on local buses and Rome’s video surveillance system will be beefed up. There will also be more police patrols in outlying areas of the capital, D’Angelo said. The services aim to “increase the perception of our presence,” he explained.

Rome will be divided into “three important areas: from the outlying area to the one where security is highest” D’Angelo continued. “All the pilgrim routes will be strengthened with further additional services,” he added. The police commissioner also said Rome’s Olympic stadium – the location of football matches – was “obviously” a potential target and that security would be tightened there with additional, stricter controls.

In related news over the weekend, ANSA reported that Muslims on their way out of Rome’s Great Mosque after Friday prayers had harsh words for the Islamic terrorists who murdered 130 people last Friday in Paris. “They must be taken out, because they use the name of Allah in order to kill,” said one.

“I’m afraid because they can hurt me if I say the wrong thing,” said one woman. “But I want to speak my mind anyway, because I’m ashamed of being a Muslim”. “Those who go against peace are not Muslims,” said one young man in broken Italian.

“Italy has given me a lot,” said an older man. “I’ve lived here 37 years, I’ve had work and peace. Now I hope what happened won’t damage the image of Islam, which is always against violence.”


Just a note about the two synod stories I present at the end of this column. The first story is my brief summary of a lengthy press briefing this morning about the Synod of Bishops that will open Sunday.

The second piece, The Synod for the Family: Listen to Africa’s Voice, is that one you absolutely want and need to read, perhaps over coffee or, if you do this later in the day, a glass of wine. Sit down in a quiet place (I know I ask you do that a lot but you will absorb a lot more if you can read this in a quiet corner). So much was said and written during and after last October’s synod on the family and in recent months in the leadup to this 2015 synod. Much was said and much confusion was sown as well.

The same questions are on people’s minds today as they were a year ago: What are the Church’s true teachings on marriage and the family? What is the Magisterium teaching on the family and marriage? What can be said or done for/about the divorced and remarried who want to receive communion? Are there traditions that can change with the times, even if dogma and the Magisterium cannot (for example, on the indissolubility of marriage).

Many of the voices that spoke loudly and with beauty about the family and marriage in the synod hall last year came from Africa. A new book on this synod is out by some African prelates and Andrea Gagliarducci does a masteful job of presenting their voices in his article for Catholic News Agency.


You are in for a real treat this weekend on the Vatican Insider interview segment as I welcome another member of the EWTN Rome family, Alan Holdren. Alan heads the Rome office of CNA, Catholic News Agency, is the correspondent for EWTN News Nightly that airs five days a week from Washington and he produces – with the help of a terrific staff here in Rome – EWTN’s weekly news magazine, “Vaticano.” Alan and I talk about his special privilege of being a member of the media aboard the papal flight to Cuba and the United States. This is a Do Not Miss conversation.

This is a special treat so make sure you find time this weekend to join us for Part 1 of that conversation.

From an appearance on News Nightly:

Alan Holdren

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 www.ewtn.com) 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: http://www.ewtn.com/vondemand/audio/file_index.asp?SeriesId=7096&pgnu=


(Vatican Radio) Father Federico Lombardi, SJ, the head of the Holy See Press Office has released a statement on the brief meeting between Kim Davis and Pope Francis during his visit to Washington, DC.:

“The brief meeting between Mrs. Kim Davis and Pope Francis at the Apostolic Nunciature in Washington, DC has continued to provoke comments and discussion. In order to contribute to an objective understanding of what transpired I am able to clarify the following points:

“Pope Francis met with several dozen persons who had been invited by the Nunciature to greet him as he prepared to leave Washington for New York City. Such brief greetings occur on all papal visits and are due to the Pope’s characteristic kindness and availability. The only real audience granted by the Pope at the Nunciature was with one of his former students and his family.

“The Pope did not enter into the details of the situation of Mrs. Davis and his meeting with her should not be considered a form of support of her position in all of its particular and complex aspects.”


Pope Francis has sent a personal letter to a young boy taking part in a “mission of peace” to the Marian sanctuary at Lourdes. Christopher Wells of Vatican Radio reported that 8-year-old Damian had written to the Pope, inviting him to Lourdes to be with the children taking part in the Mission, which was sponsored by UNITALSI, an Italian organization that helps sick people travel to Lourdes and other international sanctuaries. Pope Francis responded to Damian’s request for a video message with a personal letter that was read during the Eucharistic procession at Lourdes on Wednesday, on the occasion of the Tenth Pilgrimage of Children on the Mission of Peace.

In his message, the Holy Father assured the children that he was accompanying them in prayer, and was spiritually close to them. He asked the children to share with Mary and Jesus their expectations, hopes, joys, and sufferings, and to “trust in the help of Jesus and the support of Mary.” “Your mission is both a prayer and a testimony. You show adults that children are able to pray, to love Jesus, the friend who never betrays, to help each other, to hope for a better future.”

The Pope concluded his letter by asking the children to pray for all children who are attempting to make the voyage to Lourdes, and to pray, too, for him.


A briefing was held this morning in the Holy See Press Office about the Synod of Bishops on the family that starts this Sunday with a Mass presided over by Pope Francis. Last year’s two-week extraordinary synod in October focused on the family and this year’s three-week gathering continued that discussion but on the specific theme, “The vocation and mission of the family in the Church and the contemporary world.”

A lengthy presentation outlined the number and provenance of Synod Fathers, listed the religious and lay invited guests and outlined the methodology of this gathering of the world’s bishops, The synod this year marks the 50th anniversary of its constitution by Blessed Paul VI.

Saturday evening in St. Peter’s Square, in the presence of the Holy Father, a prayer vigil will be held in preparation for the Synod of Bishops. Synod Fathers will attend, as will other participants in the Synod and thousands of faithful from around the world. This is an initiative of the Italian Episcopal Conference, which has invited families, movements and ecclesial associations. All of Italy’s dioceses, in fact, are sending busses that will be filled with families.

A total of 270 Synod Fathers will participate in this 2015assembly, including 54 from Africa, 64 from the Americsa, 36 from Asia, 107 from Europe and 9 from Oceania. They include: 74 cardinals, 6 Patriarchs, 1 major archbishop, 72 archbishops, 102 bishops, 2 parish priests and 13 religious. In addition, other invitees from different cultures and nations include 24 experts and collaborators of the special secretary, 51 auditors and 14 fraternal delegates. As this synod is dedicated to the family, particular importance is given to spouses, parents and family heads, of whom a total of 18 are present

After a lengthy explanation of the synod methodology, it was announced that, on Saturday October 17, from 9:00 am to 12:30 pm, there will be a commemorative event for the 50th anniversary of the Synod of Bishops in the Paul VI Hall. The commemorative report will be entrusted to Cardinal Christoph Schonborn, archbishop of Vienna and president of the Episcopal Conference of Austria.

On Sunday October 18 at 10:30 am in the Vatican Basilica, there will be a Mass for the canonization of, among others, the Blessed spouses Louis Martin and Marie-Azelie Guérin, parents of St. Therese of the Child Jesus. Each day, in St. Mary Major Basilica, the Holy Rosary will be recited at 5 p.m. and Mass will be celebrated at 6. Near the Synod Hall there is a chapel for prayer for the participants in the Synod, where the relics of St. Therese of the Child Jesus, her parents and the Beltrame Quattrocchi spouses will be displayed.


(CNA/EWTN News) – Andrea Gagliarducci- Ten prelates from Africa have stood up against a pastoral approach to new challenges to marriage and the family that would effectively modify the Church’s doctrine, by writing essays for a book meant to be a “contribution to the Synod onf the Family by African pastors.”

This is the subtitle of Christ’s New Homeland – Africa, published this week by Ignatius Press, and which features a preface by Cardinal Francis Arinze, prefect emeritus of the Congregation for Divine Worship.

In the book, cardinals and bishops from Africa tackles the main issues of the upcoming Synod on the Family; shed light on shortcomings in the synod’s instrumentum laboris (working document); stress the importance of formation of Christians; and face challenges such as polygamy and interreligious marriages.

Above all, the African prelates claim the importance of their continent in facing secularizing trends, and explain that a strong faith is the best response to them.

The book is divided in three parts: “The Synod on the Family: From one Assembly to Another”; “The Gospel of the Family”; and “Pastoral Care of Families that are Hurting”. There is also an epilogue, an “Appeal from the Church in Africa to the State”, which explains why governments should support families.

The books contributors are Cardinal Robert Sarah, Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship; Bishop Barthélemy Adoukonou, Secretary of the Pontifical Council for Culture; Archbishop Denis Amuzu-Dzakpah of Lomé; Cardinal Philippe Ouedraogo of Ouagadougou; Cardinal Berhaneyesus Souraphiel of Addis Ababa; Cardinal Christian Tumi, Archbishop Emeritus of Douala; Archbishop Antoine Ganye of Cotonou; Cardinal Théodore-Adrien Sarr, Archbishop Emeritus of Dakar; Archbishop Samuel Kleda of Douala; and Cardinal Jean-Pierre Kutwa of Abidjan. (photo by CNA)

Cardinal Sarah –


The first part of the book is constituted by two essays, by Cardinal Sarah and Bishop Adoukonou, critiquing the instrumentum laboris of the upcoming synod.

Both found numerous deficiencies – “slippery language” and “treacherous expressions” among them –  in the synod’s working document, and underscored the role the  media has played in discussions leading up to the synod.

According to Cardinal Sarah, “the media coverage of this debate gives the impression that, on the one hand, there are those who are in favor of ‘closed doctrine’ and, on the other hand, those who are for ‘pastoral openness’.”The cardinal underscored, “in reality, there is no doctrinal party opposed to a pastoral party; instead, both parties claim to be attached to the Church’s perennial doctrine and want pastoral practice to express God’s mercy toward everyone … Might there be some, then, who would argue for the continuation of a pastoral practice that, if it changed, would ipso facto modify the doctrine?

Cardinal Sarah added that “new developments in pastoral practice would not mean changing doctrine, they maintain, but rather would allow the Church to make God’s loving heart more apparent and accessible.” He countered, however, that such “developments” would be “a sort of ‘mercy’ that accomplishes nothing but lets them seek deeper into evil.”

“But could they seriously think that the bishops and cardinals who were warning about a real danger of doctrinal deviation have a fixed concept of pastoral practice? If God’s pedagogy changes, that of the Church should not become rigid,” concluded the prefect.

He noted that the media who push for a change to pastoral practice “forget to say that now most practicing Christians are found no longer in the Northern Hemisphere but rather in the Young Churches.”

Cardinal Sarah also highlighted some “perplexities” raised by the synod’s working document, especially as it seems to propose civil marriage as a preparation for  sacramental marriage.

“To what population does the document address this reality of civil marriages as a preparation for sacramental marriage? To the baptized members of the Church or to sympathetic pagans in areas where an initial evangelization is being conducted? Unless it applies to the neo-pagans in the countries of former Christendom!”

Set God and doctrine aside, and you create a major pastoral confusion,” Cardinal Sarah wrote.

Cardinal Sarah also underscored that “the Church’s pastoral ministry, as her pastors strive to conduct it in the Young Churches, has never outlawed from the community those who are in difficult marital situations. On the contrary, in most cases, they are active members in ecclesial life.”

He then explained that “the fact that they do not go to sacramental Communion – which is not in their view a simple communal meal from which they would feel excluded – nevertheless does not diminish their profound desire to serve Jesus and his ecclesial community.”

According to Cardinal Sarah, “the lack of a clear position and all the confusion that we note in the relatio synodi are obvious signs, not only of a deep crisis of faith, but also of an equally deep crisis in pastoral practice: pastors hesitate to set out clearly in one direction.”

The instrumentum laboris, he said, reflects the malaise of the Church in the West, and that were the Church to allow the divorced-and-remarried to receive Communion, “why would we reject the lay faithful who had become polygamous? We would also have to remove ‘adultery’ from the list of sins.”

Bishop Adoukonou wrote that “the fundamental methodological limitation that we observe in the document lies in the fact that it utilizes the resources of almost all the human and social sciences to put into context the topic of the family today without bringing to light the most important background, namely, the historical choices that led to this disaster.”

A clear position is needed, says Bishop Adookonou. Citing the rise of the Islamic State caliphate, similar efforts in the Sahel and that “other extremist movements seek to set up radical Islamic regimes everywhere, which confuse decadent Western civilization with Christianity, we have the obligation to set ourselves apart from that postmodern civilization, not out of fear or by way of withdrawing into our own enclaves, but out of fidelity to our deep Christian and African identity,” he wrote.

And he added: “For the sake of attracting people, we do not want to put ourselves into situations that would compromise our values, under the illusion of being open to the world in that way.”

Bishop Adokonou also declared that, “conscious more than ever of this interdependence, Africa would like to remind the Church in the West that she could not possibly engage in a hermetically sealed dialogue with the postmodern world, while ridiculing other countries as though they were trapped in various forms of obscurantism that no one understands, without seriously compromising her faith and Christian roots.”

The archbishop deems “unacceptable” the idea – contained in the Synod’s working document – that “the Gospel in itself is a burden from which the Church, out of mercy, ought to strive to relieve our poor contemporaries.”

He went so far as to suggest that a section of the document “contains elements that are highly debatable and even in contradiction with Catholic doctrine.”

Cardinal Souphraniel highlighted the Church’s importance in providing a correct education about marriage and family.

The Church, he wrote, “prepares young couples for marriage. She provides religious education for children grades 1–12. She makes available Catholic schools from kindergarten to the university level, where truths of the faith and moral truths are part of the learning experience. She provides classes in Natural Family Planning, family counseling, and pastoral care, especially in the sacrament of reconciliation and forgiveness. She counteracts such contemporary trends as hedonism, abortion, euthanasia, and value-free sex education.”

But the most important thing is that “she provides the sacraments, whereby every man, woman, and child can obtain the spiritual help he needs to resist temptation, to pursue virtuous living, and to grow in the worship and praise of God,” Cardinal Souphraniel underscored.

Archbishop Kleda also shed light on the lack of education, especially for couples. In his words, “one last form of suffering that can be observed involves couples who are not well prepared for marriage, who have not understood the meaning of family life and have not agreed to give themselves totally to each other.”

In the end, explains Cardinal Kutwa, “The family is and remains, in Africa as elsewhere in the world, society’s most precious resource. It is the place where one learns the importance of oneself, certainly, but also the importance of the other. No one is born alone and for himself alone.”

This is one of the many reasons Cardinal Kutwa provides to explain why the state should support family.

But the real, final rationale of the book is that of setting the core on Christian families who are fully living their vocation as Christian families.

“The beautiful Christian families that are heroically living out the demanding values of the Gospel are today the real peripheries of our world and of our societies, which are going through life as though God did not exist,” wrote Cardinal Sarah.