Here’s a great video of the little boy who interrupted the general audience yesterday – the little boy from Argentina who is mute: https://www.theguardian.com/world/video/2018/nov/28/pope-francis-chuckles-as-boy-runs-around-swiss-guard-video


From November 27th to the 29th, at Rome’s Pontifical Lateran University,the 1st International Conference for Rectors and Shrine Operators took place on the theme “The Shrine is open for the new evangelization.” At the end of the conference on Thursday morning, in the Sala Regia of the Apostolic Palace, the Pope received the participants of the conference.

Pope Francis encouraged shrine rectors and pastoral workers to make pilgrims feel “at home” and to help them enrich their popular piety.
By Seàn-Patrick Lovett (vaticannews)

A Shrine is a church, or other sacred place, which is visited by people who come as pilgrims to pray, or to seek grace and consolation. There are hundreds, perhaps thousands, of such locations all over the world. And the tradition of visiting and praying at a Shrine is as old as the Church itself.

Shrines are irreplaceable
Reflecting on the contemporary importance of Shrines, the Pope described them as places where people gather “to express their faith in simplicity, and according to the various traditions that have been learned since childhood.” In this sense, he said, “Shrines are irreplaceable because they keep popular piety alive.”

Places of welcome
Shrines must always be places of welcome, said Pope Francis, and pilgrims must always be made to feel at home, “like a long-awaited family member who has finally arrived.” Many people visit a Shrine, said the Pope, because of its works of art, or because it is located in a beautiful natural environment. “When these people are welcomed,” he said, “they become more willing to open their hearts and let them be shaped by Grace.”

Places of prayer
Above all, said Pope Francis, the Shrine is a place of prayer. Most of our Shrines are dedicated to Our Lady: “Here the Virgin Mary opens the arms of her maternal love to listen to the prayer of each and every one”, he said. “Here she smiles, offering consolation. Here she sheds tears with those who weep… Here she becomes the companion on the road of every person who raises their eyes to her asking for grace, and certain of being heard.”

Places of reconciliation
No one visiting a Shrine should feel like a stranger, said the Pope, especially when they come weighed down by sin. “The Shrine is a privileged place to experience mercy that knows no boundaries,” he said. “When mercy is experienced, it becomes a form of real evangelization, because it transforms those who receive it into witnesses of mercy.” Praying in silence, or with pious formulas and gestures learned as a child, “each one must be helped to express themselves in personal prayer.”

It is this prayer, concluded Pope Francis, that makes Shrines such fruitful places “where popular piety is nourished and grows.”


The Pontifical Foundation “Aid to the Church in Need” has launched their Christmas campaign: three new projects to help Christians remain in Syria.
By Francesca Merlo (vaticannews)

7 years and 552,000 deaths later, the war in Syria is still not over. As the country is being destroyed, the small Christian communities which, before the war broke out made up around 10% of the population, are trying to survive.

“Aid to the Church in Need” in Italy has launched their Christmas campaign. Three “gifts”, as an effort to help these Christians in th hope that Christianity does not disappear completely from the Middle East. The gifts tackle three difficult areas that have been affected by the war in Syria: Food, Sanitation and Education.

The first involves the distribution of 1,725 food parcels to Christian families living in absolute poverty. 1,090 of these live in their own homes – though they have been severely damaged by the war. The remaining 635 families live without any roof over their heads.

The second project aims to help 700 people in Aleppo who are suffering medically. Due to the incessant warfare, the number of people in need of medical assistance, whether to tend to wounds or illnesses, is huge. The war has not only caused the illnesses and wounds, it has also destroyed over half of the health facilities that would have previously provided assistance. The war has caused poverty, and when poverty stops you from being able to feed your family, it also prevents you from being able to buy medicine.

The third project is aimed at children, those who are suffering most from this war. The Pontifical foundation in Aleppo is providing the money necessary to rebuild and render functional a nursery, destroyed by bombs, that welcomes 15 autistic children. Here, Sisters from the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary, will be able to once again assist and love those who need them.

This Christmas, Aid to the Church in Need in Italy has found a way to make a difference for these Christians who are suffering as a consequence of others’ indifference.



Pope Francis on Saturday, February 24, will receive in a private audience relatives of Asia Bibi – Ashiq Masih and Eisham Ashiq, respectively her husband and daughter – and Mrs. Rebecca Bitrus, a victim of Boko Haram. They will be accompanied by Alessandro Monteduro, the direct of ACN, Aid to the Church in Need.

The evening of February 24 at 6 pm, the Colosseum will be spotlighted in red, to represent the blood of Christians who have been wounded or lost their lives due to religious persecution. Simultaneously, in Syria and Iraq, prominent churches will be illuminated with red lights. In Aleppo, the St. Elijah Maronite Cathedral will be lighted, and in Mosul, the Church of St. Paul, where this past December 24, the first Mass was celebrated after the city’s liberation from ISIS.

That event is sponsored is ACN, as it has done in other cities in previous years. Alessandro Monteduro, director of ACN, told journalists February 7 that the “illumination [of the Colosseum] will have two symbolic figures: Asia Bibi, the Pakistani Christian condemned to death for blasphemy and whose umpteenth judgment is expected to revoke the sentence; and Rebecca, a girl kidnapped by Boko Haram along with her two children when she was pregnant with a third. One of the children was killed, she lost the baby she was carrying, and then became pregnant after one of the many brutalities she was subjected to by her captors.”


It was a very busy day for me but it fell short of time for writing so today’s column is just a quick account of the general audience in St. Peter’s Square and papal praise for a group that helps persecuted Christians.

In other news, the Vatican today posted a very lengthy commentary by Fr. Federico Lombardi, calling it “reflections by Fr. Federico Lombardi, S.J., director of the Holy See Press Office, regarding a new chapter in discussions on the economic matters of the Holy See.” I am posting that in a separate column.


Pope Francis continued to focus on the family as the main thrust of his weekly audience catechesis, and today he spoke about the family as the first place where we learn about pardon, forgiveness and reconciliation, and how we can pass these values on to society as a whole.

AG Sept 9   2

Below is the English language summary of his longer catechesis in Italian. Each week the catechesis is summarized for pilgrims in French, English, German, Spanish, Portuguese, Arabic and Polish

“Dear Brothers and Sisters, Buon Giorno, Good Day!” he began.

Francis starts his catechesis the same way every week and every week these two words – Buon Giorno – elicit huge applause from the faithful.

He explained his catechesis: “Following the recent Assembly of the Synod of Bishops which reflected on the vocation and mission of the family, today we reflect on the importance of the family as the place where we learn the value of forgiveness.  Each day, in the words of the Our Father, we ask God to forgive us and to grant us the grace to forgive others.  As difficult as forgiveness may be, it is essential for our personal growth, our capacity to acknowledge our failures and to mend broken relationships.  It is a virtue we learn first in the family.

The Holy Father stressed that, “forgiveness strengthens families in love and, through them, makes society as a whole more loving and humane.  It is a solid rock on which to build our lives and an eloquent sign of our Christian discipleship and obedience to the Father’s will.  May the coming Jubilee of Mercy encourage families everywhere to rediscover the power of forgiveness, and enable the great family of the Church to proclaim the power of God’s reconciling love at work in our world.”


(Vatican Radio) During his language greetings at the Wednesday audience, Pope Francis gave his support to the work of Aid to the Church in Need, which offers help to persecuted Christians around the world.

The Church in Poland will mark on Sunday a “Day of Solidarity with the Persecuted Church,” which is promoted by Aid to the Church in Need in collaboration with the Polish Bishops’ Conference. This year, the Day for Solidarity will be used to offer spiritual and material assistance in particular to Christians in Syria.

“Your work of prayer and solidarity bring relief and support to our brothers and sisters who suffer for Christ in the Middle East and around the world,” Pope Francis said while greeting Polish pilgrims at his weekly general audience. “I support you with my blessing.”

When greeting Arabic-speaking pilgrims, Pope Francis also made a special appeal for “the Lord to protect [their families] from evil.”