I spent the entire morning out, returned home late and now have just enough time before my next appointment to post a story about a very special Mass I attended last night, as well as Vatican Radio’s summary of much of today’s general audience that Pope Francis dedicated to last weekend’s pilgrimage to Turkey. An important event, an historical first, in fact, took place yesterday in the Vatican, the signing of a Declaration Against Slavery by leaders of the world’s religions. I did not feature that event in this column but I did post stories on my Facebook page.


Phillip Hughes, a much loved and well-known Australian cricket player who died in Sydney last Thursday was commemorated Tuesday evening in a Mass in Rome by members of the Vatican Cricket team and by Australian Ambassador to the Holy See, John McCarthy, who knew Hughes and organized the Mass. Hughes, 25, was hit behind the left ear by a short-pitch delivery during a match in Sydney last week and died two days later.

I attended the Mass last night at the Venerable English College in the presence of Ambassador McCarthy and five members of St. Peter’s Cricket Club, including team captain, Fr. Anthony Currer, who presided at Mass and gave the homily. Four of the players on the Vatican team, dressed in the team’s yellow blazer over their Roman collars, read the Prayers of the Faithful and after Mass, Ambassador McCarthy, who has a son the same age as Hughes, gave a eulogy. The ambassador is also a huge fan of cricket and helped develop St. Peter’s Cricket Club.

It was a small and very intimate event in the seminary’s magnificent chapel, and was well covered by media from countries known for their cricket teams. Hughes’ funeral took place today in Australia.

I met four of the St. Peter’s Cricket team players who are seminarians at Rome pontifical universities and seminarians, including Pratheesh K. Thomas who heads the Media and Communications Office of St. Peter’s Cricket Club. The club is on Facebook at

Here is what the UK’s Catholic Herald wrote about Phillip Hughes:

“St. Peter’s Cricket Club, the Vatican’s cricket team, has paid tribute to Philip Hughes the Australian batsman who died last week. The players joined the #PullOutyourBats Twitter tribute which has become a global phenomenon with Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, president of the Pontifical Council For Culture tweeting a picture of a row of bats and St. Peter’s cricket club caps. The Cardinal’s message also included the news that a Mass will be held later today for Mr. Hughes who was killed after being struck by a ball while playing for South Australia in a match against New South Wales at Sydney cricket ground and for ‘all in sports who’s deaths seem to us untimely’. (Photo from Catholic Herald)

Cricket - Phillip Huges tribvute

“The Mass, which will be attended by St. Peter’s players, was organized by Australia’s ambassador to the Holy See, John McCarthy, and will take place at the English College in Rome. The 25-year old Mr. Hughes played 26 tests for Australia and he became the youngest player ever to score 2 centuries in a match. His funeral will be held on Wednesday. In September St. Peters Cricket Club toured England playing a match against a Church of England XI.


(Vatican Radio)  Pope Francis had words of praise and thanks for Turkey and the Salesian fathers of Istanbul, for all the good and “hidden” work they do for countless refugees from the Iraqi and Syrian wars.

Retracing the steps of his recent pilgrimage to Turkey during his general audience Wednesday, the Pope also highlighted the constant need for prayer on the journey towards full communion with the Orthodox Church and reiterated the importance of Christians and Muslims working together in solidarity for peace.

Rain pounded umbrellas in St. Peter’s Square Wednesday, forcing the audience to be split in two – as the Pope himself noted greeting the ‘brave’ pilgrims before him.  Before heading out among the thousands in the square the Pope had first greeted the sick and disabled who were gathered in the Paul VI audience hall, urging them to pray to Jesus this Advent season for the strength to carry on and blessing them before he left.

After touring the square – despite the driving rain – the Pope also invited pilgrims to greet  the sick and disabled who were following the catechesis through giant screens with applause. Then he began to speak of his three day trip to Turkey over the weekend, highlighting the ecumenical and interfaith elements of his visit.

“Dear brothers and sisters,” he began. “Good morning. It’s not a great day is it? The weather is quite bad…but you are brave and face it anyway!  On we go! This audience is taking place in two different places, as we do when it rains: here in the square and then there are the sick in the Paul VI Hall. I met with them already, I greeted them, and they are following the audience on giant screens, because they are sick and cannot be out in the rain. Let’s greet them there with a round of applause, everyone!”

Following is the English-language summary of the Holy Father’s longer catechesis in Italian:

“Dear Brothers and Sisters: I thank God for the blessing of my recent pilgrimage to Turkey, and I pray that it will contribute to an ever more fruitful dialogue and relationship with our Orthodox and Muslim brothers and sisters. Turkey is a land dear to us for its rich Christian history. Religious belief has an important place in the life of this predominantly Muslim nation. In my visit to Ankara, I wished to stress the importance of ensuring its free exercise by all, and the need for Christians and Muslims to work together in promoting solidarity, peace and justice.

“In Istanbul, at Mass with the Catholic faithful and the leaders of Turkey’s various Christian communities, we implored the Holy Spirit’s continued guidance and help for our efforts to grow in unity and fidelity. On Sunday, at the solemn liturgy for the feast of Saint Andrew, I joined Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I in signing a Joint Declaration reaffirming our commitment to the restoration of full communion. I ask you to join me in praying for these intentions and for the Church’s zeal in proclaiming, in respectful and fraternal dialogue, Christ’s message of truth, peace and love.”