Along with the press conference at which Pope Francis’ post-synodal Apostolic Exhortation Querida Amazonia (Beloved Amazon) was presented this morning, the Vatican also published a summary (https://www.vaticannews.va/en/pope/news/2020-02/querida-amazonia-synthesis-pope-francis-exhortation-amazon.html), an editorial (https://www.vaticannews.va/en/pope/news/2020-02/editorial-pope-francis-exhortation-dreams-for-amazon.html) and a video interview with Cardinal Michael Czerny, special secretary of the Synod for the Amazon who presents the main content of Pope Francis’ Apostolic Exhortation: https://www.vaticannews.va/en/vatican-city/news/2020-02/cardinal-czerny-amazon-pope-francis-exhortation.html

I hope to look at some specific points of the exhortation in separate postings.

For starters, it seems the secular world was waiting for the Pope to say “yes” to a married clergy (to ordaining viri probati. that is, married men of proven virtue) but that does not appear in this teaching document by Pope Francis. In Para 90, he asks the bishops of the world for their ideas on how the Amazon people might have more frequency of the sacraments, given the immensity of the region and the scarcity of priests who have to travel huge distances to impart the sacraments to the peoples of the 9 countries that compose this region.

During the October synod, there were some very animated moments, to say the least, when the Synod Fathers, including all the bishops of the 9 Amazon region countries, and invited guests were discussing the priesthood, the possibility of a married clergy, the role of the laity, women in particular, and the word deaconess was heard in the synod hall. Their thoughts and wishes, including looking the possibility of an ordained married clergy, were put into the Amazon synod’s Final Document, a document that was voted on by the Synod Fathers and sent to the Holy Father for his consideration in writing an exhortation.

In the end, there were no theological or ecclesial tsunamis in the exhortation.

It’s a very interesting, readable document, a text some of the presenters at today’s press conference called a “papal love poem to the Amazon.” The small booklet is only 94 pages, footnotes and all.

The Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation on the Amazon Region has been published. The document traces new paths of evangelization and care for the environment and the poor. Pope Francis hopes for a new missionary thrust, and encourages the role of the laity within the ecclesial community.
By Alessandro Gisotti (vaticannews)
“The beloved Amazon region stands before the world in all its splendour, its drama and its mystery.” Thus begins the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation, Querida Amazonia.

Significance of the Apostolic Exhortation
In the first two points (2-4), the Pontiff explains “the significance of this Exhortation”, enriched with references to documents of the Episcopal Conferences of the countries that make up the Amazon region, as well as of poetry written by poets connected to the Amazon. He emphasizes that he desires “to offer my own response” that the Synod evoked in him and explains that he does not intend to substitute or duplicate the Final Document which he invites us to read “in full”. Pope Francis prays that the entire Church might allow itself to be “enriched and challenged” by it and that the Church in the Amazon might strive “to apply it”.

The Pope’s dreams for the Amazon region
Pope Francis shares his “dreams for the Amazon region” (5-7), whose destiny must concern everyone because that land is also “ours”. His “four great dreams” are thus articulated: an Amazon region that “fights for the rights of the poor”, that “preserves its distinctive cultural riches”, that “jealously preserves its overwhelming natural beauty” and lastly, that the Christian communities might be “capable of generous commitment, incarnate in the Amazon region”.

(JFL: The Pope’s four dreams are social, cultural, ecological and ecclesial. To read the entire summary, click here: https://www.vaticannews.va/en/pope/news/2020-02/querida-amazonia-synthesis-pope-francis-exhortation-amazon.html)



Vatican City, Apr 2, 2019 / 09:40 am (CNA).- Pope Francis has called upon young people to be vigilant in the face of “horrible crimes” of clerical sexual abuse, and to confront priests “at risk” of betraying the trust of their office. The pope issued the plea in his post-synodal apostolic exhortation on youth, Christus vivit, published Tuesday.

“If you see a priest at risk, because he has lost the joy of his ministry, or seeks affective compensation, or is taking the wrong path, remind him of his commitment to God and his people, remind him of the Gospel and urge him to hold to his course. In this way, you will contribute greatly to something fundamental: preventing these atrocities from being repeated.”

The apostolic exhortation was published in response to last year’s synod on young adults, the faith, and vocational discernment.

The pope also asked young people to seek inspiration from “the vast majority of priests” who have not “committed these horrible crimes.”

Monsignor Fabio Fabene, under-secretary of the Synod of Bishops, highlighted this paragraph in his presentation of the document by the Holy See Press Office April 2.

“Pope Francis calls for the collaboration of young people also in relation to the gruesome phenomenon of sexual abuse of children, first of all through careful vigilance,” Fabene said.

This is an example of how the pope “expresses his confidence in young people,” affirming that they have much to contribute to reform and “healing this wound.”

CNA asked Fabene if – given the “horrible crimes” of the abuse crisis – calling on young people to confront violent priests could put them at greater risk.

Fabene said the invitation to hold priests to account directly was “prophetic on the part of the pope,” who was entrusting young people with “this mission, this task, this closeness” in rejuvenating the heart of “priests who find themselves in difficulty” in their vocation and mission.

“I don’t see any problems with this,” he said. “I see an act of trust that the pope has in young people … that shines throughout all of the document.”

The apostolic exhortation’s eight-paragraph section titled “Ending every form of abuse” makes extensive use of quotes from the final document of the Synod of Bishops on young people, faith, and vocational discernment, first published October 28.

The text of Christus vivit adds that young people “can be a source of great healing if they employ their great capacity to bring about renewal, to urge and demand consistent witness, to keep dreaming and coming up with new ideas.”

“Our sins are before the eyes of everyone; they appear all too clearly in the lines on the age-old face of the Church, our Mother and Teacher,” the pope wrote in paragraph 101.

“Let us never forget that we must not abandon our Mother when she is wounded, but stand beside her, so that she can summon up all her strength and all her ability to begin ever anew.”

The new document “reaffirms the firm commitment made to adopting rigorous preventative measures intended to avoid the recurrence of these crimes, starting with the selection and formation of those to whom tasks of responsibility and education will be entrusted.”

The exhortation does not, however, include the phrase “zero tolerance.”

Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, secretary general of the Synod of Bishops, explained that “zero tolerance” was omitted because “the pope wanted to highlight other aspects” of the abuse crisis.

“The pope could not say everything in one document,” Baldissseri noted, but said that the pope had emphasized his commitment to fighting abuse.

“Youth need to know that this problem exists and the Church doesn’t tolerate it,” Baldisseri said.

The document, addressed to “all Christian young people,” observes that because of “sexual and financial scandals” and “a clergy ill-prepared to engage effectively with the sensitivities of the young,” a substantial number of young people want nothing to do with the Church.

Pope Francis used the document to express his gratitude, “together with the Synod Fathers,” to all of those who had “the courage to report the evil they experienced.”

“They help the Church to acknowledge what happened and the need to respond decisively,” said the pope.

The “holy People of God” will “liberate us from the plague of clericalism, which is the fertile ground for all these disgraces.”

“This dark moment, ‘not without the valuable help of the young, can truly be an opportunity for a reform of epoch-making significance,’ opening us to a new Pentecost and inaugurating a new stage of purification and change capable of renewing the Church’s youth,” Pope Francis said.

(For Vatican summary of document:


Both the complete text of Pope Francis’ Apostolic Exhortation “Rejoice and be Glad” and a summary produced by the Vatican will be found at the end of this vaticannews story.


On April 9, which this year marks the transferred Solemnity of the Annunciation, the Vatican releases the latest Apostolic Exhortation from Pope Francis: Gaudete et exsultate: On the call to holiness in today’s world.
By Christopher Wells (vaticannews)

“The Lord asks everything of us, and in return offers us true life, the happiness for which we were created.”

In his third Apostolic Exhortation (following Evangelii gaudium and Amoris laetitia) Pope Francis reflects on the call to holiness, and how we can respond to that call in the modern world. “My modest goal” in the Exhortation, Pope Francis says, “is to re-propose the call to holiness in a practical way for our own time.”

The five chapters of Gaudete et exsultate follow a logical progression, beginning with a consideration of the call to holiness as it is in itself. The Holy Father than examines two “subtle enemies of holiness,” namely, contemporary gnosticism and contemporary pelagianism.

Holiness in living the Beatitudes

The heart of Gaudete et exsultate is dedicated to the idea that holiness means following Jesus. In this third chapter, Pope Francis considers each of the Beatitudes as embodying what it means to be holy. But if the Beatitudes show us what holiness means, the Gospel also shows us the criterion by which we will be judged: “I was hungry and you gave me food… thirsty and you gave me drink… a stranger and you welcomed me… naked and you clothed me…sick and you took care of me…in prison and you visited me.”

Pope Francis devotes the fourth chapter of Gaudete et exsultate to “certain aspects of the call to holiness” that he feels “will prove especially meaningful” in today’s world: perseverance, patience and meekness; joy and a sense of humour; boldness and passion; the communal dimension of holiness; constant prayer.

Spiritual combat and discernment

Finally, the Exhortation makes practical suggestions for living out the call to holiness. “The Christian life is a constant battle,” the Pope says. “We need strength and courage to withstand the temptations of the devil and to proclaim the Gospel.”

In the fifth chapter, he speaks about the need for “combat” and vigilance, and calls us to exercise the gift of discernment, “which is all the more necessary today,” in a world with so many distractions that keep us from hearing the Lord’s voice.

“It is my hope,” Pope Francis concludes, “that these pages will prove helpful by enabling the whole Church to devote herself anew to promoting the desire for holiness.”

The full text of the Apostolic Exhortation Gaudete et exsultate can be found on the Holy See website:


(And here is a not-so-brief link to a brief summary of the document put out by the Vatican: https://mail-attachment.googleusercontent.com/attachment/u/0/?view=att&th=162a8e71119cf266&attid=0.3&disp=vah&safe=1&zw&sadnir=1&saddbat=ANGjdJ-rW3-B6yvyM9TFL-v583d9T-rReJnWACPQcl0kuKf3CwPA8762bW__WMjXauIW2G1iJaM-LD4n0RBr6fNCIemqUznIQcFinFQWIMoIfMiK4wTXG8aaRnLfk9PnEwHs8CAc03Sw5pKPuY8J_LzEhpv4xjjFu9h9nXLSlpc7m6VaNgpxRyy0D-KHlqheayWNxU_1Fza9-_w7S0YdgxpYjUhgIovQ7bPYEM916HqyfgZJUa_lGZd7iuPDZWmD5viRrHeD4DcmwNw4kPs5DcMPwUnnLD12_CiAYHcEDunpqgwb3kDcQlYi8FXU3dyo4pYByPRyKww8WDDgA0P4g4PWxi5lSEROEoPKfNQvBEB5Y1jWz9IzhEH8V4la4QEdUjSLQ5Rc1i6kzjcTHRuBO55yoXDM1zpPXh_H-EOJg1WBCbk-3YOJbjx_2A2odsjGxhTlXhrgLhAWnkcdBzOGHtC4j-IupkJHMj6cqGd2Zh6RTmFsHnrLYF6NuVqHqjpAITGmx0stOY2_q2-LkQ6uOk_0rRhC9DSZ03gDI4Ss1ESq1xIrYaniMiFfTVrQNQRgd4PYGrPx09EH4tzByJUM5cVjWQ-3WDQe_xebI0pX8Q


A crowded schedule, work on scripts for 11 new videos for Joan’s Rome and a move from my hotel to the NYC residence of the Paulist Fathers precluded my having time to post a column yesterday. The Paulist Fathers, of course, are in charge of St. Patrick’s parish in Rome (and for 95 years before that, they administered the church of Santa Susanna) and, whenever I can, I renew friendships with some of the Paulists residing here who, in previous years, were at Santa Susanna’s.

Yesterday I posted on Facebook a Paulist feature about Father James Lloyd who turned 97 – an amazing man and story! I wonder if he blew out 97 candles!

This page might be dark again tomorrow as I leave for Rome in the evening, but let’s see what the day brings!

In the meantime, I wish everyone a beautiful and blessed Divine Mercy Sunday!


By Sr Bernadette Mary Reis, fsp (vaticannews)

Thursday, in the company of outgoing Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan, two Patriarchs of the Armenian Apostolic Church and the Patriarch of the Armenian Catholic Church, Pope Francis presided over the inauguration and blessing of the statue of St Gregory of Narek in the Vatican Gardens.

Thursday thus marks a high point in the ecumenical journey between the Catholic Church and the Armenian Apostolic Church. For the first time in history, all three Armenian Church leaders are gathered together with the Roman Pontiff. It is something that Pope Francis prayed for in 2015: “Through the redemptive power of Christ’s sacrifice, may the blood which has been shed bring about the miracle of the full unity of his disciples. In particular, may it strengthen the bonds of fraternal friendship which already unite the Catholic Church and the Armenian Apostolic Church.”

The event does not end today in the Vatican Gardens. A copy of the same statue is currently in production and will be placed in the gardens of the Cathedral of Etchmiadzin where an inauguration ceremony will be held at the end of 2018. The Cathedral of Etchmiadzin is the mother church of the Armenian Apostolic Church, and is considered by scholars to be the oldest Cathedral built in ancient Armenia, and is among one of the oldest Cathedrals in the world.

The groundwork for today’s ceremony was laid by Pope Francis on April 12, 2015 when he celebrated Mass in St Peter’s marking the centenary of the genocide of a million and a half Armenians whom the Pope referred to as martyrs. “A century has passed since that horrific massacre which was a true martyrdom of your people, in which many innocent people died as confessors and martyrs for the name of Christ,” Pope Francis said on that occasion.

During that same liturgy, Pope Francis elevated St Gregory of Narek to the dignity of Doctor of the Universal Church. The Pope characterized St Gregory as a monk who “knew how to express the sentiments of your people more than anyone,” and who, as “an extraordinary interpreter of the human soul, offers words which are prophetic for us.”

Later in June 2016, he visited Armenia. Calling the genocide “the first of the deplorable series of catastrophes of the past century,” Pope Francis praised the faith of the Armenian people, “who, illuminated by the light of the Gospel, even at the most tragic moments of their history, have always found in the cross and resurrection of Christ the strength to rise again and take up their journey anew with dignity.”

St Gregory of Narek is recognized as a saint in both the Catholic Church and in the Armenian Apostolic Church, being venerated in a particular way among Catholics of the Armenian Rite.

His legacy lives on through this ecumenical effort that is centered on him. In an interview with Vatican News, Mikayel Minasyan, ambassador of the Republic of Armenia to the Holy See, described St Gregory of Narek as a symbol of brotherhood and a bridge between the two Churches and for all Christians, “above all those of the Middle East.”

Gregory of Narek was a 10th century Armenian monk, poet, and mystical writer and composer. His most well-known literary work is a book of prayers, known as the “Book of Lamentations”. It is considered a masterpiece of Armenian literature. St Gregory himself defined the work as an “encyclopedia of prayer for all nations”. He hoped that his book would provide guidance in prayer for people of all walks of life in order to reach God.


In a tweet posted to his official @Pontifex account Wednesday evening, Pope Francis prays for British baby Alfie Evans. His parents’ legal battle to keep him alive on life support in hope of further treatment has failed.

By Devin Watkins (vaticannews)

Pope Francis on Wednesday tweeted his prayers for Alfie Evans, a 23-month old English baby who is in a “semi-vegetative state” in a Liverpool hospital. It is believed that Alfie has a rare degenerative neurological condition, but doctors have not yet definitively diagnosed his condition.

In his tweet, the Holy Father said, “It is my sincere hope that everything necessary may be done in order to continue compassionately accompanying little Alfie Evans, and that the deep suffering of his parents may be heard.”

Pope Francis said he is “praying for Alfie, for his family and for all who are involved.”

Little Alfie has been on life support at Alder Hey Children’s Hospital since December 2016 following a chest infection, which caused seizures. Alfie overcame the infection and started breathing on his own. But another chest infection led to more chronic seizures, and he had to go back on a ventilator. Doctors at Alder Hey said it was in Alfie’s best interests to stop “mechanical ventilation.”

Alfie’s parents, Kate James and Tom Evans, fought for the right to keep him alive, taking their case to the courts. An English High Court ruled on March 6th that he should only receive palliative care. The Supreme Court upheld that decision, and the European Court of Human Rights refused to examine the case. They have now exhausted every legal means of preventing the hospital from withdrawing Alfie from life support. The British press say this could happen by Friday.

Kate and Tom Evans want to transfer Alfie to another hospital to try experimental therapies with money raised from a crowd funding effort. The courts have also rejected this request.

His parents say Alfie is now showing signs of improvement after having his medication reduced.

The case brings to mind two other English babies, Charlie Gard and Isaiah Haastrup, who died after their life support was removed on July 28, 2017 and March 7, 2018, respectively. Alfie Evans is thought to have a mitochondrial condition, similar to Charlie Gard.

People around the world have come out in support of Alfie’s cause through prayer, petitions, and demonstrations.

Alfie’s parents had pleaded with the Pope to help. With his Tweet, Pope Francis has brought worldwide attention to little Alfie’s fight for life.


Pope Francis’ Apostolic Exhortation “Gaudete et Exsultate” will be presented at the Holy See Press office in the Vatican on Monday, April 9.

A statement released by the Holy See Press Office on Thursday said a Press Conference to launch and present Pope Francis’ Apostolic Exhortation “Gaudete et Exsultate” (Rejoice and be glad), and subtitled “On the call to holiness in the contemporary world” will take place on 9 April at noon.

An Apostolic Exhortation is considered the second-highest form of papal teaching, after an Encyclical Letter.

Since his election as Pope, Francis has issued two other Exhortations: “Evangelii Gaudium” in 2013 and “Amoris Laetitia” in 2016.

Set to speak at the presentation of “Gaudete et Exsultate” are Bishop Angelo De Donatis, the vicar general of the Rome diocese, Italian journalist Gianni Valente and Paola Bignardi, a former president of Catholic Action Italy.

FOUR CARDINALS WRITE POPE FRANCIS: ‘Seeking Clarity: A Plea to Untie the Knots in Amoris Laetitia’.

FOUR CARDINALS WRITE POPE FRANCIS: ‘Seeking Clarity: A Plea to Untie the Knots in Amoris Laetitia’.

Over the last six months, scores of you have written to me with questions about Amoris Laetitia, hundreds more have posted queries and doubts on Facebook and even greater numbers have appealed to their pastors and bishops for clarifications of the content of this April document by Pope Francis. This Apostolic Exhortation came after the two synods on the family, those of October 2014 and October 2015.


One of the important sections of the document – that on communion for the divorced and remarried – has been interpreted in radically different, usually polar opposite ways by the faithful in the pew, by their pastors and bishops and by experts in theology, canon law and the Magisterium (the teaching body) of the Catholic Church.

How badly I wanted to be able to guide you to the truth in this matter when you wrote to me but I was just as confused as you, my correspondents were, as the priests and bishops and experts were.

I remember a priest telling me (and he was not the only one with this problems) that when people came to confession and asked about this issue, he would answer by first explaining the actual teaching of the Church in the matter. His dilemma came, Father told me, when the penitent would reply, “But that’s not what Pope Francis says.”

What is one to do?!

Well, four cardinals asked the same question and did something: they actually wrote a letter to Pope Francis, asking for clarification and submitting five dubia (doubts, questions) to which they said they needed only a Yes or No answer. (photo: Lifesite news)


After a wait of almost two months – and no answer from the Holy Father – they decided to make public their letter, the five queries and their reasons for asking those questions of the Pope.

A copy of the very same letter and questions was sent to Cardinal Gerhard Mueller, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

Following is a link to a piece by National Catholic Register correspondent Edward Pentin who summarizes the Letter by the cardinals and then presents their actual Letter to Pope Francis, the 5 dubia and their explanation of why, after a waiting period and no papal answer, they decided to publish their Letter. http://www.ncregister.com/blog/edward-pentin/full-text-and-explanatory-notes-of-cardinals-questions-on-amoris-laetitia


Is today’s papal tweet the Holy Father’s answer to fans and critics of Amoris Laetitia? – To understand, forgive, accompany and integrate. That is the mindset which should prevail in the Church.

I am very excited about the final story today. I have many good friends in Jordan, very active wonderful Catholics, whom I manage to see on trips to Jordan and when they come to Rome. I am also an admirer of King Abdullah as an individual and as the ruler of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. His book, “Our Last Best Chance, The Pursuit of Peace in a Time of Peril,” is a must read for anyone who wishes to remotely understand the Middle East. I bought it on my last trip to Jordan and found it to be a page turner. I would love to think people in our State Department have read this, and hopefully they know that Jordan and King Abdullah are very important, trustworthy allies in this part of the world. What’s more, few, if any, leaders in the Middle East have done what King Abdullah has done for Christians living in his country, not to mention the huge number of refugees.


The Apostolic Exhortation “is a precious gift for our Church, as well as families and society in Asia,” especially since it comes in this Jubilee Year of Mercy. This Card Oswald Gracias, Archbishop of Mumbai and President of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences, said when speaking to AsiaNews about Amoris Laetitia. (photo: news.va)


For the cardinal, who holds a doctorate in canon law from the Pontifical Urbaniana University and a diploma in jurisprudence from the Pontifical Gregorian University, “Amoris laetitia outlines clearly that marriage is joy, and blessing, a gift from God.” Indeed, the Holy Father “speaks of the beauty and the integrity of this sacrament.

The document, which weaves together the deliberations of the two Synods on the family celebrated in 2014 and 2015, “endorses the social doctrine of the Church” in continuity with the “magisterium of John Paul II and Benedict XVI”. Under no circumstances does it represent a break with Catholic teaching.

It is also “an invitation to apply the medicine of mercy and tenderness,” by promoting an inclusive pastoral ministry that “seeks out those who live on the margins.”

“Citing Paul’s First Epistle to the Corinthians, the pontiff notes that “love is more than a mere feeling’ (n. 94), but is instead a wilful commitment to embark on a definite path by addressing challenging things – being patient, putting aside envy and rivalry, caring about each other . . .”

In Asia, “families are traditionally very united. It is heartening that the pope connects family concerns with social concerns. He argues that families can only flourish if our societies are set up to support them.”

“It is essential that the Church in Asia get into the heart of this document. Bishops and priests can have a positive impact on our pastoral approach.”

“I would like to see our seminarians study this document, and undergo a change in mind-set and heart. Including rather than excluding is the heart of Jesus – a gift for Asia and India.” (AsiaNews)

(Cardinal Gracias is one of the C9 cardinals, the Council of Cardinals that advises the Pope.)


Pope Francis on Tuesday appointed Archbishop Christophe Pierre as the new Apostolic Nuncio to the United States of America. Archbishop Pierre, a native of France, was previously Apostolic Nuncio to Mexico. He replaces Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, who reached the age of retirement earlier this year. (photo: news.va)


Born January 30, 1946 in Rennes, France, he was ordained a priest in April 1970 and ordained a bishop in 1995. He was named apostolic nuncio to Haiti in 1995, and subsequently to Uganda and Mexico. In that last post, he was charged with organizing Pope Francis’ recent visit to Mexico.

Abp. Pierre succeeds Abp. Carlo Maria Viganò just months after the latter, having turned 75, offered his resignation to Pope Francis. Last Thursday, April 7, the archbishop received the Rector’s Award at the North American College’s annual Rector’s Dinner.


(Vatican Radio)  Jordan’s King Abdullah II will fund the restoration of Christ’s Tomb in Jerusalem’s Church of the Holy Sepulchre.


Bishop William Shomali, Latin Patriarchal Vicar in Jerusalem, warmly welcomed the decision of King Abdullah: “This is excellent news, news of a highly symbolic character, since the Holy Sepulchre is the most sacred place for Christians of all confessions. This decision shows the kindness of the King towards Christians and his constant concern to preserve the heritage of Christianity, including his role as guarantor of the Holy Places, Christian and Muslim, Jerusalem, according to the Wadi Araba agreement.” (photo: news.va)


Jordan’s Royal Court informed the Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem of the “makruma” (Royal Benefaction) in a letter addressed to His Beatitude Theophilos III on 10 April. For his part, the Orthodox Patriarch praised the generosity of King Abdullah, recalling how His Majesty remains the faithful guardian and custodian of Muslim and Christian Holy Places of Jerusalem.

The Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem and the Latin Custody of the Holy Land announced during Holy Week that restoration works on Christ’s Tomb would begin soon after the Orthodox Easter solemnities. The Holy Sepulchre, also known as the Basilica of the Resurrection, has been the holiest site of Christian pilgrimage since the 4th century. The Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem reports that the restoration work was needed because scientific studies had revealed grave problems of moisture from the “condensation of the breath of visitors,” and oxidation due to candle smoke.

The Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem says the aedicule, the place of burial and Resurrection of Christ, will be the object of the restoration.  It has remained untouched since 1947 when the British put in place steel support beams as part of a restoration project that never took place. The funds offered by His Majesty for the project will be entrusted to a Greek team led by Professor Antonia Moropoulou of the National Technical University of Athens.

The three main Christian denominations that worship at the Church include the Greek Orthodox, Latin and Armenian Churches.  All have agreed to cooperate for the realization of the restoration effort.



I dedicate the entire news segment of Vatican Insider this weekend to the just-released Apostolic Exhortation Amoris laetitia but there was plenty of time for my special guest on the interview segment, Cardinal Dolan, and this may be one of the funniest you have ever heard on Vatican Insider!


I had spent some time this week with Cardinal Dolan and the 120 members of his archdiocedan pilgrimage group. We have shared a number of meals, I’ve signed a lot of books, and I had asked the cardinal for an interview, knowing very well how full his schedule was but I’m always optimistic.

Last night was the annual elegant, gala fund-raising Rector’s Dinner at the North American College and the cardinal asked that I arrive at bit before the start of the 6:30 reception. I got to NAC about 6:10 and eventually found the cardinal with all the other American cardinals as they were taking a group photo in the gardens. We ended up sitting in two chairs overlooking the garden and just outside NAC’s celebrated Red Room where other dignitaries and guests were enjoying a cocktail. Seating or standing close by were other cardinals.

I started to record our coversation and was shortly in to the conversation when a friend of Cardinal Dolan’s came up, there was a brief conversation – and so the program went! People talking and laughing, the cardinal and I having an excellent time but none of this in the acoustic purity of a studio – so thanks for being understanding about the sounds.

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=


If I had to give today’s press conference on the Apostolic Exhortation Amoris laetitia a title, it would be doctrinal unity – pastoral plurality. No teachings of the Church on marriage and the family were upended, in fact, they were reaffirmed.

We learned in reading Amoris laetitia that this is a very beautiful document written by a man who well understands the beauty of love and marriage and family life but also a man who well undestands the wide varierty of difficulties into which a couple, a family, can fall, and he looks at all those situations, with love and pastoral understanding. In fact, the key words to reading this document – and it should be ready very slowly, at your leisure, to get its full beauty – are respect, discernment, accompaniment.


One of the common threads in this document was Pope Francis’ insistence that the Church, bishops, priests, work much harder to help those in difficulty. Saying, “Divorce is an evil and the increasing number of divorces is troubling,” he added: “Our most important pastoral task with regard to families is to strengthen their love, helping to heal wounds and working to precent the spread of this drama of our times.”

Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, head of the Synod of Bishops, explained at the press conference that the Exhortation Amoris laetitia is made up of 9 chapters, subdivided into 325 paragraphs with 391 notes and the final prayer to the Holy Family. (see CNA summary below)


He said, “the title Amoris laetitia (AL) is in continuity with that of the Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium (EG): from the joy of the Gospel to the joy of love in the family. The synodal process has presented the beauty of the family by speaking of love. This constitutes the foundation of the family institution, because God is love among Persons, Trinity and not solitude. In this document, the Holy Father deepens the “gospel of marriage and the family” (AL 89) and offers concrete pastoral orientations which, in continuity with the previous EG, take on new dynamism and value.


Cardinal Baldiseri quoted Pope Francis: “The various interventions of the Synod Fathers, to which I paid close heed, made up, as it were, a multifaceted gem” (AL 4) – writes the Holy Father, evoking the geometric design of the polyhedron already used in EG (cf. 236). In fact, the results of the Synod Fathers’ work brings together the diversity of experiences and points of view of the particular Churches. Disputes between different opinions took place with freedom and openness, which allowed an almost unanimous outcome to be achieved.

He said, “In full harmony with the Jubilee period that the Church is living, a suitable key for reading the document is “the logic of pastoral mercy” (AL, 307-312). The Holy Father clearly affirms the doctrine of marriage and the family, especially in Ch. III, and he proposes it as an indispensable ideal….. On the other hand, the Pope does not overlook the fragility of families and even their failure.

Cardinal Christoph Schonborn of Vienna, who has been in Rome for a congress on Divine Mercy, noted: “It must be said that the documents of the Church often do not belong to one of the most accessible literary genres. This text of the Pope’s is readable, and those who are not dissuaded by its length will find joy in its concreteness and realism. Pope Francis speaks about families with a clarity that is not easy to find in the magisterial documents of the Church.


The cardinal explained, “Pope Francis has succeeded in speaking about all situations without cataloguing them, without categorising, with that outlook of fundamental benevolence that is associated with the heart of God, with the eyes of Jesus that exclude no-one (cf. AL 297), that welcome all and grant the “joy of the Gospel” to all. This is why reading Amoris Laetitia is so comforting. No-one must feel condemned, no-one is scorned. In this climate of welcome, the discourse on the Christian vision of marriage and the family becomes an invitation, an encouragement, to the joy of love in which we can believe and which excludes no-one, truly and sincerely no-one.

For me, said Cardinal Schonborn, whose own parents separated, “Amoris laetitia is, first and foremost, a “linguistic event”, as was Evangelii gaudium . Something has changed in ecclesial discourse. This change of language was already perceptible during the Synod process. Between the two Synods of October 2014 and October 2015, it may clearly be seen how the tone became richer in esteem, as if the different situations in life had simply been accepted, without being immediately judged or condemned. In Amoris Laetitia this tone of language continues.


Before this there is obviously not only a linguistic choice, but rather a profound respect when faced with every person who is never firstly a “problematic case” in a “category”, but rather a unique person, with his story and his journey with and towards God. In Evangelii gaudium Pope Francis said that we must take off our shoes before the sacred ground of others (EG 36). This fundamental attitude runs throughout the Exhortation. And it is also provides the most profound reason for the other two key words, to discern and to accompany . These words apply not only to the so-called “irregular situation” (Pope Francis underlines this “so-called”) but rather for all people, for every marriage and for every family. Indeed, we are all journeying and we are all in need of “discernment” and “accompaniment”.

The archbishop of Vienna said, “Pope Francis leaves no doubt regarding his intentions or our task: “As Christians, we can hardly stop advocating marriage simply to avoid countering contemporary sensibilities, or out of a desire to be fashionable or a sense of helplessness in the face of human and moral failings. We would be depriving the world of values that we can and must offer. It is true that there is no sense in simply decrying present-day evils, as if this could change things. Nor it is helpful to try to impose rules by sheer authority. What we need is a more responsible and generous effort to present the reasons and motivations for choosing marriage and the family, and in this way to help men and women better to respond to the grace that God offers them.” (AL 35). Pope Francis is convinced that the Christian vision of marriage and the family also has an unchanged force of attraction. But it demands “a healthy dose of self-criticism”: “We also need to be humble and realistic, acknowledging that at times the way we present our Christian beliefs and treat other people has helped contribute to today’s problematic situation” (AL 36).

Cardinal Schonborn, on one issue that he called a “hot potato” issue – communion for the divorced and remarried – reiterated St. John Paul’s words in his 1981 Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris consorzio, Para 84: “…The Church reaffirms her practice, which is based on Sacred Scripture, of not admitting to Eucharistic Communion divorce persons who have remarried.”

However, the cardinal pointed out that, while there has been no change from that 1981 statement, there has been development, what he called “an organic development of doctrine.” He was quite clear that there is no new canonical disposition. The Pope does not “innovate” but uses pastoral prudence.

Before the press conference, Cardinal Schornborn spoke to Vatican Radio and offered one significant clarification, explaining that, when Pope Francis discusses the possibility of admitting people in irregular marital situations “to the sacraments,” the Holy Father is speaking first and foremost of the Sacrament of Reconciliation. “I think it is very clear there are circumstances in which people in irregular situations may really need sacramental absolution, even if their general situation cannot be clarified.”


Vatican City, Apr 8, 2016 / 04:00 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Catholics who have divorced-and-remarried need the fullness of Church teaching. They also need a wise pastoral and community response to their difficulties that can help them grow in the Christian life, Pope Francis said on Friday in his new document on love in the family.

“The Church’s pastors, in proposing to the faithful the full ideal of the Gospel and the Church’s teaching, must also help them to treat the weak with compassion, avoiding aggravation or unduly harsh or hasty judgements,” the Pope said in Amoris Laetitia.

Pope Francis’ highly anticipated post-synodal apostolic exhortation on the gifts and challenges of family life was published April 8.

Titled Amoris Laetitia, or The Joy of Love, the document was presented to journalists in Italian, French, English, German, Spanish and Portuguese. Signed March 19, the Feast of St. Joseph, the release of the document was delayed in order to allow time for its translation into other languages.

The apostolic exhortation is the conclusion of a two-year synod process discussing both the beauty and challenges of family life today. Hosted at the Vatican in 2014 and 2015, these synods gathered hundreds of bishops from around the world.

While much of the Western secular media focused its coverage on homosexuality and the question of communion for the divorced-and-civilly remarried, actual topics discussed in the meetings were much broader, with synod fathers touching on themes such as domestic violence, incest and abuse within families, and marriage preparation.

Pope Francis acknowledged the attention generated by the synods, saying, “The debates carried on in the media, in certain publications and even among the Church’s ministers, range from an immoderate desire for total change without sufficient reflection or grounding, to an attitude that would solve everything by applying general rules or deriving undue conclusions from particular theological considerations.”

The wide-ranging document included Biblical reflections on family, as well as discussion of the family as a place of faith and labor, celebration and tears. The Pope spoke about sexuality within marriage and on the sometimes devastating effects of poverty and migration on families. He also touched on the importance of communication within the family, the challenges of raising children in a technology-saturated world, and the witness of virginity.

Pope Francis devoted a substantial section of the document to the topic of educating children, observing, “The family is thus the place where parents become their children’s first teachers in the faith.” He also offered suggestions for improving marriage preparation programs, inviting engaged couples to consider a simple wedding and to set aside technological distractions.

In a world where many have lost respect for marriage and are delaying the union or choosing cohabitation instead, the Church must speak up, Pope Francis said.

“As Christians, we can hardly stop advocating marriage simply to avoid countering contemporary sensibilities, or out of a desire to be fashionable or a sense of helplessness in the face of human and moral failings,” he reflected. “We would be depriving the world of values that we can and must offer.”

At the same time, he said, “there is no sense in simply decrying present-day evils, as if this could change things. Nor it is helpful to try to impose rules by sheer authority. What we need is a more responsible and generous effort to present the reasons and motivations for choosing marriage and the family, and in this way to help men and women better to respond to the grace that God offers them.”

Pope Francis praised the “indissolubility of marriage,” saying that it “should not be viewed as a ‘yoke’ imposed on humanity, but as a ‘gift’ granted to those who are joined in marriage.” He added that “Divorce is an evil and the increasing number of divorces is very troubling.”

In addition, he said that, “divorced people who have not remarried, and often bear witness to marital fidelity, ought to be encouraged to find in the Eucharist the nourishment they need to sustain them in their present state of life.”

In the document’s introduction, Pope Francis wrote that, “everyone should feel challenged by Chapter Eight,” which is titled “Accompanying, Discerning and Integrating Weakness.”

That chapter, which describes the Church as “a field hospital,” discusses the pastoral care of the divorced-and-civilly-remarried, as well as those who cohabit and face other irregularities.

Pope Francis wrote that, “it is a matter of reaching out to everyone, of needing to help each person find his or her proper way of participating in the ecclesial community.” He emphasized that the divorced-and-remarried “can find themselves in a variety of situations” and that this variety requires discernment and accompaniment on the part of pastors.

The Pope voiced agreement with the Synod Fathers’ observations that divorced-and-remarried Catholics need to be “more fully integrated into Christian communities…while avoiding any occasion of scandal.” He restated that the divorced-and-remarried are not excommunicated, and quoted the Synod Fathers, who had said that, “language or conduct that might lead them to feel discriminated against should be avoided.”

Care for these persons is not a weakening of Christian faith and belief in the indissolubility of marriage, but is rather “a particular expression of its charity,” he said, again quoting the Synod Fathers.

While he affirmed the ideal of sacramental marriage in ministering to those in broken situations, the Pope also rejected a one-size-fits-all approach to individual cases.

Considering the “immense variety of concrete situations” that the divorced-and-remarried have put themselves in, he said, “it is understandable that neither the Synod nor this Exhortation could be expected to provide a new set of general rules … applicable to all cases.”

Instead, he said, what is possible is “a responsible personal and pastoral discernment of particular cases” which would recognize varying degrees of responsibility and therefore varying consequences or effects.

This is also the case with admission to the sacraments of Confession and Communion, he said, due to mitigating factors that might reduce a person’s culpability.

“Hence it can no longer simply be said that all those in any ‘irregular’ situation are living in a state of mortal sin and are deprived of sanctifying grace,” Pope Francis said. “More is involved here than mere ignorance of the rule. A subject may … be in a concrete situation which does not allow him or her to act differently and decide otherwise without further sin.”

Someone in such a situation of objective sin but without full culpability can grow in charity with the help of the Church, and “in certain cases, this can include the help of the sacraments,” he noted. “I would also point out that the Eucharist ‘is not a prize for the perfect, but a powerful medicine and nourishment for the weak’,” he added, quoting from his 2013 apostolic exhortation Evangelii gaudium.

The Pope acknowledged the importance of fidelity to the Gospel, saying that, “To show understanding in the face of exceptional situations never implies dimming the light of the fuller ideal, or proposing less than what Jesus offers to the human being.”

He called it “reductive” in discernment merely “to consider whether or not an individual’s actions correspond to a general law or rule.”

“A pastor cannot feel that it is enough simply to apply moral laws to those living in ‘irregular’ situations, as if they were stones to throw at people’s lives. This would bespeak the closed heart of one used to hiding behind the Church’s teachings.”

Pope Francis professed understanding for those who prefer “a more rigorous pastoral care which leaves no room for confusion.”

“But I sincerely believe that Jesus wants a Church attentive to the goodness which the Holy Spirit sows in the midst of human weakness, a Mother who, while clearly expressing her objective teaching, ‘always does what good she can, even if in the process, her shoes get soiled by the mud of the street’.”