Here’s a really wonderful web page about St. Patrick’s Day! I hope you enjoy every word, statistic and photo!

Pope Francis tweeted today: Fasting means not only abstaining from food, but also from any unhealthy attachment, and especially sin.


My guest this weekend on “Vatican Insider” is Fr. Jan Machniak, pastor of Sts. Peter and Paul parish in Krakow, author of “Apostles of Divine Mercy” and a professor at the John Paul II University in Krakow. He has a web page with his lectures in English for students –

We met when I was recently in Krakow. I had asked Fr. Jan to share some stories about Pope John Paul for my book on Poland’s newest saint. He also has a great tidbit about John Paul II and Mother Angelica. In any case, this is a conversation rather than a typical interview where I might jump in to clarify a name or give some background information. I’ll do that now – here – and, as you’ll hear when you listen to Vatican Insider, I also explain at the start of the interview.

For example, you will hear the name Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz: In 1966 he was named secretary to Archbishop, later Cardinal Karol Wojtyla who became Pope John Paul. Cardinal Dziwisz later succeeded him as archbishop of Krakow and just months ago retired.

At the end of our conversation, I mention Fr. Dariusz Ras. He’s a good friend who was a former secretary to Cardinal Dziwisz and is now the archpriest of St. Mary’s Basilica on Market Square in Krakow.

At one point, Father Jan also talks about oplatki, an unleavened Christmas wafer, about the size of a postcard that is embossed with Christmas-related images. At Christmas time every person or guest in a family or other setting gets an oplatki: you exchange greetings with other people by breaking off a piece of their oplatki and they break off a piece of yours.

In his story about a monstrance that Pope John Paul gave to Mother Angelica, Fr. Jan mentions Nowa Huta, a neighborhood on the periphery of Krakow where, until the 70s, there was no Catholic Church. It took many years but then Bishop Karol Wojtyla of Krakow finally persuaded the communist authorities to allow the building of a church that they called the Ark. (Father asked me, how to translate the Italian “arco di Noe) and I said Noah’s Ark. I thought that was the name of the church but the Nowa Huta church is Ark of the Lord).

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


This morning in the Paul VI Hall, the Holy Father received the participants in the 28th annual course on the Internal Forum that was organized by the Apostolic Penitentiary. They have just ended three days of meetings.

Francis said, “I am pleased to meet you in this first audience after the Jubilee of Mercy, on the occasion of the annual course on the Internal Forum. I address warm greetings to the Cardinal Major Penitentiary, and thank him for his kind remarks. I greet the Regent, the Prelates, the Officials and the staff of the Penitentiary, the Colleges of the ordinary and extraordinary penitentiaries of the papal basilicas in Rome, and all of you, participants in this course.

”In reality,” the Pope went on, “I admit this Penitentiary is the type of tribunal I truly like! It is a ‘tribunal of mercy’, to which we turn to obtain that indispensable medicine that is divine mercy. Your course on the internal forum, which contributes to the formation of good confessors, is more useful than ever, and I would say even necessary in our times. Certainly, one does not become a good confessor thanks to a course, no: that of the confessional is a long education, that lasts a lifetime. But who is a ‘good confessor’? How does one become a good confessor?

Francis said he “would like to indicate, in this respect, three aspects.

1. The “good confessor” is, first of all, a true friend of Jesus the Good Shepherd.

2. The good confessor is, in second place, a man of the Spirit , a man of discernment

3. Finally, the confessional is also a true place of evangelization

For the full address, click here:


Following the enthusiasm of past years, the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization again proposes “24 hours for the Lord” for Lent 2017 on March 24-25.

Tonight, March 17, as a precursor to that event, Pope Francis will preside at a penitential celebration in St. Peter’s Basilica in order to place the Sacrament of Reconciliation at the center of the Church’s mission of the new evangelization.

The theme that will guide the reflection in 2017 is: I desire mercy (Mt 09:13).


I saw this truly stunning video a few days ago and wanted to share it with you! Rome, then and now! Enjoy it over the weekend!


My guest this weekend on Vatican Insider is Alan Holdren, a real Vatican insider who produces “Vaticano” for EWTN and also is the bureau chief for News Nightly. You saw him on the news during the days he was in Mexico with Pope Francis and that is exactly what he will tell us about this week on VI, in Part II of our conversation about the papal trip. We look at highlights of the trip, some special moments for both the Pope and Alan, and talk about a lot of behind the scenes – or on the scene! – stories.

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


(Vatican Radio)  Pope Francis on Friday addressed the participants of a course on the internal forum organized by the Apostolic Penitentiary, calling them to become ‘channels of mercy’.

The yearly week-long course prepares new priests and seminarians for the correct administration of the Sacrament of Reconciliation and traditionally concludes in an audience with the Holy Father.

In remarks prepared for the occasion, Pope Francis reminded the priests and seminarians of the importance of “an adequate and updated preparation” for confessors, “so that all who come to confess their sins may ‘touch the grandeur of God’s mercy with their own hands, the source of true inner peace’ (Bull, Misericordiae Vultus, 17)”.

“Mercy,” the Holy Father said, “before being an attitude or human virtue, is a unfailing choice by God in favor of every human being for their eternal salvation, a choice sealed with the blood of the Son of God.”

Pope Francis went on to remind the young priests and seminarians that the door of divine mercy are always wide open. “The mercy of the Father can reach every person in many ways: through the openness of a sincere conscience; by reading the Word of God which converts hearts; through an encounter with a merciful sister or brother; in the experiences of a life lived with wounds, sins, forgiveness, and mercy.”

Of these ways which God’s mercy can reach us, the Pope said the most certain of all is Jesus himself, “who has the power on earth to forgive sins (Luke 5,24) and has entrusted this mission to the Church (John 20,21-23). The Sacrament of Reconciliation is therefore the privileged place to experience the mercy of God.”

For this reason, the Holy Father said, “it is important that the confessor also be a ‘channel of joy’ and that the penitent faithful, after having received absolution, not feel the weight of his or her sins. They need to taste the work of God which freed them, live in thanksgiving, and be ready to repair the damage of their sins, going out to their brothers and sisters with an open and welcoming heart.”


Yesterday, in my reflections on Justice Antonin Scalia and my comments on the Supreme Court, I wrote: Because SCOTUS (Supreme Court of the United States) now has 8 members and they are equally divided into liberal (4) and conservative camps (4) the extremely important decisions facing the justices this year on religious freedom could end up in a tie, a “hung jury,” so to speak.

To clarify: Under Supreme Court practice, a 4-4 tie means the ruling from the lower-instance court stands.

Speaking of law, the Church’s Code of Canon Law is quite clear about the sins whose pardon is “reserved” to the Holy See. I received an email from a reader who asked what the “reserved sins” were, other than abortion, that incurred excommunication and could only be absolved by the Holy See. Reserved sins came up last week, as you may remember, when Pope Francis on Ash Wednesday gave the mandate to over 1100 Missionaries of Mercy, that is, confessors to whom the special privilege was given of absolving sins normally reserved to the Holy See through the Apostolic Penitentiary.

The Apostolic Penitentiary is one of three tribunals of the Roman Curia. It is considered a tribunal of mercy, as it is responsible for issues relating to the forgiveness of sins, such as the absolution of excommunications latæ sententiæ reserved to the Holy See. See my third story today about this issue.


(Vatican Radio)  On Monday evening Pope Francis flew to the city of Tuxtla Gutiérrez, the capital of the Mexican southeast state of Chiapas, where he met with families in the city’s stadium.

What a great photo!


Before addressing the gathering, he listened to testimonies by people from different family situations who included a civilly-married couple of divorced parents who are actively involved with charitable work, a disabled adolescent who found joy in being accepted by the church and is now active in the evangelization of other youth, a single mother who was rejected by society but welcomed with love in the Church, and a catholic family of the diocese of Tapachula.

In his prepared remarks, Pope Francis noted that the testimonies he had heard represented the joys, hopes, and determination by which many families confront sadness, disillusion and failings. He observed that “living in a family is not always easy, and can often be painful and stressful”. He added that he would prefer a wounded family that makes daily efforts to put love into play to a society that is afraid of love.

Here’s a Rome Reports video on that meeting:

In his third papal tweet of February 15, Pope Francis wrote: I prefer a family with a tired face from sacrifices made rather than a pretty one which is unfamiliar with tenderness and compassion.


Veronica Scarisbrick, my colleague on my weekly Vatican Radio program, “Joan Knows,” has been in Mexico to report on the Holy Father’s apostolic journey and she offers us this report about the Mexican state that Framcis will visit today, Michoacán.

(Vatican Radio)  Pope Francis on Tuesday begins the 4th day of his Apostolic Journey to Mexico with a trip to one of the country’s most drug-ridden states. Veronica Scarisbrick is with the Holy Father and sent us this report, entitled “Horror and Hope in Michoacán”.

Pope Francis on Tuesday travels to Morelia, capital of Michoacán, the Mexican state most identified with the drug trade. A place where there are performances of stupefying violence. Although I’ve been told there are worse places still in terms of the drug scene across Mexico.

Francis who comes to Mexico as ‘messenger of peace’ has called drugs ‘messengers of death’. The scenario related to drugs here is complex and multi- faceted. To set a strategy that might break the organized crime model is not an easy task, the law is one thing and implementation is another. Also government anti-corruption cartels are not sufficiently powerful to counter the power of narco billions.

It’s not that the problem has been ignored, the military and federal police have been called in on various occasions and in turn accused of the same crimes they were out to crush. And the result was so weak that the local communities decided to set up their own militias, the vigilantes’ with the result that you have lemon and avocado pickers turned gunmen.

There are contradictions as well. Traditional crime groups are often deeply tied to religion.  Furthermore they offer benefits people find hard to refuse and are often obliged to accept.

Among the consequences of this situation are economic and social disintegration and a connection with the escalating number of ‘desaparecidos’ in the area.

Overall in Mexico there are more than 20.000 people who have disappeared in ten years. Although UN sources have stepped up that number to over 26.000.  But these numbers don’t relate exclusively to Michoacán.

But significantly it’s in the capital of Michoacán, Morelia that Pope Francis has chosen to meet with young people in an effort to bring a much needed message of hope.

He’ll be meeting with them in the afternoon at the stadium ‘José Maria Morelos y Pavòn’. It promises to be a moving moment, one they will treasure. Let’s recall how Pope Francis said in his first speech to the nation. ‘One of Mexico’s greatest treasures is that it has a youthful face”.

It’s in Morelia too that earlier in the day Pope Francis will go to the heart of this stunning colonial city, to the Cathedral in the characteristic pink stone of the area which dominates the city. There he will meet with fourteen deans of Mexican Universities and six leaders of other Christian religions.

But he will start the day by celebrating Holy Mass in the local stadium with priests, men and women religious, consecrated people and seminarians.

All in the presence of the man he created Cardinal a year ago,  the Archbishop of Morelia Alberto Suarez Inda.


The sins whose absolution, as I mentioned earlier, is reserved to the Holy See are those that incur automatic excommunication. The email author wanted to know what sins, other than abortion, incur automatic excommnication: I felt the following Q&A from Catholic Answers was complete and answered the question concisely.

Question: Having an abortion means automatic excommunication from the Church. Are there other sins that carry this penalty?

Answer:  Yes. In the 1983 Code of Canon Law (CIC) eight other sins carry the penalty of automatic excommunication: apostasy, heresy, schism (CIC 1364:1), violating the sacred species (CIC 1367), physically attacking the pope (CIC 1370:1), sacramentally absolving an accomplice in a sexual sin (CIC 1378:1), consecrating a bishop without authorization (CIC 1382), and directly violating the seal of confession (1388:1).

Apostasy is the total repudiation of the Christian faith. Heresy is the obstinate doubt or denial, after baptism, of a defined Catholic doctrine. Schism is the refusal of submission to the Roman Pontiff or the refusal to be in communion with members of the Church who are in communion with him (CIC 751).

Violation of the sacred species is the throwing away the consecrated species of Christ’s body or blood or the taking or retaining of them for a sacrilegious purpose (CIC 1367).

Physically attacking the pope is self-explanatory, as are absolving an accomplice in a sexual sin and consecrating a bishop without authorization from the Vatican.

A direct violation of the seal of confession is one in which both the penitent and the penitent’s sin can easily be determined by the confessor’s words or behavior. Again, the penalty of automatic excommunication does not apply if no one perceives the disclosure (CIC 1330).

Automatic excommunication for abortion (CIC 1398) applies not only to the woman who has the abortion, but to “all those who commit this crime with knowledge of the penalty attached, and [this] includes those accomplices without whose help the crime would not have been committed” (Evangelium Vitae 62).

No one is automatically excommunicated for any offense if, without any fault of his own, he was unaware that he was violating a law (CIC 1323:2) or that a penalty was attached to the law (CIC 1324:1:9). The same applies if one was a minor, had the imperfect use of reason, was forced through grave or relatively grave fear, was forced through serious inconvenience, or in certain other circumstances (CIC 1324). (Answered by: Catholic Answers Staff )