I was delighted to learn that a friend, Archbishop Fortunatus Nwachukwu, will return to Rome after an absence of several years as an apostolic nuncio to a number of different countries. Pope Francis today named him the new Secretary of the Dicastery for Evangelization, as part of the Section for First Evangelization and the New Particular Churches.

We first met in late 2007 when he began serving in the Vatican as the Chief of Protocol of the Secretariat of State. In 2012, Benedict XVI had named him nuncio to Nicaragua and in ensuing years he served as nuncio to Trinidad and Tobago, Barbados, Dominica, Jamaica, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Vincent and Grenadines, and Guyana, Saint Lucia, Grenada, Bahamas, Suriname, and Belize.

The Nigerian-born prelate speaks English, Italian, German, French, Spanish, and Arabic. These languages definitely served him well in the protocol office where he met leaders from many nations around the world.


Pope Francis, at today’s general audience, held in St. Peter’s Square for the second week in a row, told the pilgrims in the square, “In our continuing catechesis on missionary zeal, we now consider the apostolic dimension of evangelization. In the Creed, we profess that the Church is ‘apostolic’.”

He explained that, “an ‘apostle’ is literally one who is ‘sent’. In the Scriptures, we read that Jesus chose the twelve Apostles, called them to himself and then sent them forth to proclaim the Gospel. After his resurrection, he appeared to the Twelve and said: ‘As the Father has sent me, so now I send you’, breathing upon them the Holy Spirit for the forgiveness of sins.”

Francis asked, “But are we aware that being apostles concerns every Christian? Are we aware that it concerns each one of us? Indeed, we are required to be apostles – that is, envoys – in a Church that, in the Creed, we profess as apostolic.

“The experience of the Twelve apostles and the testimony of Paul also challenges us today,” continued the Holy Father. “They invite us to verify our attitudes, to verify our choices, our decisions, on the basis of these fixed points: everything depends on a gratuitous call from God; God also chooses us for services that at times seem to exceed our capacities or do not correspond to our expectations; the call received as a gratuitous gift must be answered gratuitously.”

He then explained that the Christian vocation “is a great thing because, although by the will of Christ some are in an important position, perhaps, doctors, ‘pastors and dispensers of mysteries on behalf of others, yet all share a true equality with regard to the dignity and to the activity common to all the faithful for the building up of the Body of Christ’.”

Francis, in concluding remarks, said, “Those who are ordained have received the mission of teaching, governing and sanctifying in Jesus’ name and authority, yet all the members of the faithful, as sharers in the Lord’s priestly, prophetic and regal office, are called to be missionary disciples, ‘apostles in an apostolic Church’. May the recognition of our common dignity and equality inspire us to ever greater unity and cooperation in proclaiming, by word and example, the good news of our salvation in Christ.”


There’s a great piece in Vatican news written by a friend, Gudrun Sailer, a sister member of D.VA, Donne in Vatican (Women in the Vatican), an officially recognized body of women in the Vatican comprising current employees and retirees (like myself). It was great fun to read and I enjoyed the photos as I know a number of the women, having worked with them when I was also at the Vatican or having met some of them during D.VA meetings and social encounters.

I am especially delighted to see Francesca di Giovanni’s name because I have known her for decades and have followed her work – and her promotion by Pope Francis – all that time. She is due to retire after decades in the Vatican’s Secretariat of State. We first met in 1994 when I was one of the members of the Holy See delegation to Cairo for the U.N. conference on Population, participating in pre-conference meetings in the Vatican. I was on three other Holy See delegations (with a diplomatic passport!) to U.N. conferences and I well remember Francesca being part of all the preliminary meetings in the Vatican.

Click on this link to see photos of some amazing Vatican women that you’ll read about in the second piece: 10 years of Pope Francis: Significantly more women working at the Vatican – Vatican News


At today’s general audience in St. Peter’s Square, on the occasion of the annual March 8 celebration of International Women’s Day, Pope Francis called for applause for women, saying, “they deserve it,” while praising their “tender hearts” and “ability to construct a more humane society.”

“On International Women’s Day,” he said, “I think of all women: I thank them for their commitment to building a more humane society, through their ability to grasp reality with a creative eye and a tender heart. … This is a privilege of women alone! A special blessing for all the women in the square. And a round of applause for women! They deserve it!”

His remarks came after delivering the weekly catechesis on apostolic zeal, in when he noted that, “By virtue of the Baptism received and the consequent incorporation in the Church, every baptized person participates in the mission of the Church and, in this, in the mission of Christ the King, Priest and Prophet.”

Pope Francis also dedicated a March 8 tweet to women: “Let us #PrayTogether so that #women, every woman, may be respected, protected and esteemed. Violence against women and mothers is violence against God himself who, from a woman, from a mother, took on our human condition.”


In the past ten years, the number of women employed at the Vatican has risen significantly to 1,165. Never before has the number of female employees and their share of the total staff been higher, according to a Vatican News survey of the relevant Vatican authorities. The number of women in Vatican leadership positions has also grown under Francis.

By Gudrun Sailer

There are currently 1,165 female employees working for the Pope, compared to only 846 in the year Francis took office in 2013. The percentage of women in the total workforce at the Vatican rose in the current pontificate from just under 19.2 to 23.4 per cent today. These figures refer to the two administrative units Holy See and Vatican City State together.

The increase in female employees is even more pronounced if one looks exclusively at the Holy See, i.e. the Roman Curia. Here, the proportion of women has risen from 19.3 to 26.1 per cent over the past ten years. This means that more than one in four employees at the Holy See is now a woman – in absolute figures 812 out of 3,114.

In the ten-part salary scale used in the Vatican, most women in the Curia have been found for many years on the sixth and seventh levels. They thus exercise professions that usually require an academic degree, such as lawyers, department heads, archivists or administrative specialists. In 2022, 43 per cent of the women employed at the Curia worked at the sixth and seventh levels.

Women in senior positions

In the meantime, women have sporadically made their way up to the executive level, which goes beyond the ten-step salary scale. Today, five women hold the rank of undersecretary and one the rank of secretary at the Holy See. Secretaries and undersecretaries are the second and third levels of management respectively in most curia authorities and are part of the management team together with the prefect, i.e. the superior of the authority; all three levels are filled by appointment by the Pope.

At the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, Pope Francis appointed a female secretary for the first time in 2021, the Italian religious Alessandra Smerilli. It is the highest post ever held by a woman at the Holy See.

Undersecretaries at the Holy See currently work at the Dicasteries for Religious, for Laity, Family and Life (two female undersecretaries), for Culture and Education, and at the Secretariat of State. However, Francesca Di Giovanni (70), a lawyer who works there, will soon leave for reasons of age and will be replaced by a priest. The General Secretariat of the Synod also has an undersecretary, Nathalie Becquart, a French nun, although it should be noted that the Synod is not part of the Holy See (but is part of this statistical survey).

A recent development

Historically, the appointment of expert women to high Curia offices began with Paul VI. In his pontificate, the Australian Rosemarie Goldie worked at the Pontifical Council for the Laity from 1967 to 1976 as one of two vice-secretaries. After a long break, it was not until 2004 that John Paul II appointed the next undersecretary: Sister Enrica Rosanna at the Congregation for Religious.

Under Pope Francis, appointments of women to leadership positions have multiplied, even though they account for less than five per cent of all leadership tasks in the Curia currently entrusted to women, and for now, there is no female prefect as the “number one” of a Curia authority. But the course has been set: In the basic text for the Curia reform Praedicate Evangelium (2022), Francis made it possible that in future lay people and thus also women can lead dicasteries as prefects. This was previously reserved for cardinals and archbishops. In an interview last December, the Pope announced his intention to appoint the first female prefect in about two years.

In the Vatican City State, which is a separate administrative entity from the Holy See, Pope Francis appointed two women to top positions in the ten years of his pontificate: Barbara Jatta, director of the Vatican Museums in 2016, and Sr Raffaella Petrini, secretary general of the Governatorate in 2022. While lay people had always headed the Vatican Museums, the Italian nun took the place of a bishop in the Governatorate.

At the same time, the percentage of women employed in the Vatican State stagnated at around 19 per cent during the pontificate of Pope Francis.

Regarding leadership positions, Francis has not only placed some women leaders in the Vatican, but has also appointed others to positions where they can “influence the Vatican while maintaining their independence”. He himself wrote this in his book Let us Dream. Thus, for instance, Francis was the first pope to appoint women as “members” of curial offices, a measure that went largely unnoticed. Until then, only cardinals and some bishops were members of the traditional “Congregations.” Members – along with prefects and secretaries – have voting rights in the plenary assemblies.

The Council for the Economy, consisting of 15 members, currently includes eight cardinals and seven lay people, six of whom are women, including the British Leslie Jane Ferrar, formerly Treasurer to Prince Charles of Wales. In 2019, Francis nominated seven female religious superiors to the Dicastery for Institutes of Consecrated Life in one fell swoop. In 2022, he appointed two women religious and a lay woman as members of the Dicastery for Bishops, where they participate in the process of selecting bishops for the universal Church, along with cardinals and bishops who are members of the Dicastery as they are.

In the ten years of his pontificate, Pope Francis has increased the presence, visibility and influence of women in the Vatican. Several times, however, he warned against seeing the task of women in the Church as well as in the Vatican from a purely functionalist point of view. In “Let us Dream”, Francis described it as a challenge for him to “create spaces where women can take leadership in a way that allows them to shape the culture and ensures that they are valued, respected and recognised”. By setting a course in favour of women, Francis ultimately wants Rome to become a model for the universal Church in this respect.


Do you have evangelizing passion?  Apostolic zeal? What are you passionate about and how do you transmit that passion and enthusiasm?


The Holy Father began today’s general audience catechesis by noting the theme, “The passion of evangelizing, apostolic zeal.” Evangelizing is not saying, ‘Look, blah, blah, blah’ and nothing more. There is a passion that involves everything: the mind, the heart, the hands, going out… everything, the whole person is involved with this proclamation of the Gospel, and for this reason we talk about the passion for evangelizing.

Today, he went on, “we now consider the calling of the twelve apostles, whom Jesus chose “to be with him and to be sent out to proclaim the Good News.” Both aspects of that call are essential, for only by closeness to Jesus do we learn to proclaim him and not ourselves, his word and not our own.”

Jesus tells the apostles “to share the gift that they themselves received, the unmerited gift of God’s redeeming love. Their message must be his own: that the kingdom of God is at hand and requires only that we receive it with open hearts.”

Francis explained that He also “addresses a discourse to them, known as the ‘missionary discourse’—this is what it is called in the Gospel. It is found in chapter 10 of Matthew’s Gospel and is like the ‘constitution’ of the proclamation. From that discourse, which I recommend you read today—it is only one page in the Gospel—I draw out three aspects:  why proclaim, what to proclaim and how to proclaim!

“Jesus also tells the apostles that they are sent forth like sheep among wolves, to propose the Gospel above all by their witness of meekness, innocence and personal conviction, proclaiming Christ more by their actions than by their words.”

Citing St John Chrysostom’s Homily 33 on the Gospel of Matthew, Francis said this Church Father wrote: “As long as we are lambs, we will conquer, and even if we are surrounded by many wolves, we will overcome them. But if we become wolves—‘Ah, how clever, look, I feel good about myself’—we will be defeated, because we will be deprived of the shepherd’s help. He does not shepherd wolves, but lambs’ If I want to be the Lord’s, I have to allow Him to be my shepherd; and He is not the shepherd of wolves, He is the shepherd of lambs, meek, humble, kind as the Lord is.”

The Church, as “apostolic”, is entirely missionary; each of us, in Baptism, is called by Jesus to live in closeness to him and to be sent forth, in union with all our brothers and sisters, to bear witness to his Gospel before the world.


Following the catastrophe caused by the earthquakes that struck Syria and Turkey on 6 February, Pope Francis appealed for closeness and concrete support to alleviate the pain of those who are suffering from the disaster. Nine days after the powerful earthquakes, the rising death toll has topped 41,000. Millions of people have been left without a home and a livelihood.

While the Pope issued his appeal during Sunday’s Angelus, he too put words into action through the Dicastery for the Service of Charity.

Crates of aid departed from the Port of Naples on Wednesday morning aboard the MSC Aurelia Cargo ship that is scheduled to dock in Iskenderum, Turkey in two days’ time.

As well as aid from the Italian government and other NGOs, the ship carries 10,000 thermal jumpers delivered personally by Cardinal Konrad Krajewski, the Papal Almoner. The thermal garments are destined for the Kilis refugee camp in Turkey, 50 km from Gaziantep and 60 km from the Syrian city of Aleppo.

The distribution of aid will be entrusted to operators of the Rava Foundation, which has been present in the area for some time and provides food and shelter to thousands of homeless people.

Following the outbreak of war in Syria, the camp has expanded to accommodate some 60,000 refugees, but it is also home to many others who live in makeshift tents. As expected, the earthquake has aggravated the situation and hundreds of people are joining the refugee families. (Vaticannews)


To watch solemn vespers at the end of the January 18 to 25 Week of Prayer for Christian Unity in the basilica of St. Paul’s Outside the Walls with Pope Francis, click here at 5:30 pm Rome time: Solemnity of the Conversion of Saint Paul – Celebration of Second Vespers – Activities of the Holy Father Pope Francis | Vatican.va


AT GENERAL AUDIENCE, POPE FRANCIS CONTINUES CATECHESES ON APOSTOLIC ZEAL. Pope Francis told the faithful that “each day is a time of grace” and “new opportunity” for those who follow Christ. He explored how Jesus himself chose to present His message, noting that, in the synagogue of Nazareth, at the very beginning of his public ministry, the Lord revealed that, fulfilling Isaiah’s prophecy, He came to proclaim Good News to the poor and a year of favor from the Lord. The Pope said Jesus communicated with certain essential elements, especially joy, freedom, light, healing and awe.  “One cannot speak of Jesus without joy, because faith is a wonderful love story to be shared…” “The Gospel of Jesus Christ is, as the prophet foretold, a saving message that brings contagious joy, authentic freedom, the promise of spiritual rebirth as God’s beloved sons and daughters, and definitive healing from the oppression of sin and death.” Pope at Audience: Every day is a time of grace – Vatican News

POPE THANKS FAMILIES HOSTING YOUTHS PARTICIPATING IN WYD 2023: Pope Francis sent a video message to Portuguese families who will welcome in their homes the thousands of youths expected at WYD Lisbon 2023, saying their generous hospitality also shows openness to other horizons. Following his video message addressed last week to young people preparing to participate in World Youth Day in Lisbon, Pope Francis has also thanked Portuguese families who will welcome them in their homes during the event. Over 400,000 young people from across the world have already registered to take part in the WYD on 1-6 August 2023. In a video message released Wednesday, the Pope remarked that by welcoming young people in their homes, families not only show generosity, but, most importantly, openness to people of other cultures and to new horizons. Pope thanks families hosting youths participating in WYD 2023 – Vatican News

POPE TO DELEGATION OF THE UKRAINIAN COUNCIL OF CHURCHES AND RELIGIOUS ORGANIZATIONS. Pope Francis thanked members of the Ukrainian Council of Churches and Religious Organizations (UCCRO) for their work by describing their witness as a “concrete testimony of peace in a country suffering from war.” Addressing a UCCRO delegation before the general audience on Wednesday, the Pope upheld the collaboration of the member groups, whom he said, together support those in need, defend the rights of the faithful of all denominations and advocate for the respect of human rights. “I give thanks to God because this meeting enables me, in some way, to have close contact with the Ukrainian people, who have always been present in my prayers during these months.” Pope upholds Ukrainian interfaith efforts as concrete testimony of peace – Vatican News


Something to ponder: An interesting read about the Francis papacy in the post-Benedict XVI era: MondayVatican – Vatican » Pope Francis, what kind of a future has just begun? | MondayVatican


Pope Francis began today’s general audience by noting, “In our continuing catechesis on apostolic zeal, the desire to share with others the joy of the Gospel, we now look to its model and source: the example of Jesus himself. As the eternal Word of God, made flesh for our salvation, Jesus’ entire life was devoted to communicating and dialoguing with others, first with his heavenly Father in profound prayer, and then with others, especially the poor, the outcast and sinners.!

Francis explained that Jesus “proclaimed the coming of God’s Kingdom not only by his preaching, but also by his ministry of healing, reconciliation and forgiveness. As the Good Shepherd, the model for all pastors in the Church, Jesus was completely committed to the welfare of his flock, protecting the fold yet also setting out in search of the lost sheep.

“And when we hear that someone has left the Church, what do we want to say? ‘Let them work it out?’ No. Jesus teaches us to have nostalgia for those who have left. Jesus does not feel anger or resentment but pure longing for us. Jesus feels nostalgic for us and this is God’s zeal.

The Holy Father said he wondered “we, do we have similar sentiments? Perhaps we see those who have left the flock as adversaries or enemies. ‘And this person? Hasn’t he gone to the other side? She lost her faith…. They are going to hell…’ and we are serene.!

“When we meet them at school, at work, on the streets of our city,” he continued, “why don’t we think instead that we have a beautiful opportunity to witness to them the joy of a Father who loves them and has never forgotten them? Not to proselytize, no! But that the Word of the Father might reach them so we can walk together. … Because the Word, Jesus, asks this of us – to always draw near to everyone with an open heart because he is like that.”

Pope Francis concluded: “Following his example, may we, in our daily lives, draw joy and strength from our union with the Father in prayer, allow our hearts to be shaped by pastoral zeal for the word of God, and strive, in all our words and actions, to share with others its saving message.”

During greetings to English-language pilgrims the Pope said, “I offer a warm welcome to the English-speaking pilgrims taking part in today’s audience, especially the groups from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Australia and the United States of America. I offer a special greeting to the many student groups present.

“I ask all of you to join me in praying for Father Isaac Achi of the Diocese of Minna in northern Nigeria, who was killed last Sunday in an attack on his rectory. So many Christians continue to be the target of violence: let us remember them in our prayers! Upon all of you, and upon your families, I invoke the joy and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ. God bless you!

The terrorists set fire to the rectory and Fr. Achi burned to death. They shot and wounded the assistant priest as he tried to flee.

Francis also highlighted Ukraine, as he has done in every public address for almost a year. He asked everyone to pray for Ukrainians who need “our closeness, consolation, and above all peace.”


As you know, Pope Francis leaves on January 31 for the Democratic Republic of the Congo and then South Sudan. We are now learning, via a report from Reuters, that the government in Kinshasa is clearing the city’s streets of vendors so that the Pope sees a sanitized city, much as happened when U.S. President Biden recently visited El Paso, Texas, a city that has been overwhelmed by massive numbers of migrants in the last two years. Biden saw no migrants, no crowded housing facilities, no make-shift tents on El Paso streets.

The January 17 Reuters story starts: “Before dawn, sanitary police armed with crowbars and a bulldozer set about demolishing makeshift trader stalls crowding downtown streets in the capital of Democratic Republic of Congo ahead of a four-day visit by Pope Francis starting Jan. 31. Kinshasa has 17 million people. Police demolish trader stalls in Congo capital ahead of Pope visit | Reuters