I knew this meeting was taking place yesterday and emailed my friend Archbishop Warda to assure him of prayers! When we first met in 2010, he was then Fr. Bashar Warda, rector of the new Chaldean seminary that, because of the violence in Baghdad, had to move from that city to Erbil in Kurdistan, northern Iraq. Fr. Warda followed – and probably oversaw – every stage of the construction of the new seminary and it was just about two years old when I first visited for a week in February 2010.

My second visit was in July 2010 when Fr.Warda was ordained to the episcopacy – an incredible moment in his life (I met his entire family and travelled around Kurdistan with one brother), the life of the Chaldean Church and the diocese of Erbil as it had been without a bishop for five years. Another Iraqi Chaldean bishop visited occasionally to take care of business matters, preside at confirmations, etc. but the faith community here really needed their own head of family, their own bishop.

I am delighted at the news of the meeting with Vice President Pence and even more so, what Bashar Warda has accomplished as archbishop. The very day of his ordination he said his two priorities would be to build a university and to build a hospital – employing Christians and Muslims to build both, and then staffing them with Christians and Muslims – what a great way to work towards peace!

His hardest challenge was to find homes and jobs for the huge numbers of mainly Christians who were forced out of their homes and towns – IDP, Internally Displaced Peoples – by terrorists and constrained to move to Kurdistan.

How many wonderful stories I have about my visits to Iraq!

Lots of people are praying for you, my friend, and for the day that all of Iraq can live in peace.


(CNA/EWTN News).- U.S. Vice President Mike Pence met with Chaldean Archbishop Bashar Matti Warda of Erbil on Monday for a “substantial discussion” on the needs of persecuted Christians and other religious minorities in Iraq.

“I updated him on the situation facing our people and expressed our hope that peace would soon come to Nineveh,” Warda said in a statement about the Dec. 4 meeting.

Since 2014, the Islamic State has forced thousands of Iraqi Christians to flee their homes after telling them they must convert to Islam, pay an exorbitant tax, or be killed. Many of these Christians have resettled in or around Erbil.

Warda has often spoken out on behalf of persecuted Christians in the Middle East, and was in the United States for “Solidarity in Suffering,” a Week of Awareness for Persecuted Christians, an event that began on Nov. 26 and was co-sponsored by the Knights of Columbus and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

In a tweet, Pence said his meeting with Warda was an “(i)mportant dialogue…about (President Trump’s) commitment to directly assist persecuted Christians & religious minorities in Iraq. I’m heading to the Middle East this month to discuss U.S. plans to accelerate funding those impacted in the region.”

Warda said that “On behalf of our people, I expressed our gratitude for his promise of swift assistance to our communities who suffered genocide at the hands of ISIS.”

“I also mentioned to the Vice President the importance of the aid and support we have received from the Knights of Columbus in the United States, and Aid to the Church in Need in Europe,” he added.

Pence’s coming trip to the Middle East is part of a series of conferences he has attended regarding the plight of Christians in the region. In October, Pence addressed In Defense of Christians’ annual Solidarity Dinner for Christians in the Middle East. The vice president said groups such as the Islamic State have singled out Christians for persecution and noted that Christianity could disappear from some parts of the Middle East.

“Let me assure you tonight, President Trump and I see these crimes for what they are – vile acts of persecution animated by hatred for Christians and the Gospel of Christ,” Pence said at the time.

Warda said that during their meeting, he gave Pence a crucifix from Karemlesh, a town near Mosul which was “targeted and badly damaged when ISIS invaded.”

“I also assured him of our prayers and told him that if he ever visits Iraq, he is most welcome in Erbil.”



I had the joy last week of seeing all my Iraqi Chaldean bishop friends when they were in Rome for their synod. I also spent a few minutes with Chaldean Patriarch Louis Raphael I Sako, whom I knew when he was archbishop of Kirkuk, I mentioned this wonderful visit on my blog last week and today I offer a link to this interview with Abp. Bashar Warda of Erbil that was done by CNA’s Elise Harris for “Vaticano.” I taped a portion of that interview and then did one of my own for my radio program, “Vatican Insider.” That interview will air this weekend.

Here we are at the Casa Tra Noi hotel where the bishops were staying and holding their meetings:






Today is the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Here is a special prayer:

O most holy heart of Jesus, fountain of every blessing, I adore you, I love you, and with lively sorrow for my sins I offer you this poor heart of mine. Make me humble, patient, pure and wholly obedient to your will. Grant, Good Jesus, that I may live in you and for you. Protect me in the midst of danger. Comfort me in my afflictions. Give me health of body, assistance in my temporal needs, your blessing on all that I do, and the grace of a holy death. Amen.

I returned yesterday from the States and, although I did not write a column, I did post some things on Facebook and also did some work preparing this week’s edition of “Vatican Insider,” as you will see below.

It was quite an exciting trip back to Rome as the USA Water Polo team was on the plane and one of players, Bret Bonanni, was seated right next to me. As I had done, he “upgraded,” so to speak, to Economy Plus seats on our United flight as these seats give you a bit more leg room. If you’ve ever watched water polo, you know the players are tall, broad-shouldered and long-legged so more room is a must, when possible, on flights.

The team competes in Rome (first game underway as I write), then spends five days in Croatia, followed by matches in Milan and then home to California.

Bret and I had some great time to talk and I learned a great deal about him, the team and water polo. Before yesterday I could have written what I know about this sport on the proverbial head of a pin. His family is Italian, as you can see from the name, and his folks attend every match possible. In fact, they are in Rome and will go to Croatia and they have invited me to dinner on Monday. Bret asked how to attend Mass in St. Peter’s and how the team could see some of the Vatican on their free day next Monday so I am working on that.

Some of the crew – believe it or not! – recognized me from EWTN and we had nice chats about Rome, the Vatican, etc. Years ago, the father of one of the flight attendants arranged, through a fiend, for her to attend a Wednesday general audience and, to her amazement, she was in a special seat and got to meet St. John Paul.  Before the flight was over, several attendants took pix of us with their cell phones.

That’s one way to make a long flight short!


Tune in this week to “Vatican Insider” for the interview segment where I highlight the plight of Christians in Iraq as I talk to my friend, Chaldean Archbishop Bashar Warda of Erbil, the capital of the Kurdistan region in norther Iraq. Abp. Warda talks about the effects of terrorism, especially ISIS, on the country and on Christians in particular, and the plight of refugees as they flee to Kurdistan for safety.

We spoke in Rome at the Pontifical Oriental Institute after a Chaldean priest defended his doctoral thesis. Just a heads up because we had our conversation in the Insitute’s garden and you’ll hear a bit of background conversation as guests gather for a reception.

Here are some photos I took that evening:  Listening to the defense:


Addressing the future doctoral candidate and panel of judges:



After our interview in the garden:


In the U. S., you can listen to Vatican Insider on a Catholic radio station near you (U.S. stations listed 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:


Probably because I just returned from a trip to Chicago and spent sone time in airports, I was delighted by Pope Francis’ talk today to chaplains at the 16th World Seminar of Catholic Civil Aviation Chaplains and Chaplaincy Members. Meetings such as this one, now underway in Rome, are promoted by the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People, The theme this year was: “Evangelii Gaudium: What Support for the Pastoral Care of Airport Chaplaincy?”


The Pope told his guests that the airport chaplaincy is called to be a place of unity in diversity for all categories of people. Airports seem like cities within cities, he said, “where multiple realities intertwine and overlap. As a big city, the airport is cosmopolitan, multi-ethnic and multi-religious and you, chaplains and chaplaincy members, are immersed in the life of this unique community.”

Fr. Mike Zaniolo at interfaith chapel at O’Hare airport:


The Pope said he knows airports are a meeting place for many people who travel for business, tourism or other reasons. He underscored how special care and attention should be shown to transiting migrants and refugees, children and the elderly. Francis also underlined the importance of chaplains in times of tragic situations such as accidents or hijackings when they are called on to provide support, comfort and encouragement.

Even at airports, he noted, “Christ the Good Shepherd wants to take care of his sheep through the sacraments of Reconciliation and the Eucharist.” He urged chaplains “to work to ensure that airports are places where there is room for love and dialogue, which promotes solidarity between people and preserves a peaceful social climate.”

I discovered a fascinating website for travelers who want a chapel:


In the event you are a soccer fan and have been following the FIFA corruption story, and if you also follow Vatican news and Pope Francis’ establishment of Scholas Occurrentes, here is – in part – an interesting story from Bloomberg:

The Vatican suspended an agreement to receive a donation from the Copa America soccer tournament after FIFA was hit by a corruption investigation that implicated organizers of the event.

Scholas Occurrentes, an educational organization created by Pope Francis in 2013 to promote social integration through sports, put on hold an accord it reached in April with South American soccer’s regional body Conmebol, it said in a e-mailed statement. As per the agreement, Scholas would get $10,000 per goal and saved penalty shot during this year’s edition of South America’s top soccer competition, which Conmebol organizes.

“Scholas will abstain from receiving any funds until the ongoing judicial investigation comes to a conclusion,” the organization said. “We believe the current investigations are important to protect the integrity of the institutions and soccer.”

Conmebol didn’t immediately reply to an e-mail seeking comment on the decision. The Pope is from Argentina, which is a 7-4 favorite to win the tournament at U.K.-based William Hill.

Venezuelan Rafael Esquivel, a member of FIFA’s disciplinary committee, was among the nine officials of soccer’s governing body and five corporate executives indicted on May 27 and arrested at the hotel Baur au Lac in Zurich. He was in the Conmebol delegation that signed the per-goal donation agreement on April 21 at the Vatican, according to a Scholas news release at the time.


I posted this on facebook as well – a story fron Vatican Radio:

Abu Dhabi – A new Catholic church dedicated to Saint Paul was inaugurated today, Friday, June 12, in Mussaffah, in the presence of Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of State.


The day before, the initial opening ceremony was also attended by the Minister for Culture Nahyan bin Mubarak, who in his speech stressed that the opening of a new church highlights the “religious tolerance” of national leaders, while Cardinal Parolin noticed how the consecration and dedication of a new church also represents “a sign of vitality” of the local church community, and Bishop Paul Hinder, OFM, apostolic Vicar for South Arabia, expressed gratitude “for the stability and the peace that we enjoy in this Country”.

The UAE  – United Arab Emirates – is home to about 900,000 Catholics: the community is made up of immigrant workers who mostly come from other Asian countries, in particular the Philippines and India.

The new Catholic church, the second built in the country – where today Cardinal Parolin celebrated the first Mass, with the rites of consecration and dedication, before thousands of faithful – will offer its pastoral service primarily to the more than 60,000 Catholics residing in the region that includes the towns of Mussaffah, Mohammed bin Zayed City and Khalifa City. The church will celebrate Masses in English, Arabic, Malayalam and Tagalog.

During Mass – concelebrated by Bishops Hinder and Camillo Ballin MCCJ, Apostolic Vicar of North Arabia – Cardinal Parolin also recalled “the good will of past and present rulers, for their generosity in providing the land for the construction of new churches in the country.”

The permission granted by local authorities for the construction of new places of worship – said the Vatican secretary of State – is “a concrete sign of hospitality that the Emirates has now shown towards Christians,” and testifies to their commitment in favor of “a society based on coexistence and mutual respect.” The church was built on land granted by the municipality of Abu Dhabi, on the orders of local authorities.

“The Christians who live in this country – said Cardinal Parolin on Thursday – need opportunities to grow in their faith and witness it. My message to the Christian community is that may they be supported in their desire to grow in faith and to be charitable to others.”