There was no column yesterday, April 16, as you know, and that was because a plethora of commitments simply erased time to write from my daily schedule. And the rest of this week will be a carbon copy of last week when I was on the go from dawn to dusk. I’ll do what I can, when I can. Yesterday on Facebook, however, I did publish a Vatican note about Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI’s 91st birthday! Here is a link: https://www.vaticannews.va/en/pope/news/2018-04/pope-benedict-birthday-16-april-2018.html#play


The Holy See’s permanent observer to the United Nations says women must be integrated into all peacekeeping work in order to prevent sexual violence in conflicts.  By Philippa Hitchen (Vaticanmedia)

Women’ voices must be integrated into all aspects of conflict prevention, peacekeeping and post-conflict operations. That was the message of Archbishop Bernardito Auza, Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations in New York on Monday during a Security Council debate on Women, Peace and Security.

Addressing the discussion that focused on how to eradicate sexual violence in conflict, Archbishop Auza noted that at international level a strong framework has been developed to facilitate women’s increased role in peace and security. (photo:vaticanmedia)

But he stressed that far too often, women continue to suffer from sexual violence, both in wars and in post-conflict situations. He stressed that survivors must be supported and governments must step up efforts to prosecute the perpetrators of such crimes.

Speaking of three areas of action, the Vatican delegate said greater resources must be dedicated to conflict prevention, ensuring that women are able to participate fully in this process.

Secondly, he said that the prevention of sexual violence and protection of women’s rights must be an integral part of all peacekeeping missions and operations.

Thirdly, the archbishop called for stepped up efforts to prevent violence against women in post-conflict situations that often remain chaotic, lawless and dangerous.

He stressed that the international community should support post-conflict countries to promote education, as well as social and economic development.

Archbishop Auza noted that the Catholic Church has a long history of providing women and girls with access to quality education. He said women continue to make up the majority of students in Catholic-run institutions, such as Bethlehem University, where almost 80 percent of students are young Palestinian women.

Without the input and skills of women, the archbishop concluded, neither a comprehensive understanding of the causes of conflicts, nor effective solutions to end them, will ever be achieved.


The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India in a statement signed Sunday by the Secretary General, Bishop Theodore Mascarenhas has said that it is hard to be unmoved by what has happened in Kathua, Unnao, or in any part of the nation where women are raped and murdered. (vatiannews)
The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India has expressed deep pain and anguish at the incidents against women in Kathua, Unnao and other places in the country:

We are not a soulless nation. If we were, then the outpouring of anger as we have seen it across the nation would not have been manifest. Our nation has a soul, a heart and a mind. A soul to respond to these unspeakable crimes committed against women, a heart that reaches out in empathy and solidarity and a mind that does not fall for hate games played by those who wish to pollute the sacred secular fibre of the nation.

It is hard to be unmoved by what has happened in Kathua, how brutally an eight year child was assaulted, molested and cruelly murdered or in Unnao, or in any part of the nation where women are raped and murdered. What has made the incidents in Kathua and Unnao even more deplorable is the justification by certain sections of society; the very people who should uphold the rule of law have either become the alleged perpetrators or the defenders of the indefensible. There is no justification for rape; none what so ever and every voice of sanity must speak out in one voice against such crimes.

In a way, humanity was thrown out of the window in Kathua and Unnao and replaced by the darkest side of human behaviour. The repeated targeting of women and children as a tool or agenda for personal, religious or political gain is nothing less than a crime against humanity and it is here that we look for the voices of sanity, in the pillars of democracy to speak out boldly and immediately; for when this is not done it gives a boost to actions of the perpetrators of such crimes. If justice is then delayed is justice denied and injustice not called out in time is injustice encouraged.

The eight-year old girl in Kathua and the twenty-year old maiden from Unnao and every woman is our daughter, our sister, our mother. Their religion or caste does not in any way make them belong less to us.

The Catholic Bishops Conference of India stands firmly with the victims of these and every horrific crime committed in our nation. We condemn strongly these dastardly incidents or elements that have committed or supported such acts which have brought great shame on our nation.

Ours is a nation that has produced great women leaders, social reformers, politicians and women who walk the corridors of power and yet our women are subjected daily to the most unspeakable crimes. This must stop now and the Catholic Church in India wishes to lend its voice and resolve in speaking up against such barbaric acts of violence against women.

Let us remember what Swami Vivekananda told us: “Can you better the condition of your women? Then there will be hope for your well-being. Otherwise you will remain as backward as you are now.”

May the Almighty grant us wisdom and enlightenment and may we as one people stand up and oppose crime and injustice in all its forms.

God bless our women, God bless each and every Indian. God bless our Country.
Jai Hind

Bishop Theodore Mascarenhas SFX
Secretary General Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India



(Vatican Radio) The Vatican on Friday issued an urgent appeal to Venezuela’s leaders to suspend the new Constituent Assembly which, it says, is threatening the future of the South American nation.

The strongly worded communique, issued by the Vatican’s Secretariat of State, says Pope Francis is following closely the situation in Venezuela, where President Nicolas Maduro is headed towards a showdown with the opposition, as he pushes ahead with the inauguration of his new Assembly.

The statement comes as the body’s 545 delegates were expected to be installed at the legislative palace in the capital, Caracas, close to the chamber where the opposition-controlled National Assembly meets.

Erosion of democracy

The new Constituent Assembly has been tasked with rewriting the country’s constitution and holds powers that override all other government branches.

Opposition leaders have denounced the erosion of democracy and vowed they will only be removed by force. Over a hundred and twenty-five people have already been killed in over three months of violent anti-government protests.

Respect rights enshrined in Constitution

The Vatican statement expresses “profound concern for the radicalisation and worsening of the crisis”, including the increase in deaths, injuries and arrests of protesters. It calls on all the country’s politicians, in  particular, the government, to guarantee “full respect for human rights and basic freedoms, as well as for the existing Constitution”.

Suspend Constituent Assembly

It says initiatives such as the new Constituent Assembly should be “avoided or suspended” since they “foment a climate of tension and conflict” which “mortgages the future” of the country, rather than fostering reconciliation and peace.

The statement calls for a negotiated solution, along the lines already indicated in a previous letter from the Secretary of State on December 1st 2016. These solutions must take into account “the serious suffering of the people”, due to a lack of security, as well as the shortages of food and medicine.

Pray for Venezuela

Finally the statement calls on all members of Venezuelan society, in particular the security forces, to avoid violence or an excessive use of force. It says the pope assures all Venezuelans of his prayers and invites people across the globe to pray intensely for the country at this moment of crisis.


Following is my translation of the communique from the Secretariat of State that was released in Spanish and Italian:

The Holy See once again expresses its profound concern for the radicalization and worsening of the crisis in the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, with an increase in deaths, wounded people and detainees. The Holy Father, directly and through the Secretariat of State, is closely following the situation and its humanitarian, social, political economic – and even spiritual – implications, and assures his constant prayer for the Nation and all Venezuelans, while he invites the faithful of the entire world to pray intensely for this intention.

At the same tine, the Holy See asks all political players, in particular the government, to assure full respect for human rights and basic freedoms, as well as the current constitution; to avoid or suspend initiatives underway such as the new Constituent Assembly that, instead of favoring reconciliation and peace, foments a climate of tension and clashes and mortgages the future; to create conditions for a negotiated solution in line with the indications expressed in the letter from the Secretariat of State of December 1, 2016, bearing in mind the grave sufferings of the people given the difficulties in procuring food and medicine, and for the lack of security.

And lastly, the Holy See issues a heartfelt appeal to the entire society so that every form of violence be averted, and invites, in particular, the security forces to abstain from excessive and disproportionate use of force.


On June 21, Archbishop Bernardito Auza, Holy See Permanent Observer to the United Nations, reiterated that the crisis in Venezuela must be answered with serious and sincere negotiations between the parties concerned.

In a statement to the General Assembly of the Organization of American States taking place in Cancun, Mexico,  the archbishop said since the beginning of the crisis, the Pope, the Vatican Secretary of State and the Venezuelan Bishops’ Conference have on several occasions called upon institutions and political forces, to listen to the voice of the people and defend the common good.

Referring to a letter by Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin from December 1, 2016, the nuncio observed that the path to seeking a peaceful solution can be promoted through negotiation in a number of areas, such as a path that leads to free and transparent elections, and measures to provide humanitarian aid. In the 2016 letter, the archbishop added, the Secretary of State also urges measures to be taken involving the release of political prisoners.

Archbishop Auza notes that the recent government’s decision to convene a Constituent Assembly, instead of helping to solve problems, can complicate the situation and jeopardize the democratic future of the country. He concludes that, it is, however, appreciated that a group of countries in the region or, possibly, other continents chosen by both the government and the opposition, may negotiate as guarantors.


The Pope’s audience catechesis today on children was just marvelous. He reminds us that we are all children, even if no longer tiny children.

If you have children, given them an extra hug today and tell them what a treasure they are. Tell them that Pope Francis said so!


Having spoken in previous general audiences of the various members of families – mothers, fathers, children, siblings, and grandparents – Pope Francis concluded this first section of catechesis on the family by talking about children. Today he focused on what a great gift children are for humanity, and next week he will speak about wounds that damage childhood.

Interrupted by the applause of the faithful gathered in St. Peter’s Square when he affirmed that “children are a gift to humanity,” Pope Francis thanked them and exclaimed: “but they are also greatly excluded because they are even not allowed to be born. A society can be judged, not only morally but also sociologically, on how it treats its children, if it is a free society or a slave society of international interests.”


The Pope Francis recalled the many happy children he met during his recent journey to Asia, children brimming with life and enthusiasm, noting that, on the other hand, he thinks of the countless children throughout our world who are living in poverty and need.

The Holy Father noted that “children remind us that we all, in the first years of life, are totally dependent on the care and kindness of others. The Son of God was not spared this stage. This is the mystery that we contemplate every year at Christmas time. The manger scene is the icon that communicates this reality in the most simple and direct way.”

Francis explained that, “God has no difficulty in being understood by children and children have no trouble in understanding God. It isn’t by chance that in the Gospels Jesus speaks beautiful and strong words about the ‘little ones’.” The Pope noted that this term “little ones,” indicates all those who depend on the help of others, particularly children.  He said, “Children, therefore, are a treasure for humanity and also for the Church because they constantly remind us of the necessary condition for entering into the Kingdom of God: that we must not consider ourselves self-sufficient, but in need of help, of love, and of forgiveness.”

Children also remind us that we are always children even when we become adults or if we become parents; beneath it all we keep our identity as a child. “And this always leads us back to the fact that we are not given life, but that we have received it,” the Pope said.

“The great gift of life is the first gift we have received. Sometimes we risk forgetting about this, as if we were the masters of our existence, while instead we are radically dependent. In fact, it is a source of great joy to hear that at every age in life, in every situation, in every social condition, we are and remain sons and daughters. This is the main message that children give us with their presence: with just their presence they remind us that each and every one of us is a child.”

Listing some of the other gifts that children bring to humanity the Pope highlighted their way of seeing reality, “with a confident and pure gaze. Children have a spontaneous trust in mom and dad and they have a spontaneous trust in God, in Jesus, and in the Madonna. At the same time, their inner gaze is pure, not yet tainted by malice, duplicity, and the ‘incrustation’ of life that harden one’s heart. We know that even children have original sin, that they can be selfish, but they retain a purity and an inner simplicity. Children are not diplomats: they say what they feel, they say what they see, directly. And many times they make parents uncomfortable, saying in front of other people: “I don’t like this because it’s ugly.” But children say what they see. They aren’t split persons; they still haven’t learned that science of duplicity that we adults have unfortunately learned.”

Francis underscored how children also bring with them the ability to receive and to give affection. “Tenderness is having a heart ‘of flesh and not of stone’, as the Bible says. Tenderness is also poetry. It is feeling things and events, not treating them as mere objects only to use them because they they’re useful.”

“The ability to smile and to cry is another gift that children bring us, one which we grown-ups often block out. Many times our smile becomes a cardboard one, something lifeless and cold or even an artificial, clown’s smile. Children smile and cry spontaneously. It always comes from the heart, and often our hearts are closed and we lose this ability to smile and to cry. Children, then, can teach us how to smile and how to cry again. This is why Jesus invites his disciples to become like children because the Kingdom of God belongs to such as these.”

“Children bring life, joy, hope, even troubles. But life is like that. They certainly also bring worries and, at times, many problems. But a society with these worries and problems is a better one than a society that is sad and gray because it is childless! And when we see a society with a birthrate of just one percent,” he concluded, “we can say that that is a sad and gray society because it is without children.” Great applause followed this comment.

Francis inviting everyone to “welcome and treasure our children, who bring so much life, joy and hope to the world.”

On greeting pilgrims from English-speaking countries, the Pope was warmly hailed by students from The Catholic University of America and Loyola University Maryland who are studying in Rome for the semester. (source: VIS)


Pope Francis on Wednesday received in audience Cardinal Angelo Amato, SDB, prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints. During the audience, the Holy Father authorized the congregation to promulgate decrees concerning several causes for saints. Most notably, the Pope has approved a decree recognizing a miracle attributed to the intercession of Blessed Louis Martin and Blessed Marie-Azélie Guérin, the parents of St. Thérèse of Lisieux.

The congregation also promulgated decrees of heroic virtue for seven individuals who are on the path to canonization. The Servants of God whose heroic virtues were recognized on Tuesday are: Fr. Francesco Gattola (Italian); Pietro Barbarić (Bosnia Herzegovina); Mary Aikenhead (Irish); Elisabetta Baldo (Italian); Vincenza of the Passion of the Lord (née Edvige Jaroszewska, Polish): Giovanna of the Cross (Spanish); and Maria Orsola Bussone (Italian).

With the papal decree, these holy men and women are now referred to as Venerable.

For complete information, click here: http://en.radiovaticana.va/news/2015/03/18/pope_authorizes_promulgation_of_miracle,_heroic_virtue/1130266


Archbishop Bernadito Auza, Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations, spoke Tuesday during a meeting of the UN Commission on the Status of Women and speaking for the Holy See, called for the promotion of inclusive and equitable economies to advance the status of women in the world. (photo news.va)


“Notwithstanding the fact that women constitute the majority of the poor and are affected by the burden of poverty in very specific ways, they are nevertheless courageously at the forefront in the fight to eradicate extreme poverty,” he said.  “From this perspective, the fight for the advancement of women must also mean assuring them equal access to resources, capital and technology.”

Archbishop Auza said studies have demonstrated that fragile family structures and the decline of marriage among the poor are very closely linked to poverty among women.

“Single mothers are left alone to raise children. Many mothers in situations of distress fail to send their children to school, thus entangling them in the vicious circle of poverty and marginalization,” he said.

“While Governments and society do not create families, they have crucial roles to play in supporting healthy families and fostering parenting,” said Archbishop Auza.

“We are thus called to foster that atmosphere in which men and boys – and women  and girls themselves  –  can better appreciate the full greatness of woman, which  includes not just the aspects she shares in common with man, but also the unique  gifts that pertain to her as woman, like her capacity for motherhood understood  not just as a reproductive act, but as a spiritual, educational, affective, nurturing  and cultural way of life.”

“This work of fostering a wholesome atmosphere is ever more urgent, because we’re  living  in a  time when the unique value and dignity of motherhood in some societies  is  insufficiently  defended,  appreciated  and  advanced,  leaving  women  culturally  and  legally  in  a  position  to  choose  between  their  intellectual  and  professional  development and their personal growth as wives and mothers.”

“Studies  indicate  that  behind  cases  of  juvenile  delinquency  and  children  in  distressed and distressing situations is often a weak or a broken family. In this sphere, Pope Francis expressed appreciation for the contribution of so many  women who work within the family, in the areas of teaching the faith, and in all  areas  of  social,  education  and  cultural  development.  He  affirmed  that  “women  know how to embody the tender face of God, his mercy, which is translated into a  willingness to give time rather than to occupy space, to welcome rather than to  exclude.”

Full text here: http://www.news.va/en/news/holy-see-women-must-be-appreciated-for-their-uniqu


Pope Francis has given €500,000 ($531,183) to provide humanitarian assistance to those affected by the Ebola crisis in West Africa, especially Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea. The fund is being distributed by the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace. (photo: Vatican Radio)


Cardinal Peter Turkson, council president, said the fund has many objectives, including improving existing health care structures, offering psychological help for families affected by the Ebola crisis, and to aid local dioceses and parishes to develop sacramental practices which minimize the risk of transmitting the virus.

Justice and Peace is currently seeking additional donors to add to the fund, and has doubled the amount of the original papal donation, but Cardinal Turkson said he hopes to have 2 or 3 million euros before distributing funds to Catholic organizations battling the crisis.

“The applications [for grants] have started coming already, but want to reach a decent level before we start treating applications,” Cardinal Turkson told Vatican Radio.

The council has limited initial grants to €30,000 ($31,868), and is encouraging larger projects to get matching funds before applying.