On October 13, 2021 the Vatican announced the miracle that would lead to the beatification of the man known as “the smiling Pope,” Papa Luciani, Pope John Paul I. Today the press office announced plans for the pontiff’s September 4 beatification.

To learn more about this beloved Pope whose inaugural Mass I attended in 1978 and some great stories, including the miracle that brings him to beatification, check the blog I wrote that day: 13 | October | 2021 | Joan’s Rome (wordpress.com)


The Vatican announced today that Pope John Paul I will be beatified by Pope Francis on Sunday, September 4 during Mass in St. Peter’s Square. Born Albino Luciani in northern Italy, the Pope known for his brief papacy that began on August 26, 1978 and ended September 28, 1978, took the double name of John Paul to honor his two immediate predecessors, John XXIII and Paul VI. Both are now saints.

The Vatican statement said that Bishop Renato Marangoni, bishop of the diocese of Belluno-Feltre, where the cause for canonization began, will read the petition for beatification. He will be joined by Cardinal Beniamino Stella, postulator for the cause and Dr. Stefania Falasca, the deputy postulator. It added that, “during the beatification, the team of postulators will gift the Holy Father with a reliquary containing the relics of the new Blessed.”

Tickets for the Mass can be requested from the Prefecture of the Papal Household: Prefecture of the Papal Household (vatican.va)

A prayer vigil with Cardinal Angelo De Donatis, vicar general for the diocese of Rome, will take place on September 3rd at 6:30 pm at St. John Lateran basilica. This church is also the cathedral church of the bishop of Rome, the Pope. Pope John Paul I had taken possession of John Lateran just 5 days before his untimely death.


I absolutely love today’s top news story! I was only in the presence of John Paul I at his inaugural Mass because several days later I left for three months to work at the New York Times’ Cairo office. I did not therefore follow his papacy because in those days there was no internet, no email, no online news as there was no online! The daily edition of the NYT appeared in Cairo and I could keep up with the news of his pontificate and could also read stories that appeared in other publications of other U.S. and international media as we were all housed in the same media center in Cairo.

I learned a great deal about John Paul I when I returned to Rome but one thing to know: he was not John Paul I at the time. He only became that after John Paul II was elected and took that double name and the Roman numeral II.

Pope Francis, for example is not Francis I but would become so only if there was a Francis II.

My favorite story is the one told where one day, John Paul was signing one of his first documents in Latin, writing Joannes Paulus I, and the secretary or assistant who was near him said, “Holy Father, you do not need to write John Paul I – there is no I.” To which the Pope replied, smiling, “There will be a John Paul II.”

And there was, just about month later!

What I learned about Cardinal Albino Luciani from reading news stories and books over the years (and from talking to a niece of his who worked at the Holy See Press Office) made me so wish we had had much more time with him. I know I would have read his speeches, homilies and other writings with rapt attention and I am sure I’d have felt the same way in his presence. If you can get an English language copy of John Paul I’s “Illustrissimi,” do it!

And how could one not smile when in the presence of the Smiling Pope!


Pope Francis has authorized the Congregation for the Causes of Saints to promulgate the decree on a miraculous healing attributed to the intercession of Pope John Paul I.

Vatican News

Pope Francis on Wednesday received in audience Cardinal Marcello Semeraro, the Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, and authorized his dicastery to promulgate the decree recognizing a miracle attributed to the intercession of Albino Luciani who became Pope John Paul I.

The miracle
The Congregation’s website says it is about the healing of an eleven-year-old girl at the end of her life with “severe acute inflammatory encephalopathy, a malignant refractory epileptic illness and septic shock”.  Her situation was very serious, characterized by numerous daily seizures and a septic state of bronchopneumonia. The initiative to invoke the Pope had been taken by the parish priest of the parish under whose jurisdiction was the hospital.

So for Pope John Paul I, who hailed from the northern Italian region of Veneto, the way to beatification has been cleared and Pope Francis will decide upon a date for the ceremony.

Born on October 17, 1912 in Forno di Canale (today Canale d’Agordo), in the province of Belluno, and died on September 28, 1978 in the Vatican, Albino Luciani was Pope for only 34 days, one of the shortest pontificates in history. He was the son of a socialist worker who had worked for a long time as an emigrant in Switzerland.

In a letter written to Luciani granting him permission to enter the seminary, his father wrote: “I hope that when you become a priest, you will be on the side of the poor, because Christ was on their side” – words that Luciani would put into practice all his life.

Albino was ordained priest in 1935 and in 1958, immediately after the election of John XXIII, who as the Patriarch of Venice knew the him, was appointed bishop of Vittorio Veneto. Son of a land facing emigration due to poverty, but very lively from the social point of view, and of a Church characterized by the figures of great priests, Luciani participated in the entire Second Vatican Council and applied its directives with enthusiasm.

A pastor close to his people, he spent a lot of time in the confessional.  During the years the lawfulness of the contraceptive pill was being discussed, he listened to many young families and repeatedly expressed himself in favour of an opening of the Church on its use.

In 1968, when Pope Paul VI released his encyclical Humanae Vitae, declaring the use of the contraceptive pill morally illicit, the Bishop of Vittorio Veneto promoted the document, adhering to the Pontiff’s magisterium.  Pope Paul VI, who appreciated him, appointed him the Patriarch of Venice in 1969 and later made him a cardinal in March 1973.

The people’s pastor
Luciani, who chose the word “humilitas” [humility] for his episcopal coat of arms, is a pastor who lived soberly, firm in what was essential in the faith, open from the social point of view, close to the poor and the workers. He was rigid when it came to the unscrupulous use of money to the detriment of the people, as was demonstrated by his firmness on the occasion of an economic scandal in Vittorio Veneto involving one of his priests.  In his magisterium, he particularly insisted on the theme of mercy.

As Patriarch of Venice, he suffered a lot because of the protests that marked the years following  Vatican II.  In Christmas of 1976, when the factories of the industrial centre of Marghera were occupied, he pronounced words which are still very relevant today. “Showing off luxury, wasting money, refusing to invest it, stashing it away abroad, does not only constitute insensitivity and egoism: it can become provocation and weigh on our heads what Pope Paul VI calls ‘the wrath of the poor with unpredictable consequences'”.

A great communicator, he wrote an acclaimed book entitled “Illustrissimi,” which contains letters he wrote to the great personalities of the past with judgments on the present. For him, catechesis was of particular importance and the need for those who transmit the contents of the faith to be understood by all.

After the death of Paul VI, on 26 August 1978 he was elected in a conclave that lasted one day.  The double name he assumed on his election was in itself a programme.  By combining John and Paul, he not only offers a tribute of gratitude to the Popes who wanted him as bishop and cardinal, but also marked a path of continuity in the application of the Council, barring the way both to nostalgic retreats into the past and uncontrolled leaps forward.

He abandoned the use of the royal plural, “We”, and in the early days refused the use of the gestatorial chair, bowing to the request of his collaborators only when he realized that by proceeding on foot people who were not in the front rows had difficulty seeing him.

The Wednesday general audiences during his very brief pontificate were catechetical meetings.  He spoke without a written text, quoted poems from memory, invited a boy and an altar boy to approach him and talked to them.

In an impromptu speech, he recalled having suffered hunger as a child and repeated his predecessor’s courageous words about the “people of hunger” who challenge the “people of opulence”. He went out only once from the Vatican, in the sultry weeks of late summer 1978, to take possession of the cathedral of St. John Lateran, of his Diocese of Rome as Pontiff.  There, he received the homage of the mayor of Rome, Giulio Carlo Argan, a communist, to whom the new Pope quoted the Catechism of St. Pius X, recalling that among “the sins that cry out for vengeance in the sight of God” are “oppressing the poor” and “defrauding workers of their just wages”.

Pope John Paul I died suddenly on the night of September 28, 1978. He was found lifeless by the nun who brought coffee to his room every morning. In just a few weeks of his pontificate, he had entered the hearts of millions of people for his simplicity, his humility, his words in defence of the least and his evangelical smile.

Several theories of alleged conspiracies on his sudden and unexpected death were built that served to sell books and produce films. A documented study of the death, which definitively closes the case, was signed by the vice-postulator of the beatification process, Stefania Falasca (Cronaca di una morte, Libreria Editrice Vaticana).

The reputation of the holiness of Pope John Paul I spread very quickly. Many people have prayed and are praying to him. Many simple people and even the bishops of Brazil asked for the opening of his sainthood cause, a long procedure that has now concluded.



Tomorrow, December 9 is the 40th anniversary of the death of Venerable Fulton Sheen. As we await further news on his pending beatification, I have become aware that there is a campaign asking people to pray and/or attend Mass tomorrow for a quick and final resolution to the news that his December 21st beatification has been put on hold. We can all at least say an Ave Maria (it is her feast day tomorrow!) – Mass and the Eucharist would be the best!

Whatever your reaction when you heard the news – doubt, anger, fear, perplexity – I urge you to read this op-ed on that postponement mystery by clicking on the link. It is six pages but a must read documentation on the Sheen beatification. Do not read just the first paragraph. Do not scroll down and read just a bit. Read the whole op-ed. Get the whole picture. Give yourself the 10 or more minutes it might take you to read this and I hope you will gain a fruitful understanding of what has been happening and that, in the long run, you will feel uplifted.

We have Fr. James Kruse to thank for this. He is Vicar General of the Diocese of Peoria, a canon lawyer and has followed the entire cause for canonization of Venerable Archbishop Sheen:

Op Ed: The Actions of Rochester Diocese: Caution or Sabotage?



I posted the following link this morning on my Facebook page because it is a good account of what we know to have happened regarding the postponement of the Venerable Archbishop Fulton Sheen beatification:

I realize there are elements we do not yet know. In any case, I felt compelled to add the following comment to that CNA piece:

“It was the Rochester bishop’s name that I heard yesterday as the prelate who requested the Sheen beatification delay but was unable to verify with independent sources at the time: therefore I did not publish it nor could I talk about it with Teresa Tomeo on our weekly get-together on “Catholic Connection” yesterday afternoon. It is presumed that the bishop asked the Pope or someone at the Vatican for postponement during the first week of November when bishops of New York were in Rome for their ad limina visit. In any case, this still seems unfathomable because it was indicated on several occasions by the Holy See that all due diligence had been done for the Sheen case – years and years of studies, reading his works, examining his audio and video programs, following his life, interviewing people still alive who knew him, looking into all matters regarding heroic virtues, a saintly, unblemished life, including anything ever said vis-a-vis his reputation, studying and reviewing miracles, etc. There always is – and there must be! – a devil’s advocate approach to the lives of people being proposed for sainthood. So I remain perplexed about this matter.”


Pope Francis met this morning with a delegation from the Italian dioceses of Trento, Padua and Vittorio Veneto and thanked them for the gift of the Christmas tree and nativity scene to the Vatican this year.
By Vatican News

The Pope began by recalling last autumn’s storm that devastated entire wooded areas in Italy’s northern Triveneto region, home to the dioceses that donated this year’s Christmas tree to the Vatican. “These are events that frighten us,” said the Pope, “they are warning signs that creation sends us, and that ask us to take effective decisions immediately for the protection of our common home.”

The Christmas tree
“Tonight the lights that adorn the tree will be on,” continued Pope Francis, “It will remain next to the crib until the end of the Christmas holidays, and both will be admired by the many pilgrims from all over the world.” The Pope went on to praise the initiative that will see the replanting of 40 fir trees to replenish the forests damaged by the 2018 storm. The spruce tree decorating St Peter’s Square “represents a sign of hope especially for your forests,” he added, so that the work of reforestation can begin as soon as possible.

The Christmas crib
Turning to the nativity scene, Pope Francis said this Christmas crib, made almost entirely of wood and composed of architectural elements characteristic of the Trentino tradition, will help visitors enjoy the spiritual richness of Christmas. “The wooden trunks from the areas affected by the storms, which serve as a backdrop to the landscape, underline the precariousness in which the Holy Family found itself on that night in Bethlehem,” said the Pope.

The visit to Greccio
Pope Francis concluded by recalling his visit last Sunday to the town of Greccio, the place where St. Francis made the first nativity scene. The Pope referred to his Apostolic Letter, Admirabile signum, dedicated to the Christmas crib, “which is a simple and wonderful sign of our faith and is not lost,” he said. “Indeed, it is good that it is handed down from parents to children, from grandparents to grandchildren. It is a genuine way of communicating the Gospel, in a world that sometimes seems to be afraid to remember what Christmas really is.”


The Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue announced in a communique today that members of the Superior Committee to achieve the objectives contained in the Abu Dhabi Document on Human Brotherhood for world peace and common coexistence have asked the United Nations to declare February 4 a World Day of Human Brotherhood.

This committee was formed on August 20, 2019 and is currently composed of Christian, Muslim and Jewish members, and is presided over by Cardinal Miguel Ángel Ayuso Guixot, President of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue.

On December 4, members of this Committee, led by Cardinal Ayuso Guixot and Judge Muhammad Abd al-Salam, met the Secretary General of the United Nations, Dr. António Guterres, in New York to deliver a message from Pope Francis and the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar Ahmed Al-Tayyeb. The message proposed February 4 as a World Day of Human Brotherhood. In addition, the United Nations is asked to participate, together with the Holy See and Al-Azhar, in the organization at a future date of a World Summit on Human Brotherhood.


I am too stunned to comment on this! As far as I know this is the first time in the history of the Church that something like this has occurred.


Bishop Daniel Jenky, C.S.C., Bishop of Peoria, announces that he has been informed by the Holy See that the Beatification of Fulton Sheen will be postponed.

NEWS RELEASE Catholic Diocese of Peoria December 3, 2019

For Immediate Release

Catholic Diocese of Peoria Announces a Postponement in Beatification of Venerable Servant of God Fulton J. Sheen

PEORIA, IL: With deep regret, Bishop Daniel Jenky, C.S.C., Bishop of Peoria, announces that he has been informed by the Holy See that the Beatification of Fulton Sheen will be postponed.

On November 18, 2019, the Diocese of Peoria received formal notification that Pope Francis had approved the Beatification of Fulton Sheen to take place on December 21st of this year. However, on December 2nd, the Holy See decided to postpone the date of Beatification, at the request of a few members of the Bishop’s Conference who have asked for further consideration. In our current climate, it is important for the faithful to know that there has never been, nor is there now, any allegation against Sheen involving the abuse of a minor.

The Diocese of Peoria observes that the life of Fulton Sheen has been thoroughly and meticulously investigated. At every stage, it has been demonstrated definitively that he was an exemplary model of Christian conduct and a model of leadership in the Church. At no time has his life of virtue ever been called into question.

Archbishop Sheen was known for his personal dedication to a daily holy hour in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament. Drawing strength from his personal prayer life and deep devotion to Our Lord, Fulton Sheen consistently demonstrated tremendous courage in confronting the challenges in our society. He was well known for his boldness in preaching the Gospel on radio and on television in the face of our secular culture. This same spirit of courage and boldness guided him as a Bishop to preach the truth, to defend the faith, and to safeguard the Church.

Since a few members of the Bishop’s Conference have requested a delay, the Diocese of Peoria remains confident that Archbishop Sheen’s virtuous conduct will only be further demonstrated. Bishop Jenky has every confidence that any additional examination will only further prove Fulton Sheen’s worthiness of Beatification and Canonization. The Diocese of Peoria has no doubt that Fulton Sheen, who brought so many souls to Jesus Christ in his lifetime, will be recognized as a model of holiness and virtue.

This development is unfortunate especially because there continue to be many miracles reported through Sheen’s intercession. Several have even been reported since the announcement of the Beatification date two weeks ago. It is undoubtedly further proof
for those who truly believe in this Cause that these miracles will be credited to the intercession of the Venerable Fulton Sheen in the future.

Bishop Jenky is deeply saddened by this decision. In particular, Bishop Jenky is even more concerned for the many faithful who are devoted to Sheen and who will be affected by this news. He is firmly convinced of the great holiness of the Venerable Servant of God and remains confident that Sheen will be beatified. Bishop Jenky has every intention of continuing the Cause, but no further date for Beatification has been discussed. The Diocese of Peoria will offer no further comment at this time.



As I mentioned last week in this same spot, you all know by now that the Vatican has approved a miracle through the intercession of Venerable Servant of God Archbishop Fulton Sheen, and the diocese of Peoria in Illinois where he is buried announced on Monday, November 18 that Sheen will be beatified in Peoria on December 21st.

Given that great news, last weekend I re-aired Part I of a conversation I had some time ago with Msgr. Richard Soseman, a pastor in the diocese of Peoria and also the vice postulator of the cause for sainthood of Archbishop Sheen. This weekend, I will re-air Part II of that conversation.

We talk about Msgr’s priestly life, his time studying in Rome and then working at Congregation for clergy, how his life and priesthood was impacted by Sheen, how he was assigned to the cause for sainthood, the role of a vice postulator and the miracle that led to Sheen’s beatification. A second miracle, by the way, is needed for canonization.

So stay tuned after the News and Q&A for Part II of that conversation.

IN THE UNITED STATES, you can listen to Vatican Insider (VI) on a Catholic radio station near you (stations listed at http://www.ewtn.com) or on channel 130 Sirius-XM satellite radio, or on http://www.ewtn.com. 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.” VI airs at 5am and 9pm ET on Saturdays and 6am ET on Sundays. On the GB-IE feed (which is on SKY in the UK and Ireland), VI airs at 5:30am, 12 noon and 10pm CET on Sundays. Both of these feeds are also available on the EWTN app and on http://www.ewtnradio.net ALWAYS CHECK YOUR OWN TIME ZONE! For VI archives: https://www.ewtn.com/radio/audio-archive (write Vatican Insider where it says Search Shows and Episodes)

Here is Part I of my interview with Msgr. Soseman about Venerable Fulton Sheen – soon to be Blessed Fulton Sheen – that aired last weekend: https://soundcloud.com/ewtn-radio/vatican-insider-112319-archbishop-fulton-j-sheen


Though he had to be exhausted after his long and grueling trip to Asia, Pope Francis presided at the Wednesday general audience Wednesday in St. Peter’s Square. As is customary after an apostolic visit, Francis focused the general audience catechesis on his just-completed trip to Thailand and Japan. He began by thanking civil and religious authorities and all those responsible for preparing the visit.

“In Thailand,” said the Pope, “I met with the Supreme Buddhist Patriarch as a sign of esteem and of the importance of promoting respect and cooperation between the religions, and I encouraged the local Church’s support of the sick and poor at Saint Louis hospital. Among the highlights of my visit were the meetings with priests, consecrated men and women, the bishops and finally a group of young people. In the two celebrations of Mass we saw clearly how the Gospel is being inculturated among the Thai people.

“In Japan,” said the Pope, “the motto for my visit was ‘Protect All Life’: a vital theme for a county that experienced the devastation of the atom bomb and more recent disasters. I was able to spend time in prayer at Nagasaki and Hiroshima, where I met with survivors and their families, and I repeated my appeal for the abolition of nuclear weapons. In my meeting with young people, I encouraged them to face the future without fear by opening their hearts to God’s love in prayer and in service of others. I ask you to join me in entrusting the people of Thailand and Japan to God’s loving providence. May he bless them with prosperity and peace.”

During his audience, the Holy Father announced that on Sunday, December 1, he will go to Greccio in Italy’s Lazio region to pray at the site of the first living nativity scene set up here by St. Francis in 1223. It is said that Francis wished to attract pilgrims to the presepe or nativity scene in Greccio and to discourage them from going to the real first Nativity scene in Bethlehem because of the dangers to traveling pilgrims as the Holy Land was then under control of Muslims. Since 1223 there has been a living nativity scene here every Christmas season.

Francis previously visited Greccio on January 4, 2016.

Addressing Italian pilgrims, Pope Francis spoke of Albania and its people who have suffered greatly as a result of an earthquake that struck on Tuesday. The Pope said he was praying for the dead, the injured and their families and was close to all the Albanian people. He also noted that Albania was the first country in Europe that he wanted to visit.


Following is the transcript in English of the press conference held aboard the papal flight from Tokyo to Rome yesterday, November 26. As you will read at the end, “This unofficial transcript and translation is a collabortion of journalists at CNA, and its Italian and Spanish language news partners. Every effort is made for accuracy and clarity.”

I will go into detail in a separate post about the Pope’s remarks on Vatican finances, questionable transactions, possible corruption and the use of Peter’s Pence funds for investments such as buying real estate.




You must all know by now that the Vatican has approved a miracle through the intercession of Venerable Servant of God Archbishop Fulton Sheen and that on Monday, November 18, the diocese of Peoria in Illinois where he is buried announced that Sheen will be beatified in Peoria on December 21st. Given that great news, this weekend and next in the interview segment of Vatican Insider, we are re-airing a conversation I had with Msgr. Richard Soseman, a pastor in the diocese of Peoria and also the vice postulator of the cause for sainthood of Archbishop Sheen.

We talk about Msgr. Soseman’s priestly life, his time studying in Rome and then working at Congregation for clergy, how his life and priesthood was impacted by Sheen, how he was assigned to the cause for sainthood, the role of a vice postulator and the miracle that led to Sheen’s beatification. A second miracle, by the way, is needed for canonization. So stay tuned after the news highlights and a Q&A for Part I of that conversation.

IN THE UNITED STATES, you can listen to Vatican Insider (VI) on a Catholic radio station near you (stations listed at http://www.ewtn.com) or on channel 130 Sirius-XM satellite radio, or on http://www.ewtn.com. 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.” VI airs at 5am and 9pm ET on Saturdays and 6am ET on Sundays. On the GB-IE feed (which is on SKY in the UK and Ireland), VI airs at 5:30am, 12 noon and 10pm CET on Sundays. Both of these feeds are also available on the EWTN app and on http://www.ewtnradio.net ALWAYS CHECK YOUR OWN TIME ZONE! For VI archives: https://www.ewtn.com/radio/audio-archive (write Vatican Insider where it says Search Shows and Episodes)


What it means to be a Christian
Pope Francis meets with priests, religious, consecrated men and women, seminarians and catechists in Bangkok, and shares guidelines on how to achieve apostolic fruitfulness, and on what it means to be a Christian. https://www.vaticannews.va/en/pope/news/2019-11/pope-in-thailand-what-it-means-to-be-a-christian.html

Pope to Bishops: Holy Spirit is the protagonist of mission
Pope Francis addresses the Bishops of Thailand and of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences (FABC) at the Shrine of Blessed Nicholas Bunkerd Kitbamrung in Bangkok. The Pope began his discourse to the Bishops by placing their meeting under the “watchful gaze” of Blessed Nicholas Bunkerd, “so that his example may inspire us with a great zeal for evangelization in all the local Churches of Asia.” https://www.vaticannews.va/en/pope/news/2019-11/pope-to-bishops-in-thailand-be-servants-not-managers.html

Encounter and mutual dialogue needed in a challenging world
Pope Francis meets Christian leaders and leaders of other religions at Bangkok’s Chulalongkorn University, telling them co-operation and mutual respect are needed more than ever in a world filled with complex challenges. In 1897, Thailand’s King Chulalongkorn (Rama V) visited Rome and met Pope Leo XIII, the first time that a non-Christian Head of State was received in the Vatican. https://www.vaticannews.va/en/pope/news/2019-11/pope-encounter-mutual-dialogue-needed-in-a-challenging-world.html

Pope to youth in Thailand: rooted in faith through friendship with Jesus
Pope Francis celebrates Mass for young people Friday evening in Bangkok’s Cathedral. A strong faith based on a deep friendship with Jesus, he says, will see them through life’s difficulties, as their elders testify. Pope Francis is asking the young people of Thailand to be deeply rooted and anchored in their faith by cultivating a friendship with Jesus, saying it will provide them with the oil needed to light up the path of their life and those of others around them. https://www.vaticannews.va/en/pope/news/2019-11/pope-francis-apostolic-journey-thailand-mass-youth.html



Over the years, among the many special things my Dad kept in a big black, loose-leaf binder on his desk, were pieces of paper on which he had copied items he had read and especially liked – sayings, poems, little seeds of wisdom from a newspaper or a calendar, even special phrases from greetings cards or letters he had received. When he died, I was going through his various files and, among the countless pages that made me smile, laugh out loud or cry, were these thoughts on saints. It seemed right to share these with you the day after the beatification of Pope Paul Paul VI:(The Internet was brand new when Dad died so I never searched the author at the time. I did so today and have found various attributions, from names to unknown):

“Why were the saints, saints? Because they were cheerful when it was difficult to be cheerful, patient when it was difficult to be patient; and because they pushed on when they wanted to stand still, and kept silent when they wanted to talk, and were agreeable when they wanted to be disagreeable. That was all. It was quite simple and always will be.”

Yesterday and today, I posted photos on my Facebook page (www.facebook.com/joansrome) that I took at the beatification celebration. I also published the English text of Pope Francis’ amazing words Saturday evening at the end of the synod and after the vote on the final relatio, and the Message (NOT to be confused with final report) from the Synod Fathers. I hope and believe you will be edified by the Pope’s words and by the Message, especially the papal remarks if you want a “read” on Francis’ appraisal of the synod.

How well were Francis’ words received in the synod hall? He received a five-minute standing ovation!


(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis convened a Consistory of Cardinals on Monday morning in the Vatican. Originally scheduled in order to proceed with the causes of candidates for beatification, the Holy Father expanded the agenda of the meeting to include discussion of the ongoing crisis in the Middle East. In remarks to the gathered Cardinals at the morning session of the gathering, the Holy Father focused on the need for constant prayer and effective advocacy in favor of peace, and for specific attention to the plight of Christians there.

Describing the notion of a Mideast region devoid of Christians as literally unthinkable, Pope Francis went on to mention Iraq and Syria as two countries in which Christians – who have made their homes there since Apostolic times – are facing unprecedented threats. “We cannot resign ourselves to thinking about the Middle East without Christians, who for two thousand years have confessed the name of Jesus [there].”

“Recent events,” the Pope continued, “especially in Iraq and Syria, are very worrying. We are witnessing a phenomenon of terrorism of previously unimaginable dimensions. Many of our brothers and sisters are being persecuted and have [been constrained] leave their homes in a brutal way.” Saying that the situation appears to be one in which people no longer appreciate the value of human life, Pope Francis decried the spirit of indifference that seems to dominate, making the sacrifice of the human person to other interests a matter of course. “This unfair situation,” he said, “requires an adequate response by the international community, as well as and in addition to our constant prayer.”

Pope Francis concluded, saying, “I am sure that, with the help of the Lord, genuinely worthwhile reflection and suggestions will emerge, in order to help our brothers and sisters who are suffering, and also to face the drama of the reduction of the Christian presence in the land where He was born and from which Christianity spread.”

Later in the morning, there was a briefing by press office director Fr. Federico Lombardi who reported on the talk by Cardinal Pietro Parolin, secretary of State. The cardinal, said Vatican Radio, presented a summary view of the meeting of Apostolic Nuncios to the countries of the region that took place at the beginning of October. Articulated in six points, the speech stressed that the present situation – broadly speaking and in particular as it regards the Christian communities present in the region – is unacceptable. “Fundamental principles, such as the value of [human] life, human dignity, religious liberty, and peaceful coexistence among peoples and individuals are at stake.”

To read Cardinal Parolin’s well-received talk, click here: http://en.radiovaticana.va/news/2014/10/20/card_parolin_on_me_rights_threatened,_risk_of_genocide_/1109019


Sunday in St. Peter’s Square, Pope Francis celebrated the closing Mass for the Extraordinary Synod on the Family, during which he beatified his predecessor, Pope Paul VI, calling him a “great Pope,” a “courageous Christian” and a “tireless apostle.”


“We have just heard one of the most famous phrases in the entire Gospel,” began Francis, “’Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”

Some of the 70,000 present.20141019_114554

He noted that Jesus was “goaded by the Pharisees who wanted, as it were, to give him an exam in religion and catch him in error, Jesus gives this ironic and brilliant reply. It is a striking phrase which the Lord has bequeathed to all those who experience qualms of conscience, particularly when their comfort, their wealth, their prestige, their power and their reputation are in question. This happens all the time; it always has.

The altar and some of the many hundreds of priests. 20141019_114649

But, said the Pope, Jesus stresses the second part of the phrase: “[render] to God the things that are God’s’. This calls for acknowledging and professing – in the face of any sort of power – that God alone is the Lord of mankind, that there is no other. This is the perennial newness to be discovered each day, and it requires mastering the fear that we often feel at God’s surprises.”

Close-up of the altar: 20141019_114820

The Holy Father explained to the 70,000 faithful present that, “’rendering to God the things that are God’s’ means being docile to his will, devoting our lives to him and working for his kingdom of mercy, love and peace.” And, he added, “Here is where our true strength is found; here is the leaven that makes it grow and the salt that gives flavor to all our efforts to combat the prevalent pessimism which the world proposes to us. Here too is where our hope is found, for when we put our hope in God we are neither fleeing from reality nor seeking an alibi: instead, we are striving to render to God what is God’s.”

Priests descending to give communion. 20141019_115305 20141019_115844

Pope Francis then spoke of the synod on the family that ended with Sunday’s Mass, saying, “ It has been a great experience, in which we lived synodality and collegiality, and felt the power of the Holy Spirit who constantly guides and renews the Church. For the Church is called to waste no time in seeking to bind up open wounds and to rekindle hope in so many people who have lost hope.”

“May the Holy Spirit, who during these busy days has enabled us to work generously, in true freedom and humble creativity, continue to guide the journey that, in the churches throughout the world, is bringing us to the Ordinary Synod of Bishops in October 2015.”

Altar 20141019_115514

Then, Pope Francis spoke beautifully and movingly about his predecessor, especially for a new generation that would not have known this Pope who reigned from 1963 to 1978:

“On this day of the beatification of Pope Paul VI, I think of the words with which he established the Synod of Bishops: ‘by carefully surveying the signs of the times, we are making every effort to adapt ways and methods… to the growing needs of our time and the changing conditions of society’.

Pope Francis 20141019_120625_2

”When we look to this great Pope, this courageous Christian, this tireless apostle, we cannot but say in the sight of God a word as simple as it is heartfelt and important: thanks! Thank you, our dear and beloved Pope Paul VI! Thank you for your humble and prophetic witness of love for Christ and his Church!

Archbishop Rino Fisichella gives interview after Mass. 20141019_123213

”In his personal journal,” concluded Pope Francis, “the great helmsman of the Council wrote, at the conclusion of its final session: ‘Perhaps the Lord has called me and preserved me for this service not because I am particularly fit for it, or so that I can govern and rescue the Church from her present difficulties, but so that I can suffer something for the Church, and in that way it will be clear that He, and no other, is her guide and savior’. In this humility the grandeur of Blessed Paul VI shines forth: before the advent of a secularized and hostile society, he could hold fast, with farsightedness and wisdom – and at times alone – to the helm of the barque of Peter, while never losing his joy and his trust in the Lord.”

Greeting the faithful in St. Peter’s Square 20141019_123732


Pope Francis began his remarks to the synod participants on Saturday, at the end of two weeks of work, with words of thanks to the organizers, the Synod of Bishops, to participants and to all who guided the two-week long assembly on the family.

“It has been ‘a journey’,” said the Pope in the heart of his message, “and like every journey there were moments of running fast, as if wanting to conquer time and reach the goal as soon as possible; other moments of fatigue, as if wanting to say ‘enough’; other moments of enthusiasm and ardor. There were moments of profound consolation listening to the testimony of true pastors, who wisely carry in their hearts the joys and the tears of their faithful people. Moments of consolation and grace and comfort hearing the testimonies of the families who have participated in the synod and have shared with us the beauty and the joy of their married life. A journey where the stronger feel compelled to help the less strong, where the more experienced are led to serve others, even through confrontations. And since it is a journey of human beings, with the consolations there were also moments of desolation, of tensions and temptations, of which a few possibilities could be mentioned:

– One, a temptation to hostile inflexibility, that is, wanting to close oneself within the written word, (the letter) and not allowing oneself to be surprised by God, by the God of surprises, (the spirit); within the law, within the certitude of what we know and not of what we still need to learn and to achieve. From the time of Christ, it is the temptation of the zealous, of the scrupulous, of the solicitous and of the so-called – today – “traditionalists” and also of the intellectuals.

– The temptation to a destructive tendency to be do-gooders [it. buonismo], that in the name of a deceptive mercy binds the wounds without first curing them and treating them; that treats the symptoms and not the causes and the roots. It is the temptation of the “do-gooders,” of the fearful, and also of the so-called ‘progressives and liberals’.

– The temptation to transform stones into bread to break the long, heavy, and painful fast (cf. Lk 4:1-4); and also to transform the bread into a stone and cast it against the sinners, the weak, and the sick (cf Jn 8:7), that is, to transform it into unbearable burdens (Lk 11:46).

– The temptation to come down off the Cross, to please the people, and not stay there, in order to fulfil the will of the Father; to bow down to a worldly spirit instead of purifying it and bending it to the Spirit of God.

– The temptation to neglect the ‘depositum fide’” [the deposit of faith], not thinking of themselves as guardians but as owners or masters [of it]; or, on the other hand, the temptation to neglect reality, making use of meticulous language and a language of smoothing to say so many things and to say nothing! They call them ‘byzantinisms’, I think, these things…”

The Holy Father said, ”Personally I would be very worried and saddened if it were not for these temptations and these animated discussions; this movement of the spirits, as St Ignatius called it (Spiritual Exercises, 6), if all were in a state of agreement, or silent in a false and quietist peace. Instead, I have seen and I have heard – with joy and appreciation – speeches and interventions full of faith, of pastoral and doctrinal zeal, of wisdom, of frankness and of courage: and of parresia. And I have felt that what was set before our eyes was the good of the Church, of families, and the “supreme law,” the “good of souls” (cf. Can. 1752). And this always – we have said it here, in the Hall – without ever putting into question the fundamental truths of the Sacrament of marriage: the indissolubility, the unity, the faithfulness, the fruitfulness, that openness to life (cf. Cann. 1055, 1056; and Gaudium et spes, 48).”

“And this is the Church, the vineyard of the Lord, the fertile Mother and the caring Teacher, who is not afraid to roll up her sleeves to pour oil and wine on people’s wound; who doesn’t see humanity as a house of glass to judge or categorize people. This is the Church, One, Holy, Catholic, Apostolic and composed of sinners, needful of God’s mercy. This is the Church, the true bride of Christ, who seeks to be faithful to her spouse and to her doctrine. It is the Church that is not afraid to eat and drink with prostitutes and publicans. The Church that has the doors wide open to receive the needy, the penitent, and not only the just or those who believe they are perfect! The Church that is not ashamed of the fallen brother and pretends not to see him, but on the contrary feels involved and almost obliged to lift him up and to encourage him to take up the journey again and accompany him toward a definitive encounter with her Spouse, in the heavenly Jerusalem.

“The is the Church, our Mother! And when the Church, in the variety of her charisms, expresses herself in communion, she cannot err:…”

He reminded those “commentators” who would see “a disputatious Church where one part is against the other,” that the Holy Spirit who throughout history has always guided the barque, through her Ministers, even when the sea was rough and choppy, and the ministers unfaithful and sinners.

“We will speak a little bit about the Pope, now, in relation to the Bishops [laughing]. So, the duty of the Pope is that of guaranteeing the unity of the Church; it is that of reminding the faithful of their duty to faithfully follow the Gospel of Christ; it is that of reminding the pastors that their first duty is to nourish the flock – to nourish the flock – that the Lord has entrusted to them, and to seek to welcome – with fatherly care and mercy, and without false fears – the lost sheep. I made a mistake here. I said welcome: [rather] to go out and find them.”

Quoting a lengthy passage by Benedict XVI on service, he said, in part: “The Church is called and commits herself to exercise this kind of authority that is service and exercises it not in her own name, but in the name of Jesus Christ… through the Pastors of the Church, in fact: it is He who guides, protects and corrects them, because he loves them deeply.”

Francis said, “The Pope, in this context, is not the supreme lord but rather the supreme servant – the ‘servant of the servants of God’; the guarantor of the obedience and the conformity of the Church to the will of God, to the Gospel of Christ, and to the Tradition of the Church, putting aside every personal whim, despite being – by the will of Christ Himself – the ‘supreme Pastor and Teacher of all the faithful’and despite enjoying ‘supreme, full, immediate, and universal ordinary power in the Church’.”

“Dear brothers and sisters,” said the Pope in closing, “now we still have one year to mature, with true spiritual discernment, the proposed ideas and to find concrete solutions to so many difficulties and innumerable challenges that families must confront; to give answers to the many discouragements that surround and suffocate families.”

After the Te Deum was sung and the papal blessing imparted, Francis said, “Thank you, and rest well, eh?”


Judging from the headlines that have described the just-completed work of the synod of bishops, one could easily be pardoned for thinking that the Vatican had dedicated the last two weeks to a lengthy discussion on homosexuals, same sex unions, and communion for the divorced and remarried.

The theme of the 2014 extraordinary general assembly of the Synod of Bishops was “‎Pastoral challenges to the family in the context of ‎evangelization.” And the several hundred synod fathers, delegates and invited guests did talk for two weeks – first in the larger assembly and then in smaller language groups – about those issues but also about the myriad challenges that married couples and families face today. They spoke of families that fully respond to their Christian vocation, families that are faithful to the teaching of Christ on marriage, and of those families that are “wounded.” single parent homes, divorced and separated couples, homes where there is abuse of some sort, where families have been abanadoned by one parent or there are otherwise fragile relations, families hit by economic hard times and unemployment.

The synod looked at the “lights and shadows” of family life, but did not overlook any of the tough issues or what have been called “hot button” issues such as same sex unions. Participants emphasized the duty of pastors and shepherds to listen to their flock and to accompany them, to be there in times of joy and times of trial and need.

Emphasis was put on marriage preparation and accompaniment in the first years of marriage. It was placed on the pastoral care for those who cohabit and those in civil marriages. Emphasis was placed on pastoral caring for the “wounded” families – the separated, divorced but not remarried, divorced and remarried, single family homes. The final report spoke of pastoral attention for “those persons with homosexual orientation.”

The document re-affirmed marriage as a sacramental union between a man and a woman, emphasizing fidelity, unity and, above all, indissolubility. In no way, said the document can a same sex union be equated with or likened to marriage as taught by the Church although persons with homosexual tendencies “must be welcomed with respect and sensitivity.”

On Saturday afternoon, when the “Relatio synodi” was released and voted upon, Pope Francis authorized the immediate publication of the full text, This document (only in Italian for now) will provide the focus for reflection by episcopal conferences throughout the world this year in preparation for the 2015 synod on the family. The Pope also authorized the publication of the number of votes for each point. The paragraphs on gays and the divorced and remarried did not receive two-thirds of the vote by the 183 bishops in attendance, but rather a simply majority.

In the end, the final document, an 8,300-word treatise (so far only in Italian) of 62 paragraphs reiterated Catholic teachings on marriage and the family.

I will take a closer look at some parts of this lengthy document in coming days.

One interesting takeaway for me: Late Saturday night, hours after the “Relatio synodi” was released, I read a number of early media reports and was struck by one thing immediately: the relative absence of the word “family” in articles describing the conclusion of a synod on the family.

I looked at 8 media stories totalling 6,185 words: 4 were wire services, 3 were newspaper stories and one was a CRUX article by well known vaticanista, John Allen. I did a computer count and an eye count of the words “family” and “families”: they were used 14 times!


I did not attend today’s early afternoon press briefing on the synod because I was preparing this week’s edition of “Vatican Insider” for EWTN radio and working on this column, my photo archive, etc. The synod news I present below is important and is a key to understanding how the 10 language groups viewed the “relatio” that was released last Monday and what suggestions and ideas they have made for the final document that will be published sometime over the weekend (most likely Sunday, it is being said). As you can see by the title, all participants want a more Christ-centric focus on the family – definitely good news!

The best news of the week is yet to come, for on Sunday, October 19, during Mass in St. Peter’s Square, Pope Paul VI – the predecessor of both Pope Francis and Pope emeritus Benedict – will be beatified. Pope Paul was actually the first of four pontiffs I ever spoke to (September 1974 at Castelgandolfo), although St. John XXIII was the first Pope in whose presence I was.


I spoke several days ago with Cardinal Timothy Dolan, archbishop of New York and a friend of some 20 years. We sat on a rooftop terrace of the North American College where he was rector from 1994 to 2001 and where I took the photos you see here. Just a quick note: if you hear a slight background noise a few times, it is coming from the new building that is being constructed to accommodate offices, classrooms, some chapels and some residence rooms (one of the photos shows the almost-completed new building).


This is a do-not-miss interview as Cardinal Dolan will answer many questions – and perhaps a few doubts – you have about the synod on the family in which he is participating.

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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 http://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:


(VIS) Benedict XVI will attend the beatification of his predecessor, Pope Paul VI in St. Peter’s Square on Sunday, according to Fr. Federico Lombardi, head of the Holy See Press Office. The Pope emeritus was made a cardinal by Paul VI, and the ceremony will be attended by another two cardinals created by the late pontiff: Cardinals Paulo Evaristo Arns, archbishop emeritus of Sao Paulo, Brazil, and William Wakefield Baum, major penitentiary emeritus.

A press conference was held this morning in the Holy See Press Office to present the figure of the new blessed and his relevance to the contemporary Church. The speakers were Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, prefect emeritus of the Congregation for Bishops; Fr. Pierantonio Lanzoni, episcopal delegate for the promotion of the memory of Paul VI in the diocese of Brescia, where the pontiff was born in the town of Concesio in 1897; Fr. Antonio Marrazzo, C.SS.R., postulator of the cause for beatification and Fr. Davide Milani, spokesperson for the diocese of Milan, where Cardinal Montini was archbishop between 1954 and 1963.

Thousands of pilgrims are expected to attend the beatification and related events. On Saturday October 18, in the Roman basilica of the Twelve Apostles, Cardinal Angelo Scola, archbishop of Milan, will preside at Vespers. Before he was elected to the papacy, Paul VI was archbishop of Milan. At 10.30 a.m. on Sunday, in St. Peter’s Square, the Mass of beatification will be celebrated by Pope Francis. At 9.30 a.m. on Monday October 20, in the basilica of St. Paul Outside-the-Walls, Cardinal Scola will celebrate a Mass of thanksgiving for the faithful of the dioceses of Milan and Brescia.


(Vatican Radio) The vision of the world, and above all of the family, must be one which “passes through the lens of the Gospel, to encourage men and women to the conversion of the heart”. In short there must be a more “Christ-centric” focus on the family.

This – in summary – is the conclusion reached by the ten Small Groups, at the end of the second phase of the ongoing Synod on the Family. (Emer McCarthy reports on radio)

The groups – divided according to language: two in French, three in English, three in Italian and two in Spanish – presented their reports Thursday. These contain their reflections the midway document that followed last week’s general debate, as well as proposals to incorporate in the “Relatio Synodi” (RS), the Assembly’s concluding text.

These proposals include issues that the bishops, experts and delegates believe have been overlooked in the heat of debate, such as the themes of adoption, biotechnology and the spread of culture via the internet, which may condition family life.


The Working Groups also speak of the importance of policies in favor of the family and the need for greater attention to the presence of the elderly within families, and to families who live in conditions of extreme poverty.

Their conclusions also denounce of the grave problems of prostitution, female genital mutilation and the exploitation of minors for sexual purposes and for labor.

And they call for greater emphasis on the essential role of families in evangelization and in the transmission of faith, highlighting their missionary vocation.

But what stands out is the Working Groups suggestion that the final Assembly text also mention the positive message of the Gospel of the family. While not disregarding the obvious need to draw near to families in crisis, the Working Groups state that it is essential to underline more clearly the doctrine on marriage, emphasizing that it is a gift from God.

Following is an unofficial summary of the Working Groups reports:

The twelfth General Congregation included the presentation, in the Assembly, of the Reports of the ten Small Groups, divided according to language: two in French, three in English, three in Italian and two in Spanish.

In general, the Small Groups presented both an evaluation of the “Relatio post disceptationem” (RPD), a provisional document published at the midway point during the Synod, as well as proposals to incorporate in the “Relatio Synodi” (RS), the definitive and conclusive document of the Assembly.
Firstly, some perplexity was voiced regarding to the publication, although legitimate, of the RPD since, it was said, this is a working document that does not express a univocal opinion shared by all the Synod Fathers. Therefore, after expressing their appreciation of the work involved in drawing up the text and regarding its structure, the Small Groups presented their suggestions.

It was first underlined that in the RPD there is a focus on the concerns of families in crisis, without broader reference to the positive message of the Gospel of the family or to the fact that marriage as a sacrament, an indissoluble union between man and woman, retains a very current value in which many couples believe. Therefore, the hope was expressed that the RS may contain a strong message of encouragement and support for the Church and for faithful married couples.

Furthermore, it was remarked that it is essential to underline more clearly the doctrine on marriage, emphasising that it is a gift from God. It was further proposed that elements not contained in the RPD be integrated in the RS, such as the theme of adoption, expressing the hope that bureaucratic procedures be streamlined, both at national and international levels, and also the themes of biotechnology and the spread of culture via the internet, which may condition family life, as well as a note regarding the importance of policies in favour of the family.

In addition, it was said that greater attention should be paid to the presence of the elderly within families, and to families who live in conditions of extreme poverty.

The grave problems of prostitution, female genital mutilation and the exploitation of minors for sexual purposes and for labour were denounced.

It is important, it was said, to underline the essential role of families in evangelisation and in the transmission of faith, highlighting their missionary vocation.

Overall, the aim is to offer a balanced and global idea of the “family” in a Christian sense. With regard to difficult family situations, the Small Groups highlighted that the Church should be a welcoming home for all, in order that no-one feel refused. However, greater clarity was advocated, to avoid confusion, hesitation and euphemisms in language, regarding for example the law of gradualness, so that it does not become gradualness of the law. Various Groups, furthermore, expressed perplexity regarding the analogy made with paragraph 8 of Lumen Gentium, inasmuch as this could give the impression of a willingness on the part of the Church to legitimise irregular family situations, even though these may represent a phase in the itinerary towards the sacrament of marriage. Other Groups expressed their hope for a more in-depth focus on the concept of “spiritual communion”, so thatit may be evaluated and eventually promoted and disseminated.

With regard to possibility of divorced and remarried persons partaking in the sacrament of the Eucharist, two main perspectives emerged: on the one hand, it was suggested that the doctrine not be modified and to remain as it is at present; on the other, to open up the possibility of communication, with an approach based on compassion and mercy, but only under certain conditions. In other cases, furthermore, it was suggested that the matter be studied by a specific interdisciplinary Commission. Greater care was suggested in relation to divorced persons who have not remarried, and who are often heroic witnesses of conjugal fidelity. At the same time, an acceleration of the procedures for acknowledging matrimonial nullity and the confirmation of validity was advocated; furthermore, it was emphasised that children are not a burden but rather a gift from God, the fruit of love between spouses.

A more “Christ-centric” orientation was required, as well as clearer emphasis of the link between the sacraments of marriage and baptism. The vision of the world must be one which passes through the lens of the Gospel, to encourage men and women to the conversion of the heart.

Furthermore, it was emphasised that, despite the impossibility of equating marriage between a man and a woman with homosexual unions, persons of this orientation must receive pastoral accompaniment and their dignity must be protected, without however implying that this may indicate a form of approval, on the part of the Church, of their orientation and way of life. With regard to the issue of polygamy, especially polygamists who convert to Catholicism and wish to partake in the sacraments, thorough study was suggested.

The Small Groups advocated broader reflection on the figure of Mary and the Holy Family, to be better promoted as a model for reference for all family units. Finally, it was asked that it be highlighted that the RS will in any case bea preparatory document for the Ordinary Synod scheduled for October 2015.