Today, February 11 is a twofold holiday here as Vatican City State celebrates the 89th anniversary of its institution as a sovereign state after signing a treaty with Italy on that date in 1929, and the Church also marks the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes and the World Day of the Sick.

And, while not a holiday, the Church also marks the fifth anniversary of Benedict XVI’s resignation as Supreme Pontiff!

Normally, the Roman Curia and Vatican City personnel have the day off, but that holiday this year falls on a Sunday, a normal day off.

It was a Monday five years ago when the Holy Father, in the course of a morning meeting that had been on his agenda for sometime, stunned the world with the announcement of his resignation! No matter where we were when we heard the news – in the Vatican, on vacation, at home or in the office somewhere on this great planet – we had a collective intake of breath and knew intuitively that we were living a moment in history.

That moment of history became a week, a month, and now five years of history as Benedict ended his eight-year reign as pontiff, cardinals gathered for the conclave and a Latin American, a Jesuit and the first-ever Pope to take the name Francis, ascended to the Chair of Peter.

It was a surprise five years ago, a shock actually, and it has been a surprise-a-day time since then.

How do I feel today?

I look back at February 11, 2013 with amazement, with gratitude for being here during an historical period, with awe at the events of the months that followed, and once again with gratitude for a Church that could so beautifully transition from one papacy to another.

I look back at the courage and humility and love of the Church that prompted Pope Benedict to resign as he feared, sensed, realized he could not serve the Church he loved as she deserved.

Benedict XVI had become a role model for so many people, for millions of Catholics – and others – who miss him terribly today and wish him well and pray for him on a daily basis. I know because, throughout these five years, and in a special way, in recent days, I receive so many letters to this effect!

I vividly remember telling FoxNews the very night of Benedict’s announcement that Pope John Paul II, in his long suffering, taught us how to die and Pope Benedict, in his humility, courage and love, was teaching us how to live!

What did I mean? Too often we live and make decisions based on what others might think of us. We want to “look good,” we need approval before we act. We rarely look inside ourselves to see – even pray – what is the right thing to do. That is what Benedict XVI did. He looked inside himself and, with great honesty, unbelievable courage and his noted humility, he knew he had to leave the papacy.

In my mind’s eye today I’ve relived every encounter I had with Pope Benedict over the years – the brief exchanges, his soft smile, his wonderful blue eyes, his total sincerity. My Mass intention today was for Benedict, out of love, respect and gratitude.

I end today’s “Joan’s Rome” with the very column I wrote one year ago – an amazing look back!


(February 11, 2013) – Where does one start to write about a day that is historical, stunning, amazing, sad – there are so many reactions and emotions. Having lived in Rome for over 30 years (this very month) and having worked for or covered the Vatican and the papacy for all but two of those years, all of the above emotions have been part of my day.

Over the years, from my first visit to Rome as a college student to this very day, I have met or been in the presence of Popes John XXIII, Paul VI, John Paul II and Benedict XVI, and have actually spoken to the last three.

The whole world knew that the death of a Pope was the only way the papacy was vacated, that there could be a “sede vacante,” literally, a vacant chair.

No one is alive on this earth today who ever heard a Pope say what Pope Benedict XVI did this morning: “…Well aware of the seriousness of this act, with full freedom I declare that I renounce the ministry of Bishop of Rome, Successor of Saint Peter, entrusted to me by the Cardinals on 19 April 2005, in such a way, that as from 28 February 2013, at 20:00 hours, the See of Rome, the See of Saint Peter, will be vacant and a Conclave to elect the new Supreme Pontiff will have to be convoked by those whose competence it is.”

The idea that by Easter we will have a new Pope AND the former Pope will be alive and living in a monastery in Vatican City is something I am still trying to wrap my mind around, as I am sure everyone is.

Today’s stunning announcement caught everyone by surprise – a lightning bolt out of the blue! No one knew. It may have been the best-kept secret of the century! Everyone, from members of the College of Cardinals to members of the Roman Curia to the papal spokesman was caught off guard.

The last such well-kept secret of this Holy Father was his announcement of six new cardinals last October with the consistory a month later. And now those six cardinals will enter into conclave next month, including the two youngest in the College of Cardinals (of the 117 electors who will go into conclave) – Cardinals Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila, the Philippines (born June 1957) and His Beatitude Baselios Cleemis Thottunkal of India (born June 1959).

We do not know today but will soon know the date of the start of the conclave. Pope John Paul, in his 1996 Apostolic Constitution “’Universi Dominici Gregis,’ On the Vacancy of the Apostolic See and the Election of the Roman Pontiff,” predicated most of the time frame for a conclave on the fact it would follow a pontiff’s death, and would include the preparation for a funeral and the novendiales (9 days of Masses of mourning). Assuredly there will be no such period this time: cardinals will gather in Rome, there will be some preparation and they will enter into conclave.

We are all in a new learning curve – the media, the Vatican, the College of Cardinals, the protocol and liturgical offices, etc. This is a new experience for everyone and decisions will be made, slowly but surely, in the usual manner of the Apostolic See.

Did Benedict – in his extraordinarily surprising announcement that left the very cardinals who heard the news so astonished they could not speak – do a favor for the cardinals? When a Pope dies, cardinals have to suddenly drop everything and rush to Rome to enter into conclave and start thinking about a successor. Will the cardinals, though astonished by the Pope’s move, now have more time to think about a successor?

What questions will the cardinal electors have? Surely, they will talk about age, a papabile’s health, his language skills, his teachings and writings and orthodoxy, his life as a man of prayer and deep spiritual values. He will have to be energetic and will be expected to travel widely, meet countless groups, write speeches and encyclicals and so many other documents. Oh yes, and tweet!!

A thousand things went through my head upon hearing the news. As a journalist covering the Vatican, responsible for getting the story out – the truth, not the spins or rumors – that challenge is greatly multiplied. I spent the day, either commenting on radio or TV or preparing for it and researching like mad.

I will be on “The World Over” at 2 a.m. Rome time with Raymond Arroyo and I was on FoxNews this morning and was interviewed for “Special Report” tonight.
When I first heard the news, my visceral reaction was the same shock I felt on May 13, 1981 when I was entered St. Peter’s Square just minutes after 5 pm. for the weekly general audience and I heard a person shout in Italian, “they’ve shot the Pope!” My mind was paralyzed, my feet were as nailed to the sidewalk. In such moments, the brain has an electrical short and cannot process such contradictory words. Today was like that.

I had intended to devote today’s column to a very happy, historic and uplifting event that took place this weekend in Rome and at the Vatican to which I had been invited – the 900th anniversary of the Order of Malta. I will bring you that story and those photos some day as it was an important occasion for the Knights and Dames of the Order, as well as for the thousands of volunteers, doctors, etc who are associated with the Order.

I did post a number of videos on YouTube – including several with the Holy Father – so do visit that page.

As I work through this momentous day I am constantly making notes and I’ll eventually bring you those thoughts and observations and analyses. Questions such as canon law on a Pope’s resignation, how would I address Pope Benedict were I to meet him on March 1st?

It struck me this morning that Pope Benedict made this announcement on a date that has three meanings for the Church. It is the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes (and 155 years since the first apparition to Bernadette Soubirous), it is the 84th anniversary of the Lateran Treaty that created an independent Vatican City State and – most significantly for me – it is the World Day of the Sick.

Did Benedict XVI have this day in mind when he wrote: “I have come to the certainty that my strengths, due to an advanced age, are no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the Petrine ministry.” No indication was given by the pontiff of a specific illness – just the fatigue of his years – but I was impressed that he chose this day to announce his resignation.

His act was one of courage and extraordinary humility.

All day I have pondered the thought that Blessed John Paul, in the very visible throes of an agonizing and prolonged illness, taught the world how to die. And now I think: Surely Pope Benedict, in the humility of his self-revelation, is teaching us how to live!

Two magnificent pontiffs – two beautiful lessons about life.

Lots more to come tomorrow so stay here for news, commentary and analysis.

Following is today’s edition of the Vatican Information Service, which includes the Pope’s words this morning:

(VIS) – The Holy Father, at the end of today’s consistory for causes for canonization, announced his resignation from ministry as Bishop of Rome to the College of Cardinals. Following is the Holy Father’s complete declaration, which he read in Latin:

“I have convoked you to this Consistory, not only for the three canonizations, but also to communicate to you a decision of great importance for the life of the Church. After having repeatedly examined my conscience before God, I have come to the certainty that my strengths, due to an advanced age, are no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the Petrine ministry. I am well aware that this ministry, due to its essential spiritual nature, must be carried out not only with words and deeds, but no less with prayer and suffering. However, in today’s world, subject to so many rapid changes and shaken by questions of deep relevance for the life of faith, in order to govern the barque of Saint Peter and proclaim the Gospel, both strength of mind and body are necessary, strength which in the last few months, has deteriorated in me to the extent that I have had to recognize my incapacity to adequately fulfil the ministry entrusted to me. For this reason, and well aware of the seriousness of this act, with full freedom I declare that I renounce the ministry of Bishop of Rome, Successor of Saint Peter, entrusted to me by the Cardinals on 19 April 2005, in such a way, that as from 28 February 2013, at 20:00 hours, the See of Rome, the See of Saint Peter, will be vacant and a Conclave to elect the new Supreme Pontiff will have to be convoked by those whose competence it is.”

“Dear Brothers, I thank you most sincerely for all the love and work with which you have supported me in my ministry and I ask pardon for all my defects. And now, let us entrust the Holy Church to the care of Our Supreme Pastor, Our Lord Jesus Christ, and implore his holy Mother Mary, so that she may assist the Cardinal Fathers with her maternal solicitude, in electing a new Supreme Pontiff. With regard to myself, I wish to also devotedly serve the Holy Church of God in the future through a life dedicated to prayer.”




Following today’s consistory, Pope Francis accompanied the five new cardinals to the Mater Ecclesiae monastery for a visit with Pope emeritus Benedict XVI



Pope Francis on Twitter today: The Christian heart is always full of joy. Always. Joy received as a gift and kept in order to be shared with everyone.

Shall we all try to share a moment of joy with one new person this weekend!

If you follow events in the Holy Land, having perhaps made several pilgrimages to Israel, Jordan, Palestine, Syria and Lebanon (yes, all are the Holy Land), there are two websites you really might want to visit to keep well informed on all that is happening in the area, especially vis-à-vis the Catholic Church.

The first is

The LPJ stands for Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem and it is a fact-filled site with daily news stories (such as “Don’t Move U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem, Bishops Ask Secretary of State), videos, upcoming events, a look at the Order of the Holy Sepulchre (to which I belong) and information for visitors and pilgrims. You might already be familiar with this site: if not, it is a must-visit site if you love the Holy Land, or are simply curious to know more.

A second site will probably be less familiar:

The “en” in the site refers to the English version, as you probably guessed: the original is in Arabic ( “Abouna” is Arabic for Father. A good friend of mine in Amman, Jordan, Fr. Rifat Bader, put this together a few years ago and he and his team (a fairly small one) are doing a great job. He is the founder and director of the Amman-based Catholic Center for Studies and Media.

Father is pointing at me – we are at the Beirut Airport in September 2012 for the arrival of Pope Benedict:



I saw a story here this morning (also on about the arrival in Amman today of another friend, Bishop William Shomali, as the new patriarchal vicar of Jordan (for the Latin Patriarchate). He succeeds Bishop Maroun Lahham whom I interviewed in 2014 on my trip to Jordan. When Bishop Shomali and I first met, he was rector of the Patriarchate seminary in Beit Sahour, not far from Bethlehem.. I had lunch with then-Father Shomali, the seminarians and staff just before they all left on Christmas vacation.

He is on the right on this photo –


…and on the top of the group photo, wearing a gray scarf.



My guest this week on “Vatican Insider” in the interview segment is Janet Morana, executive director of Priests for Life. As I wrote last weekend on these pages, she was in Rome last week with Fr. Frank Pavone and I had interviewed her about their work at Priests for Life, the March for Life in DC, etc. She suggested that we do a separate interview about someone big in the prolife movement and a good friend to Janet and Father Frank who was in failing health – that is, Norma McCorvey, the Roe of Roe v Wade in the 1973 Supreme Court decision to legalize abortion.

It was Norma’s courageous decision later in life, to renounce abortion – the goal she had espoused as the plaintiff in Roe v Wade – and to denounce it as the deliberate killing of a human being in its mother’s womb that led her to spend successive decades trying to overturn the law she had been instrumental in creating – even though she never set foot in court.


Listen as Janet tells the inside story of Norma McCorvey who died one hour after we did our interview!


(Vatican Radio)  The Office of Papal Charities this week helped out the earthquake-hit regions of central Italy at the express wish of Pope Francis, buying typical food products from local producers and distributing it to several soup kitchens in Rome.

Central Italy was hit by a powerful 6.3 magnitude quake in August 2016, which killed nearly 300 people. Other earthquakes have since caused major damage to the area.

Farmers and merchants in the affected areas have since suffered a drastic reduction in their revenues.

A communique from the Office of Papal Charities said the organization selected “several groups of farmers and producers at risk of closure because of the damages provoked by the earthquake” from which to buy alimentary products.

Papal Almoner, Archbishop Konrad Krajewski, is standing on the right:


It said vendors were chosen in conjunction with Bishop Domenico Pompili of Rieti, Bishop Giovanni D’Ercole of Ascoli Piceno, Archbishop Francesco Giovanni Brugnaro of Camerino-San Severino Marche, and Archbishop Renato Boccardo of Spoleto-Norcia.

“The Office of Papal Charities bought a large quantity of their products with the intention, expressed by the Holy Father, to help and encourage them in their activities. It is a gesture in line with the Magisterium of Pope Francis, who in his meetings has often said that ‘when a person does not earn their bread, their dignity is lost’”.

The food products bought in the name of the Pope were distributed to several soup kitchens in Rome to make meals for homeless people in need.

The Vatican supermarket currently sells products from the earthquake hit zones of central Italy, in an effort to help out the local economy.


(Vatican Radio) A bishop in Scotland has high hopes for his diocese as a new fundraising initiative was recently launched at his cathedral.

Bishop John Keenan is encouraging the faithful of the Diocese of Paisley to become ‘Friends’ of certain diocesan projects in a bid to combat a £3 million (€3.5 million) deficit. Bishop Keenan explained in a letter read out at all Masses in St Mirin’s Cathedral that the cause for the deficit is not surprising. “It is the same deadly combination of rising costs and falling income that you know all too well from your own home finances.” (photo:


The bishop emphasised that a change in culture is needed. In his letter, he tells the lay faithful that he would rather put his trust in his own people than in professional fundraisers. If his desire for a deficit-free diocese is to be realised, then annual savings worth £300,000 must be found. He added that the “bulk of our efforts to eradicate the deficit will come from fundraising.”

He has appointed Fr Oliver Freney, administrator of St Mirin’s Cathedral, as the new diocesan Director of Fundraising and has challenged him to raise £100,000 annually. He said that the ‘Friends Project’ will be the “heart and soul of his fundraising campaign.”

Fr Freney was joined by several young people from the diocese for the launch at St Mirin’s. His fellow priests will be launching it in their parishes over the coming weeks. He said after the launch: “If every member of our diocese signed up to give just £5 a year, we would be in surplus.” He added that he encourages parishioners to “think about our situation and give thoughtfully and generously.”

The diocesan treasurer attended the launch. Fr Stephen Bailey explained that the faithful could opt to become ‘Friends’ of particular projects like ‘vocations’, ‘education’ and ‘youth’.  He added that Bishop Keenan wants to let people know how their money is being spent.

Bishop Keenan recently led the diocesan community through a synod, during which the important role of the lay faithful within the Church was highlighted.


Join me this weekend on VATICAN INSIDER for Part II of my conversation with Fr. Brian Kolodeijchuk, MC, the postulator of Mother Teresa’s cause for canonization. He has, of course, terrific insight and wonderful stories about this nun who was larger than life for everyone who came into contact with her. This is the end of an amazing week in Rome that began with the canonization of Mother Teresa, now St. Teresa of Calutta but still ‘Mother Teresa’ to so many around the world who knew and loved this miniscule woman who was a giant of integrity and sanctity.


As you know, in the United States, you can listen to Vatican Insider on a Catholic radio station near you (there is a list of U.S. stations at or on channel 130 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 9:00 am (Eastern time). On the SKY satellite feed to the UK and parts of Europe, VI airs on audio channel 0147 at 11:30 am CET on Saturdays, and 5:30am and 10pm CET on Sundays. It’s also available on demand on the EWTN app and on the website. CHECK FOR YOUR TIME ZONE. Past shows are in VI archives:

QUESTION OF THE WEEK: Which Pope died after 12 days in office?

(Remember, do NOT email me – just enjoy!)


Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Friday told bishops that division, gossip and money are weapons in the hands of the devil.

Speaking to a group of recently appointed bishops of mission countries at the end of a formation course organized by the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, the Pope said each bishop is called to give testimony of God’s love, care and mercy with their own lives and example. (photo:


Pointing out that bishops of mission countries come from places that are “different and distant”, each of you – Pope Francis said – has “the great privilege and responsibility of being on the front lines of evangelization”.

Inviting them never to forget that one of their foremost duties is to respond immediately to the requests and needs of their priests, the Pope warned them against the evils that can wreak damage and destroy their mission to evangelize.

He reminded them that a missionary bishop’s first duty as a pastor is to reach out to the lost sheep and to bring the joy of the gospel to those who perhaps do not know Jesus or have rejected him.

He spoke of the vocation of the episcopal ministry saying that each bishop is called give testimony of Jesus’s care and love for all men and women also through their own personal example.

And he warned of the dangers that can foil this vocation mentioning specifically the factors that – he said – become weapons in the hands of the devil bent on destroying the Church.

“The devil – he said – has two weapons: the main one is division; the other is money”.

And saying that the devil slips in through one’s pockets and wreaks havoc through ‘the tongue’, Pope Francis described the tendency to gossip as “a terroristic” one.

“He who gossips is a terrorist who throws a bomb” – because gossip, he said, destroys.

Urging those present to fight against divisions which can destroy the local Church and the universal Church, he said there are many difficult challenges to overcome, but thanks to the grace of God, thanks to prayer and thanks to penitence, it is possible.

Pope Francis concluded his address to the new missionary bishops urging them to take good care of the people of God who have been entrusted to them, to take good care of their priests, and of their seminarians. “This – he said – is your job”.


(Vatican Radio) The Vatican on Friday released details of Pope Francis’ trip to Sweden at the end of October to mark the joint Lutheran-Catholic commemoration of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation.

The Pope is scheduled to leave from Rome’s Fiumicino airport at 8.20 on the morning on Monday October 31st and arrive in the southern Swedish city of Malmö at 11.00.

Following an official welcome, the Pope will travel to the nearby city of Lund and pay a courtesy visit to the Swedish royal family before leading an ecumenical prayer service with Lutheran leaders in Lund cathedral.

In the afternoon the Pope will take part in a second ecumenical event in Malmö arena and meet with delegations of different Christian Churches present for the occasion.

The following morning, Tuesday November 1st, the Pope will preside at Mass in Malmö  for the Swedish Catholic community before travelling back to the international airport there for an official departure ceremony.

The papal plane is scheduled to leave Malmö at 12.45 and arrive back at Rome’s Ciampino airport at 15.30.


(Vatican Radio) A new book of interviews by Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI hit bookshelves Friday in the Italian language. The book entitled “The Last Conversations”, by German journalist Peter Seewald covers a number of themes including his decision to resign.

Jesuit Fr. Federico Lombardi, former head of Vatican Radio and president of the Joseph Ratzinger (Benedict XVI ) Foundation, spoke to the radio’s Lydia O’Kane about some of the key themes.

Scroll down in this link to listen:

For Fr. Lombardi there are two very important aspects of this book. The first he says, is the witness Pope Emeritus Benedict gives as he lives this last phase of his life. “The last time of his life is preparation to (for) the encounter with God. This is a very important witness, profound, spiritual; a witness of faith.”

Fr Lombardi goes on to say that this theme “justifies this book”, because his explanation of “how he experiences now the presence of God in his life is something that is precious and urgent…”

Theme of resignation

Another key theme, says Fr. Lombardi, is “how he gives again clearly – and I think in a definitive way – the reasons for his resignation, eliminating every rumor, every false interpretation as consequence of the scandals of the difficulties.”

“No,” (Benedict) says no, “it was a time I had already overcome the difficulties and then there was the good time to take a decision before God in total responsibility and this I have done and I am happy with this decision and I have not changed my mind.””

Recalling other interesting themes and points in the book, Fr. Lombardi mentions Pope Benedict’s reflections on his participation at the Second Vatican Council, and his collaboration with St John Paul II.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI’s “The Last Conversations” is published worldwide in Italian September 9th. It is due in English in November. The title is “Last Testament: In His Own Words.”

CNA/EWTN NEWS, in an article dated today, September 9, wrote:

Though he has rarely spoken since resigning from the papacy, Benedict XVI granted several lengthy interviews to German journalist Peter Seewald shortly after stepping down – conversations that touched on themes such as the reform of the Curia, his resignation and his thoughts on Pope Francis.

The interviews, conducted a few months after Benedict’s Feb. 28, 2013, resignation, were released as a book in several languages Sept. 9. The English language version, Last Testament, is due to be published in November.

About 240 pages in length, the book in German is titled Letzte Gespräche. It “touches upon all the most important stages of life of Joseph Ratzinger.”

These stages include Benedict’s childhood under the Nazi regime, the discovery of his vocation to the priesthood, the hardships of the war and his time in the Vatican until his election to the papacy. It also covers “the anxiety” of his first few days as successor of St. Peter, as well as his “painful” decision to resign and his thoughts on Pope Francis.

n his responses to Seewald, Benedict speaks about himself, his faith, his weaknesses, his private life, the scandals and controversial issues of his reign, and his papacy in general, explaining the reason for his choice to resign – “initially only communicated to a few trusted people to avoid leaks,” Corriere della Sera reports.

The retired Pope also speaks about the reform of the Roman Curia, the “Vatileaks” scandal that many pinned as the reason for his stepping-down, and outlines the differences between him and Francis in light of “his own peculiarities” and those of his Argentine successor.

He also mentions the “gay lobby” at the Vatican – a group of four to five persons, which he says he was able to break up.

In a June 28 ceremony at the Vatican marking his 65th anniversary as a priest, Benedict told Pope Francis that from the moment of his election and every day since “your goodness…moves me interiorly, brings me inwardly more than the Vatican Gardens.”

“Your goodness is a place in which I feel protected,” he said of his successor.

Seewald, the author of the new book, is also the author of the 2010 book-length interview with Benedict titled “Light of the Word: The Pope, the Church and the Signs of the Times.” He had previously published two other books on then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, ““Final Conversations,” then, will mark the journalist’s fourth book on Benedict from before his election to the throne of Peter, during his papacy and now after his resignation.

CNA contacted Seewald for comment on the book, however, the author said that for the moment, he prefers not to speak.   In an interview with CNA when “Light of the World” came out in 2010, Seewald said Benedict “is one of the greatest minds of the Catholic Church; someone with a great heart and…a fighter by nature, someone who remains standing amidst the storms, someone who is not afraid.”

“He is someone who does not get stuck in the past or in the present. He is someone who is very much a part of our times,” Seewald said, adding that he has always considered Benedict “a very modern man, someone who is always accessible, who promotes and seeks dialogue.”

“I would say he is an upright man and by far one of the greatest figures of our time…he is man who is always willing to listen, because he is not only a great thinker, he is also a great spiritual teacher.”

In a world that is “often blind,” it’s important to have someone “with this unbreakable attitude of openness,” he said, voicing his belief that Benedict “will be much better appreciated in the future” than he was at that time.

This article was originally published July 1, 2016.



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

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


Pope Francis, evidently recovered from his one-day indisposition and fever on Thursday, at noon today addressed participants in the international congress that, 10 years on from its publication, has been reflecting on Pope Benedict’s Encyclical Deus caritas est. The gathering was organized by the Pontifical Council Cor Unum.

Deus caritas est

The Holy Father explained that, “The first encyclical of Pope Benedict XVI concerns a theme that allows us to retrace the entire history of the Church, which is also a history of charity . It is a story of the love received from God, to be carried to the world: this charity received and given is the fulcrum of the history of the Church and of the history of each one of us.” He added that, “Charity, therefore, is at the center of the life of the Church and, in the words of Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus, is truly the heart of the Church.”

“The present Jubilee Year,” added Francis, “is also an opportunity to return to this beating heart of our life and our witness, to the center of the proclamation of faith: ‘God is love’. God does not simply have the desire or capacity to love; God is love: charity is his essence, it is his nature. He is unique, but not solitary; he cannot be alone, he cannot be closed in on himself because he is communion, he is charity; and charity by its nature is communicated and shared. In this way, God associates man to his life of love, and even if man turns away from him, God does not remain distant but goes out to meet him. This going out to meet us, culminating in the Incarnation of his Son, is his mercy. … Charity and mercy are in this way closely related, because they are God’s way of being and acting: his identity and his name.”

Pope Francis said that, “God, without ever tiring, pours out his love on us, and we are called to become witnesses to this love in the world. Therefore, we should look to divine charity as to the compass which orients our lives, … From charity we learn how to see our brothers and sisters and the world. Ubi amor, ibi oculus, say the Medievals: where there is love, there is the ability to see.”

Emphaszing a second point of Deus caritas est, the Pope said the Encyclical “reminds us that this charity needs to be reflected more and more in the life of the Church. How I wish that everyone in the Church, every institution, every activity would show that God loves man! The mission that our charitable organizations carry out is important, because they provide so many poor people with a more dignified and human life, which is needed more than ever. But this mission is of utmost importance because, not with words, but with concrete love it can make every person feel loved by the Father, loved as His son or daughter and destined for eternal life with Him.

“I would like,” continued Francis, “to thank all those who daily are committing themselves to this mission which challenges every Christian. In this Jubilee Year, my intention has been to emphasize that we can all experience the grace of the Jubilee by putting into practice the spiritual and corporal works of mercy: to live the works of mercy means to conjugate the verb ‘to love’ according to Jesus. In this way then, all of us together can contribute concretely to the great mission of the Church: to communicate the love of God which is meant to be spread.”




When you got up today and saw the date, did you say “why does February 11 ring a bell?!” Well, it was exactly three years ago today that Pope Benedict resigned! Does that seem possible?! So many millions still miss him and many millions pray for him daily, as do I. Blessings on you, Holy Father emeritus!

Benedict and Joan

February 11 is traditionally a holiday at the Vatican because Vatican City State became an independent sovereign state after signing a treaty with Italy on February 11, 1929. This year we mark the 87th anniversary of the Lateran Pacts. In addition, the Church annually marks the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes and the World Day of the Sick on this date.

Pope Francis is getting ready to leave tomorrow on an apostolic pilgrimage to Mexico, but he made time today for a number of appointments as you will see. As a native Spanish-speaker he surely did not have to spend as much time in recent weeks practicing his language skills for his 6 days in Mexico. He will, however, have spent a lot of time honing diplomatic skills because his first stop tomorrow on the way to Mexico is of huge, dramatic, historic importance because he will meet in Cuba for two hours with Patriarch Kirill, head of the Russian Orthodox Church, the first time leaders of the Roman Catholic and Russian Orthodox Church have met since the great schism in 1054. The two are expected to sign a Joint Declaration.

Pope Francis is expected to land in Cuba at 2 pm (ET) and meet for two hours with Patriarch Kirill. More on that tomorrow. In the meantime, some highligjts of the day….


POPE FRANCIS THURSDAY MORNING PAID A PRIVATE VISIT to St. Mary Major Basilica in Rome, where – as has become customary – he prayed before the icon of Maria Salus Populi Romani ahead of his Apostolic Voyage to Mexico. From St Mary Major, the Holy Father made the short journey to Rome’s cathedral, St. John Lateran basilica, where the priests of the diocese were meeting at the beginning of Lent. During the visit, Pope Francis heard the confessions of several priests. St. John is the cathedral of the bishop of Rome, Pope Francis. Cardinal Agostino Vallini, vicar for the diocese of Rome, said the meeting with priests had a “penitential” character, offering the clergy the opportunity “to have an experience of the mercy of the Father; and, in turn, to be able to ministers of mercy in the communities entrusted to us.” As a Lenten “sign,” the offering taken up during the encounter was donated to the diocesan branch of Caritas. Pope Francis offered as a gift to each of the priests of the diocese a copy of his book “The Name of God is Mercy.”

POPE FRANCIS HAS DONATED 500 ROSARIES TO THE DETAINEES in a prison in the Italian city of Padua. Fr. Marco Sanavio, the priest entrusted with delivering the papal gift, had the idea to “more directly”involve prisoners in the “Moment of Peace” (Un’ attimo di pace) initiative launched four years ago on the web in Italy. The Vatican newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, reports that the request for the rosaries came from Zhang Augustine Jianqing, a young Chinese man currently incarcerated in the Padua prison, who also participated in Rome at the presentation of the book-length interview of Pope Francis by veteran Italian journalist Andrea Tornielli, The Name of God is Mercy.

CARDINAL LEONARDO SANDRI, PREFECT OF THE CONGREGATION FOR ORIENTAL CHURCHES, has sent a letter to the bishops of the world, appealing for aid to the Church in the Holy Land. The letter is dated Ash Wednesday, 2016, and looks forward to the worldwide collection for the Christians of the Holy Land, which is made at Good Friday each year in churches around the globe. The English-language letter starts, “Good Friday is the day when evil seemed to triumph, as the Innocent One suffered death on the Cross. It is a day that never seems to end in the Holy Land, where apparently interminable violence must be endured. Broadening our the gaze to the whole world, it is no less difficult to give wings to hope for a serene future.” The cardinal adds: “The Collection for the Holy Land reminds us of an ‘ancient’ duty, which the history of recent years has made more urgent, but no less a source of the joy that comes from helping our brothers.” Cardinal Sandri explains that, “In this Jubilee year, we are urged more than ever to demonstrate our mercy and solicitude for our brothers in the Middle East. Refugees, displaced persons, the elderly, children, and the sick are all in need of our help. In this land of the East, people are dying, being kidnapped and even killed. Many live in agony for their loved ones, or suffer when the family is divided on account of forced migration and exodus.”

POPE FRANCIS’ SPECIAL ENVOY, ARCHBISHOP ZYGMUNT ZIMOWSKI, celebrated Mass on Thursday in the town of Nazareth in the Holy Land to mark the Church’s World Day of the Sick. The Mass took place in Nazareth’s Basilica of the Annunciation and was the centerpiece of events marking the 2016 World Day of the Sick that is celebrated each year on February 11th, the feast day of St. Bernadette of Lourdes. In his homily at the Mass, Archbishop Zimowski, who is President of the Pontifical Council for Health Care Workers, reminded his listeners that the central theme of Pope’s Francis’ message for this year’s World Day of the Sick is the need for us to entrust our lives to the Merciful Jesus like Mary did.  Archbishop Zimowski said all of us are called in our different ways to help the person who is suffering and stressed we must not be intimidated by the fact that we cannot help in a satisfactory way, in the way that Jesus did. “The important thing,” he said, “is to go, to be at the side of the man who suffers.”


THE PHILATELIC AND NUMISMATIC OFFICE OF VATICAN CITY STATE has announced that the 2016 Vatican coins will soon be released. These include the 8 usual Euro coins (2 and 1 Euro, 50, 20, 10, 5, 2, 1 euro-cent), bearing the image of Pope Francis, as Sovereign of the Vatican City State. This year, the €20 Silver coin and the €50 Gold coin have images chosen for the Year of Mercy. The Silver coin has an image of Pope Francis embracing a teenager, while the back has an image of the Parable of the Prodigal Son. The Gold coin has an image of the Holy Father opening the Holy Door of St. Peter’s Basilica, while the back has an image of the Jubilee logo, which features Jesus carrying a man – representing humanity – on his shoulders. The Philatelic and Numismatic Office is also releasing a Jubilee of Mercy coin card. (sources for stories:



As you know, the past week has been marked by three important events, by three Pope Francis “Moments of Mercy,” as I call them.

The first was last week’s announcement that confessors during the Year of Mercy can absolve the sin of abortion; the second occurred last Sunday at the Angelus when Francis asked that “every parish, every religious community, every monastery, every sanctuary of Europe, take in one family (of refugees);” and the third was yesterday’s announced reform, via two papal Motu proprio, of the canonical process of nullity of marriage.

Big moments, each and every one. Today I’d like to take a look at how the Pope leads by example, at least vis-à-vis the huge refugee crisis in Europe.

How can the Holy Father ask parishes, monasteries, etc. to take in a refugee family unless he leads the way? And he has.

According to Cardinal Angelo Comastri, vicar for Vatican City and archpriest of the Vatican basilica, the Pope’s announcement, his appeal, Sunday at the Angelus, “took all of us totally by surprise but we are used to Pope Francis’ surprises. No one knew of this initiative but the response was immediate and enthusiastic!”

Cardinal Comastri and the Papal Almoner, Polish Archbishop Konrad Krajewski, both responsible for such a gesture of charity and mercy, jumped into action.

As the Vatican paper L’Osservatore Romano tells us:

“The parishes of St. Peter and St. Anne in the Vatican will soon find a home for least two families of refugees. As soon as Pope Francis asked at the Angelus for parishes to open their doors to welcome refugees, both parishes, as well as Cardinal Vicar Angelo Comastri and Archbishop Konrad Krajewski, Almoner, began organizing just that.

“The Pope ‘wants two apartments very close to the Vatican to be made available to welcome two nuclear families of refugees,” the cardinal and archpriest of the basilica of St. Peter’s told us, explaining that the families will be selected by the Offices of Papal Charities. APSA (Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See) and its president, Cardinal Domenico Calcagno, are in the process of choosing the proper apartments. ‘The Pope wants the apartments to be close to him’, Cardinal Comastri said, ‘ensuring that they receive health care so as not to weigh on the Italian system, ensuring also that these families have all the material support they need.”

“Both parishes – run by Augustinians, Fr. Bruno Silvestrini of St. Anne’s and Fr. Mario Bettero of St. Peter’s – have a long history of hospitality. ‘I am very, very happy’, Fr Bettero said, ‘that Pope Francis is asking everyone to make this beautiful gesture for the Jubilee. We will do our best’. The parish priest of St. Anne’s is also enthusiastic about the proposal. ‘The Pope has awakened us from the slumber of simply watching’, said Fr. Silvestrini, ‘and now we are returning to help people, giving them back their dignity’. ‘In addition to a home, we will find work for the head of the family’.”

Cardinal Comastri indicated in an interview with Vatican Radio that the Caritas offices of Agrigento and Lampedusa are looking for two families, each averaging perhaps 5 components, to bring to the Vatican. He said it would take a bit for APSA to figure out what apartments to offer.

On a personal note: There are several large Vatican-owned apartment buildings right across from Vatican City (and across from the Santa Marta residence where Pope Francis lives), though I have no idea if there are available apartments (I’m guessing our doormen will know!). Obviously there will have to be translators available as so many of the refugee families are from the Middle East or North African countries where Arabic is spoken as a first language.

I cannot even remotely imagine having to flee for my life, leaving everything that was my life, everything and everyone familiar to me – friends, a home, a neigborhood, my church – taking my family with me and able to bring only what I can carry on my back or in pockets or perhaps one small piece of luggage. Not only fleeing persecution and violence but seeking safe haven in a place where the people, the language, the culture, even the food, are foreign to you. If we can help these people get acclimated to a new language and culture, I for one am ready.


(VIS) – The relationship between the family and the Christian community, “a ‘natural’ bond, since the Church is a spiritual family and the family is a small Church,” was the theme chosen by the Pope for the catechesis of today’s Wednesday general audience in St. Peter’s Square. (photo

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The Christian community is the home of those who believe in Jesus as the source of fraternity between all humanity, said the Pope. The Church journeys among peoples, in the history of men and women, fathers and mothers, sons and daughters. “This is the history that matters to the Lord,” he explained. “The great events of world powers are written in history books, and stay there. But the history of human affections is inscribed directly on God’s heart, and it is the history that remains for eternity. It is the place of life and faith. The family is the locus of our initiation – irreplaceable, indelible – into this history of full life that culminates in the contemplation of God for all eternity in heaven, but begins in the family.”

“The Son of God also learned human history in this way, and experienced it to its end. … Then, when he left Nazareth and began his public life, Jesus formed a community around him, an ‘assembly’, a convocation of people. This is the meaning of the word ‘church’.”

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In the Gospels, Jesus’ assembly has the form of “a hospitable family, not an exclusive closed sect.” Pope Francis observed that, “we find Peter and John, but also the hungry and the thirsty, the outsider and the persecuted, the sinner and the publican, the Pharisees and the masses. And Jesus never ceases to welcome them all and to speak with them, including those who did not expect to encounter God in their lives. It is a powerful lesson for the Church! The same disciples were chosen to take care of this assembly, of this family invited by God.”

In order to continue to experience the reality of Jesus’ assembly, Francis said, “it is essential to revive the alliance between the family and the Christian community. We could say that the family and the parish are the two places in which the communion of love that finds its ultimate source in God Himself is realized. A true Church according to the Gospel cannot but have the form of a welcoming home, with open doors, always. Churches, parishes and institutions with closed doors cannot call themselves churches – they should call themselves museums”.

“Today this alliance is crucial. Against the centers of power – ideological, financial and political – we posit our experiences in these centers of love: evangelizing, full of human warmth, based on solidarity and participation, and also mutual forgiveness. Certainly, it requires a generous faith to find the intelligence and the courage to renew this alliance. Families at times pull back, saying that they are not up to the challenge. … But no-one is! … Without God’s grace, we cannot do anything. And the Lord never arrives in a new family without some kind of miracle. Let us remember what He did at the wedding in Cana. Yes, the Lord, if we place ourselves in His hands, makes us perform miracles: these everyday miracles, when the Lord is there, in the family”.

“Naturally the Christian community must play its part. For instance … favoring interpersonal dialogue, and mutual understanding and respect. May families take the initiative and be conscious of their responsibility to bring their precious gifts to the community!” exclaimed the Pope. “We must all be aware that Christian faith plays on the open field of life shared with all, and the family and parish must perform the miracle of achieving a more community-based life for the whole of society.”

After the catechesis, in his greetings to various groups of faithful, the Pope remarked that today the Church celebrates the liturgical memory of the Jesuit St. Peter Claver, patron of the missions in Africa, and he expressed his hope that the saint’s example, with his tireless service to the weakest, impel the young to choose solidarity with the needy. “May his spiritual vigor help the sick to carry the cross with courage, and his love for Christ be a model for newlyweds of the love that should occupy the center of the family”


(Vatican Radio) Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI carries the tragedy of migrants and refugees in his heart and he prays for them, acording to his private secretary, Archbishop Georg Gaenswein.

After celebrating Mass in the Italian city of Ancona on Sunday, Abp.Gaenswein told the faithful that the Pope Emeritus is following the migrant situation closely. The archbishop is also Prefect of the Papal Household. He was in this port city to celebrate Mass for the city’s annual celebration of the sea.

“Unfortunately the sea for many has become a tomb, but it should be a bridge. It must not be considered a border: the sea connects one country to another, one continent to another. If there are problems in a country or in a continent, the opposite shore should be there to help,” he said.

During the Eucharistic celebration some of the prayer intentions were dedicated to the many migrants and refugees forced to flee conflict and hunger who have found death in the sea.

During the homily Archbishop Gaenswein said, “we live in times of difficulty and crisis (…) and in a society that is becoming more and more cruel and sometimes inhuman. … We must find ways to recuperate hope and the serenity that comes from knowing that God’s living presence is among us,” he said.

He exhorted the faithful not to be closed within themselves but to re-discover a sense of justice, mercy, honesty and the capacity to truly love.