Who can forget hearing Pope Benedict announce his resignation of the papacy on February 11, 2013 and then, in one of the most moving, touching, memorable videos of a papacy, fly over Vatican City in a helicopter for Castelgandolfo where he would reside for several months.

The Sede vacante began at 8 pm, February 28, 2013.

Do you remember?

I certainly do because I reported on this momentous day in Church history for EWTN television. There were many moments when I was not sure I could control my emotions and a few when you could sense and see what I felt. I’ve seen this several times in years past and always tear up a bit. The Rome portions starts at about 5:40: (12) Pope’s Departure From the Vatican – 2013-02-28 – YouTube


In an interview with Vatican News, Cardinal Péter Erdő, Archbishop of Esztergom-Budapest, Hungary, discusses his “great joy” for Pope Francis’ upcoming Apostolic Journey to the nation from 28 to 30 April, while recognizing the significance of the visit taking place with the backdrop of the war in Ukraine.

By Deborah Castellano Lubov

Cardinal Peter Erdo says Pope Francis’ Apostolic Journey to Hungary will be a great joy for the nation.

In an interview with Vatican News, the Archbishop of Esztergom-Budapest, Primate of Hungary, expressed his delight about the Holy Father’s upcoming journey to the Eastern European country from 28 to 30 April, marking the Pope’s 41st Apostolic Journey abroad.

On Monday, the Director of the Holy See Press Office, Matteo Bruni, announced the Pope would make the visit after having accepted the invitation of the civil and ecclesial authorities to visit the country.

In the interview, Cardinal Erdo gives his personal reaction to, and his expectations for, the papal journey, also as it takes place with the backdrop of the war in Ukraine.

He also expresses why Pope Francis’ return to Hungarian territory is significant, and sheds light on the program itself, including the Holy Father’s planned meeting with children.

During his three-day journey, the Pope will visit with refugees and poor people, as well as with children of the Blessed László Batthyány-Strattmann Institute.

More than half of Hungarians are Christian, and at least 37 percent of the population identify as Catholic.

Since the start of the war in Ukraine, nearly 1 million Ukrainian nationals have travelled through Hungary as refugees, according to local sources.

The Holy Father had made a brief stop in the country’s capital of Budapest to celebrate Mass for the closure of the 52nd International Eucharistic Congress on 12 September 2021, on his way to Slovakia.

Pope Francis had also has shown his closeness to the Hungarian faithful during his visit to Romania, when celebrated Mass at the popular Hungarian pilgrimage site of Csíksomlyó (Șumuleu Ciuc) in Romania’s Transylvania region. Transylvania had once been part of Hungary, but became Romanian territory in 1920. Ethnic Hungarians in Romania total more than one million people.

Q: Cardinal Erdo, how do you comment on Pope Francis’ Apostolic Journey to Hungary, and what are your expectations for this visit?

With great joy we received the news of the Holy Father’s visit to Hungary. We invited him as the Hungarian Church, as the Church of Budapest, and we wanted to welcome him for a pastoral visit.

Last time, when he visited our city to participate in the closing Mass of the World Eucharistic Congress (September 2021, ed.), it was a lightning visit. Instead, a pastoral visit, a meeting with the community of the faithful, was something that had been desired for many years. So it is an immense joy.

Q: As you mentioned, this is not the first time the Holy Father has come to Hungary. Why is his return to the country important now?

Precisely because of the very fact of a meeting with the Hungarian faithful. The event of 2021 was an international event: pilgrims, bishops, priests, faithful were present from 83 countries. This time, however, Francis is addressing the Hungarians, our people, our local Church. This gives us great honour and joy.

Q: In the background of this trip, there is the war in Ukraine. How will this reality be important during the trip? We know Hungary helped so many Ukrainian refugees during this time of the invasion.

The news of the war that broke out a year ago and went on all this year means a lot of sadness for us. Sadness for the very fact of the war, because we have been praying for peace every day for a year, even in different communities. We also regularly hold peace processions and have consecrated Ukraine and Russia to Our Lady, as the Holy Father had invited us to do. We did this act in St Stephen’s Basilica in front of his relic, because St Stephen a thousand years ago was the first who, according to history, offered an entire country to Our Lady. And so, we felt a spiritual closeness to the two peoples.

And what do we do? First of all, we have to face the great challenge of refugees. We are a country of less than ten million inhabitants, and in the last year more than one and a half million refugees have arrived from Ukraine. Certainly not all of them wanted to stay in Hungary, but 10-15% of the refugees stayed.

So the first challenge was humanitarian aid. We received the refugees both at the border and in Budapest, through the national Caritas, the diocesan Caritas and the charity groups of the individual parishes. Then there were the Knights of Malta who did so much for those who arrived.

Q: And the faithful were rather involved in this assistance?

Then we had to organise the spontaneous help offered by the faithful, the hospitality of certain parishes and ecclesial institutions as well as private individuals. We also saw that there are many women and children who need schools, teaching. We could also organise this in Catholic schools. There were teachers who knew Russian, others among the refugees who spoke Ukrainian. And so we tried to organise the teaching according to the age of the groups of children.

There were also Hungarian-speaking refugees from the area bordering Hungary, so integration was easier for them. But we also try to integrate the others, offering them a job, a flat that they can use for a longer period of time… So I think it is a challenge that continues to be very great, but one that helps us to become aware of our Christian vocation.

Q: Looking at the programme released by the Holy See Press Office, one sees a meeting with children. Can you tell us more?

For several decades there has been an ecclesiastical institute in Budapest that takes in blind and disabled children. So they need a lot of affection and help from the entire Catholic community.

This institute will be visited in April by the Pope who always shows solidarity and tenderness towards these children.




In the midst of news stories from around the world that are dominated by the coronavirus, it is easy to forget that today, February 28, marks a unique day in the history of the Catholic Church, for it was 7 years ago today, almost at the very hour at which I am writing, that Pope Benedict XVI left Vatican City in a helicopter for Castelgandolfo, thus ending his papacy as he had announced on February 11.

There is a very young generation that would not have known that papacy, as recent as it was, but many more of us are experiencing the third, fourth or perhaps even fifth papacy of our lives, not counting the ultra brief pontificate of John Paul I.

For those of you who recall that day seven years ago, and those of you who did not experience the prayerful and yet tear-jerking moments of Benedict’s farewell to the cardinals of the Church and his leave taking of Vatican City, here are two links to the EWTN coverage of that historic day:
SAYING FAREWELL TO COLLEGE OF CARDINALS (and shaking hands with his successor, though no one knew who that would be on Feb.28) – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LUp0aTMJ3RU
BENEDICT’S FAREWELL TO VATICAN CITY . https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NvtBYIXc7YY


I hope you tune in to Vatican Insider this weekend and join me for Part II of my conversation with Bishop Stephen Berg of Pueblo, one of the more amazing stories of the many bishops I know and have interviewed. As you heard last week, he is the oldest of 10 children! He earned Bachelor and Master’s degrees in music, taught music and then for 14 was in the nursery business!

Bishop Berg entered the seminary in 1993 and was ordained to the priesthood in 1999 by his maternal uncle Bishop Joseph L. Charron, now the Bishop Emeritus of the Diocese of Des Moines, Iowa.

He tells us about his education and degrees, his early years as a priest, the special projects in his diocese, and his ad limina visit to Rome with the bishops of Region XIII, that is, Colorado, Arizona, Wyoming, Montana and Utah. Also some interesting comments (what he could tell us!) about the bishops’ audience with Pope Francis.

I was blessed to have Bishop Berg to my home for dinner with 4 members of his staff, as you can see in these photos. One of the pictures was taken at St. Paul’s Outside the Walls basilica when, after Mass, the bishops descended into the confessio to pray at the tomb of St. Paul.

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: http://www.ewtn.com/multimedia/audio-library/index.asp (write Vatican Insider where it says Search Shows and Episodes)


Following up on a plan announced at last year’s Meeting for the Protection of Minors in the Church, Pope Francis has launched a task force to help Bishops’ Conferences prepare and update child protection guidelines.
By Vatican News

Pope Francis has established a task force “in order to assist the Episcopal Conferences in the preparation and updating of guidelines for the protection of minors.” The intention to form such a group had already been announced by the Pope at last year’s Meeting for the Protection of Minors in the Church, which ran from 21-24 February 2019. One year later, after the details of the project had been worked out, Pope Francis has made the plan a reality.

Supervising committee
In a statement released on Friday, the Holy See Press Office explained that the task force will be supervised by Archbishop Edgar Peña Parra, the Substitute for General Affairs of the Secretariat of State, together with the members of the organizing Committee for last year’s Meeting: Cardinal Oswald Gracias, Archbishop of Bombay; Cardinal Blase Cupich, Archbishop of Chicago; Archbishop Charles Scicluna, Archbishop of Malta and Deputy Secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith; and Father Hans Zollner, SJ, Dean of the Institute of Psychology of the Pontifical Gregorian University and member of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors.

Membership of the task force
The task force itself is composed of a Coordinator, Dr Andrew Azzopardi, head of the Safeguarding Commission of the Maltese Bishops (established by the Archdiocese of Malta, the Diocese of Gozo, and the Conference of Religious Major Superiors); and a number of canon law experts of different nationalities. The Coordinator will report quarterly to the Substitute for General Affairs of the Secretariat of State on the work undertaken by the task force.

Providing assistance to Episcopal Conferences
According to communiqué, the task force will assist Episcopal Conferences, as well as Religious Institutes and Societies of Apostolic Life, in preparing and updating guidelines for the protection of minors, in accordance with the guidelines issued by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and current canonical legislation, especially the motu proprio Vos estis lux mundi.

The task force’s mandate will last for two years, beginning 24 February 2020. It will be supported by a special fund established by benefactors.

Episcopal Conferences, Institutes of Religious, and Societies of Apostolic Life can request assistance at the following email address: taskforce@org.va.



Is it possible that it has already been six years since Benedict XVI became Pope emeritus!

I think most people over the age of reason remember that day, as they well recall him announcing on February 11 that he would leave the papacy at the end of the month. We all lived history on those days!

In the past six years I have received countless numbers of letters, emails and postings on Facebook from people who have asked me to tell Benedict how much is loved and respected and admired and prayed for – and missed! To the best of my ability I have passed those on.

Now, I offer you a link to our coverage of that amazing 2013 event, a papal resignation, six years ago tonight at 8 pm!

Continue your prayers for our Holy Father emeritus!



Thursday, February 28, 201

Venerable and Dear Brothers,

I welcome you with great joy and I offer each one of you my most cordial greeting. I thank Cardinal Angelo Sodano who, as always, interpreted the sentiments of the entire College: Cor ad cor loquitur [heart speaks to heart] I warmly thank you, Your Eminence. And I would like to say — taking up your reference to the disciples of Emmaus — that for me too it has been a joy to walk with you in these years, in the light of the presence of the Risen Lord.

EWTN’s coverage of this final morning: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LUp0aTMJ3RU

As I said yesterday to the thousands of faithful who filled St Peter’s Square, your closeness and your advice have been of great help to me in my ministry. In these eight years we have lived with faith very beautiful moments of radiant light on the Church’s journey, as well as moments when several clouds gathered in the sky. We sought to serve Christ and his Church with profound and total love, which is the heart and soul of our ministry. We gave hope, the hope that comes to us from Christ, which alone can give light to us on our journey. Together we may thank the Lord who has enabled us to grow in communion and, together, pray him to help us to grow even more in this profound unity, so that the College of Cardinals may be like an orchestra where differences — an expression of the universal Church — contribute to a superior and harmonious concord.

I would like to leave you a simple thought, which is deep in my heart: a thought about the Church, about her mystery, that constitutes for us all — we can say — the reason and passion for life.

I will allow a sentence of Romano Guardini to help me. It was written in the very same year that the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council approved the Constitution Lumen Gentium, in his last book, which also a personal dedication to me — which makes the words of this book particularly dear to me. Guardini says the Church “is not an institution conceived and built in theory… but a living reality…. She lives through the course of time, in becoming, like every living being, in undergoing change…. And yet in her nature she remains ever the same and her heart is Christ”.

It seems to me that this was our experience yesterday in the Square: seeing that the Church is a living body, enlivened by the Holy Spirit and which is really brought to life by God’s power. She is in the world but not of the world: she is of God, of Christ, of the Spirit. We saw this yesterday. That is why Guardini’s other famous saying is both true and eloquent: “The Church is reawakened in souls”. The Church is alive, she grows and is reawakened in souls who — like the Virgin Mary — welcome the Word of God and conceive it through the action of the Holy Spirit; they offer to God their own flesh. It is precisely in their poverty and humility that they become capable of begetting Christ in the world today. Through the Church, the Mystery of the Incarnation lives on for ever. Christ continues to walk through the epochs and in all places.
Let us stay united, dear Brothers, in this Mystery: in prayer, especially in the daily Eucharist, and in this way we shall serve the Church and the whole of humanity. This is our joy that no one can take from us.

Before I say goodbye to each one of you personally, I would like to tell you that I shall continue to be close to you with my prayers, especially in these coming days, that you may be completely docile to the action of the Holy Spirit in the election of the new pope. May the Lord show you the one whom he wants. And among you, in the College of Cardinals, there is also the future pope to whom today I promise my unconditional reverence and obedience. For this reason, with affection and gratitude, I cordially impart to you the Apostolic Blessing.