There have been quite a few repercussions around the world following remarks by Cardinal Kevin Farrell who has said in several interviews that priests have “no credibility for marriage preparation.” I have received emails about this and have seen posts on Facebook by priests who have expressed their incredulity at this statement by the head of the Dicastery for Family, Laity and Life.

A particularly eloquent response to the cardinal’s remarks was written by Fr. Roger Landry for the National Catholic Register, and I offer you his thoughts on the subject. I know many priests will thank him.


This week in the interview segment of “Vatican Insider,” I want to pay tribute to the late Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, president of the Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue, a man I got to know both during and after the years I worked at the Vatican Information Service. As you probably know, he died on July 5 in the United States after years of struggling with the debilitating effects of Parkinson’s disease.

What you’ll hear today is my interview with him shortly after Pope Benedict’s 2009 trip to the Holy Land. What most amazed me as I listened to our conversation was how timely the Cardinal’s message still is today. I know you’ll agree as you listen to this most able and astute diplomat as we discuss his work, especially relations with Muslims.

Here are some photos from the day in 2009 that Benedict XVI met with Muslim leaders at the al-Hussein bin Talal Mosque in Amman, Jordan. I covered that event and, as you will see, the women journalists had to be dressed in a certain manner to enter. You’ll see Cardinal Tauran in several of these photos.

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(National Catholic Register) COMMENTARY: Rather than being an insurmountable handicap, my priesthood is actually an asset.
By Father Roger Landry

One of the duties of parish priests is to prepare couples for the sacrament of matrimony. Many priests love this work. Others admit they find parts of it taxing. But almost all parish priests do it, dedicate quite a lot of time to doing it, and, like other aspects of priestly work, try to do it well.

That’s why it came as quite a shock earlier this month when Cardinal Kevin Farrell, the prefect for the Vatican’s Dicastery of Laity, Family and Life, which is in charge of the Church’s universal care for the family, declared that priests are basically incompetent to do this work.

In an interview printed in the July/August edition of Intercom magazine, published by the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference, Cardinal Farrell made headlines when he said, “Priests are not the best people to train others for marriage. They have no credibility. They have never lived the experience. They may know moral theology, dogmatic theology in theory, but to go from there to putting it into practice every day … they don’t have the experience.”

This was not the first time he has alleged universal priestly ineptitude with regard to marriage preparation. Last September, at a conference in Belfast, he emphasized that priests have “no credibility in this area” because they have “no credibility when it comes to living the reality of marriage.” What is needed, he said, is accompaniment by other married couples “who have walked in [married couples’] shoes.”

He implied that his comprehensive assertions might be partly autobiographical extrapolations because, he said, he didn’t “have a clue” when his own nieces and nephews asked him some questions about marital difficulties. “I have no experience of that, and the majority of priests don’t have that experience,” he said.

But in the Intercom interview he also contended that priests’ lack of competence and credibility is matched by a lack of commitment. Basing himself on his previous experience as the bishop of Dallas, he said, priests, with all of their duties, “are not going to be interested in organizing marriage meetings.”

Priests who are in fact interested in organizing meetings with couples to help them get ready for the sacrament of marriage found his comments disheartening and disturbing. Many married couples likewise found them bewildering.

Earlier this month I was in Lubbock, Texas, giving four talks at the “Diocesan Family Camp” on how marital love is free, full, faithful and fruitful. Several of the married couples present, in the wake of Cardinal Farrell’s comments, sent me emails thanking me once again for my work and saying that they found my talks, and Bishop Robert Coerver’s opening keynote, credible, helpful and attuned to the realities of marriage and family life. I similarly got emails from various couples I’ve prepared for marriage over the last 19 years, saying how grateful they were for what they received from the hours we spent together.

It’s one thing to make the obvious point that effective marriage preparation involves not just parish priests but well-trained married couples, something that happens in most parish, diocesan and online marriage-preparation courses in the United States. Cardinal Farrell’s regrettable emphasis, however, was not to encourage lay involvement, but to undermine priests’ involvement and credibility – as if, because they’ve never been married, priests have nothing to contribute. This led Providence Bishop Thomas Tobin humorously to tweet, “It seems fair to ask, then, if a celibate cleric has sufficient ‘credibility’ to lead a dicastery devoted to laity, family and life.”
Cardinal Farrell’s comments made me wonder how familiar he is with St. John Paul II’s works on marriage, which take up his objections and persuasively refute them.

In the opening words of the introduction to his book Love and Responsibility, for example, the future pope took up the objection:
“There exists a view that only married people may speak about marriage, and that only persons who experience love between a man and a woman may speak about such love. This view demands personal and direct experience as the basis for speaking in a given field. Thus, priests, religious and celibate persons cannot have anything to say on matters of love and marriage.”

Then he responded: “A lack of their own personal experience does not hinder them since they possess a very rich indirect experience proceeding from pastoral work … [where] they encounter precisely these problems so often and in such a variety of ways and situations that another experience is created, experience that is undoubtedly more indirect and ‘foreign,’ but at the same time much more extensive.”

Even though priests don’t have firsthand experience of marital life, St. John Paul underlined, they have a far more extensive secondhand experience than almost anyone because of their pastoral work hearing confessions, counseling couples, and sharing the joys and struggles of their married spiritual sons and daughters. They also have their firsthand exposure to the reality of family life from growing up in a family.

His Eminence, however, not only seems to have forgotten John Paul II’s insights, but also seems unaware of what Pope Francis has said about priests and marriage preparation.

Speaking to parish priests in the Vatican Feb. 25, 2017, Pope Francis commented, “In most cases, you are the first people to be approached by young people desiring to form a new family and marry in the sacrament of matrimony. And it is again you to whom married couples turn in crisis as a result of serious relationship problems, with a need to rekindle their faith and rediscover the grace of the sacrament. …No one better than you knows and is in touch with the reality of the social fabric of the territory and experiences the various complexities: unions celebrated in Christ, de facto unions, civil unions, failed unions, happy and unhappy families and young people.”

“With each person and in each situation,” the Pope continued, “you are called to be traveling companions who can offer witness and support. May your primary concern be to bear witness to the grace of the sacrament of matrimony and the primordial good of the family, vital cell of the Church and of society, by announcing that marriage between a man and a woman is a symbol of the spousal union between Christ and the Church. Such witness is put into practice concretely when you prepare engaged couples for marriage, making them aware of the profound meaning of the step which they are about to take, and when you journey with young couples with attentiveness, helping them experience the divine strength and the beauty of their marriage through light and shadow, through joyful and difficult times.”

He went on to say that he wanted marriage preparation to be a “true catechumenate” that could accompany engaged couples similar to the way the Church for months accompanies adults preparing for the sacrament of baptism.

“This catechumenate,” he said, “is principally entrusted to you, parish priests. …I encourage you to implement it despite any difficulties you may encounter.”

Those are not the words of someone with a low estimation of the credibility, competence and commitment of priests with regard to the sacrament of matrimony.

I have had the joy to do clergy workshops on marriage preparation in various dioceses in the U.S. and Canada and to speak throughout the U.S. and beyond on John Paul II’s theology of the body. I have also had the chance to prepare several hundred couples for marriage.

I normally meet with couples cumulatively for about 10 hours because I’m convinced that in a culture that doesn’t support marriage as the lifelong, faithful and fruitful union of one man and one woman, this time is indispensable to help them build their marriage on the rock of faith.

In addition to Marriage Encounter or other pre-Cana programs I have them take, I give them 12 short essays to write, so that I can better meet them where they’re at and help bring them to where the Church hopes they’ll be on their wedding day. I give them videos to watch and websites to visit. I administer FOCCUS tests (a pre-marriage inventory) to them and review with them their responses.

Over the course of our conversations, we discuss their family backgrounds, how they met, how they determined the other was the “right one,” how the proposal happened, what marriage means, why Christian marriage is a sacrament, what role God plays in their relationship, what is distinctive about marital love, what they love about the other and how the other has shown love to them, what their desires are for children, how to grow in prayer and faith as a couple, how to forgive, and what marriage experts say are best practices on communication, finances and relations with in-laws.

We go over in depth the necessary intentions for a valid marriage. We cover the what and why of the Church’s teachings about natural family planning, adoption, infertility, cohabitation, contraception, in vitro fertilization and pornography. We even tackle what to do if they happen to fall in love with someone else.

In all of this, rather than being an insurmountable handicap, my priesthood is actually an asset.

My chaste celibacy allows me to be more objective in talking about human sexuality in God’s plan than someone whose experiences are marked too much by personal experience.

My seminary training is likewise a plus. So many generous Catholic couples who volunteer to lead marriage-preparation courses, like my parents, certainly can talk effectively and eloquently about various practical realities of living a Catholic marriage, but, in general, they cannot speak to the theology and sacramentality of marriage the way priests can and couples deserve. Not even most permanent deacons can address the “tough issues” with regard to the Church’s moral teaching with the same clarity and confidence as priests. These priestly contributions are an indispensable service to couples who are often beguiled by our secular age to look at marriage in a desacralized way.

Most helpful of all, however, I think, is simply a priest’s presence and prioritized concern for the couple. Many young people, including Catholics, don’t know priests personally, because they see them only in chasubles. Many come to marriage preparation not practicing the faith, in one way or many, and have lots of unanswered questions and misconceptions that will impact their marriage and spiritual life overall if left unaddressed.

Over the course of the hours we have together, those questions can come up. Trust can build. The practice of the faith can return. Doubts about “credibility” can be overcome. Real evangelization or re-evangelization can take place.

When a priest shows how much he cares in making the time to get to know and form them, and then brings the fruit of that burgeoning friendship to their rehearsal, wedding homily, reception, future baptisms and more, it can have a favorable long-term influence on their relationship with all priests and with the Church.

I hope that the intense reaction that Cardinal Farrell’s unintentionally offensive remarks have provoked among priests and the faithful might lead him to reassess his conclusions.
I also hope that it will help him, and the dicastery he directs, to better support priests in the trenches in their important labor – together with married laypeople – in preparing couples not just for marriage, but for the sacrament of matrimony in its fullness.

The future of the Church depends on that crucial and ongoing work.

Father Roger Landry is a priest of the Diocese of Fall River, Massachusetts.


I was honored, albeit sad, to attend the funeral Mass this morning for Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran about whom, as you know, I’ve written in recent days. It was gratifying to see so many members of the diplomatic corps and equally so to see representatives of other religions, including many non-Christians. Many tributes have appeared since his July 5 death and I have been pleased to note how many were indeed from non-Christian leaders, a tribute to Cardinal Tauran’s tireless work in inter-religious dialogue.

How could we not think of the parallel with St. John Paul II, so very ill for so long with Parkinson’s and yet he kept on “fighting the good fight,” knowing the Lord would call him when it was his time.

I suppose it is very human of me to want to imagine a conversation the two are now having about the Church today, about inter-religious dialogue, about peace in the world.
Cardinal Sodano and Cardinal Tauran worked for many years side by side in the Secretariat of State. Sodano was called to serve as Pro-Secretary of State on December 1, 1990. When he became a cardinal on June 28, 1991, he became Secretary of State.

Tauran was named Secretary for Relations with States on the same day, December 1, 1990 and remained there until 2003 when he was named Librarian and Archivist of Holy Roman Church.

I had been working at the Vatican Information Service for only a few months when the press office announced the appointments of Sodano and Tauran on December 1, 1990 – the same day that saw the retirement of Sodano’s predecessor, Cardinal Agostino Casaroli, about whom I could write a volume and about whom volumes have been written, most focussing on Casaroli as the architect of the Vatican’s Ostpolitik, its diplomacy with countries of then Communist Eastern Europe.

My superior at VIS, Pedro Brunori decided on the spur of the moment that we should be present in the Secretariat of State where there was a small reception for the outgoing cardinal secretary and to welcome for Sodano and Tauran. He told us to take our Vatican IDs and three of us made our way to the Apostolic Palace, crossing the San Damaso courtyard to elevators that would take us to the Secretariat of State.

I had my doubts about going with Pedro as it was a Saturday and that was the only day of the week I allowed myself to wear slacks or a pantsuit to work. Pedro was nonplussed and said I looked the part as I had black slacks, a white blouse and a red sweater with matching red-white and black scarf.

A fellow American who worked for the Vatican at the time saw me cross the San Damaso courtyard and she said I could not go in slacks. Pedro and my colleague simply nodded, I shrugged my shoulders and we kept walking.

I was awed, as a newcomer in town, so to speak, by the history and beauty of the rooms of the Apostolic Palace and by meeting the outgoing Casaroli, about whom I had written many articles for the Regsiter, and then meeting the new secretary of State Sodano and the new “foreign minister” Tauran.

I will never forget shaking hands with Cardinal Sodano who smiled and said, “Signora, you do us honors today with the colors you are wearing!”

Pedro wanted us to do some PR while we were at the reception. The Vatican Information Service was only a few months old at the time and he wanted everyone to know about this new news service of the Holy See and Vatican.

As I write these lines I think back to the myriad encounters I had during those years I worked for the Vatican. I was present for history-making moments, met the movers and shakers of the Catholic hierarchy on the domestic scene and the international one and have said farewell to the great ones. Like Cardinal Tauran.

And this is why, when people say to me ”God bless you,” my usual reply is “He really has!”


The funeral Mass this morning for Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran was celebrated by Cardinal Angelo Sodano, dean of the College of Cardinals, at the Altar of the Chair in St. Peter’s Basilica. Cardinal Tauran died July 5 in the United States after a long battle with Parkinson’s disease.

While Pope Francis was scheduled to celebrate the valedictorio at the end of the Mass, he was present throughout the entire Eucharistic celebration. (photos by EWTN/CNA’s Daniel Ibanez)

Scores of bishops, archbishops and cardinals were present as were many members of the diplomatic corps and many representatives of other religions. Diplomats and members of other religions were seated in the front rows. At the time of his death, at the end of a long and remarkable career in service to the Holy See, Cardinal Tauran was the president of the Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue, and camerlengo of Holy Roman Church.

The presence of many diplomats was a testament to Cardinal Tauran’s years in the Church’s diplomatic corps. He had previously served in the Secretariat of State as Secretary for Relations with States, the equivalent of a foreign minister.

In his homily, Cardinal Sodano described his French confrère as “a man who courageously served Christ’s holy Church, despite the burden of his illness.”

He centered his homily on the Beatitudes and said they “always illuminated the life of our dearly departed brother, like bright stars along his journey.”

Cardinal Sodano also quoted the very beautiful words of St. Augustine: “Lord, we do not complain because you have taken him away from us; rather, we thank you for having given him to us.”

Referring to the period when he and Cardinal Tauran were colleagues in the Secretariat of State, Cardinal Sodano said: “For many years I witnessed the great apostolic spirit of the late Cardinal, in the long years of common service to the Holy See, and I will keep a grateful memory of it forever.”

“Cardinal Tauran,” continued the dean of the College of Cardinals, “was a great example of a priest, a Bishop, a Cardinal” who dedicated his whole life to the service of the Church; and more recently especially to “dialogue with all men of good will.”

In this way, Cardinal Tauran lived out the words of Vatican II’s Gaudium et spes: “Since God the Father is the origin and purpose of all men, we are all called to be brothers. Therefore, if we have been summoned to the same destiny, human and divine, we can and we should work together without violence and deceit in order to build up the world in genuine peace.”



The funeral for Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, who died July 5 in the United States, will be this Thursday morning in St. Peter’s Basilica and I intend to be there.

I saw a news story from Iran today and thought it worth posting just to give you an idea of Cardinal Tauran’s place on the Vatican’s diplomatic stage and the esteem of the Muslim world for this Prince of the Church. That story follows.

In addition, there was a good piece in April from Il Settimo Cielo blog by Sandro Magister on the cardinal’s trip to Saudi Arabia that same month. I offer you that piece as well.


(From editorial Staff at IFP – Iran Front Page)
Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has expressed condolences on the demise of Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, the president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue in the Roman Curia.

Zarif offered his condolences in a Monday message to his counterpart in the Vatican, Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher.
“News of the passing away of Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, the president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue in the Roman Curia, filled me with sadness and sorrow,” Zarif said.

“This erudite man, who was regarded as one the Holy See’s renowned scientific and religious figures, made every effort to boost solidarity among followers of all divine faiths and promote dialogue among religions without any religious bias, nescience and extremism,” he added.

“He was one of the far-sighted men who, by holding bilateral and international meetings, managed to establish continuous dialogue among leaders of different faiths, especially Muslim and Christian scholars,” the Iranian top diplomat noted.

Zarif finally expressed condolences to Gallagher and all Catholic Christians as well as the Christian community in Iran on Cardinal Tauran’s demise, and asked God Almighty to bestow peace upon his soul.

Cardinal Tauran, a former foreign minister of the Vatican and expert in interfaith relations, died on Thursday at the age of 75. He was the one who announced the election of Pope Francis to the world in 2013 with the famous phrase “habemus papam (we have a pope)”.

He had been in the United States, seeking treatment for Parkinson’s disease. He had the condition for years, but continued his globe-trotting diplomacy to improve the Vatican’s relations with the Muslim world.

In an unusually personal condolence message sent to Tauran’s sister Friday, Francis praised the cardinal’s “courageous” years of service to the Catholic Church “despite the weight of illness.”


(From Settimo Cielo, blog by Sandro Magister – April 17, 2018)

Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, has been in the capital of Saudi Arabia since April 13, and will stay there until April 20, thereby repaying the visit made to the Vatican on September 20, 2017, by the secretary general of the Muslim World League, the sheikh Muhammad bin Abdul Karim Al-Issa.

Welcomed by Prince Muhammad bin Abdurrahman bin Abdulaziz, vice-governor of Riyadh, Cardinal Tauran gave at the headquarters of the Muslim League, during his meeting with the sheikh Al-Issa, an address without precedent in the history of relations between Christianity and Islam, not because of the things that were said but because of the place where they were pronounced.

It was in fact the first time that in Saudi Arabia, the homeland of Wahhabism, one of the most radical currents of Islam, a leading representative of the Catholic Church has spoken out in public and with clarity on capital questions like freedom of religion and equal rights for believers of all faiths.

Here is a brief anthology of the things that Cardinal Tauran said in Riyadh, printed in “L’Osservatore Romano” of April 17.

“What is threatening all of us is not the clash of civilizations, but rather the clash of forms of ignorance and radicalism. What is threatening coexistence is first of all ignorance; therefore, to meet together, speak, build something together, are an invitation to encounter the other, and also means discovering ourselves.”

The cardinal recalled how the Christian sacred places, “in the Holy Land, in Rome or elsewhere, together with the numerous shrines in many parts of the world,” are “always open to you, our Muslim brothers and sisters, to believers of other religions, and also to every person of good will who does not profess a religion.”

Besides, he added, “in many countries the mosques are also open to visitors,” and this, he said, “is the kind of spiritual hospitality that helps us to promote mutual understanding and friendship, contrasting prejudice.”

“Religion is the dearest thing a person has. This is why some, when they are called to choose between keeping the faith and remaining alive, prefer to accept paying a high price: they are the martyrs of all religions and of every time.”

“In all religions there are forms of radicalism. Fundamentalists and extremists may be zealous person, but unfortunately they have deviated from a solid and wise understanding of religion. Moreover, they consider those who do not share their vision as unbelievers who must convert or be eliminated, so as to maintain purity. They are misled persons who can easily go on to violence in the name of religion, including terrorism. They become convinced, through brainwashing, that they are serving God. The truth is that they are only hurting themselves, ruining the image of their religion and their coreligionists. This is why they need our prayer and our help.”

After clarifying that “religion can be proposed, never imposed, and then accepted or rejected,” Cardinal Tauran identified as one of the fields in which Christians and Muslims must be in agreement, seeing that “in the past there has been a great deal of competition between the two communities,” that “of common rules for the construction of places of worship.” In fact, all the religions must be treated in the same way, without discrimination, because their followers, together with the citizens who do not profess any religion, must be treated equally,” he remarked in referring to the always relevant theme of “full citizenship” for all. In part because “if we do not eliminate the double standards of our behavior as believers, religious institutions and organizations, we will foster Islamophobia and Christianophobia.”

“Spiritual leaders have a duty: to keep the religions from being at the service of an ideology, and to be able to recognize that some of our coreligionists, like the terrorists, are not behaving correctly. Terrorism is a constant threat, and because of this we must be clear and never justify it. The forms of terrorism want to demonstrate the impossibility of coexistence. We believe the exact opposite. We must avoid aggression and denigration.”

“All authentic interreligious dialogue begins with the proclamation of one’s own faith. We do not say that all religions are equal, but that all believers, those who seek God and all persons of good will devoid of religious affiliation, have equal dignity. Everyone must be left free to embrace the religion that he wishes.” After this came the concluding appeal to join forces “so that God, who created us, may not be a motive of division, but rather of unity.”

POSTSCRIPT – On Wednesday, April 18, Cardinal Tauran also had a conversation with the king of Saudi Arabia, Salman bin Abdulaziz, with whom he again spoke on how the Christian and Muslim religions and cultures can work together in repudiating violence and terrorism and in promoting peace.

In confirmation of the top-level nature of the meeting, the king was accompanied by the interior minister of Saudi Arabia, Prince Muhammad bin Nayef bin Abdelaziz Al Saoud, the foreign minister, Adel Al-Jubeir, and the secretary general of the Muslim World League, Sheik Muhammad Abdul Karim Al-Issa. With Cardinal Tauran (see photo) was Bishop Miguel Ángel Ayuso Guixot, secretary of the pontifical council for interreligious dialogue.
Previously, on Sunday, April 15, the cardinal had met and celebrated Mass with a sizable Catholic community made up mostly of immigrants from Asia.



Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, president of the Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue died on July 5 in the United States where he was being treated for Parkinson’s Disease. I had a number of opportunities to get to know him during his long and productive years of service to the Church and I always felt privileged by those encounters. Every moment I was with him, I knew I was in the presence of a special person, a refined and ever-gracious gentleman, a keen intellect, great historian and a brilliant diplomat. (photo Le Point)

I was one of six journalists invited by Cardinal Tauran (at the time he was archivist and librarian of Holy Roman Church) to attend the Qatar Conference on Muslim-Christian Dialogue at the end of May 2004. The then Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al-Thani, who had a great interest in inter-religious dialogue, had expressed the desire in 2003 to open a Center for Muslim-Christian dialogue in Doha.

The emir, host of the conference, told Cardinal Tauran that he had invited six Muslim journalists to cover the 2004 event, and asked the Cardinal to invite six Catholic journalists. I was honored to have been among the six.

Because it is an interesting look back in history – and because some of the cardinal’s statements 14 years ago sound like they were pronounced 14 weeks ago – I’d like to post the interview I did with Cardinal Tauran for the National Catholic Register after the Doha conference ended.

REGISTER: Your Eminence, you were for many years the Secretary for Relations with States of the Vatican’s Secretariat of State. What are your thoughts on the May 1, 2004 enlargement of the European Union when 10 new nations joined the EU that day, bringing the total to 25 members?

TAURAN: I would not speak so much of an enlargement as of a return, a return of countries that were excluded for so many years from their natural milieu. It was an exchange of gifts because, by returning to Europe, these new members are bringing with them their great cultural and historical wealth. These are factors that enrich, not disturb. It is surely a very important page in European history.

REGISTER: Several of these countries lived for more than 50 years under a communist regime, a cumbersome legacy that some say is causing Europe to now move forward at different speeds. Do you share that opinion?

TAURAN: “Certainly. It will be a far more complex exercise when you have 25 voices making decisions; thus, formulas will have to be found that allow every member country to feel it is partner with full rights. Until this happens, however, the formulas must be realistic because we are talking about countries with very different experiences. Politics is the art of the possible, therefore, I am confident this will happen.

REGISTER: For more than a year now, as often as he could do so, Pope John Paul II has pointed to the importance of mentioning of Europe’s Christian roots in the new European Constitution. There are many in Europe who do not want this – or any mention of religion – included. Your thoughts?

TAURAN: The writers of the Constitution wished to preface it with a preamble that gave a vision of Europe’s past history. In rereading (this history) no one could deny that Christianity was the only religion that contributed to the formation of European institutions. Let’s not forget that the first school was born at the court of Charlemagne through the efforts of a monk, Alcuino; this is an undisputed fact. A monk founded the first school. The first universities were founded by the Church. And I always think of the fact that the first exercise in direct democracy was the election of abbots in Benedictine monasteries. Paul VI in fact, in a phrase that has been quoted by John Paul II, used to say that Europe was born from a Cross, a book and a plow, a reference to Benedictine spirituality. We must also think of pilgrimages, of the Latin language as cultural factors that have modeled Europe’s physiognomy. History should be read, or read again where necessary. If there is a preamble, at least may it be equanimous.

REGISTER: Having served in the Middle East in the diplomatic corps of the Holy See – especially your years in Lebanon – you know better than most the realities of that area, in particular the problems of the Christians who live there. How do you respond to those who live there and fear that the question of Europe’s Christian roots is overshadowing the problems of Christians in the Holy Land?

TAURAN: No one can deny that there has been a hemorrhage of Christians from this part of the world. Partly because there are situations there which have lasted for many years and no one can ask that people be or become heroes. There are hot spots in the Holy Land and in Lebanon concerning Christians. What we want to avoid is that the Holy Places turn into museums; rather, they must be living realities with Christian communities that actively function and we want Lebanon to continue to be the laboratory of dialogue that it has been up to now, where Christians are equal partners with the faithful of other religions. Christians in the Middle East continue to receive all the necessary attention on the part of the Holy See. We are interested in seeing Christians witness to their faith in the midst of other believers.

REGISTER: It has been proposed that Israel become a member of the Europe Union. Could this serve to alleviate or end the crisis in the Middle East?

TAURAN: By necessity Europe must have boundaries. One could eventually think of a European Union with other countries being “associate members,” that is, countries tied to the EU by more or less close bonds, like a partnership. But a lot of time would be needed to achieve something like this.

REGISTER: What role can the United Nations play in solving the crises in Iraq and in the Holy Land?

TAURAN: I believe that never before in history have actors on the international scene possessed such refined juridical instruments, such as U.N. resolutions, international conventions, and the like. What is missing is the political will to apply these instruments. The U.N. does not exist but what does exist is the will of the 191 members that comprise it. Therefore, a reform of the United Nations is necessary but we must be careful not to destroy it. Decisions must be made according to law and to justice. I would be careful of demonizing the U.N. and of giving it powers it does not have. As far as the Holy Land is concerned, I believe that the Israeli-Palestinian crisis is the mother of all crises. When this is settled, all problems will be resolved.


TAURAN: I think that the United Nations is the only institution capable of accompanying the transition of Iraq towards popular sovereignty. Two or three countries by themselves cannot impose order on the world. All we need to do is go back and read the United Nations Charter, a document that no one seems to read or remember. Within the Charter we have all the elements necessary for a solution.”



Join me this weekend for Part II of my conversation with Abbot Primate of the Benedictine Confederation Gregory Polan. Born near Chicago Illinois, Abbot Polan is a linguist, a scripture and theology scholar, a translator and, I have heard, is quite the organist. As abbot primate of the Confederation, he is also the abbot of St. Anselm in Rome and chancellor of the Pontifical Athenaeum of St. Anselm and its Pontifical Liturgical Institute.

The 4th American to occupy this post, Abbot Gregory will tell us about the history of the order, his specific ministry as Abbot primate, what it means to be a monk and he looks at the growth of the order in the world.

IN THE UNITED STATES, you can listen to Vatican Insider (VI) on a Catholic radio station near you (stations listed at or on channel 130 Sirius-XM satellite radio, or on 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 ALWAYS CHECK YOUR OWN TIME ZONE! For VI archives: (write Vatican Insider where it says Search Shows and Episodes)


An eloquent, impassioned voice for the Catholic Church, particularly for relations between Catholics and Muslims, was silenced yesterday.

Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, president of the Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue, died in the United States on July 5 where he was being treated for Parkinson’s disease. (photo: vaticannnews)

Born in France, this Prince of the Church was at the Vatican for many years, serving in the Secretariat of State in particular. He was secretary of the nunciatures to the Dominican Republic and Lebanon, came back to Rome and over the years participated in special missions in Haiti, Beirut and Damascus and knew the Middle East especially well.

In 1990 he was appointed Secretary for Relations with States, and in 2003 was named Archivist and Librarian of Holy Roman Church. In 2007 Pope Benedict appointed him to head the Council for Inter-religious Dialogue.

Pope Francis on Saturday, December 20, 2014 named French Cardinal Jean Louis Tauran as Camerlengo of Holy Roman Church, replacing Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, who had turned 80 on December 2.

On March 13, 2013, as camerlengo, Cardinal Tauran announced the election of Cardinal Bergoglio who took the name Pope Francis:

And this is only the tip of a very large iceberg that is the cardinal’s years of service to the Church.

Cardinal Tauran, a true gentleman and a brilliant scholar, was considered one of the most knowledgeable and capable diplomats of generations of papal diplomats.

A reserved personality, he nonetheless always made a remarkable impact when he was a member or head of a Vatican delegation to international conferences. Cardinal Tauran was a terrific listener and yet, when he spoke in his soft voice, he made his audience become the good listeners. You knew you were listening to someone with vast knowledge of the topic he was speaking about, someone of great authority.

I had the wonderful great luck, in my years at the Vatican Information Service, to have interacted with Cardinal Tauran on a number of occasions. When he was Secretary for Relations with States, VIS was constantly writing news stories about his speeches, his interventions on the international stage, his meetings with foreign leaders and so on.

When he was made a cardinal, he was the first one I went to see during the afternoon courtesy visits.

In May 2004 I was one of six journalists chosen by Cardinal Tauran to join him in Doha, Qatar for the Qatar Conference on Muslim-Christian Dialogue.

Those were amazing days, not just the conference but breaking bread with the cardinal or sitting around in the lobby with my journalist colleagues, chatting away and asking questions of him like mad.

There is much more to say about those days and about Cardinal Tauran and his life and work and I’ll do so next week. I published an interview with him in the National Catholic Register, I did three stories for the Vatican Information Service and in later years, June of 2009, I interviewed him for Vatican Insider. I will re-air that conversation.

I admired and respected so very much about Cardinal Tauran – the man, the diplomat, and the humble priest who found time behind the scenes for personal charities and helping people and institutions. My esteem grew with every encounter.

What was most remarkable about Cardinal Tauran, certainly in these later years, was his indefatigable spirit, his endless love for the Church, for diplomacy, for trying to bring peace to a world that so badly needs it. He never stopped working. He was in his 11th year at the council for Inter-religious Dialogue, He seemed to be tireless, when it came to all things Church, notwithstanding the increasingly devastating effects of Parkinson’s.

And today he is resting in the Lord. RIP!



The Joint Committee of Al-Azhar Center for Dialogue and the Pontifical Council for inter-Religious Dialogue held a symposium at Al-Azhar University in Cairo on February 22-23 entitled, “The Role of Al Azhar Al-Sharif and the Vatican in Confronting the Phenomena of Fanaticism, Extremism and Violence.”

At the conclusion of the two-day symposium, the conferees issued the following statement:

In the framework of the joint cooperation between Al-Azhar Center for Dialogue and the Pontifical Council for Inter-Religious Dialogue, the two Councils held a symposium at Al-Azhar Al-Sharif in Cairo in the period between 22th and 23th of February 2017 titled: “The Role of Al-Azhar Al-Sharif and of the Vatican in Confronting the Phenomena of Fanaticism, Extremism and Violence.”

Representatives of Al-Azhar Center for Dialogue and the Pontifical Council for Inter-Religious Dialogue participated in the symposium. (photo:


The symposium was started by a speech of Professor Abbas Shauman, Deputy Al-Azhar, and Professor Mahmoud Hamdi Zakzouk, Head of Al-Azhar Center for Dialogue and a member of the Authority of Senior Scholars. Also, Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran delivered a speech.

The speeches of the symposium were delivered over two days. The participants presented six research papers, in Arabic and English, on the following points:

  1. First point: Fanaticism, its causes and ways to counter it.
  2. Second point: Extremism, its causes and ways to counter it.
  3. Third point: Violence, its causes and ways to counter it.

The symposium concluded with the following recommendations:

  1. The symposium recommends the significance of dialogue between Al-Azhar Al-Sharif and the Pontifical Council for inter-Religious Dialogue and activating the common human values to counter fanaticism, extremism and violence.
  2. The symposium recommends the importance of respecting the religious diversity.
  3. The symposium stresses the necessary of addressing causes of the phenomena of extremism, violence, poverty, ignorance and the political abuse of religion and incorrect understanding of religious texts.
  4. The symposium recommends the necessity of paying attentions to the issues that concern young people, opining dialogue channels with them, explaining correct concepts ordained by religions, training them and developing.
  5. The symposium reaffirms paying attentions to education curriculum that establish the common human values, taking into consideration women and youth issues and bearing the responsibility of caring for children.
  6. The symposium stresses the values of mercy, love and respecting other official values in countering extremism, violence and intolerance.
  7. The symposium stresses the necessary of difference management. Diversity in faith or sect does not mean to negate peaceful coexistence.
  8. The symposium stresses the importance of cooperation between Al-Azhar Center for Dialogue and the Pontifical Council for inter-Religious Dialogue in terms of promoting coexistence and communication with the decision makers to cooperate in the areas of security and development.
  9. The symposium confirms the position adopted by Al-Azhar Center for Dialogue and the Pontifical Council for inter-Religious Dialogue to consider dialogue as a basis for the relations between peoples, individuals, civilizations and religions in order to establish peace, security and stability. The symposium also rejects all forms of fanaticism, extremism and violence.
  10. We recommend that such symposium and meetings between Al-Azhar Center for Dialogue and the Pontifical Council for inter-Religious Dialogue for clearing any misconceptions and confirming the values of tolerance and easiness among the followers of religions.
  11. The symposium recommends all the international governments, organizations and authorities to cooperate with each other in countering extremist and violent groups. These groups have negatively impacted stability and peaceful coexistence among peoples.
  12. Assisting the call to alleviate violence and stress among the followers of religions in many countries of the world and eliminating the phenomenon of developing the spirit of hatred and animosity for religions and defaming religious symbols, since these are some hostile actions.
  13. Establishing serious cooperation to counter, in a realistic and applicable way, terrorism and terroristic organizations; working on drying their resources, stopping giving them supplies of money and weapons, closing the gates to the social communications before them in order to protect young people from its devastating ideologies.      (FROM:



Pope Francis tweeted today: God knows better than we do about what we need. We must have faith, because his ways are different from ours.

And yesterday: If evil is contagious, so is goodness. Let us be infected by goodness and let us spread goodness!


This morning the Holy Father welcomed the participants of an International Forum on Migration and Peace taking place in Rome, and told them the political community, civil society and the Church must offer a shared response to the complexities of the phenomenon of migration today, a response that “may be articulated by four verbs: to welcome, to protect, to promote and to integrate.” (photo


The two-day forum has been organized by the Dicastery for the Promotion of Integral Human Development in collaboration with the Scalbrini International Migration Network. Its theme is: “Integration and Development: From Reaction to Action.”  Francis said “development and integration were the very reason I wanted to establish the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, with a Section concerned exclusively for migrants, refugees and the victims of human trafficking.”

Pope Francis singled out particularly vulnerable group of migrants, exiles and refugees:  “children and young people who are forced to live far from their homeland and who are separated from their loved ones.”

“The beginning of this third millennium,” he stated, “is very much characterized by migratory movement which, in terms of origin, transit and destination, involves nearly every part of the world.  Unfortunately, in the majority of cases this movement is forced, caused by conflict, natural disasters, persecution, climate change, violence, extreme poverty and inhumane living conditions: The sheer number of people migrating from one continent to another, or shifting places within their own countries and geographical areas, is striking. 

To welcome.  “Rejection is an attitude we all share; it makes us see our neighbour not as a brother or sister to be accepted, but as unworthy of our attention, a rival, or someone to be bent to our will” (Address to the Diplomatic Corps, 12 January 2015).  Faced with this kind of rejection, rooted ultimately in self-centredness and amplified by populist rhetoric, what is needed is a change of attitude, to overcome indifference and to counter fears with a generous approach of welcoming those who knock at our doors.  For those who flee conflicts and terrible persecutions, often trapped within the grip of criminal organisations who have no scruples, we need to open accessible and secure humanitarian channels.  A responsible and dignified welcome of our brothers and sisters begins by offering them decent and appropriate shelter.  The enormous gathering together of persons seeking asylum and of refugees has not produced positive results.  Instead these gatherings have created new situations of vulnerability and hardship.  More widespread programmes of welcome, already initiated in different places, seem to favour a personal encounter and allow for greater quality of service and increased guarantees of success.

To protect.  My predecessor, Pope Benedict, highlighted the fact that the migratory experience often makes people more vulnerable to exploitation, abuse and violence (cf. Benedict XVI, Message for the World Day of Migrants and Refugees, 18 October 2005).  We are speaking about millions of migrant workers, male and female – and among these particularly men and women in irregular situations – of those exiled and seeking asylum, and of those who are victims of trafficking.  Defending their inalienable rights, ensuring their fundamental freedoms and respecting their dignity are duties from which no one can be exempted.  Protecting these brothers and sisters is a moral imperative which translates into adopting juridical instruments, both international and national, that must be clear and relevant; implementing just and far reaching political choices; prioritising constructive processes, which perhaps are slower, over immediate results of consensus; implementing timely and humane programmes in the fight against “the trafficking of human flesh” which profits off others’ misfortune; coordinating the efforts of all actors, among which, you may be assured will always be the Church.

To promote.  Protecting is not enough.  What is required is the promotion of an integral human development of migrants, exiles and refugees.  This “takes place by attending to the inestimable goods of justice, peace, and the care of creation” (Apostolic Letter Humanam Progressionem, 17 August 2016).  Development, according to the social doctrine of the Church (cf. Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, 373-374), is an undeniable right of every human being.  As such, it must be guaranteed by ensuring the necessary conditions for its exercise, both in the individual and social context, providing fair access to fundamental goods for all people and offering the possibility of choice and growth.  Also here a coordinated effort is needed, one which envisages all the parties involved: from the political community to civil society, from international organisations to religious institutions.  The human promotion of migrants and their families begins with their communities of origin.  That is where such promotion should be guaranteed, joined to the right of being able to emigrate, as well as the right to not be constrained to emigrate.”

To integrate.  Integration, which is neither assimilation nor incorporation, is a two-way process, rooted essentially in the joint recognition of the other’s cultural richness: it is not the superimposing of one culture over another, nor mutual isolation, with the insidious and dangerous risk of creating ghettoes.  Concerning those who arrive and who are duty bound not to close themselves off from the culture and traditions of the receiving country, respecting above all its laws, the family dimension of the process of integration must not be overlooked: for this reason I feel the need to reiterate the necessity, often presented by the Magisterium (cf. John Paul II, Message for World Migration Day, 15 August 1986), of policies directed at favouring and benefiting the reunion of families.  With regard to indigenous populations, they must be supported, by helping them to be sufficiently aware of and open to processes of integration which, though not always simple and immediate, are always essential and, for the future, indispensable.  This requires specific programmes, which foster significant encounters with others.  Furthermore, for the Christian community, the peaceful integration of persons of various cultures is, in some way, a reflection of its catholicity, since unity, which does not nullify ethnic and cultural diversity, constitutes a part of the life of the Church, who in the Spirit of Pentecost is open to all and desires to embrace all (cf. John Paul II, Message for World Migration Day, 5 August 1987).

The Pope closed his lengthy address by highlighting “a duty of solidarity.  In the face of tragedies which take the lives of so many migrants and refugees – conflicts, persecutions, forms of abuse, violence, death – expressions of empathy and compassion cannot help but spontaneously well-up. ‘Where is your brother’? (Gen 4:9): this question which God asks of man since his origins, involves us, especially today with regard to our brothers and sisters who are migrating: “This is not a question directed to others; it is a question directed to me, to you, to each of us” (Homily at the “Arena” Sports Camp, Salina Quarter, Lampedusa, 8 July 2013).  Solidarity is born precisely from the capacity to understand the needs of our brothers and sisters who are in difficulty and to take responsibility for these needs.  Upon this, in short, is based the sacred value of hospitality, present in religious traditions.  For us Christians, hospitality offered to the weary traveller is offered to Jesus Christ himself, through the newcomer: “I was a stranger and you welcomed me” (Mt 25:35).  The duty of solidarity is to counter the throwaway culture and give greater attention to those who are weakest, poorest and most vulnerable.  Thus “a change of attitude towards migrants and refugees is needed on the part of everyone, moving away from attitudes of defensiveness and fear, indifference and marginalization – all typical of a throwaway culture – towards attitudes based on a culture of encounter, the only culture capable of building a better, more just and fraternal world” (Message for the World Day of Migrants and Refugees, 5 August 2013).


(Vatican Radio) The Pontifical Council For Interreligious Dialogue has announced that council president, Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, accompanied by Bishop Miguel Ángel Ayuso Guixot, secretary, and Msgr. Khaled Akasheh, head of the Office for Islam, will be in Cairo, Egypt, on February 22-23, to participate at a seminar at the University of Al-Azhar, with the theme: “The role of al-Azhar al-Sharif and of the Vatican in countering the phenomena of fanaticism, extremism and violence in the name of religion.”

The cardinal president will lead the Catholic delegation, which will also include Archbishop Bruno Musarò, apostolic nuncio to Egypt.


After the historic meeting between Pope Francis and the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, Professor Ahmad Al-Tayyib on 23 May 2016, the Secretary of the Dicastery has travelled to Cairo several times, where he participated in many meetings and preliminary preparations for this event.

This meeting will conclude on the vigil of the anniversary of the visit of Pope St. John Paul II to Al-Azhar, which took place on February 24, 2000.



The menu in the next day or two will be a bit sparse as every waking hour is filled with events, meetings, interviews, symposiums, receptions, etc., leaving little or no time to write in between (and this includes evening events). I will then be taking a few days off but always check this column as well as my Facebook page ( because I’ll update you – even if only briefly) on important news, especially on Friday when I’ll talk about my weekend guest on “Vatican Insider.”

Friday, March 13 is also the second anniversary of Pope Francis’ election to the papacy!  Doesn’t seem possible at times!

And some news about that day: The Office of Liturgical Celebrations of the Supreme Pontiff today announced that the Holy Father will preside at the rite of reconciliation of penitents, with individual confession and absolution, on Friday, March 13 at 5 p.m in St. Peter’s Basilica.

Sunday afternoon, International Women’s Day, I spent well over five hours in the Vatican at an event, “Voices of Faith,” that brought together talented, inspiring Catholic women of faith from around the world to talk about their experiences in reaching out to the world’s poor and marginalized, to the un-schooled, to those living in countries where they are threatened by terror groups, to women especially who are victims of human trafficking in so many places in the world.

Some truly remarkable women spoke the first two-hour segment of the afternoon as they explained their experiences with trafficked women, with trying to save women and girls from ISIS, with offering education possibilites to thousands of refugees around the world. And many more compelling stories. There was one male voice in the choir, that of a Jesuit priest from Nigeria who, as he told the story of his efforts to rescue the girls kidnapped so many months ago by Boko Haram terrorists and his letter to the nation’s president, became very emotional, with a similar ripple effect in the audience.

The second part of the afternoon featured a period of about an hour where four women, including a theologian, former Swedish ambassador to the Holy See, a Vatican Radio staff member and a doctor, spoke of their experience in (or with) the Catholic Church (one is Lutheran and one guest was a convert) as well as their hopes and dreams for the role of women in the Church.

Voices of Faith was organized by Chantal Goetz, the executive director of the Goetz Foundation and also the founder of Voices of Faith. This unique event, now in its second edition, was held in the Casina Pio IV, a beautiful and historic building in the Vatican gardens that houses the Pontifical Academies of Science and Social Sciences.

I will bring you the individual stories (video and photos), one by one, in coming weeks but if you want a preview of the people whose lives, ministries and stories mesmerized so many of us, click here:

Time now for just a few highlights from Sunday and this morning: Pope Francis’ Angelus reflections on Sunday, March 8, International Women’s Day, the visit to the Vatican by the Belgian royal couple on Monday, Cardinal Tauran’s being sworn in as Camerlengo and the ransom demand asked of the Vatican!


In reflections after reciting the Angelus on Sunday, March 8, Pope Francis greeted “all the women throughout the world who are seeking, every day, to build a more human and welcoming society. And a fraternal thank you to those who in a thousands ways bear witness to the Gospel and work in the Church.”

March 8th is traditionally celebrated around the world as International Women’s Day.

He explained that this special day is “an opportunity to reaffirm the importance and the necessity of their presence in life. A world where women are marginalized is a barren world, because women not only bring life, but they also give us the ability to see beyond – they see beyond themselves – and they transmit to us the ability to understand the world through different eyes, to hear things with more creative, more patient, more tender hearts. A prayer and a special blessing for all women present here in the square and for all women! Greetings!”


This morning in the Apostolic Palace, Pope Francis welcomed to the Vatican King Philippe and Queen Mathilde of Belgium who, after a cordial meeting and exchange of gifts. subsequently met with Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin and Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher, secretary for Relations with States.


“During the cordial discussions,” said a Vatican communique, “the good bilateral relations between Belgium and the Holy See were confirmed. Attention was then paid to matters of mutual interest, such as social cohesion, the education of the young, the phenomenon of migration and the importance of intercultural and interreligious dialogue. Mention was then made of various problems of an international nature, with special reference to the future prospects of the European continent.”

Queen Mathilde was sporting crutches during the visit, following a fall some weeks ago, and was assisted in walking or sitting in a chair. Nothing seemed to dampen the s of the Belgian royals, nor that of a smiling Pope Francis.


This morning in the Urban VIII Chapel of the Apostolic Palace, Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, took the oath as Camerlengo or chamberlain of Holy Roman Church. He was appointed on December 20, 2014.

Holy See Press Office director, Fr. Federico Lombardi, explained that Pope Francis presided over the short liturgy for this occasion, reading the liturgical texts provided, though not making a speech. Cardinal Tauran read the text of the oath, and then briefly spoke some words of thanks. In the event of the “sede vacante,” the vacant see that occurs with the death or resignation of the Pope, the Camerlengo is one of only two officials who retain their positions in the Vatican administration. His role is to administer the temporal goods of the Church until the election of a new Pope. The Camerlengo also verifies the pontiff’s death and then destroying his ring.

Click here to see Cardinal Tauran’s bio from the Vatican website:


Here is the ransom story so far: (combined reports; the Guardian, AP) – The Vatican admitted Sunday that it had received a ransom demand in exchange for the return of two documents written by the great Renaissance artist Michelangelo that were stolen from its archives almost 20 years ago.

The Rev. Federico Lombardi said the Vatican had recently been offered the return of the documents in exchange for a payment, but that officials have refused. Instead, Lombardi said the matter has been turned over to the Vatican gendarmerie for further investigation.

The ransom demand was first reported by the Italian newspaper Il Messaggero. The paper said that the demand had been made by a person it described as a “former Vatican employee” and added that the person had asked for 100,000 euros ($108,600).

According to Lombardi, the documents were stolen in 1997, when a nun who worked in the Vatican archives informed church officials that they had disappeared. It is not clear why the theft was never made public. The Guardian reported that the documents, one of which bears Michelangelo’s signature, were taken from the archive of the department responsible for the upkeep of St. Peter’s Basilica.

Michelangelo was appointed architect of St. Peter’s Basilica in 1546 at the age of 72. He died eighteen years later in 1564, and the cathedral was not consecrated for another 62 years.


I am taking a few days off during the Christmas season so this column will be sporadic – but always feel free to check in, as well as to visit my Facebook page ( where I will be posting photos of Christmas in Roman, the nativity scenes around the city, etc. Tomorrow, this column will not appear but I will be working to prepare my weekend radio show, “Vatican Insider,” and will also be live at 9:39 (ET) with Teresa Tomeo on our weekly get-together on “Catholic Connection” (but coming to you a day earlier than our usual Wednesday appointment. I’ll also be off Christmas Eve and Christmas Day!

Although things have improved immmensely, I am still being treated for phlebitis and my doctor cautioned against air travel, especially a long trip to California. I missed Christmas with family last year as well because of eye surgery. However, when God gives you a lemon, you make limoncello! I am determined to make this a beautiful, memorable Christmas – my house is decorated and I have put up a wonderful tree, including ornaments from my grandmother, ones Mom and Dad bought over the years as we were growing up and many beautiful ones I have collected on travels or received as gifts. It took longer than usual to decorate the tree, simply because I was lost in the flood of memories of beautiful Christmases past as I unwrapped each ornament!

I am excited about hosting friends for turkey dinner on Christmas Day, and have put gifts under the tree for them. My biggest gifts are my friends, those who will be with me Christmas day and the many others I will see or host at my home over the Christmas seasons.

In lieu of sending Christmas cards to family and friends around the word, I am making some special purchases to bring to Archbishop Konrad Krajewski, the papal almoner who is in charge of the papal blessings office and the Pope’s point man for distributing papal charity. You may have seen the news that the Vatican is building three showers for the homeless in space that is adjacent to the public bathrooms, just off the right hand colonnade of St. Peter’s Square. Bit by bit, I am buying quantities of underwear and socks to bring to the archbishop as these items, along with towels, will be needed when a homeless person showers. This is, in a way, a Christmas gift to Pope Francis whose idea this was!

I will miss everyone in my family, of course, especially the little ones, two of whom I have not met: Charlotte, 14 months old and Harry, 2 months old! He is Number 20 of my great nieces and nephews!

Here they are, in all their splendor. I have several photos of Harry but seem unable to process them for this column.

My niece, Susan Tompkins Smith has three children – Austin, Jr (AJ), Nathan and Charlotte.SMITH CHILDREN


Charlotte was a San Diego Charger fan even when very little:SMITH FAMILY - young Charger fan

Harry is the first child for my youngest niece, Julie Lewis Stauter and Jeff. I have a feeling he will be a Chicago Bears fan! He has the Lewis trademark red hair and blue eyes!HARRY STAUTER

For important Vatican and papal news, you can always access for updates. The Roman Curia holdays are December 24 through the 27, then December 31 and January 1. Many officials and staff members take advantage of those six days, and add a few to create a 10-day or two week vacation period but, as you will see, many of my colleagues in the Vatican media will be working to keep you posted on all events.

Today, I offer you a nutshell version of Pope Francis’ talk to officials of the Roman Curia, a link to his entire, surprising speech, and also a link to his words to employees of Vatican City and the Roman Curia and their family members.

I’ve been so involved in work and in plans for my own holidays that I did not realize that I could have (should have) attended this audience as “retired” Vatican employees were more than welcome! I discovered when I went to Vatican City this morning that the post offices, grocery store, and health services were all closed (the bank was open) so that employees could participate. The errands I intended to run this morning are now on my agenda for tomorrow morning.

Do you want to make God laugh? Tell Him your plans for the day!

I have some gifts for you, as you will see: The first is the must-read “ONE SOLITARY LIFE,” and I follow that with several stories that truly reflect the spirit and beauty of the Christmas Season – all this after the Vatican stories!

P.S: Only 5,000 more hits and my video of the dancing seminarians will hit 2 million views!

Before I close this special Christmas column, I’d like to wish all my readers and radio listeners and TV viewers a blessed, beautiful and holy Christmas and a happy, healthy New Year filled with many special moments and people. God sit on your shoulder!


Not many smiling faces this morning after the first few minutes of Pope Francis’ Christmas greetings to the top officials of the Roman Curia, those who head the congregations, councils, commissions, tribunals, etc, Below is a nutshell account of the papal talk by Vatican radio, a talk that several media defined as “a blistering critique” of the Curia. After his meeting with Curia officials, the Holy Father greeted employees of Vatican City and the Roman Curia.

For more on those talks, please click here:

Pope Francis received the heads and other senior officials of the departments of the Roman Curia on Monday, in their traditional exchange of Christmas greetings. In remarks prepared for the occasion and delivered Monday morning, the Holy Father focused on the need for those who serve in the curia – especially those in positions of power and authority – to remember and cultivate an attitude and a spirit of service.

“Sometimes,” said Pope Francis, “[Officials of the Curia] feel themselves ‘lords of the manor’ [It. padroni] – superior  to everyone and everything,” forgetting that the spirit, which should animate them in their lives of service to the universal Church, is one of humility and generosity, especially in view of the fact that none of us will live forever on this earth.

This “disease” of  feeling “immortal” or “essential” – irreplaceable – was one of fifteen maladies, which Pope Francis identified during the course of his address: from a tendency to prefer Martha’s portion over Mary’s, to over-planning (and micromanaging), to wearing being a perpetual downer and wearing a “funeral face” all the day long.

“These and other maladies and temptations,” said Pope Francis, “are a danger for every Christian and for any administrative organization, community, congregation, parish, ecclesial movement, etc., and can strike at both the individual and the corporate level.”

“It is the Holy Spirit,” continued the Holy Father, “who sustains every sincere effort at purification and every authentic desire for conversion. He is the one, who makes us understand that every member participates in the sanctification of the [mystical] body [of Christ, which is the Church], and to its corruption.”

“Therefore,” said Pope Francis, “we are called in this Christmas season and for the whole period of our service – for so long as we exist – to live, ‘[according to] truth in charity, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by every joint with which it is supplied, when each part is working properly, makes bodily growth and up-builds itself in love’(Eph. 4:15-16).”


Pope Francis on Saturday, December 20, named Cardinal Jean Louis Tauran as Camerlengo of Holy Roman Church, replacing Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, who turned 80 on December 2 and therefore cannot participate in a conclave. The much-admired and highly respected French cardinal was for years under John Paul II the extraordinarily able Secretary for Relations with States.

As Camerlengo (chamberlain) he is the administrator of the property and revenues of the Holy See during the Sede Vacante (vacant see – from which we get our word ‘vacancy’) or during the absence of the Pope, doing so without taking extraordinary initiatives. Upon the death of a Pope, the camerlengo’s task is to certify the death and inform the cardinal vicar of Rome, who is entrusted with the task of revealing the news to the people. The camerlengo takes possession of the Ring of the Fisherman and destroys it and all other papal seals. He seals off the papal apartments in the Apostolic Palace in the Vatican, in the Lateran Palace and in Castelgandolfo.

This marks the beginning of the sede vacante, a period when the camerlengo prepares the papal funeral and subsequent nine days of mourning, the ”novendialis.” The camerlengo also starts to prepare the pre-conclave General Congregations, which are chaired by the cardinal-deacon of the College of Cradinals. Today, that is Cardinal Angelo Sodano, 87. During the sede vacante, the camerlengo’s coat of arms, composed of 30 red ribbons like all cardinals, is also topped with the banner of the Pope and two crossed keys that are surmounted by the papal tiara.

During the sede vacante, the camerlengo can also mint new coins that, even if they have legal tender, will never be put in circulation as they are exclusively intended for collectors. The coins portray his coat of arms, with the words “Sede Vacante” and the year of issue.

Cardinal Tauran, president of the Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue, has been a close collaborator of Pope Francis in his reform of the Roman Curia and IOR, the Vatican bank. (some background from AGI)


This powerful Christmas column by late columnist Jimmy Bishop will surely leave you speechless for its beauty, simplicity and yet depth of understanding. Here is the Christ of Christmas! Andy Williams recited this in one of his Christmas albums (which is where I first heard it) and you can listen to it online.

“He was born in an obscure village, the Child of a peasant teen who knew not man. He grew up in another obscure village, where He worked in a carpenter shop until He was thirty. Then for three years He was an itinerant preacher. He never married or owned a home. He never held a job, yet paid taxes. He never set foot inside a metropolis. He never traveled two hundred miles from the place He was born. He never wrote a book, or held an office. He did none of the things that usually accompany greatness. He received no awards, no medals, no prizes from His peers.

“While He was still a young man, the tide of popular opinion turned against Him. His friends deserted Him. He was turned over to His enemies, and went through the mockery of a trial. He had no lawyers, no friendly juries, no fair hearing. He was nailed to a cross between two thieves. While He was dying, His executioners gambled for the only piece of property He had – His cloak. After He died, He was taken down and laid in a borrowed grave. Those who stood watch could not explain His disappearance.

“And yet two thousand years have come and gone, and today He is still the central figure for much of the human race. All the armies that ever marched and al the navies that ever sailed and all the parliaments that ever sat and all the kings that ever reigned, put together, have not affected the life of man upon this earth as powerfully as this ‘One Solitary Life’.”


Here are three smaller gifts for you, three heartwarming stories that reflect the beauty and spirit of Christmas. The video, “Mary, Did You know?” is a must see, truly. It has had 14 million views and you find that you drop whatever you are doing just to listen!

POPE DONATES SLEEPING BAGS TO HOMELESS: Archbishop Konrad Krajewski, the papal almoner, supervised the distribution of hundreds of sleeping bags to the homeless of Rome, as a gift from Pope Francis, on December 18. Swiss Guards drove a minibus around the city on Wednesday evening, stopping at sites where homeless people are known the gather, handing out the sleeping bags—which were decorated with the papal insignia. Nearly 400 were distributed.

STUDENT RAISES THOUSANDS FOR HOMELESS MAN WHO OFFERED HER TAXI MONEY (The Guardian – Abby Young-Powell): An art student living in Preston has raised over £21,000 for a homeless man after she says he offered her his last £3 so that she could get a taxi home safely.

Dominique Harrison-Bentzen, who studies at the University of Central Lancashire, says she had lost her bank card and needed to get home after a night out when the homeless man, known only as Robbie, offered money to help. The 22-year-old says she declined the offer, but was so moved by his gesture that she started a campaign to raise enough money to help him get a flat. She set up a donation page and asked people to each donate £3 for her fundraiser, which involved spending the night on the street, along with supporters who had heard about her story through social media.

Harrison-Bentzen says: “I suddenly realised that I had no money and a homeless man approached me with his only change of £3. He insisted I took it to pay for a taxi to make sure I got home safe. I was touched by such a kind gesture from a man who faces ignorance every day, so I set on a mission to find this man. The more I spoke about him the more kind gestures I learned about him, such as him returning wallets untouched to pedestrians and offering his scarf to keep people warm.

“He has been homeless for 7 months through no fault of his own and needs to get back on his feet but cannot get work due to having no address. So that’s when I decided to change Robbie’s life and help him, as he has helped many others.” The campaign has received global attention, going viral on social media. Since the donation page was set up, it has frequently reported technical difficulties due to “an unusually high number of visitors”. Many have tweeted their support, including Ian Brown of the Stone Roses.

A CAPPELLA GROUP OFFERS INCREDIBLE CHRISTMAS TRIBUTE TO MARY: The a cappella group Pentatonix has released an incredible rendition of the hymn “Mary, Did You Know?“, set in a candlelit cave with no instruments but their voices. It currently has over 14 million views on YouTube. What a beautiful Christmas tribute to Mary! With only five members, the group Pentatonix is one of the most popular musical acts of this Christmas season. Pentatonix was formed in 2011 when they competed and became the victors of the TV show “The Sing-Off,” before rising to global fame.



My guests this week on “Vatican Insider” are Jeff and Alice Heinzen of the diocese of La Crosse in Wisconsin who recently spent a hectic, work-filled two weeks in Rome as participants in the October synod on the family. Their talk introduced the afternoon session on Tuesday, October 7 during the first week of the synod. That session was dedicated to discussions on pastoral programs designed to meet the challenges facing families.

Alice is director of the diocesan Office for Marriage and Family Life and Jeff is president of McDonell Catholic Schools in Chippewa Falls. Listen to their fascinating take on the synod – their work, what they saw and heard.

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It then asks: “What do the president of Russia, the richest man in China and the first woman ever to head a Big 8 automaker have in common? They’re all featured on Forbes’ 2014 ranking of the World’s Most Powerful People – an annual snapshot of the heads of state, CEOs, financiers, philanthropists and entrepreneurs who truly run the world.

“The list represents the collective wisdom of FORBES editors and advisors, who consider hundreds of nominees before ranking the planet’s 72 power brokers — one for every 100 million on Earth. We measure their power along four dimensions.

“First, we ask whether the candidate has power over lots of people. Pope Francis is the spiritual leader of 1.2 billion Catholics, or about 1/6th of the world’s population. As another example, Doug McMillon, new CEO of Wal-Mart, employs 2.2 million people and is the top private employer on the planet.

To read the rest of the article, click here:


Pope Francis this morning addressed the bishops, friends of the Focolare Movement from different countries around the world as they meet for their annual autumn event. Joining them were representatives from different churches and ecclesial communities. This year’s conference theme was “The Eucharist, mystery of communion.”

The Holy Father emphasized that today’s troubled world needs a “clear testimony of unity between Christians and an explicit declaration of esteem, respect and, more precisely, fraternity between us.” He added, “indeed, if we intend to endeavor as Christians, to respond incisively to the many problems and crises of our time, it is necessary to speak and act as brothers, so that everyone can easily recognize us as such. This too,” said Francis, “is a way – perhaps for us the first – of responding to the globalization of indifference with a globalization of solidarity and fraternity.”

In particular, the Holy Father underscored issues that call for a re-awakening of consciences, namely “the lack of freedom to publicly express one’s religion and to live openly in accordance with Christian ethics; the persecution of Christians and other minorities; the sad phenomenon of terrorism; the refugee crisis caused by wars and other reasons; the challenge of fundamentalism and, at the other extreme, exasperated secularism.”

The Pope said these issues challenge us to “seek with renewed effort, with constancy and patience, the ways that lead to unity, so that the world might believe, and so that we first may be filled with confidence and courage. Among these paths there is a special route, and it is the Eucharist as the mystery of communion. … There, in the Eucharist, we are clearly aware that unity is a gift, and at the same time it is a very serious responsibility.”


Pope Francis this morning addressed participants in the national assembly of the Italian Confederation of Major Superiors (CISM) and shared with them some points of reference for their path.

He pointed out that religious life helps the Church to achieve the “attraction” that enables her to grow. This is seen, he said, when the lay faithful witness a person who truly lives a religious life, and ask: “What is there here?” “What is it that leads this person beyond a worldly horizon?” The religious brother or sister thus “attracts.”

He urged religious to give prophetic witness of an evangelical life, saying “a prophetic witness coincides with sanctity. It is holiness that makes the Church grow. True prophecy is never ideological, it does not oppose the institution: it is institutional. …It does not follow fashion, but is always a sign of contradiction according to the Gospel, like Jesus was.”

“Please,” exhorted the Pope, “may there not be among you the terrorism of gossip, of small talk. Get rid of it! May there be fraternity! If you have something against your brother, tell him to his face. You might even end up in fisticuffs but that’s not a problem. That is better than the ‘terrorism’ of gossip.”

He said that charisms must be lived and made fruitful: “Charisms must not to be conserved like a bottle of distilled water, but must instead be made to bear fruit, with courage, placed at the service of current reality, of cultures, of history, as the great missionaries of our institutes teach us.”

”Fraternity,” said Francis, “is a sign that religious life must offer in our time, a time in which the dominant culture is individualistic and focused on subjective rights. Consecrated life can help the Church and society as a whole, offering witness of fraternity, that it is possible to live together as brothers in diversity, because in the community one does not put oneself first, but rather one finds oneself with people who are different in terms of character, age, formation, sensibility … and yet we seek to live as brothers. Of course we do not always succeed, but one recognizes one’s mistakes, asks for forgiveness and forgives others. This is good for the Church, …and for all of society.”


(Vatican Radio) – Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, president of the Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue has denounced the assassination of a young couple in Pakistan, who had been accused of blasphemy. In an interview with Vatican Radio, the cardinal added that he was “shocked” by the “barbarous acts.”

According to the couple’s Christian lawyer, the young Shahzad and Shama Masih were beaten by an angry Muslim mob on Tuesday and then burned alive. Police instead report the young couple was beaten to death and then their bodies burned.

“Obviously, one remains speechless before such barbarous acts,” said Cardinal Tauran. “And what is worse is that religion is invoked in a specific way. A religion cannot justify such acts, such crimes. There is this law on blasphemy, the ‘blasphemy law’, which poses a problem.”

The cardinal noted that there have been about 60 executions under the blasphemy law since it was adopted. He called for some international intervention in the matter, saying that a minimum of humanity and solidarity is required and that dialogue is necessary.

Since direct intervention in Pakistan’s domestic affairs is not appropriate, said the cardinal, legislators must be helped to understand that laws must respect the dignity of the person.

Cardinal Tauran said the Church must denounce such violent acts publicly, with consistency and force. He said he hopes Muslim leaders will do the same, especially because Muslims are victimized by these acts of violence as well, as they give a very negative image of Islam.

“Therefore, it is in their interest to denounce such acts in a vigorous manner,” he said.

The cardinal said solidarity is the way to continue giving hope to Christians facing daily threats and violence. He also underlined some encouraging and well-received initiatives by the Church in the Middle East.

“We need to bet on fraternity,” he said, “which is the theme of the World Day of Peace.”