I attended the funeral Mass this morning in St. Peter’s Basilica for the late, much- loved and respected Slovak Cardinal Jozef Tomko. I have been in Rome long enough, including the years I worked at the Vatican, to see many of the great men who loved and tirelessly served the Church and the Roman Curia for many years go on to their eternal reward.

Cardinals such as Roger Etchegaray, Bernardin Gantin and Jean-Louis Tauran, to name only two. I’d have to name even John Joseph Wright who died in August 1979, the first American ever to head a congregation in the Roman Curia, whose secretary I was for four years.

As you will see in my slideshow of photos, I was just rows behind Pope Francis who was seated in an armchair. He had been brought into the basilica in his wheelchair through what is known as the Prayer Door and Diplomat’s Door, the same door I used earlier to enter the basilica. This entrance to St. Peter’s is just across a small square from the Santa Marta residence.

When I arrived at 10:30, a half hour before Mass, the funeral car was at the basilica entrance, guarded by two Swiss Guards and two Vatican gendarmes and a Gentleman of His Holiness.

I was brought up very close to the front of the left section of pews at the Altar of the Chair. Part of the right side of pews is reserved for members of the Diplomatic Corps accredited to the Vatican. A choir had been singing at the altar and a bishop was leading prayers as I sat down.

Dozens of cardinals and bishops, including prelates from Eastern rites, processed into the sanctuary for the funeral mass. Cardinal Tomko’s casket was in front of the altar. He will be buried in his native Slovakia.

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Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, dean of the College of Cardinals, presided at Mass and gave a perfectly beautiful homily, describing the cardinal to a tee. I was very moved as I thought of the times I had met Cardinal Tomko over the years, most of them very brief encounters, often just a casual meeting as I was out on an errand he was out on a walk.

One meeting does stand out. I was at a reception in 1995, shortly before my departure on the Vatican delegation to Beijing for the U.S. conference on Women. As we chatted, I told the cardinal that I was on the Vatican delegation to China and very excited about the upcoming trip. He took my hand and said, with a broad smile on his face, “Signora, if you need someone to carry your luggage, you know where to find me!”

I knew he yearned to get to China but he well knew conditions were not optimal for the visit of such a high-ranking person from the Vatican. He wished me well – the entire delegation, in fact – and said I should rest assured he would pray daily for us.

I had two meetings at the end of Mass.

Polish Dominican Fr. Wojciech Giertych, theologian of the Papal Household, after speaking to two Missionaries of Charity, spotted me and came over to shake my hand, saying “You are with EWTN, right? I just had a great interview with your Fr. Mitch Pacwa!” We spoke briefly after that and then I went to greet some nuns.

I wanted to thank the Sisters of St. Vincent de Paul for their loving care of Cardinal Tomko for years. Seems a number of people had the same idea. I did speak with one of the sisters and both of us got a little emotional at the same time. I thanked her and she gave me a big hug and asked what my name was. I said Joan, Giovanna in Italian. She said that was her name as well and gave me another hug!

It was a sad but also a beautiful morning. I was in the basilica for about two and half hours, attending Mass, then saying a rosary while waiting to go to confession.

I always feel so peaceful in St. Peter’s. There is something that is so calming for me as I sit at a favorite chapel or say a rosary or go to Mass or confession or just ponder beauty. The majesty of this basilica is no longer intimidating, it is inspiring.


Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re celebrated the funeral Mass for the late Cardinal Jozef Tomko, and recalled the faithful and fruitful service to the Church and the Pope by the former prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples.

By Sophie Peeters (vaticannews)

Pope Francis, on Thursday morning, participated privately at the funeral Mass of the late Cardinal Jozef Tomko, celebrated at the Altar of the Chair in St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican. He presided over the funeral rites of Commendatio and Valedictio for the late Slovakian Cardinal. (Vatican photo)

Cardinal Jozef Tomko died on August 8 in his apartment in Rome at the age of 98. He was created a cardinal in 1985 by Pope John Paul II and was the prefect emeritus of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples.

Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, the Dean of the College of Cardinals, presided over the Mass.

A life of service
In his homily, Cardinal Re recalled that the long and intense life of Cardinal Tomko was consecrated to the service of God and of his brothers and sisters and dedicated to service in the Roman Curia.

This service, Cardinal Re continued, was carried out with a great balance in judgments, calmness, good sense, amiability and the finesse of his traits, always with the sense of the dedication to the “call to serve.”

After being unable to return to the archdiocese of Kosice in his home country of Slovakia* due to the communist government’s opposition to the Catholic Church, Tomko was ordained a priest in Rome in 1949 and was hired at the Congregation of the Holy Office in 1962.

His service to the Roman Curia continued as the undersecretary of the Congregation for Bishops in 1974, and then appointed by Pope John Paul II as secretary general of the Synod of Bishops in 1979 where his understanding and knowledge of the universal Church grew.

In 1985, he was appointed prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples and became cardinal soon afterwards.

‘Apostolic spirit’

In his homily, Cardinal Re said Tomko’s prolific life embodied the great missionary and apostolic spirit.

His work was dedicated to the creation of numerous new dioceses, the construction of new churches, education centres, social centres, and the development of the missionary cooperation of the Pontifical Mission Societies in many countries, while “always putting Christ at the center in his interventions and manifesting great spirit of openness to peoples, their cultures, their traditions, and sense of universality.”

His legacy of service and love for others, Cardinal Re affirmed, serves as a model for us “to complete our earthly journey in unswerving fidelity and in a never-failing momentum of service to the Church and our brothers and sisters, to which Cardinal Tomko left us edifying testimony.”

*at the time Tomko came to Rome, the country was Czechoslovakia



Just in: Following is the papal telegram sent by Pope Francis to Archbishop Bernard Bober of Kosice, Slovakia with a copy to Msgr. Jan Dubina of the Office of Liturgical Celebrations of the Supreme Pontiff, Vatican City. Cardinal Tomko will be buried in Kosice.

“In learning the news of the death of Cardinal Jozef Tomko, illustrious of this land, I wish to express to members of his family, to you, to the priests and to all the faithful my closeness and my condolences for the mourning that has struck the ecclesial community and the Slovak nation. In remembering this appreciated and wise brother who, supported by deep faith and a far-sighted gaze, served the Gospel and the Church with humility and self-denial, I think with gratitude of his long and fruitful work in the Holy See as a diligent and prudent collaborator of my predecessors. I also think of his prayerful spirit that saw him, at an advanced age, remain assiduous at the daily evening recitation of the rosary in St. Peter’s Square, giving pilgrims and tourists a beautiful and public testimony of love for the Holy Virgin. I ask the Lord to welcome this faithful servant of his to heavenly Jerusalem, and I cordially impart my blessing to those who mourn his departure, with a thought of gratitude for the Sisters of Mercy of St. Vincent de Paul Satma’rok who took such thoughtful care of him.”



You will really want to read this excellent piece by Bishop Robert Barron. You’ll probably end up wondering why we have not been inundated with similar cogent statements from more bishops. Our Catholic President and the Most Pressing Moral Issue of Our Time – Word on Fire


CARDINAL JOZEF TOMKO DIES AT 98 – Cardinal Jozef Tomko, prefect emeritus of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, died in Rome at 5 a.m. on Monday, 8 August, aged 98. The Slovak-born Cardinal was the oldest member of the College of Cardinals. He was created a Cardinal in 1985 by Pope John Paul II. Cardinal Tomko died in his apartment in Rome, where he was cared for by the Sisters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul. He had been admitted to Rome’s Gemelli hospital on June 25 due to an injury to his cervical spine, and he had returned home on Saturday, August 6, to continue his in-home care, with a dedicated nurse. CONTINUE: Cardinal Jozef Tomko dies at 98 – Vatican News

POPE PRAYS FOR VICTIMS OF MASSIVE BLAZE AT CUBAN FUEL DEPOT – In a telegram, Pope Francis conveys his closeness and prays for those affected by a huge fire, caused by lightning strikes on the Matanzas Supertanker Base in Cuba. Pope Francis has expressed his closeness to the Cuban people and the loved ones of those affected by the massive oil-fed fire at Cuba’s Supertanker port in Matanzas over the weekend. The blaze began on Friday night after lightning struck a fuel storage tank at a depot in Matanzas. The fire spread to a second storage tank on Saturday morning, triggering further explosions. As of Sunday, Cuba appeared to have made some progress in bringing the fire under control, with the help of special teams sent by other countries. According to news reports, at least one person died, 17 firefighters are missing and 121 people have been hurt in the fire. CONTINUE: Pope prays for victims of massive blaze at Cuban fuel depot – Vatican News

POPE PRAYS FOR VICTIMS OF BUS CRASH IN CROATIA – Pope Francis offers prayers for Polish travelers who died in a bus crash on Saturday in Croatia, as they were headed on pilgrimage to Medjugorje. Praying that Our Lady intercede for the victims and their families, Pope Francis remembered the Polish pilgrims who perished in a bus crash in Croatia on Saturday morning. The bus was taking them on pilgrimage to Medjugorje, Bosnia-Herzegovina. At least 12 people were killed, and another 32 were injured. Speaking after the recitation of the Sunday Angelus, the Pope expressed his condolences over the incident, offering prayers for all those who died, the injuried and their families. “I learned with sorrow the news of the bus crash yesterday morning in Croatia. Several Polish pilgrims on their way to Medjugorje lost their lives and others were injured. May Our Lady intercede for them and their families.” CONTINUE: Pope prays for victims of bus crash in Croatia – Vatican News

BISHOPS IN NICARAGUA ‘CLOSE’ TO BISHOP ALVAREZ UNDER HOUSE ARREST- In a statement released on Sunday, the Nicaragua’s Catholic Bishops express their fraternal closeness to the Bishop of northern Nicaraguan Diocese of Matagalpa, who has been stuck in his residence since Thursday under the accusation of allegedly inciting acts of violence. As he continues to be held under house arrest, the Bishops’ Conference of Nicaragua (CEN) have expressed their “fraternal” closeness, “amity and episcopal communion” with Bishop Rolando José Álvarez of Matagalpa. The outspoken bishop has been prevented from leaving his home since August 4, when the police stopped him from going to the local Cathedral to celebrate Mass after he voiced criticism over the government’s closing of five Catholic radio stations earlier last week. CONTINUE: Bishops in Nicaragua ‘close’ to Bishop Alvarez under house arrest – Vatican News

GALANTINO ON APSA FINANCIAL STATEMENT: CREDIBILITY IN SERVICE OF CHURCH’S MISSION – The president of the Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See (APSA) explains the 2021 Financial Statement in an interview with Vatican Media, noting a surplus of 8.11 million Euro and highlighting that the main objective remains evangelizing and providing aid to tenants in need. For the second consecutive year, APSA publishes its financial statement under the banner of total transparency. Bishop Nunzio Galantino, APSA president discusses the key figures of the 2021 Financial Statement, recalling that, as Pope Francis says in Praedicate evangelium, evangelization is a central priority of all Holy See entities. For this, credibility and earning the trust of those who use their talents and resources for the Church’s mission are crucial. Of the 38.11 million Euro operational income and the 30 million Euro allocated to the Curia, there is a surplus of 8.11 million Euro…. Q: Bishop Galantino, this is the second time the APSA financial statement has been published. Why has this not been done in previous years? CONTINUE: Galantino on APSA financial statement: Credibility in service of Church’s mission – Vatican News