I found the following article intriguing and interesting for a number of reasons but principally because I consider myself a storyteller. A few years ago at an embassy reception, a woman I had just met asked me what I did and I replied – for the first time ever in my life as a writer and journalist – “I’m a storyteller.”

That spontaneous response surprised her and, in a way, surprised me as well! I then explained how as a writer, in recounting the news, for example, one is, in fact, telling a story.

I then added that I was a storyteller in another way as well. From the time they were little enough to understand, I told stories to my many nieces and nephews. As they will tell you today, I did not read stories to them. I told them stories of my life and work in Italy, stories of the Church, the Vatican, the pope, of my travels, what I had seen and experienced and learned. To this day, some of those stories are so imprinted on their minds that they re-tell them to their own children.

To those nieces and nephews who might be reading this today, yes, I know your favorite story: Aunt Joan skiing in Zermatt, Switzerland!

Storytelling is sharing emotions and experiences. It is above all communication.

How many of you today will tell a story? A story about your day at work, something extraordinary that happened to you, something fascinating that you learned, perhaps answering the question of a child or family member or friend?

Storytelling (Smithsonian Magazine)


Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle reflects on eight points regarding stories and storytelling, and urges those attending a Propaganda Fide conference to learn to apply them to their communities and institutions.

By Francesca Merlo (vaticannews)

Addressing an international study conference for the IV centenary of the Congregation “De Propaganda Fide,” Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, prefect of the Dicastery for Evangelization, reflected on the fact that many stories regarding the history of the congregation would be told throughout the conference.

“Human life is unimaginable without stories,” said the cardinal, and with that idea in mind he shared some aspects of story and storytelling that he discussed in the mission Congress.


Good stories are based on experience

“There are good stories and bad ones,” said Cardinal Tagle, “but the difference does not always depend on the style of the narrator or the ending of the story.” We tell our best stories when they are about our experience, when they are true.” And, he added, “good history relies on stories of eyewitnesses.”

Stories reveal personal identity and what shaped that identity

Cardinal Tagle then went on to note that, “stories reveal who we are, the sense of our lives and where we are going.” On top of this, he continued, “I am what I am because I am immersed in other people’s stories and the stories of my time. If I neglect or deny them, I have no personal story to tell.”

Stories are dynamic, open to re-telling, and transformative.

The cardinal then went on to stress that personal identity is shaped by interaction with the world put into memory. With this in mind, he noted that, “remembrance is vital for self-knowledge.” By remembering our stories, Cardinal Tagle explained that we realize that the past is not static and that it actually continues to mold us. “Through stories we see how much we have changed and how much more we need to change.”

Stories are the ground for understanding symbols

“Stories are the ground for understanding spiritual, doctrinal, and ethical symbols,” said Cardinal Tagle, introducing his next reflection. “Stories disclose the values, moral norms, and priorities of a person or community.”

Stories shape community

“Common experience and memories bind unique individuals into a cohesive body,” he said, explaining that, “a community’s distinguishing beliefs, rituals, celebrations, customs, and lifestyle will make sense to us only if we go back to the stories that the members of that community hold and cherish in common.”

Stories can transform the listener

Cardinal Tagle then reminded those present that, “when we experience something significant, we cannot wait to tell it to someone.” He explained that, “this tells us that a story begs for a listener, for someone with whom to share.” In fact, one’s story can awaken memories of similar experiences in a listener, “open new meanings, create wonder, and awaken from slumber.”

There are different ways of telling stories

“Stories can be told in a variety of ways, even when not literally telling a story,” said Cardinal Tagle. “Oral narration is still the most common, but stories can be told through writing letters, novels, or poems.” Likewise, he continued, there are photos and videos, gestures, mannerisms, tone of voice, facial contortions, and body postures. And there is silence, he added, which can also be “a powerful way of telling a story.”

Stories can be suppressed

Cardinal Tagle’s final reflection is that “even if telling stories comes spontaneously to us, some factors can suppress storytelling.” He explained that the pain brought about by a traumatic memory, shame, or guilt can prevent victims from telling their story or prompt them to deny that a story is part of their memory. “Dictators forbid stories of corruption, oppression, killings, and destruction from being told, they bribe media people and threaten those who want to expose the truth, they impose an official national history that erases memories that would put them in a bad light. …Some stories are too dangerous to tell, but healing is possible.”

Finally, Cardinal Tagle invited those attending the conference to apply all these points to a community or institution like Propaganda Fide. And he asked them: “Will the history of Propaganda Fide embolden us to enter the contemporary worlds of artificial and digital intelligence, extremism, polarization, religious indifference, forced migration, climatic disasters, to name a few? How will the story of Jesus be told in these worlds? Who will tell the story of Jesus? Euntes in mundum universum,” said the cardinal.



Even though the Vatican daily newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, born July 1, 1861, has temporarily suspended its print version, and thus delivery to the city of Rome and environs, it can still be accessed in multiple languages in its digital form at You may also go to and click on the yellow and white block on the right side of the home page.

Today I offer a thoughtful video message from Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, newly appointed prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples. Until that appointment he was the archbishop of Manila, the Philippines.


What place does charity have in a time marked by the Coronavirus pandemic? Cardinal Luis Antonio Gokim Tagle, Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, and President of Caritas Internationalis, reflects with Vatican News on this question, urging us to conquer the virus and fear with the “contagious pandemic of love.”

(CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Dear Sisters and Brothers,
We are faced with an emergency due to the coronavirus 19. An emergency, from the Latin word “emergere,” refers to an unforeseen occurrence that rises before us and requires attention. Emergencies are not new to us. Every year we experience earthquakes, typhoons, floods, drought and diseases. But they are often confined to a limited place and people. The current covid19 emergency is called pandemic, from the two Greek words: “pan”, meaning “all” and “demo,” meaning “people or population.” A pandemia affects all or nearly all people. We can say that the covid19 is a general or universal emergency. It affects nearly all of us. It invites a response from all of us.

During emergencies, we instinctively think first of ourselves, our families and the people close to us. We will do anything within our means to protect them. While this reaction is basically good, we should be careful so that we do not end up thinking only of ourselves. We should avoid fear from making us blind to the needs of other people, those needs that are the same as ours. We should prevent anxiety from killing genuine concern for neighbors. In an emergency, the true heart of a person also emerges. From an emergency that affects all people (pandemia), we hope to see a pandemic emergence of caring, compassion and love. An emergency crisis that erupts unexpectedly can be addressed only by an equal “eruption” of hope. A pandemic spread of a virus must produce a pandemic “contagion” of charity. History will judge our generation by the power of self-less love that this common emergency will have generated and spread or will have failed to do so. We thank the heroic people whose love and courage have already been a source of healing and hope these past weeks.

Experts say that we should wash our hands to avoid being contaminated by the virus and to avoid spreading it. At the trial of Jesus, Pontius Pilate “called for water and washed his hands in front of the crowd, declaring as he did, ‘I am innocent of the blood of this just man. The responsibility is yours’” (Matthew 27:24). We should wash our hands, but not the way Pilate did. We cannot wash our hands of our responsibility towards the poor, the elderly, the unemployed, the refugees, the homeless, the health providers, indeed all people, creation and future generations. We pray through the power of the Holy Spirit, genuine love for all may emerge from all human hearts as we face a common emergency.



I believe we all know, from days and weeks of devouring news stories online or listening to the radio or watching television, that people in the United States and so many other countries have stepped up to the plate when it comes to what Cardinal Tagle called “self-less love” and “an eruption of hope.”

Individuals, celebrated and unknown, as well as corporations and institutions have come forth with amazing charitable gifts and offers of help, including for example, a list of Italian fashion designers who are turning their ateliers over to producing masks and protective clothing for medical personnel.

I follow U.S. football and, while I would not be a ‘Jeopardy’ contestant for my vast knowledge of this sport, I do know a few names, mainly quarterbacks. I thus recognized the name Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints quarterback, when I read he and his wife gave $5 million to help fight coronavirus.

Football fan or not, I am sure you all know the story of Polish Cardinal Konrad Krajewski, the papal almoner, that is, the person in charge of Francis’ office for charity. Most of you think of the elemosineria as the Vatican office where you can obtain papal blessings. True – also true is that the monies paid for blessings go to papal charities. (

It is how Cardinal Krajewski uses that income that is the beautiful story.

CRUX did a great profile of this enormously generous and self-less prelate as he brings an “eruption of hope” to Rome’s homeless in these days of a pandemic:

Cardinal Krajewski has been in the Vatican for decades and those of us who knew him called him simply “Don Corrado” (‘Don’ is Italian for ‘Father’). I used to refer to him as the Pope’s “altar ego” because he was one of the ceremonial officials whom you’d always see at the side of Pope John Paul, and also of Benedict in his early years, at papal liturgies.

You have to write the word “charity” in capital letters when it is in the same sentence as Don Corrado. Please pray for his health and well-being as he doubtlessly exposes himself to possible contagion in thee tumultuous times.

Another source of information on aid that is coming to Italy are embassies. The U.S. embassies, for example, have been emailing coronavirus-related alerts and messages to all U.S. citizens who have registered with them.

The U.S. embassy to Italy has a Twitter account in Italian and English that updates us on what they are doing: @AmbasciataUSA. That account, for example, posted news from Samaritans Purse that, with the assistance of the embassy, brought a field hospital and medical personnel to Cremona, Italy:
“To date, our medical team in Cremona, Italy has treated more than 100 patients at our Emergency Field Hospital. Each day, more patients with the #coronavirus are being admitted to our hospital.”

The U.S. Embassy to the Holy See has a website filled with information about diplomatic ties, our history with the Holy See, speeches and engagements of the ambassador but also valuable information for American citizens residing in Italy in the coronavirus era:

So, the answer is YES, charity is contagious!


It is always marvelous to enjoy a quality vacation in beautiful settings and to spend time with family and friends but it is also wonderful to return home and to appreciate once again what we take for granted all year long – the familiar bed and pillow, the sounds and sights of everyday life, a place for everything and everything in its place.

That return also means doing the mundane chores of everyday life, stocking up on groceries, tacking a big pile of snail mail, answering email correspondence that accumultated during two days of travel and, most importantly, re-setting one’s mental gears to work mode! That may be far more difficult that dusting, doing laundry or shopping!

I always keep up with news about the Vatican and the Pope while on vacation but not with the same depth and intensity than I do when sitting at my desk here. That will change tomorrow, as you can see from today’s stories.

To those of you also returning from vacation, welcome back!

To those of you still on vacation – the rest of us are jealous!


Pope Francis Wednesday will launch Caritas Internationalis‘ “Share the Journey” migration campaign, a two-year campaign of action and awareness-raising that to promote the strengthening of relationships between migrants, refugees and communities. This campaign is Caritas’response to Pope Francis’ calls to promote the ‘culture of encounter’ to see people on the move with humanity, to open hearts and minds, to change perceptions. (photo:

Caritas Internationalis, says a CI communiqué, “will shine light on the challenges and effects of migration at all points on the journey, while harnessing the strength of its more than 160 global members to campaign for a shift in thinking. The campaign will be bolstered by support from ACT Alliance, a network of 145 Christian agencies worldwide and a variety of other religious congregations and civil society groups.”

The press release notes that Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, president of Caritas Internationalis is himself the descendent of a child migrant. The cardinal told CI that, “Through ‘Share the Journey’ we’re making a simple suggestion to people: get in touch with a real migrant. Look them in the eyes, listen to why they left their homes, how their journey’s been, see the real people behind the numbers and scare stories.

“This time of greater interconnection is an invitation to each and every one of us to look at how we can be more united. I hope the global migration and refugee situation will lead the whole world in a corporate examination of consciousness and our value systems.”

Caritas supporters will launch actions in their countries and communities around the world as part of “Share the Journey.”

Caritas Internationalis Secretary General Michel Roy believes change has to come from individuals and governments. “Share the Journey is an opportunity to replace prejudice with tolerance. Caritas is challenging the rise in indifference and rejection, often consequences of the rise of individualism and societies that see people only as consumers, depriving them of their profound humanity.”

“The world is a better place when migrants are understood, welcomed and integrated. Not forced into modern slavery by people traffickers, poorly protected by weak laws and a lack of will and compassion.”

Infographics by CI:


(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis is set, this week, to launch a global campaign on migration.

Entitled “Share the Journey,” the two-year Caritas Internationalis campaign aims to promote the strengthening of relationships between migrants, refugees and communities.

It is Caritas’ response to Pope Francis’ call for a culture of encounter and to see people on the move with open hearts and minds.

The campaign will be launched Wednesday in the Vatican and by all members of the Caritas family across the globe.

Caritas Internationalis President, Cardinal Luis Tagle told Vatican Radio’s Alessandro Gisotti that the campaign is asking people to see the real people behind the numbers and statistics.

Cardinal Tagle explains that the primary objective of the campaign is to ‘return to the Bible’, to the spirituality of the Word of God “where God always had a soft spot in his heart for the most vulnerable” and amongst the most vulnerable are the migrants, the foreigners.

“Jesus himself identifies his presence with that of the stranger: ‘when I was a stranger you visited me’, Tagle recalls.

So, what is important with this campaign, he says, is to remind the Christian world – and all of humanity – of this important message.

The cardinal points out that the campaign of action and awareness-raising will promote the social teaching of the Church and it will put “a human face” on migrants who are often seen as mere numbers and statistics.

It embraces the call and the words of Pope Francis “to welcome, to protect, to promote the integral human development and to integrate” forced migrants and refugees.

“Through this campaign we hope to correct some negative myths about migrants and migration and also to address some of the roots of forced migration” as well as influence the global compact to make migration safe for people, Tagle says.

Pointing out that migration has always been part of human history, Tagle says recent trends force us to look at the causes of forced migration, to be aware of the violence to which many are subjected and of the new forms of slavery that have stemmed from the phenomenon.

Especially concerning, he says, is the vulnerability of young people.

“If we do not address this humanitarian crisis with the help of all governments and communities we will see generations of people with their hopes of a future destroyed” he says.

What the Church and Caritas are asking for – Cardinal Tagle explains – is a change of mentality, “a conversion”.

Cardinal Tagle’s video invitation to Share the Journey;

Instead of demonizing migrants and building walls, we must create the basis for a culture of encounter which will ultimately destroy the walls of prejudice.


TODAY IN HISTORY: Thirty-seven years ago today, Polish Cardinal Karol Wojtyla was elected to the See of Peter and took the name John Paul II.  His was the third longest papacy in history, after St. Peter and Pope Pius IX.

TOMORROW: Pope Francis, the Synod Fathers and participants and invited guests will commemorate the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Synod of Bishops by Blessed Paul VI from 9 am to 12:30 pm in the Paul VI Hall.

SUNDAY: We will witness the canonization of the parents of St. Thèrése of Lisieux, Blesseds Louis e Zélie Martin, and hear their amazing, unique story. How fitting to canonize a couple during the synod on the family!

There is a fascinating report by Vatican Radio staff on the press briefing today in the Holy See Press Office and I’m sure you will be greatly interested in what the two guests at the briefing had to say. I was especially struck by this remark: “Patriarch Stephanos said that sometimes he was disappointed on how the media was reporting on the Synod. He said there was the tendency to look for scandal and not report the positive things that were being said. He said that divergent views were not scandalous but showed that the bishops really took their pastoral responsibility seriously and wanted to respond as best they could to God’s people.”

You may remember the other day I told the story of the couple from Brazil who were guests at the briefing, and were asked by a priest covering the synod: What has most surprised you about the synod and your participation? And the priest was surely the one who was surprised when the husband replied: What surprised us has been the media coverage as it does not reflect what was happening inside the synod hall.

The husband added another very interesting element: He said it seemed to many inside the synod that what the media was trying to do was “influence” the gathering by “suggesting,” via their articles, what the synod agenda should really be!

I have read articles and heard from synod participants that the media reports often fail to mirror the synod reality. And yet others say it is often only the headline that is misleading or titillating but the report itself is valid. And, need it be said, there are obviously many excellent pieces out there.

In all the years I worked at the Vatican Information Service and covered synods, the hardest, most time-consuming part of our work was to read ALL of the speeches by the Synod Fathers and then write a solid summary of as many talks as humanly and physically possible for our readers.

However, looking back, that was actually the best part of our work, at least compared to the new synod methodology where these talks are not made public. The speeches of the Synod Fathers were out there for everyone to see. You did not have to guess what each individual said. Writers did not have to take a stab at what was happening, what was being said in the synod hall. And there were translations – sometimes very rushed and quite faulty but you had the main focus of a synod speech.


My guests this week on “Vatican Insider” are Cathy and Tony Witczak, a couple from Philadephia who have been married for 48 years, are leaders in the Worldwide Marriage Encouter movment and auditors at the synod on the family. They talk to me about Marriage Encounter, how they were invited to the synod, what they are hearing and seeing and what their hopes are for the post-synod period, including a papal document.


They addressed the synod in the afternoon session yesterday and it was after that that we spoke. The conversation was so heartfelt and warm, and Cathy and Tony’s love for each other was palpable – as you will sense in a very delicate moment of our talk.

(Their intervention Thursday afternoon follows)

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


Following is the intervention yesterday in the synod hall by Cathy and Tony Witczak, a married couple an auditors from the U.S. Knowing that talks were supposed to be 3 minutes, I asked if this meant that they, as a couple, had 3 minutes each, or just half that total. Tony said it was to be half that. Let’s see….

Your Holiness, members of the clergy, esteemed guests, We are Tony and Cathy Witczak, married 48 years, parents of 4 children and grandparents of 16. We are one of the 6,500 couples currently presenting Worldwide Marriage Encounter Weekends in almost 100 countries.

CATHY: From the very beginning of our journey, we knew it was God’s plan for us to be together. We met while serving the Lord, and I was immediately attracted by Tony’s spirituality and self-confidence. I imagined us raising a family and serving God as a team. In the years after our wedding we were blessed with three daughters and a son. Like so many couples, we quickly found ourselves very busy with the demands of caring for and providing for our family. Although we attended Mass faithfully, and we volunteered in our parish, we began to lose that initial joy for service. Our loving relationship was strained as we were pulled in many different directions. The dreams we had became a distant memory.

TONY: In 1979 we were led to the Marriage Encounter Weekend. I didn’t think we needed any renewal, but on that Weekend, I began to see myself and Cathy in a new light. As we learned to dialogue heart to heart, I saw things I had been missing. Together we discovered that God wanted us to be intimately united so we could be a radiant sign of His love in the world. When we renewed our vows, my joy overflowed because I saw God’s love for me in Cathy’s eyes. We recognized the call to holiness, the call to be a sacramental couple and to share our love with everyone around us.

CATHY: We chose to serve our Church through Worldwide Marriage Encounter because of what we saw in the presenting team that weekend: three couples working side by side with the priest. This intimate community helped us see how we are meant to support one another in our common mission of building the family of God. The priest challenges the couple to grow spiritually; the couple offers the priest the opportunity to grow emotionally as part of the family. Together in community, they offer a wonderful model for church that encourages openness to vocations!

TONY: Some parting thoughts: First: the Church must offer quality programs, especially engaged and married couples, or it risks being dismissed as irrelevant in today’s world. Second: We should not continually separate husband and wife for ministry in the parish, but rather let their sacrament shine by allowing them to work as a team.  Third: If a church is meant to be a family of families, then we should encourage our seminarians to be priests in love with their people, not merely priests in charge of a parish. Our faith is based on relationship with God, but it is learned and lived out in relationship with others.


(Vatican Radio) Friday 16 Oct. Two fraternal delegates were guests at the daily press briefing for the Synod on the Family on Friday. Bishop Tim Thornton of the Anglican Communion is representing the Archbishop of Canterbury, and Patriarch Stephanos of Estonia is representing the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople.

Bishop Thornton, speaking on the importance of forming good families today said, “How can we encourage every individual to be a disciple of Jesus Christ? That’s what the focus for me has to be. We try and get every individual to understand what it means to be a disciple then they shape their family life, whatever that is, in what I think would be the right way and the goal.”

Thornton said that he thought one of the big issues the Synod delegates faced was the tension between local and universal. Some issues might be dealt with much better on the local level, there is therefore a tension between how much subsidiarity and how much of a universal framework is needed.

Patriarch Stephanos said that the Synod was a positive experience. He said that extraordinary work had been done and that many problems have been laid out. “The problems you face are not that different to the ones that we have, we are all searching,” he said. In his remarks, he said that there were “no easy answers” and yet the Church must engage with difficult questions.

Responding to a question about the “penitential path” for the divorced and remarried and their admission to the Eucharist in the Orthodox Church, the Patriarch explained that there is only one Orthodox Church but that there are different expressions of the Church. He said that he noticed that the “human dimension of the sacraments” was being better understood at the Synod. “The Fathers are slowly coming to understand what we call ‘the economy of salvation.’ This means that for each there is a place and position in the economy of grace and hence the importance of mercy,” he said.

Cardinal Walter Kasper had proposed that the Church look towards the Eastern Orthodox Church to find a way of dealing with issues around the ban on admission to the Eucharist for the divorced and remarried.

Thornton said that the Anglican Communion still holds to the traditional understanding of marriage. He said that there was no neat line between the doctrinal and the pastoral and both need to be seen in a broader theological context. He also said that it was unfortunate that the Instrumentum Laboris did not contain more of the historical context of marriage because marriage was not always in the domain of the Church; it came much later when married people came to the Church for a blessing.

It was reported at the briefing that the discussions in the assembly were much more emotional in the last two sessions of the Synod. The personal nature of the interventions arose from the fact that many of them were about actual pastoral cases. Some bishops read letters in the assembly that were written to them by people in their pastoral care who were hurting.

A number of topics were presented in the interventions. These include: procreation and contraception (the theology of Humane Vitae was spoken about); the changes made by Pope Francis to the annulment process; violence, incest and sexual abuse within families and the “martyrdom of silence”; the care of the elderly and their value in society; the formation of parents because they shape future generations, and how large corporations and economic issues put pressure on parents to work long hours which disrupt family life.

The Synod delegates had also heard in interventions that there were possibly three ways forward: to do nothing, to move towards the ‘penitential way’ outlined by Cardinal Walter Kasper or, stand firm and reaffirm the Church’s current position.

The Patriarch said that sometimes he was disappointed on how the media was reporting on the Synod. He said there was the tendency to look for scandal and not report the positive things that were being said. He said that divergent views were not scandalous but showed that the bishops really took their pastoral responsibility seriously and wanted to respond as best they could to God’s people.

Bishop Thornton added that he would have liked to see some more of the important issues – like migration and poverty – being spoken about. He said that questions around divorce and remarriage seemed to be the focus.

Fr. Lombardi said that he had heard the word “accompaniment” many times at the Synod, “The Church needs to accompany individuals, couples and families.” He said that it was important, delegates stated, that families must be formed to accompany one another because, in doing so, they become “missionaries” for other families. He added that delegates had spoken of the importance of sexual intimacy related to the Eucharist. In the Eucharist Jesus says “This is my body given for you,” this is what married couples do for each other.

There will be no further press briefing on the Synod until Monday afternoon. The delegates returned to work in their small groups on Friday afternoon and will continue to work in groups until Tuesday.


Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila will see how Caritas is helping migrants on a visit to Idomeni close to the border with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) on October 19, according to a press release from Caritas headquarters in Rome. Cardinal Tagle is the president of Caritas Internationalis, which is coordinating relief efforts for the confederation of Catholic aid agencies.

Caritas Greece (known nationally as Caritas Hellas) volunteers in Idomeni provide food and water and sanitation to women and children on the crossing point. Over 450,000 people have gone through Greece this year heading for a new life in the European Union.

Idomeni is a small village unable to host the large number of people travelling through. Many must staying outside, without shelter. There is little chance of getting a meal, a wash or access to a toilet.

Caritas is providing warm clothes, food, medical care, bedding and water and sanitation and other services, working in Greece, the FYR of Macedonia, Serbia, Croatia, Hungary and elsewhere in Europe.

More than 70 percent of asylum seekers and migrants have come to Europe in 2015 from countries experiencing severe emergencies like Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq. Conflict, religious and ethnic persecution and poverty are driving people out of their homes.

Those crossing Greece include families with women and children. They’ve faced dangerous and difficult journeys over sea and land.

Caritas says governments should work together to ensure safe and lawful ways to migrate. The current situation is only benefiting criminals and traffickers. Many of the European countries they’re travelling through don’t have the capacity to support such a huge numbers of people, especially in terms of shelter. Caritas is concerned that as the weather worsens, their situation could deteriorate.

Caritas is urging that the refugees be welcomed, while at the same time solutions are pursued to promote peace and development in their countries of origin. in the Middle East.



Join me this weekend on Vatican Insider when I offer Part II of my conversation with Alan Holdren. Alan heads the Rome office of CNA, Catholic News Agency, is the correspondent for EWTN News Nightly that airs five days a week from Washington, and he produces – with the help of a terrific staff here in Rome – EWTN’s weekly news magazine, “Vaticano.” Alan and I talk about his special privilege of being a member of the media aboard the papal flight to Cuba and the United States. This is a Do Not Miss conversation. Part I aired last weekend. photo

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


Friday morning, at the second round of meetings in General Congregation, Pope Francis was present and he issued a strong plea for reconciliation and peace in the Middle East and Africa:



Dear Synod Fathers, dear brothers and sisters,

In resuming this morning the work of the General Congregation, I invite you to dedicate the prayer of the Third Hour to the intention of reconciliation and peace in the Middle East. We are painfully struck and we follow with great concern what is happening in Syria, in Iraq, in Jerusalem and the West Bank, where we see an escalation of violence that involves innocent civilians and continues to fuel a humanitarian crisis of enormous proportions. War brings destruction and multiplies the sufferings of peoples. Hope and progress come only from choices for peace. Let us unite, therefore, in an intense and confident prayer to the Lord, a prayer that intends to be an expression of solidarity at once with [our] brother Patriarchs and Bishops from those regions, who are present here [at the Synod Assembly], as well as with their priests and faithful, and to everyone who lives there.

At the same time, together with the [whole] Synod, I send a heartfelt appeal to the international community, that the nations of the world might find a way effectively to help the parties concerned  to broaden their horizons beyond the immediate interests and to use the instruments of international law [and] diplomacy, to resolve the conflicts underway at present.

Finally, I wish to extend our prayer also to those areas of the African continent that are experiencing analogous situations of conflict. May Mary, Queen of Peace and loving Mother of her children intercede for all.


Three synod participants were present at today’s briefing for the media that was presided over by Fr. Federico Lombardi, director of the Holy See Press Office: Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, archbishop of Manila, the Philippines and Archbishops Joseph Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky, U.S.A., and Carlos Osoro Sierra of Madrid, Spain.

Fr. Lombardi made several annoucements for the media and also noted that, at this morning’s General Congregation, Pope Francis made a heartfelt appeal for prayers for peace and reconciliation in the Middle East. (see below)

In opening remarks, Cardinal Tagle said he had been present at six synods. He said that, with the changes this year in synod methodology, he likes – and has always liked – the small language groups as they give “a fuller view of what everyone thinks.” In fact, the new synod program foresees far more time for participants in language groups than in the General Congregations where all are present. The cardinal said he was “personally very pleased” at their work and said the reports given this morning in the General Congregation, with the Holy Father present, “show freedom, respect and love for the family and the Church.”

Cardinal Tagle said he was “very impressed with the openness to diversity” in language groups, especially because, while people might be in an English group because they speak English, they might well come from different situations and cultures, “a diversity that brings complexity but does not diminish unity.” This, he said, “was the thrust of the small groups.”

The Manila archbishop said he was “also very happy to note as the synod progresses we do not turn a blind eye to challenges that surfaced last year, This synod is in continuity with last year. The challenges remain but let’s celebrate the good news of the family.” Cardinal Tagle said he heard “a positive, hopeful and celebratory tone in these reports.”

Archbishop Carlos Osoro Sierra of Madrid reiterated that, “family is the original structure of human life.” He said he heard, in the language group reports, the “enormous desire to tell the world about the structure of the family,” quoting St. John Paul who said, “the future of humanity passes through the family.” The archbishop also highlighted “the absolute liberty of participants to speak in language groups.” Archbishop Sierra stressed that the Church should try to accompany families that immigrate more generously.

Archbishop Kurtz said this was his third synod and he was grateful to be here. “One of the things that is clear to me,” he said, “is the richness of being in the same room and in dialogue with people from every continent in the world. There is a strong sense of unity and unity in Christ.”

He said that, at this morning’s General Congregation where each of the 13 language groups gave a report of their discussions up to this point, “I spoke first and then could listen to the other groups to see if there were common threads: One of those threads was the idea of not diminishing the challenges but allowing trust in Jesus to be the first and last word on the synod.”

The archbishop quoted Pope Francis who, at the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia, spoke passionately off the cuff and highlighted how God came to earth and chose to live among humans, chose to be born into and live in a family.

Archbishop Kurtz, speaking about the new methodology of this 2015 synod, said “moving quickly from General Congregations to small groups is a positive step.” He also said, “it is better to talk about lights and shadows, rather than constantly using the word ‘crisis’.” He added that, “we must talk about the seeds of renewal in families, and the heroic efforts of many families who face challenging situations.”

The president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops said the final document – which will come in the third and final week of the synod – “must not be eurocentric in its tone or thrust. This has been a concern.” He said that, in his group, “we spoke about families who migrate and also about special needs people and their families, That section of Part I of the Instrumentum laboris could be a good paradigm for other sections we will discuss.”

Later, in answer to a question about the suggestions for a “new language” that should be used by the Church. Abp.Kurtz said many of the 27 amendments given by his language group “dealt with language. We have to really reach out to people. We must use words that are simpler, understandable and inspire, that touch the hearts and minds of people.” He confessed that, “there was little to inspire in the Instrumentum laboris.”

On this same point, Cardinal Tagle said, “people might speak the same language but often come from different cultures, thus words are understood differently. Catechist, for example, has different meanings in North America and Africa. …Words come from worlds. The world, of the young, for example. Does the Church really ‘talk’ to them?’

Asked about new synod structures and methodology, Cardinal Tagle agreed with the questioner that, “the new method is being tried and has caused a bit of confusion but,” he said, laughing, “sometimes being confused is good. The quality of group discussions become deeper. We have ample time to share our thoughts and experiences.” He admitted that, “another point of confusion is that in the past the language groups produced propositions but that is not the case this year.”

In fact, in a brief history lesson, Cardinal Tagle explained that the first synods called by Paul VI did not end with a papal Apostolic Exhortation but rather a document produced by the synod itself. Only with Evangelii nuntiandi in 1975 were propositions proposed by Synod Fathers and given to the Pope who eventually wrote a Post-synodal Apostolic Exhortation.

Abp. Kurtz said that, “we all need patience, synod fathers and journalists. I want to see things develop well but slowly – this is a healthy process.”

He also noted that, even though there will be no propositions put forth to the Pope by synod participants, especially language groups, the Synod Fathers will “receive a document a day or two before we have to vote on it, thus we can study it.”



I wrote on Monday that, due to so many commitments, meetings, symposiums, interviews, etc., this page might be “Joan’s Rome” lite this week. I apologize for the “empty” page yesterday but am sure that today’s column will more than make up for that, in content and photos.


My special guest on Vatican Insider this weekend is Archbishop Bernie Hebda, coadjutor of Newark, New Jersey, who was in Rome for Caritas’s 20th general assembly on the theme “One Human Family, Caring for Creation.” He has been on the Caritas board and talks to us about his work as well as the current meeting. (photo from archdiocesan website:


I attended Pope Francis’ Mass Tuesday evening that opened the Caritas general assembly as well as one of the sessions on Thursday. In the following story, I feature some of the photos I took at the Mass, at the Caritas conference and at the beautiful center that hosted this meeting.

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


The 20th General Assembly of Caritas Internationalis was opened on Tuesday during a Mass celebrated in St. Peter’s basilica by Pope Francis for the members of this international Vatican-based organization.  The assembly ends Sunday when members return to their respective countries and report on the meeting’s theme, “One Human Family, Caring for Creation.”

In his homily at Tuesday’s Mass, Pope Francis called for local parishes to get more involved in Caritas and its projects, from its charitable works to providing food to those in need. He said, “We must do what we can so that everyone has something to eat, but we must also remind the powerful of the Earth, that God will call them to judgement one day and there it will be revealed if they really tried to provide food for Him in every person. And also if they did what they could to preserve the environment so that it could produce this food.” Francis said, “We cannot forget our Christian brothers and sisters who have been violently deprived of food for their bodies and their souls. They have been driven from their homes and their churches, some even destroyed. I renew the appeal not to forget these people or these intolerable injustices.”

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Speakers at the Caritas General Assembly included, among others, outgoing Caritas President Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga, Dana Shahin of Caritas Jordan, Vatican officials Cardinal Peter Turkson and Msgr. Giampietro Dal Toso, a message from U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki Moon and Caritas Secretary general Michel Roy.

Speeches may be read online and downloaded:

My guest on an upcoming “Vatican Insider” will be Dana Shahin from Jordan. I spent six days in Jordan after Pope Francis’ trip to the Holy Land last year and spent part of one day at the Amman Caritas office – an experience that touched my heart and endeared me enormously to Caritas workers – wherever they are – and to Jordanians. You can read Dana’s address and her appeal by clicking on the above link – and you will be as moved as I was!

I was at the Caritas General Assembly on Thursday morning and it was only hours later that Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, archbishop of Manila, the Philippines, was elected as the new president of Caritas Internationalis.

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Caritas sent out a brief statement on his election, noting that Cardinal Tagle, speaking on the phone from the United States, told delegates from over 130 member organizations from all over the world: “Buona sera a tutti! Thank you for your trust. I’m limited in my capacities but with all of you, with the love that Jesus has poured into our hearts and in the name of all of the poor people in the world, I accept this election. Let us together strengthen the church of the poor so our witness can help guide us to a world of understanding, justice, true freedom and peace.”

Where you’ll find Caritas:





Niger-Mali border:










The Philippines after Typhoon Yolanda:


Cardinal Tagle is the first Caritas Internationalis President to be elected from Asia. He succeeds Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga, who is stepping down after serving two terms. Cardinal Maradiaga, who is also a member of the C9, the Council of Cardinals who advise the Pope, offered his congratulations and warm support.

The meeting was held Domus Mariae, Villa Carpegna, also called the Church Palace:20150514_120351 20150514_120422 20150514_120432

And yes, when in Rome…..



Today at 1:00 in the Holy See Press Office, Fr. Rifat Bader, Director of the Catholic Center for Studies and Media in Amman, Jordan held a briefing to present two of the Blesseds who will be canonized by Pope Francis on Sunday, May 17 in St. Peter’s Square: Marie-Alphonsine, founder of Palestine’s first congregation, the Sisters of the Most Holy Rosary of Jerusalem, and Mary of Jesus Crucified Baouardy, the founder of the Carmelite Convent in Bethlehem and India.

Following is Fr. Bader’s presentation in English (he later answered questions in English and Italian):

“Pope Francis will announce next Sunday the canonization of four nuns. Two of them are Palestinians, namely Marie-Alphonsine, founder of Palestine’s first congregation, the Sisters of the Most Holy Rosary of Jerusalem, and Mary of Jesus Crucified Baouardy, the founder of the Carmelite Convent in Bethlehem and India. One French and one Italian nun are also being canonized. (photo from site of Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem:


“The pontifical Mass will be celebrated at St. Peter’s Square in the Vatican by His Holiness Pope Francis in the presence of cardinals and archbishops from the Vatican and around the world. In attendance will be Cardinal Angelo Amato, prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints; Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, prefect of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches; Cardinal João Braz de Aviz, prefect of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life; and Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue.

“The participants in the Mass include a delegation from the Holy Land – Jordan, Palestine and Israel – consisting of 2,124 people led by His Beatitude, the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem Fouad Twal in his capacity as president of the Assembly of Catholic Ordinaries of the Holy Land. Also present will be the Archbishop of Acre for the Melkites Georges Bacouni, the Maronite Archbishop of Haifa and the Holy Land Moussa el-Hage, and bishops from Jordan, Palestine, Lebanon, Iraq, Morocco, Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Cyprus. They will be joined in fellowship by priests, men and women religious and faithful from various churches.

“During Mass, the superior general of the Rosary Sisters Congregation, Mother Anyes Al- Ya’qoub will carry the relics of the new saint Alphonsine, accompanied by Sister Braxid Sweidan and relatives of the Jerusalemite saint Nawal Daniel Mzayyid and Patrick Daniel. The relics of St. Baouardy will be carried by Carmelite sisters Anna Diplomas, Ferial Qarra’ and Jocelyn Ferro, together with the saint’s relative, Mr. Rizeq Baouardy. Furthermore, Emile Munir Elias and his mother will be at the Mass, as he had been healed through the intercession of St. Alphonsine. An Italian family will also hold the relics of St. Baouardy as their son was healed through her intercession. Rosary Sister Mariam Ba’bish will also say a prayer in Arabic for peace and justice.

“Upon departure for the Vatican, Patriarch Twal said: ‘The declaration of sainthood of the two nuns from Palestine is a spiritual event of prime importance for the citizens of the Holy Land, amid the difficulties we are experiencing, as the two saints enlighten our path. As the Holy Land, wrecked by violence and dissent, has for sometimes had a tarnished image, our two saints emerge to restore its sanctity, reminding us that sanctity is possible even in the most difficult circumstances’.

“The Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem said, ‘the canonization of the two girls from the East during these dark times is an invitation from His Holiness Pope Francis to pray, knowing that only prayer can miraculously help save our faith in the midst of these times of trial’. He added, ‘Now, we have two new saints who represent a model of perfection for Christians, as well as for Muslims and Jews alike. They are both named Mary, and this name is widespread and commonly used among all three traditions. It is a sign of our modern time which suggests that we can talk about the three religions without any discrimination’.’

“Having received the joyful news last February, the Holy Land gives thanks to Almighty God for the blessing of canonization, especially for the community of believers in the land the Lord Jesus blessed through His presence. The Churches of the Holy Land convey heartfelt gratitude and thanks to His Holiness Pope Francis, who always states that, “the Middle East without Christians, is not the Middle East.” (Apostolic Exhortation).

“We view this grand event, which takes place for the first time since the days of the apostles, as a message of solidarity and encouragement to the Christians of the Holy Land, especially to the Christians and parishioners in all other Middle East countries, and to (those) who have been forcibly displaced and deported from their home countries, to all those who suffer from persecution, and whose persecutors sometimes think that by “killing they are offering a sacrifice to God,” as Jesus himself warned.

“The new saint, Mary of Jesus Crucified, was during her life subjected to acts of extremism and an attempt on her life in an attempt to force her to change her religion. She now intercedes for those who are being killed because of their religion and of their religious affiliation. Her life and intercession are a cry urging respect for religious and ethnic differences as well as acknowledging human beings as creatures who are made in the image and likeness of God.

“The new saint Marie-Alphonsine succeeded in gaining the support of the religious authorities to set up the first local Arab religious congregation, and placing the Arab world on the map in the fields of education and religious teaching. Furthermore, the rosary schools affiliated with this Arab religious congregation have a prominent and influential presence in Jordan, Palestine, Lebanon, the Gulf States and Rome. We realize that during the late 19th and early 20th century this religious congregation contributed to giving increasing the role of Arab in culture, social awareness, spiritual guidance, and education of generations of both men and women. Illiteracy has been eliminated in many parts of the Middle East as a direct result of the active contributions of nuns and Church congregations to literacy education.

“The two saintly nuns, whose canonization coincides with the Church celebrations of the year of consecrated life and the blessed Marian Month of May, pray that the Lord would bring peace and calmness to our hearts and minds, and that we will return to worshipping the Almighty God – Who alone is worthy of our worship and thankfulness. We view the consecration of the founder of the Rosary Sisters as an invitation to intensify the daily Rosary prayers in churches, houses, and parish groups to bring peace, love and mutual respect among all the people of the Middle East.

“The vigil of the canonization will be a prayer vigil at 5:30 pm in the Basilica of Santa Sabina in Rome. On Monday, May 18h, His Beatitude Patriarch Twal will preside over the Mass of Thanksgiving at St Mary Major Basilica, The Mass and songs will be in Arabic for the members of the delegation coming from the Holy Land.”

(To learn more about the future Palestinian saints, the miracles credited to them and other details, click here to see a letter about the two nuns from Latin Patriarch Fouad Twal: