Pope Francis has sent two messages of condolences today, one for the cold-blooded murder at an art exhibit in Ankara, the capital of Turkey, of Russia’s ambassador to that nation, and a second one for the victims of an alleged terror attack in a Berlin Christmas market.


The first message was sent in the Pope’s name by the Holy See Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, to Vladimir Putin, president of the Russian Federation.

“His Holiness Pope Francis,” starts the Message, “was saddened to learn of the violent attack in Ankara, which resulted in the death of Ambassador Andrei Karlov.  His Holiness sends condolences to all who mourn his loss, and in a special way to the members of Ambassador Karlov’s family.  In commending his soul to Almighty God, Pope Francis assures you and all the people of the Russian Federation of his prayers and spiritual solidarity at this time.”

The ambassador was shot several times in the back by a man in a suit who was believed to be an-off duty police officer. Video of the incident shows Mevlut Mert Altintas, 22, firing at least eight shots while shouting in Turkish: “Don’t forget Aleppo. Don’t forget Syria.” Special forces killed him shortly afterwards.

Pope Francis also sent a telegram of condolences to Archbishop Heiner Koch of Berlin, where the attacks occurred in an area dedicated to festive, traditional Christmas markets.

This message was also conveyed in the Holy Father’s name by Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin. The Pope said he is praying for the dead and injured in Monday’s attack on a Christmas market in Germany’s capital city, and that he joins “all men and women of good will” who have committed themselves to efforts “so that the murderous folly of terrorism finds no more room in our world.”

Twelve persons were killed and scores of others wounded in the attack which occurred when a truck came careening into the crowd in what the Pope called, “the terrible act of violence.”

Francis also mentioned gratitude to all the first responders, including security and medical personnel.


(Vatican Radio) Cardinal Reinhard Marx, the President of both COMECE and the German Bishops’ Conference, expressed his compassion for the victims and called for unity after the December 19 act of violence against the Christmas market in Berlin:

“The news from Berlin deeply shocked me. The violence on the Christmas market is the opposite of what visitors were seeking. My compassion goes to the relatives of the dead and injured. For all of them I will pray.

“In these difficult hours for the city of Berlin and for our country, it is important for us to hold together and stand united as society.”


Throughout his pontificate. Pope Francis has spoken of the importance of women in the Church, and the roles they can or should play. Today he made good on his words, at least in the realm of Vatican City State, and also made some history when he appointed Barbara Jatta as director of the Vatican Museums, effective January 1, 2017.

A brief biography published by the Vatican notes that she was born in Rome October 6, 1962 and previously held the position of vice-director of the Vatican Museums, appointed to that post in June 2016. She is married and has three children.


She received her Liberal Arts degree in Letters from the ‘Sapienza’ University in Rome in 1986, a Diploma in Archives at the Vatican School of Paleography the following year, and a specialization in Art History in 1991.

Her background includes teaching courses in the History of Graphic Art since 1994 at the University of Naples, and work in the Vatican Apostolic Library from 1996 until 2010.




A video published today by Rome Reports noted that the Vatican is once again reaching out to U.S. President-elect Donald Trump, after remarks made yesterday by Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican’s secretary of State. He was speaking this morning at a book presentation, and said he thinks it’s time to give the new president the benefit of the doubt before making rash judgments against him.


CARD. PIETRO PAROLIN: “I think we should give the president time to make whatever decisions he deems appropriate. Personally, I already like the fact that he presented himself the president of everyone, so he left behind, at least in his intentions, all the negative words he said while campaigning. Now we will see what he will do and then we will comment.”

The cardinal thinks that today’s world has many conflicts, and the U.S. should continue to use its voice to facilitate international dialogue. In addition, he made a list of the first issues in which they are willing to collaborate on with Donald Trump.

CARD. PIETRO PAROLIN: “I think that the question of peace is one of the fundamental issues. Next, onto the internal issues of the Church, such as religious freedom, actions taken by Catholics, and paying attention to the most vulnerable in society.”

The cardinal was speaking at the presentation of “In your Eyes is my Word,” a book that compiles Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio’s unpublished speeches and homilies as archbishop of Buenos Aires and before he was elected to the papacy.

This volume was also presented by Chicago’s Cardinal-elect, Archbishop Blase Cupich, who asked not to speak about the new U.S. president.

Earlier on Wednesday morning, following the news of the upset win in the U.S. presidential elections by Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton, the Vatican had its first message for U.S. President-elect Donald Trump in the person of Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin. He made his remarks to journalists at a conference at Rome’s Lateran University, noting that Trump can be “assured of our prayers that the Lord may enlighten and support him in the service of his country, but also in the service of peace and well-being in the world.” (photo: America)


“We send our congratulations to the new president,” said the secretary of State, “in the hope that “his government may bear real fruit.” Cardinal Parolin said it would be premature to comment on specific issues such as immigration, noting that the views of presidential candidates often differ from their policies once they become president. However, he did state that Trump had already spoken “in leadership style,” adding that people must work togather to change today’s world with its “grave wounds and serious conflicts.”   (sources: Rome Reports, Vatican Radio)


Pope Francis tweeted today: May we make God’s merciful love ever more evident in our world through dialogue, mutual acceptance and fraternal cooperation.

When I have more time to reflect on the gigantic impact of yesterday’s historical vote in the United States, I will sit back, take a breath and attempt to write a thoughtful piece about my reaction to the news of a Donald Trump victory in the most contested election campaign of our time marked by, among other things, bitter, divisive language on both sides. When the rhetoric tones down on Facebook, I will add my comments to that page as well.  Those who know me well and follow my writings, already know I greeted the news with prayerful gratitude.

What I do want to tell you now is that the first phone call I got this morning was from one of my favorite people, Francesco, a doorman at a nearby Vatican-owned apartment building. We see each other often and share local and Vatican news whenever we pass each other’s building.We spoke briefly last night as I was on my way home from Mass because he knew it was election day and he had a lot of questions about the candidates, as you can well imagine.

I tried to answer his questions and explain the candidates’ positions, their personalities, the pros and cons, etc. I explained the whys and wherefores of my preference for Trump and why I could never, especially as a Catholic, vote for Hillary Clinton. Francesco at a certain point said so much of what I was telling him was new to him. His “I had no idea” merely echoed what I’ve heard from Italians over the last months and weeks. They were not familiar with Trump’s positive points or Clinton’s negative ones. Why? Fascinating stuff!

Francesco called to tell me he had watched the news and heard Trump’s acceptance remarks and felt, especially after our conversation, that things might indeed be positive for America. At least he said he hoped so and would pray for that! That’s all I would ask of anyone.

And now, on to the other realities of life here in Rome and the Vatican…..


Today’s general audience in a sun-kissed St. Peter’s Square on a cool November day, is the penultimate audience of the Holy Year of Mercy which ends on Sunday, November 20. The Pope has been reflecting on the corporal works of mercy in his series of catecheses and today spoke of those works that call us to visit the sick and the imprisoned.


Francis issued an invitation to his guests to not become indifferent but rather to become active instruments of mercy.

“Dear Brothers and Sisters,” began the Holy Father. “In our catechesis for this Holy Year of Mercy, we now consider two further corporal works of mercy: healing the sick and visiting the imprisoned.  Jesus himself is our model in both.  He shows us the importance of drawing near to those who so often feel alone and abandoned.  How much good is done when we visit the sick and those in prison, and how much we ourselves are enriched by these acts of charity!

Having presided at last weekend’s Jubilee for Prisoners, Francis went on to say, “visiting the imprisoned is a fruitful way of bringing the Lord’s healing presence to those who are paying for their mistakes.  Deprived of their freedom, they especially need to hear the message of God’s merciful love and forgiveness, and in this way to recognize their worth and dignity.  Jesus himself, though innocent, suffered in prison for our sake, and the apostles Peter and Paul used the time of their imprisonment to pray and proclaim the Gospel.”

“By visiting the sick and the imprisoned,” said the Pope, “may we bring God’s mercy and its redemptive power to our brothers and sisters in need.


The Pope had greetings for some special groups and concluded, as is traditional at the weekly gatherings, with words to the young, the sick and newly-weds. In particular he noted that today, November 9, is the commemoration of the dedication of the basilica of St. John Lateran, the cathedral of Rome and of the Bishop of Rome, the Pope. “Dear young people, pray for the Successor of Peter, so that he may always confirm brothers in faith; feel the Pope’s nearness in prayer, dear infirm, as you face the trials of ill health; teach the faith with simplicity to your children, dear newly-weds, nurturing it with love for the Church and for her pastors.”


The Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin on Wednesday said he hoped the newly elected American president, Donald Trump, would be guided by God to serve his country but also to promote peace and well-being in the world.


Talking to journalists on the sidelines of a conference at Rome’s Lateran University, the cardinal said he respected the will of the American people as expressed in this exercise of democracy. “We send our congratulations to the new president”, he continued, in the hope that “his government may bear real fruit”.

Cardinal Parolin said it would be premature to comment on specific issues such as immigration, noting that the views of presidential candidates often differ from their policies once they become president and adding that Trump had already spoken “in leadership style.”

He said Trump can be “assured of our prayers that the Lord may enlighten and support him” in the service of his country, but also in the service of peace and well-being in the world. Cardinal Parolin concluded by saying he believes there is a need for everyone to work to change the situation in the world today, which is one of “grave wounds, of serious conflicts.” (Vatican Radio)




My special guest this weekend on “Vatican Insider” is Msgr. John Kozar, president of CNEWA, the Catholic Near East Welfare Association, for almost five years now, coming to that post after serving as national director of the Pontifical Mission Societies in the United States. He is in Rome for a series of meetings and found time to be my guest on Vatican Insider. We learn what CNEWA is and does, where it works and we talk about current and future projects.


An EWTN/CNA photo take outside the Rome CNEWA office:


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 www.ewtn.com) 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: http://www.ewtn.com/vondemand/audio/file_index.asp?SeriesId=7096&pgnu=


A replica of the Holy Face of Manoppello will make an historical pilgrimage from Manoppello to Rome this weekend, accompanied by a sizeable group of pilgrims, volunteers and the choir of the local church.

These pilgrims will be retracing a path following the ancient procession of the Veronica that was instituted by Pope Innocent III in 1208, carrying in procession a copy of the Holy Face which many scholars identify with the Veronica (vera icona “true icon”).


The image, enclosed in the reliquary which from 1902 to 1947 was used to hold the Holy Face in Manoppello, will remain on display in the Santo Spirito church in Rome also on Sunday January 17, until 8pm. At 6:30pm on the 17th, a solemn closing Mass will be celebratedwith music led by the parish choir of the Church of Saint Ignatius of Antioch in Rome.

The idea for the pilgrimage came about during the National Conference of the Rectors of Italian Shrines that took place in Rome from November 22 to 27, 2015 and which had as its theme “Jubilee of a history: a welcome, nearby, prophetic memory.”

In fact it was the greatness of history which was the basis for the plans to organize the pilgrimage.


I learned of the pilgrimage to Rome from Paul Badde, a good friend, frequent EWTN contributor, one of the foremost experts on the Holy Face of Manoppello and author of a book on the topic. Paul an his wife and I met at our favorite eatery, La Vittoria, and Paul explained many details of this rare pilgrimage. I will be interviewing him for “Vatican Insider” very soon and we will not only look back on the pilgrimage but look into what the Holy Face is, its history, provenance, etc.

Paul will be closely involved with various aspects of the two-day presence in Rome and the Vatican of the replica of the Holy Face.

He explained that the linen arrives in Rome tomorrow afternoon, January 16, about 3 pm, and will be processed through the Holy Door of St. Peter’s Basilica and then to the almost exact same spot where it was kept in the old Constantinian basilica, that is, the former St. Mary’s Chapel, where Michelangelo’s Pietà stands today. From there, the procession then goes back out on St. Peter’s Square and next to the nativity scene where the Manoppello pilgrims and guests will gather with the Manoppello choir. The image will then be carried it from there to the church of Santo Spirito (Holy Spirit), about 5 blocks away on Borgo Santo Spirito.

Archbishop Georg Gaenswein will celebrate Mass at Santo Spirit on Saturday evening. The replica of the relic will remain in this church on Sunday for veneration by the faithful.

Abp. Gaenswein, prefect of the Papal Household and also private secretary to Pope emeritus Benedict VI, caused some speculation about a possible papal visit when, last October 27, he was in Manoppello to visit the shrine of the Holy Face in the Abruzzi region of Italy, about a three-hour drive east of Rome. This followed his visit that same day to the shrine of the Eucharistic Miracle in Lanciano, also in Abruzzo.

Paul did an interview with EWTN’s German correspondent in Rome and you can find that here (with a google translation in English): http://holyfaceofmanoppello.blogspot.it/

Here is the official website of the shrine of Manoppello: http://www.voltosanto.it/Inglese/paginadx1.php?c=1


(Vatican Radio) The Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, said “we cannot be paralyzed by fear” over the possibility of terrorist acts.

The Cardinal was answering a question about security concerns surrounding the Jubilee of Mercy which began in December.

“I think we must be realistic in these difficult times and recognize, with sincerity and humility, our fear about what has happened and could unfortunately happen again,” Cardinal Parolin said in a wide-ranging interview with the Spanish magazine Vida Nueva.

The Cardinal went on to say he was sure the Italian authorities are taking every appropriate security measure to prevent any attack, but he said succumbing to fear “is just what the terrorists want.”

He also said the so-called ‘Islamic State’ threatens “the peace and stability of the world,” and therefore must be fought within the framework of international law, and, in particular, through the framework of the United Nations Security Council.

Cardinal Parolin also reaffirmed that Muslim leaders are called to “unequivocally condemn” any terrorist attacks committed in the name of Islam, and noted most of the victims of Islamic extremism are themselves Muslim.

“We must also recognize that there have been leaders in the Islamic world who have denounced and condemned terrorism and, during the attacks in Paris which happened in January and November last year, there were Muslims who acted courageously to save lives,” he said.

“The Catholic Church, for its part, must continue to engage in interfaith dialogue, because today more than ever we need to meet and talk,” Cardinal Parolin said.

“At the same time, we must do more to understand the phenomenon of extremism, examining how and why young people become attracted to these ideologies,” he continued.

“Obviously, there are economic, social and political causes, but there are also spiritual causes,” Cardinal Parolin explained. “In this sense, the Church should redouble its efforts to fill the void created by spiritual nihilism, especially in our Western world, thus avoiding things which are filled with hatred and violence.”

Cardinal Parolin also addressed the current migration crisis, caused in part by the violence in the Middle East.

“It is urgent for the European Union to find solutions quickly,” he said. “Europe has the legal, technical, and – above all – the cultural means to address the migration issue in a manner which respects the dignity and rights of both its citizens and immigrants.”

When asked about the ongoing reform of the Roman Curia, Cardinal Parolin said he still sees a “coordinating role” for the Secretariat of State within the Curia, but any “excesses” can be avoided “with a greater emphasis on the practice of collegiality and synodality,” adding the creation of the Council of Cardinals and the enhancement of the Synod of Bishops are “crucial steps” in this direction.

The Cardinal also said the economic affairs of the Holy See are “less problematic” than is sometimes seen in public.

Speaking about working with Pope Francis, Cardinal Parolin said he is “easily accessible,” and both of them will call each other to discuss any issues which may arise.

“When confronting issues, the Pope is very interested to hear the views and opinions of the person with whom he is speaking, and when it is me, I feel free to speak and express my point of view,” he said.

“In addition, two things strike me during my encounters with the Holy Father,” Cardinal Parolin said.

“The first is the way he put himself in a constant state of discernment when facing any decision; a state where prayer has an important role to play, taking the decision before the Lord and making it according to his will” – he said – “The second is his serenity when facing any situation – even the complicated and difficult ones – which comes from a deep inner peace.”

Cardinal Parolin also said the Jubilee of Mercy is an “extraordinary moment of grace and spiritual renewal,” which returns people to the centre of Christian life, which is mercy.


The Italian actor, comedian, screenwriter and director Roberto Benigni, who figures prominently in the story I feature today, came to my attention in the amazing film, “Life is Beautiful.” I’ve seen him a number of times on television in Italy and well remember his performace at the 1998 Academy Awards when he won for Best Actor in that 1997 film, jumping from seat to seat, over the heads and shoulders of his fellow actors, to reach the stage.

I also remember him from a very brief sentence on a desk calendar I had a few years ago: “Did you know that the Bible is the only book whose Author also created its readers?!”


Did you hear the one about how a Venetian cardinal, a Tuscan comedian and a prisoner from China explain mercy?

It sounds like a line from a comedy routine, right? And it was, in part!

Roberto Benigni, Italian comic and actor par excellence was in Rome Tuesday for the presentation of the book, “The Name of God is Mercy,” a conversation between Pope Francis and a friend of many years, vaticanista Andrea Tornielli (on right in photo).


He was the final guest to talk about the book, following talks by Fr. Federico Lombardi, head of the Holy See Press Office, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, secretary of State, Fr. Giuseppe Costa, head of the Vatican publishing house and Zhang Agostino Jianqing, a Chinese prisoner in a Padua jail.

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Fr. Lombardi spoke about the book in very endearing terms and heartfelt comments, and was the moderator of this morning’s event as well.


I found the entire morning to be fascinating, and discovered, at the end of the presentations, that I had been at the Augustinian conference center for well over two hours and had never once looked at my watch. That has never happened in a press conference I have attended!

The star of the day – and the most awaited guest, judging by the applause when he arrived with Cardinal Parolin and the avalanche of photographers and TV cameras – was Roberto Benigni (you will surely remember him for “Life is Beautiful”). And he did not disappoint with his presentation!


For me, however, the most compelling account this morning was that of the Chinese prisoner who told his personal story, highlighting his encounter with “God’s mercy” – including his conversion from Buddhism to Christianity. He is in prison in Padua but has been in Rome for two days, and yesterday was one of the guests who met the Holy Father at the official presentation of Tornielli’s book. Agostino never directly explained why he had been given 20 years in prison but at one point, in the account of his life, did use the word “victim.”


He said “I am from a Buddhist family. In 1997, at the age of 12, I arrived in Italy with my father. I was studying but I got bored at school. I kept running away, my behavior got worse, I fought with my parents who never gave me money to have fun. I became violent and superficial. I was concentrating only on having a good time, money and girls.”

Without going into detail, he told how he was condemned to 20 years in prison and it was in prison he converted to Christianity, thanks to help given by his Buddhist mother.

Fr. Lombardi, who had previously noted Pope Francis’ love for prisoners and his frequent visits to prisons, added: “Yesterday, when Agostino met the Pope, he gave him a photo of him with his friends and brothers in prison with their signatures and their words to the Pope and Pope Francis himself wrote a beautiful dedication, saying he was close to them, prayed for them and asked them to pray for him.”

When it was Benigni’s turn to speak, he said, “Pope Francis is a marvelous revolutionary.” The Tuscan comic said he was very emotional when he realized he was “in the smallest state of the world with the greatest man in the world.”


“Pope Francis walks and walks and never ever stops. He is taking the entire Church towards a place that we don’t think about anymore, towards Christianity, towards Jesus Christ, towards the Gospel. And how does he do this? He does it through mercy, which is not a mushy thing but a severe virtue. Francis is always moving, he goes from the least to the least.” Benigni highlighted the Pope’s visit to Lampedusa and the opening of the Holy Door in Bangui.

And Benigni himself never stopped. His rapid fire talk, continuous smile and nonstop hand movements and gesticulating are his hallmarks – and they were in full force today, especially when he mentioned the Pope’s name, or the words ‘mercy’ and ‘joy’ and ‘love’.


Lombardi noted the reciprocal esteem that Pope Francis feels for Benigni when, in his last homily of 2014, he spoke of the actor – though not by name – calling him “a great Italian artist,” who was then involved in a “Ten Commandments” special for television.

Benigni said, “only Pope Francis could think of presenting this book with a Venetian cardinal, a Chinese prisoner and a Tuscan comic.”

Continuing his exuberant presentation, he said, “you cannot speak in moderation about this Pope.”

The comic said, “when I was little, I wanted to be a priest. In school I was asked, ‘what do you want to be when you grow up?’ I answered, “the Pope.” Well, everyone began to laugh and then I understood I had to be a comedian!”

And the hundreds of guests in the Augustinian, including Fr. Lombardi and Cardinal Parolin, laughed with him.


The Tuscan actor and comedian then spoke of the telephone call received from the Vatican about possibly talking at today’s presentation. “As soon as I heard the words ‘His Holiness would like…’, I didn’t even want to hear the rest of the sentence and I immediately said ‘yes’. I’m ready to be a Swiss guard, the Pope’s driver, whatever Francis needs.”

As to the book, Benigni said, “it is so beautiful” and “so full of mercy, you could sell it by the pound.” “It is also aimed at nonbelievers. Life is an eternal struggle between those who believe and those who don’t believe, between love and no love and loving meaning depending on someone who could be taken away from us. What is this divine risk?20160112_110355

He added: “The text raises our hearts without watering down our brain. Mercy is not a firm virtue seated on a chair: it is active, it never stops for a second. Mercy goes to sinners and to the poor. It is filled with joy, joy in pain. These two are the weight- bearing columns of Christianity. We must challenge the unhappy, we must love happy people who are humble and joyful and close to God.”

Noting the first miracle of Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew, which he said was his favorite Gospel, Benigni spoke of the healing of St. Peter’s mother-in-law, saying, “you know he healed her because afterwards his mother-in-law would cook for all of them. Jesus so enjoyed the joys of life.”

(Vatican Radio reported that Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican Secretary of State, on Tuesday expressed his sorrow for the terrorist attack which took place in Istanbul, Turkey. “What is happening [in Turkey] pains us. What is happening there, what continues to repeat itself, confirms that the best medicine in the face of these evils is always mercy.”

At least 10 people were killed in a suicide bomb attack Tuesday morning in the Sultanahmet district of Istanbul, near the city’s famous Blue Mosque.

His words came in response to a sideline question at the presentation of “The Name of God is Mercy.” In the book, the Holy Father answers 40 questions posed by Andrea Tornielli, and is divided into nine chapters.)


Pope Francis tweeted today, Friday, September 18: I ask you to join me in praying for my trip to Cuba and the United States. I need your prayers.

A plethora of interesting stories about and from the Vatican today. One great story concerned the Holy Father’s nomination of someone I’ve know for quite a number of years, Jesuit astonomer Bro. Guy Consolmagno, as director of the Vatican Observatory. Bro. Guy, an enormously respected astronomer and highly requested as a speaker, is a native of Detroit.

As I said on my Facebook page this morning: When I discovered that Vatican astronomers were in Hawaii for the IAU general assembly at the same time I was vacationing there, I did not know how to reach them so I wrote Bro. Guy, whom I have known for years and have interviewed, and he contacted the four Vatican representatives in Honolulu. The result was my interview with Fr. Christopher Corbally that aired the last two weekends on my radio show, “Vatican Insider.” Congratulations, Bro Guy!

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An even greater story was that the Vatican has accepted a refugee family from Syria an will house the four members in a Vatican apartment near St. Peter’s (that story below – really fascinating reading!)


As you know, Pope Francis leaves tomorrow morning for Cuba where he will visit Havana, Holguin and Santiago de Cuba. He is the third Pope to visit this Caribbean island but the first whose native tongue is Spanish. He’ll depart Cuba at 12:30 pm on Tuesday, September 22 for the U.S., arriving in Washington D.C. at 4 that afternoon at Andrews Air Force base where he will be officially welcomed by President Obama. Francis will be received at the White House and, while in Washington, he will canonize Fr. Junipero Serra and address a joint session of Congress. His second U.S. stop is New York where he will speak at the United Nations as it marks the 70th anniversary of its founding. The Holy Father will then spend tine in Philadelphia for the World Meeting of Families, the principal focus of his 10th foreign trip and his longest one to date. Interestingly enough, this is Francis’ first time ever in the United States and Cuba. although he said recently in an interview that he was on once at the Havana airport between flights.

This weekend, in place of an interview on Vatican Insider, I look at the behind the scenes preparations for a papal trip, at what goes into the making of a papal trip. So stay tuned for that special report that I prepared in July for his trip to Latin America.

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 www.ewtn.com) 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: http://www.ewtn.com/vondemand/audio/file_index.asp?SeriesId=7096&pgnu=


Pope Francis, in a videomessage to Cubans just hours before departing for this Caribbbean nation, said he was visiting their country to share their faith and their hope. He expressed the joy he felt when thinking about their fidelity to the Lord, and the strength it gave him thinking about the courage with which they face the difficulties of everyday and the love with which they help and support each other along the path of life. (photo news.va)


Vatican Radio said in a report that the Pope thanked the Cuban people for their prayers in advance of his visit, saying he wanted to be with them as a missionary of mercy, adding “let me also encourage you to be missionaries of the infinite love of God.”


Pope Francis today named Jesuit Bro. Guy Consolmagno, an American and native of Detroit, as the new head of the Vatican Obseratory. Bro. Consolmagno is the current President of the Vatican Observatory Foundation, as well as curator of the Vatican meteorite collection in Castel Gandolfo, one of the largest in the world. His research explores the connections between meteorites and asteroids, and the origin and evolution of small bodies in the solar system.

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis Friday addressed participants at a symposium organized by the Vatican Observatory, saying their scientific research on the universe can help promote interreligious dialogue which is more urgent than ever nowadays. He also encouraged an ever deeper dialogue between science and religion.

He began his address by recalling the history of the Vatican Observatory in Castelgandolfo which was formally inaugurated by Pope Pius XI back in 1935 with the words “Deum Creatorem venite adoremus” carved into the wall. The Observatory’s management was entrusted to the Society of Jesus.

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Quoting from his encyclical Laudato Si, the Pope said: “Rather than a (scientific) problem to be solved, the world is a joyful mystery to be contemplated with joy and praise. … The entire material universe speaks of God’s love, his boundless affection for us.”

Pope Francis noted that the participants at the symposium were discussing themes related to the dialogue between science and religion and recalled the words of St. John Paul who, in a letter to a previous director of the Vatican Observatory, stressed the need for an ever deepening dialogue between the two. He said such a dialogue, while protecting the integrity both of religion and science, should, at the same time, promote progress for both.

The Holy Father said when it comes to interreligious dialogue, which nowadays is more and more urgent, scientific research on the universe can offer a unique perspective, shared by believers and non-believers, which helps us to reach a better religious understanding of creation. It’s for this reason, he said, that the Astrophysics (Summer) Schools that the Observatory has organized during the past 30 years are a precious opportunity for young astronomers from across the world to dialogue and collaborate in the search of truth.

The Pope noted that the symposium was also discussing the importance of communicating the message that the Church and its pastors are embracing, encouraging and promoting authentic science. He concluded his address by telling the participants that it was very important for them to share the gift of their scientific knowledge of the universe with other people, freely giving what they received for free. “I encourage you to continue along this journey of exploring our universe.”


(Vatican Radio) Cardinal Pietro Parolin says migration will be one of the most important themes raised by Pope Francis during his visit to Cuba and the U.S. from the 19th to the 28th of September. Speaking in a wide-ranging interview with the Vatican Television Center, Cardinal Parolin also confirmed that the Pope would definitely relaunch his message during his speeches to the U.S. Congress and the United Nations about the need to care for creation that was at the heart of his recent encyclical Laudato Si. The cardinal also spoke about how he hoped the canonization of Blessed Junipero Serra, a Spanish Franciscan missionary, would encourage integration within the U.S. Church of an increasingly relevant and important Hispanic component in the nation.

Asked first about the journey to Cuba and the rapprochement between Havana and Washington, Cardinal Parolin reiterated the Holy See’s view that the (U.S.) economic embargo against Cuba should be lifted.  At the same time, he said the bishops hoped that this step could be accompanied “by a greater opening (in Cuba) when it comes to freedom and human rights.”

Touching next on the Pope’s visit to the Shrine of Our Lady of Charity of Cobre in Cuba, Cardinal Parolin said it was a “normal” thing to do, because of “the strong Marian devotion of the Latin American and Cuban people” and by going there the Pope would encounter the heart of the Caribbean island and its people.

Asked next whether migration would be one of the main themes of the papal visit to the U.S., Cardinal Parolin said he was sure this would be the case because this is an issue very keenly felt by the Pope to which he often refers.  The Cardinal said it was his earnest hope that this encounter between the Pope who is carrying this problem within his heart and a nation that has experienced many waves of migrants landing on its shores “can offer some guidelines” for resolving this ongoing migration crisis.

During his visit to the U.S. Pope Francis is due to canonize Blessed Junipero Serra, a Spanish Franciscan missionary, whom he has described as the founding father of the United States.  When asked whether this event is a call for the U.S. to rediscover its Spanish and Catholic history, Cardinal Parolin agreed.  He said the main message offered by this canonization is to encourage integration within the U.S. Church of an “increasingly important and relevant Hispanic component” in the nation.

Turning next to two keenly awaited speeches by Pope Francis, one to the U.S. Congress and another to the United Nations, Cardinal Parolin was asked whether the Pope is likely to relaunch the message contained within his Laudato Si encyclical.  He replied saying “yes, definitely” but added that he believed the Pope’s remarks would extend beyond the issue of climate change and encompass a “more integral ecology” that takes into consideration the transcendental nature of the human person possessing fundamental rights, “especially the right to life and religious freedom.”

Asked about the criticism that has been raised by some in the U.S. who consider the papal encyclical an excessively strong attack on the capitalist system, Cardinal Parolin responded by saying he believed the Pope would invite everybody to reflect on those issues, adding that it was realistic to realize that “things are not going in the right direction” and therefore there’s also a need to find ways of solving this. “We need a change,” he said.

The final question put to Cardinal Parolin concerned the Pope’s meeting with families from around the world in the U.S. city of Philadelphia and whether that would be the final chance to listen to families on the road leading to next month’s Synod of Bishops on the Family taking place in the Vatican. The Cardinal said he agreed with that and said what will emerge from this meeting is the beauty of the family and the help that the Gospel can offer to families.  He said this would be the positive side, without forgetting the great challenges on this issue.  Concluding, the cardinal said the meeting in Philadelphia would give the whole Church “a new enthusiasm” and a desire to proclaim the gospel of the family, whilst at the same time, “helping families who find themselves in whatever type of difficulties in living the Gospel in its fullness which is a source of joy, peace and happiness for all.”


(VIS) – According to a press release issued today by the Apostolic Almoner, the parish community of St. Anna in the Vatican has received a family of refugees, consisting of a father, mother and two children. They are Syrian Christians of Catholic Greek-Melkite rite, and fled from their war-torn home city of Damascus, arriving in the Vatican on Sunday, September 6, at the moment when, during the Angelus, the Pope launched an appeal to each parish, religious community, monastery and shrine in Europe to offer shelter to a family.

The four members of the family will stay in an apartment in the Vatican near St. Peter’s. The procedures for requesting international protection were initiated immediately. According to the law, for the first six months after presenting the request for asylum, applicants may not accept paid work. In this period they will be assisted and accompanied by the St. Anna parish community. Until the decision is made in Italy as to whether or not their status of refugee will be granted, further information regarding this family cannot be given. Furthermore, to protect them during this phase it would be appropriate for the mass media to respect their wish not to be sought or interviewed.

With regard to the accommodation of a second family in the Vatican parish of St. Peter, the Almoner is not currently able to provide further information.

In this context of Christian charity towards those who flee war and famine, it is worth highlighting that for many years the Popes, through the Apostolic Almoner, have contributed to the payment of taxes for the issue of stay permits for refugees through the Centro Astalli, directed by the Jesuits (since 2014, 50,000 euros have been disbursed for this purpose). In addition, the Almoner, again on behalf of the Pope, helps many individuals and families of refugees on a daily basis, as well as meeting needs, including healthcare, for many reception centres located in Rome.

Furthermore, a modern mobile clinic, donated to the Pope a few years ago and so far reserved solely for events at which he presides, has been made available several times a week to assist refugees in reception centers, including irregular ones, situated in the outskirts of Rome. The volunteers, who are doctors, nurses and Swiss Guards, are employees of Vatican City State institutions, the University of Rome at Tor Vergata, and members of the Association of the “Medicina Solidale Onlus” Institute.



In 24 hours I will be en route to Chicago to attend the funeral of my cousin Dotty Hart who died yesterday morning in Chicago, She and her twin sister, Debby and I, as I may have said in a previous column, have been close our entire lives, even though we lived in different cities over the years. Dot and Deb lived in Paris for many years and we’d take turns traveling to Italy and France.  Include Dotty, Debby, their sister Diane and brother Bill and the extended family in your prayers.

I plan on being back in Rome next Thursday but this column will be quiet until then. In the meantime, I know you are aware that Pope Francis travels to Sarajevo tomorrow and I thought you might be interested in the remarks made to Vatican television about the trip by Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin.

God bless!


Because of my absence, my radio colleagues at EWTN have prepared a “best of” for this weekend I did, however, record the news segment last night so that part of the show is timely.

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 www.ewtn.com) 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: http://www.ewtn.com/vondemand/audio/file_index.asp?SeriesId=7096&pgnu=


(Vatican Radio) “Peace be with You” is the motto chosen by Pope Francis for his visit on June 6 to Sarajevo, the capital city of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The Pope’s 8th Apostolic Journey abroad consists in a one-day visit to Sarajevo which sees an intense Papal schedule of commitments and events, including the celebration of Mass, an inter-religious and ecumenical encounter, and a meeting with the youth.

On the eve of the Pope’s departure, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican Secretary of State spoke to CTV – the Vatican Television Center – about the visit which the Pope himself has said aims to confirm the faith of Catholics, support ecumenical and interreligious dialogue, and encourage peaceful coexistence in the nation

In the interview, Cardinal Parolin highlighted the importance of the chosen motto and its logo that depicts a stylized sign that unites the cross, the white dove as a symbol of peace, and a triangle that represents the borders of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The colors – he said – are those of the national flag;  there is a reference to the Catholic community which is mostly made up of Croats; whilst the motto itself with the words “Peace be with You” are the first words that the Risen Christ addressed to his disciples.

The Pope – Cardinal Parolin said – travels to the land that St. John Paul II described at the “Jerusalem of Europe” as a pilgrim of dialogue and peace.

Questioned about the current situation in the nation, Cardinal Parolin recalled the “consequences of the war that afflicted Bosnia and Herzegovina” and that saw “over a 100,000 deaths and a huge number of people who were displaced from their homes”.

The consequences of the war – he said – have had a huge impact, especially on the Catholic community that, “between the beginnings of the ‘90s to date, has almost halved, from 800,000 to 400,000 people”.

The situation is such – Cardinal Parolin pointed out – that “in some of the parishes there are only a few families left” and most of the faithful are elderly.

He also commented on the fact that because of high unemployment and lack of opportunity, many young people continue to migrate, and this phenomenon is coupled with a general demographic drop that also affects the dwindling Catholic community.

The cardinal then focused on the “complexity of the country’s political system” where power is shared between representatives of different ethnic origins: Bosnian, Serb and Croat.

At an administrative level the representatives give life to the Bosniak Federation, The Srpska Republic and the Brčko District.

The country’s presidency, rotated between the three communities every eight months, is currently held by the representative of the Bosnian Serbs. All three leaders will meet with Pope Francis on Saturday morning.

Cardinal Parolin said the complexity of this scenario means that it is necessary to achieve equality at all levels – political, cultural and social – for all citizens, while recognizing their own specific identities, independently from numbers. This – he said – is a condition that would favor peace, and at the same time, with the help of the international community, it would support the nation’s natural aspiration to be integrated into the European Union.

In this sense – he said – “it could be of example for the many situations that continue to exist in the world where diversity is not conjugated and accepted, becoming reason for conflict and contrast, instead of mutual wealth”.

Cardinal Parolin concluded expressing his hope that the Pope’s visit to Sarajevo may “not only contribute to the common good and improvement of the situation in the country, but also be an invitation to all men and to all nations to rediscover the reasons of peace, reconciliation and progress, be they human, spiritual and material”.