It has really been an event-filled end of June here at the Vatican, as you probably know from EWTN’s television coverage, Facebook pages, etc.

On June 28 there was the consistory in which the Pope created 14 new cardinals, and that was followed by courtesy visits to the new Eminences who welcomed visitors in the Paul VI Hall and the Apostolic Palace.

That same day, Polish papal almoner Konrad Krajewski, one of the new cardinals, celebrated receiving the red hat by offering a dinner for several hundred poor in the Vatican cafeteria. Pope Francis surprised everyone by dropping in and he chatted with guests, joined the guests at table and interacted with children.

Friday, June 29, the solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul, Apostles, patron saints of Rome, the Pope celebrated a mass in St. Peter’s Square during which there was the blessing of the palliums that are given on this day every year to the new metropolitan archbishops named since last June 29. The pallium indicates the archbishop’s authority and also his link to the See of Peter, to the Pope.

There was an interesting break with tradition at the June 29th Mass. For decades, palliums were placed on the shoulders of the new metropolitan archbishops by the Pope on this feast of Sts. Peter and Paul. In 2015 Francis changed the traditional ceremony, deciding that he would hand the palliums to the new archbishops in Rome but the public ceremony of placing the pallium on their shoulders would henceforth take place in their home dioceses with the nuncio bestowing the pallium. During Mass this year, Pope Francis did bless the palliums worn by metropolitan archbishops but, in a surprising departure, the palliums were handed in a box to the new metropolitans, not by the Pope but by a Vatican official.

Yesterday, Sunday, July 1 the Holy Father recited the noon Angelus with the 20,000 faithful in St. Peter’s Square. Technically, yesterday was the first day of a monthlong working vacation for the Holy Father. His only scheduled public appearances in July – at least for now – will be the Angelus. No weekly audiences will take place this month. However, the press office did publish his schedule today, which included some private audiences. Pope Francis has admitted he does not know how to take a real vacation and has said that work actually relaxes him.


“Birthdays are good for you! Statistics show that the people who have the most live the longest!”

That little tidbit is printed on a magnet that is placed prominently on my fridge. I’ve also seen another version: “Birthdays are good for your health: the more you have, the longer you live.”

I’ve always loved birthdays and this year the celebrations were just phenomenal, beginning on Friday, the vigil of the big day, and ending last night with another amazing dinner.

Friday I met my good friend Marie for a prosecco on the terrace of the Paul VI Residence. This amazing hotel and terrace overlooks the left hand colonnade of St. Peter’s and all the adjacent buildings, the basilica, etc. Absolutely stunning! Marie works for Air Canada and gets to Rome fairly often, especially given her linguistic skills. We took photos of the view and the table being prepared for a luxurious al fresco dinner but not one of either of us! Dinner afterwards at La Vittoria.

Saturday, June 30 I had lunch with two terrific friends from Wisconsin, Bill and Vicki Thorn at the only place I celebrate a birthday lunch – La Vittoria. The owner Claudio and his wife Palmerina (whom many of you know) gave me a gorgeous orchid plant – Claudio said he personally chose it. I don’t think the photo does it justice.

Later, a drink at a café on Pza. Navona with Janet Morana, a mutual friend of ours, Geoffrey Strickland and Janet’s sister in law Teresa preceded dinner in a truly heavenly spot – I’ve written about it and posted photos – the Terrazza Borromini that overlooks Pza Navona. We were joined by U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See and my longtime friend, Callista Gingrich and by EWTN’s own (and my longtime friend!), Msgr. Anthony Figueiredo.

Superlative menu, spectacular views and, best of all, unbeatable and scintillating conversation! As you can see…

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

By the way, the chef is my longtime friend Francesco Grasso, stolen away from La Scaletta over a year ago because of his culinary skills.

And the celebrations continued yesterday! Newt and Callista Gingrich and I met up at Mass last night and I was invited to join them and four friends from the States, whom I’ve also known for a few years, for drinks and dinner. We went to the Paul VI Residence for a prosecco and then to La Matriciana for dinner.

I was unable to copy the video link to this column but here’s a photo that Callista took when I was surprised with a chorus of Happy Birthday, obligingly sung by the waiters and any diners who wanted to join it.

It was late when I got back home but, as I often do after a particularly wonderful moment or event in my life, I like to find some quiet time to think about that moment or event or, in this case, the previous 48 hours.t was late when I got back home but, as I often do after a particularly wonderful moment or event in my life, I like to find some quiet time to think about that moment or event or, in this case, the previous 48 hours.

The richness of my life is indescribable. I looked at the past two days and was really overwhelmed– the friends and fun and laughter and joy and craziness and amazing food and wine just to celebrate a birthday. The sharing – sharing friends, sharing important moments and personal thoughts and feelings and stories, the things that are the essence of life.

And when I look back on so many decades that have been filled with the same richness – the richness of having been born into a wonderful, beautiful, loving, caring and sharing family. The richness of a life filled with family and friends but above all, a beautiful faith, the faith that is my beating heart, the center of my life. The richness of a life with amazing work experiences, enriching travels and so very many unique moments.

After faith, it’s all about people when you come right down to it. Our families gave us the foundation of our being, our personality, our character, but everyone else who enters our lives – for long periods, for short ones, perhaps just a few minutes – every single one of them will have given us something indelible.

And I felt that when I read the hundreds of emails and FB messages I received, reading many with tears in my eyes. Words of thanks, of blessings, of thanksgiving, of gratitude for the work I do, gratitude for the lives I am told I have touched and changed and helped. There were photos and flowers and balloons and songs and GIFs and beautiful words! Wow! Heartfelt thanks and prayers for each of you!

So how could my birthday have been anything less than phenomenal!



The Vatican today released the papal schedule of liturgical celebrations for June, July and August. There are a few notable changes in June.

This coming Sunday, June 3, solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ – Corpus Christi – Pope Francis will celebrate Mass in the seaside town of Ostia, not at St. John Lateran Basilica in Rome as has been customary. Mass will be at the church of St. Monica and the Corpus Christi procession from that church to Our Lady of Bonaria for the Eucharistic Benediction.

A note from the vicariate of Rome relative to this year’s celebration of Corpus Christi says: “’For more than 40 years Corpus Christi has been celebrated at St. John Lateran,’ writes the bishop responsible for the southern quarter of the diocese of Rome. ‘One tradition is interrupted but another resumes. In fact, until 1978, with Paul VI this feast took part in various parts of the city and it was precisely in 1968 that Pope Montini celebrated it in Ostia’.”

JUNE 28 – CONSISTORY TO CREATE NEW CARDINALS: Although Pope Francis announced June 29 as the day he would hold a consistory to create new cardinals, that consistory will now be held on Thursday, June 28 at 4 pm in St. Peter’s Basilica.

In the past, a consistory to create new cardinals has taken place in the morning and the traditional courtesy visits to the new cardinals take place that afternoon. We’ll have to see what the Vatican has in mind for these visits.

JUNE 29 – PALLIUMS BLESSED FOR NEW METROPOLITAN ARCHBISHOPS:  What will take place on June 29, solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul, Apostles, is the traditional papal Mass and blessing of the palliums that the new metropolitan archbishops named in the last year will receive. The palliums will be formally placed on the shoulders of the metropolitans in their home dioceses at a date to be determined.