You will remember that yesterday, in my report on quake-devastated Syria and Turkey, I said that the first organization to always jump in to help victims of natural and other disasters, was Caritas Internationalis. Scores of countries around the world have national Caritas offices, including both Syria and Turkey.

As you can see from the following communiqué, the Caritas offices in those countries were destroyed by the earthquake.   This report, issued today in Rome by Caritas Internationalis, speaks to the damage to local offices, what they are doing in Syria and Turkey and how to help financially.


A 7.8-magnitude earthquake that has struck northwest Syria and Turkey has left thousands of people without shelter, food and fuel. Caritas Turkey and Caritas Syria were providing assistance from the very beginning and the Caritas Confederation is supporting and coordinating their efforts to assess the needs and deliver assistance to those affected by this tragedy. The earthquake-hit areas were already in a difficult humanitarian situation. The harsh winter temperatures and the destruction or severe damage to structures – including several hospitals – and roads further complicates humanitarian operations.

Riad Sargi, Director of Caritas Syria, explains that, “in Syria, the earthquake heavily impacted northwest Syria, an area where 4.1 million people depend on humanitarian assistance”. Around 5,000 displaced people, mostly women and children, have found shelter in schools and halls. The recorded deaths and injuries continue to rise as the search for missing persons among the rubble of destroyed buildings and homes continues. Hospitals in some of hardest-hit areas were overwhelmed as they worked to treat those injured by the earthquake.

Caritas Syria is working to provide relief items and opening shelters to accommodate those most in need in Aleppo, Hama and Lattakia. “It is very cold and continues to rain and snow. Many have lost their homes and even those who still have a home are not returning to it for fear of further shocks,” adds Sargi. In Aleppo, relief items and shelters for people whose houses were collapsed are needed. The office of Caritas Aleppo was destroyed, as were many houses belonging to staff.

In Turkey, the south-east provinces of the country including Kahramanmaraş, Hatay, Osmaniye, Adıyaman, Gaziantep, Şanlıurfa, Diyarbakır, Malatya and Adana were affected by the earthquake and 42 aftershocks, the largest of which was 6.6 magnitude.

The Diocese of Anatolia region has been strongly affected by the earthquake and the Cathedral of Iskenderun totally collapsed. The offices of Caritas Anatolia were severely damaged. “Thank God the staff is fine, but we lost volunteers, beneficiaries and even relatives,” says Giulia Longo, Programme Manager of Caritas Turkey, who was in Italy at the time of the earthquake together with the organisation’s president, Monsignor Paolo Bizzeti, and is now returning to Turkey. “The president and I are alive by a miracle. If we had been in Iskenderun we probably would not have been saved,” Longo said.

Unscathed statue of Mary in Iskenderun cathedral –

Caritas Turkey immediately opened a Listening Center hotline to provide support and assistance to those affected by the disaster, and is currently working alongside local authorities to gather information and organise a humanitarian response. In addition, Caritas teams have been gathering displaced people in safe and open spaces and trying to distribute some hot meals and clothes.

The Caritas Confederation are combining their efforts and working together to provide humanitarian assistance to those most in need and ask for the continued support and prayers of the international community in alleviating the sufferings of the people in Syria and Turkey at this time.

Anyone wishing to support the work of these two Caritas organizations can do so through the Caritas Internationalis website: https://www.caritas.org/earthquake-syria-turkey/

FROM ASIA NEWS: The apostolic vicar of Anatolia (Turkey), Bishop Paolo Bizzeti spoke with AsiaNews. He is in Italy this week for a series of meetings, but he has been in contact – as much as possible given the broken communictaion lines – with the faithful and collaborators in the area.

“The cathedral of the vicariate in Iskenderun [the Church of the Annunciation, a 19th century building] has collapsed,” he adds, “all the buildings are uninhabitable” but so far  “there are no victims” reported among the local Christian community.

Asia News – Annunciation Cathedral in Iskenderun –

The prelate is also president of Caritas Turkey and is already announcing ‘the opening of a subscription’ to help the local population. “The earthquake struck in the middle of the night, it was just after 4 a.m.” and this took most of the people who were sleeping in their homes  by “surprise”. “A disastrous event,” he adds, and even now “the fear is great” for further, possible strong aftershocks that often follow the main quake. TURKEY Earthquake in Turkey, Bishop Bizzeti: in Iskenderun cathedral collapsed, ‘total disaster’ (asianews.it)




Just yesterday, the director of Fundraising, PR and Communications at Caritas Internationalis sent members of the media the following announcement: “Tomorrow, 22 November, at 11 a.m. in Sala Anfiteatro of Villa Aurelia (Via Leone XIII 469) Caritas Internationalis will host a press conference on fraternal Cooperation within the Caritas Confederation and a meeting point with Caritas representatives from different countries. The following will speak and/or be available for questions: Aloysius John, Secretary General, Caritas Internationalis: Msgr. Pierre Cibambo, Ecclesiastical Assistant, Caritas Internationalis.” The email also listed speakers from various national and regional Caritas offices.

And today the bolt out of the blue that shocked Caritas staff!

That press conference did take place, just one hour before the 12 noon Holy See Press Office bulletin officially came out with the news!

The papal decree that removed the current leadership at Caritas Internationalis came midday of the second day of a Rome meeting for representatives of Caritas from around the world. Reports indicate that they were as surprised as anyone by the papal move.

Also on Monday, the first of a two-day meeting of CI representatives: Caritas tweeted:#FraternalCooperation is #subsidiarity, willingness to journey together as members of the same family said @iamCARITAS Secretary-General Aloysius John opening the conference on “Together, serving out of love – Strengthening our fraternal cooperation.”

Has the Pope also demoted one of his closest collaborators? The decree reads “… and that Cardinal Tagle, President of Caritas Internationalis until now, will assist Dr Pinelli in the duties entrusted to him.”

There is obviously much more to learn about the decree and what led Pope Francis to make such a drastic move (other than what the following Vatican News story tells us), so stay tuned!

Here’s the website (at least for now!): Caritas – Ending poverty, promoting justice and restoring dignity


Pope Francis issues a decree on Tuesday naming Dr. Pier Francesco Pinelli as Temporary Administrator of Caritas Internationalis.

By Sr Bernadette Reis, fsp

In a Decree released on Tuesday, Pope Francis has appointed Dr Pier Francesco Pinelli as Temporary Administrator (Commissario straordinario in the original Decree) of Caritas Internationalis. The Decree also names Dr. Maria Amparo Alonso Escobar and  Rev. P. Manuel Morujão, S.J., as support to Dr Pinelli “for the personal and spiritual accompaniment of the employees.”

In addition the decree also states that those serving as President, Vice-Presidents, General Secretary, Treasurer, and Ecclesiastical Assistant “shall cease from their respective offices”; and that Cardinal Tagle, President of Caritas Internationalis until now, will assist Dr Pinelli in the duties entrusted to him.

Caritas Internationalis, the Pope says in the Decree, assists him personally in his own ministry to the poorest and most in need, manages humanitarian crises, and collaborates in spreading charity throughout the world “!in the light of the Gospel and the teachings of the Catholic Church.”

Pope Francis also explains in the Decree his motivation for appointing a temporary administrator, saying the move is necessary to review Caritas’ norms and procedures and to make necessary preparations for the elections set for the next General Assembly.

Decree follows review process

The Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development (DPIHD), the Dicastery in which Caritas Internationalis is situated, also issued a Press Statement, explaining that Pope Francis’ decision comes “after a review of its [Caritas Internationalis] operations by an independent panel.” It further clarifies that “financial matters have been well-handled and fundraising goals regularly achieved.” The motivation for taking this step, the Statement explains, is to better serve “its member charitable organizations around the world.”

About the new appointees

Temporary Administrator of Caritas Internationalis, Dr Pinelli, is described in the Press Statement as a “well-known organizational consultant and administrator”, “with a more humanist than technical way of proceeding.” With a background in Ignatian spirituality, his volunteer works include “the recovery of drugs addicts, in development cooperation, support for missionary works and catechesis.” His professional portfolio includes “33 years of work…in different sectors”, and 10 years as “CEO and then Chairman of large energy companies.” His consultancy expertise has benefited the religious, secular, and cultural sectors, including serving as the Administrator of the Italian Government for the rehabilitation of cultural and performing arts organizations, the Jesuit Education Foundation, the DPIHD, Magis, and Treccani. Dr Pinelli was a member of a pontifical commission appointed for the evaluation of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development and of the dicasterial commission for the evaluation of the Migrants and Refugees Section.”

Alongside Dr Pinelli will be Ms Maria Amparo Alonso Escobar, currently serving as Head of Advocacy for Caritas International, and by Fr Manuel Morujão S.J. Economist Ms Alonso is a graduate of Extremadura University and has worked with various Caritas member organizations for 28 years. Father Morujão, has been involved in pastoral and spiritual ministry in Goa, Cape Verde, as well as his native Portugal, and was appointed as a Missionary of Mercy by Pope Francis. The Press Statement further states that “the functioning of member organizations” will not be affected by these changes. Rather, the Statement emphasizes, the measures announced today “will serve to strengthen such service.”

Decree follows review process

The decisions announced today follow a review commissioned by the DPIHD. The scope of this review was “the CI General Secretariat and the alignment with Catholic values of human dignity and respect for each person. The review was performed by a panel of independent experts that included, in addition to Dr Pinelli, psychologists Fr Enrico Parolari and Dr Francesca Busnelli.” The Statement further clarifies that “no evidence emerged of financial mismanagement or sexual impropriety”, but that “real deficiencies were noted in management and procedures, seriously prejudicing team-spirit and staff morale.”

Cardinal Michael Czerny S.J., Prefect of the DPIHD, acknowledges in the Press Statement that “the needs of the many whom Caritas serves” have increased markedly in recent years. …It is imperative that Caritas Internationalis be well prepared to meet these challenges.” With today’s decision, Cardinal Czerny explains that “Pope Francis invites us to consider ‘the mission that Caritas is called to carry out in the Church…. What we must never forget is that charity has its origin and its essence in God himself (cf. 1 Jn 4:8); charity is God our Father’s embrace of every person, particularly of the least and the suffering, those who occupy a preferential place in his heart’ (27 May 2019). These words inspire everyone involved in CI to ensure the organization proves equal to its mission.”

Caritas Internationalis is a confederation of 162 Catholic reliefdevelopment and social service organizations, operating in more than 200 countries and territories worldwide. Its headquarters is incorporated in the Holy See and is supervised by the DPIHD.




Promoting a culture of encounter in which women’s experiences and expertise are valued and included in the development of just societies; exploring the sociological, ethical obstacles, challenges and opportunities concerning women’s participation in leadership and decision making at all levels; listening to the concrete experiences of Caritas in working with women wherever they suffer, struggle and hope for a better future, in order to shape the principles and best practices that allow for the flourishing of the full face of humanity.

These are the aims of the two-day conference organised by Caritas Internationalis and the Permanent Observer Mission of the Holy See to UNESCO on the 27th – 28th of October, under the patronage of UNESCO. The event titled, “The Full Face of Humanity: Women in leadership for a just society”, will bring together more than 30 speakers from around the world to discuss these key issues.

The conference will take place at the UNESCO headquarters in Paris and live-streamed on the Vatican News YouTube channels in English, French, and Spanish (Vatican News – YouTube)


There were a number of important talks today by the Holy Father – one to Italian Catholic Jurists (Pope to Catholic Jurists: To deny fundamental rights is to deny human dignity – Vatican News) and another to the members of the Italian Air Force at the conclusion today of the Lauretan Jubilee, a year dedicated to Our Lady of Loreto, patroness of airmen and women, that began December 10, 2020 (Pope to Italian Air Force: Fly high, you are peacemakers – Vatican News).

The Vatican Christmas tree was illuminated a short time ago and the nativity scene inaugurated and the feeling of Christmas is definitely in the air! The Pope received those who donated these gifts to the Vatican and spoke about the meaning of Christmas, as you will see in the news story below.


In this week’s interview, segment, I speak with Caritas Internationalis Secretary General Aloysius John about the 70th anniversary of that institution. That anniversary, in fact, is this very weekend, December 12th!

We look at the celebrations that have been taking place around the globe, at Caritas’past, it current work and its hopes for the future, as well as how the Covid pandemic has affected its work. Caritas is a confederation of national Caritas organizations such as Catholic Relief Services, Catholic Charities, Caritas Italia, etc. It has really grown from the initial 13 to 162 members today.

Caritas President is Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle.

Caritas website: Caritas – Ending poverty, promoting justice and restoring dignity

Here are some photos in the halls of the Caritas offices in Palazzo San Callisto in Rome’s Trastevere neighborhood. They reflect the regions served by Caritas.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

IN THE UNITED STATES, you can listen to Vatican Insider (VI) on a Catholic radio station near you (stations listed at www.ewtn.com) or on channel 130 Sirius-XM satellite radio, or on http://www.ewtn.com. OUTSIDE THE U.S., you can listen to EWTN radio on our website home page by clicking on the right side where you see “LISTEN TO EWTN.” VI airs at 5am and 9pm ET on Saturdays and 6am ET on Sundays. On the GB-IE feed (which is on SKY in the UK and Ireland), VI airs at 5:30am, 12 noon and 10pm CET on Sundays. Both of these feeds are also available on the EWTN app and on www.ewtnradio.net ALWAYS CHECK YOUR OWN TIME ZONE! For VI archives: go to https://www.ewtn.com/radio/audio-archive and write the name of the guest for whom you are serarching in the SEARCH box. Below that, will appear “Vatican Insider” – click on that and the link to that particular episode will appear.


Pope Francis on Friday met delegations from Peru and Italy who donated the Nativity Scene and the giant Christmas tree in the centre of St. Peter’s Square this year. Another Italian group donated the crib in the Vatican’s Paul VI audience hall.

By Robin Gomes

Pope Francis on Friday exhorted Christians to keep clear of a fake, commercial Christmas, polluted by consumerism and indifference.  He made the remark to a group of 3 delegations who donated two Nativity Scenes and a Christmas tree to the Vatican this year.

This year’s Nativity Scene in St. Peter Square’s is a gift from Peru and comes from the Chopcca Nation, which comprises several communities located in the Huancavelica region in the highlands of the Andes mountains. The scene comprising more than 30 life-sized figurines in typical Andean costumes, are made of ceramic, maguey wood and fibreglass, and features alpacas, vicunas and the Andean condor, Peru’s national symbol.

Next to the crib, the majestic 28-meter-high red fir Christmas tree as well as its wooden decorations are from the Andalo forest of the northern Italian region of Trentino.

Another Nativity Scene has also been set up at the Vatican’s Paul VI audience hall, where the Pope received the delegations.  It is a gift of the young people of the parish of San Bartolomeo in Gallio, in the Italian Diocese of Padua.

The crib – the universal call to salvation

Addressing the groups, Pope Francis reflected on the meaning of Christmas.  The characters in the crib made from materials and clothes characteristic of the area, he said, “represent the peoples of the Andes and symbolize the universal call to salvation”.  “Jesus, in fact, came to earth in the concreteness of a people to save every man and woman, of all cultures and nationalities. He made Himself small so that we could welcome Him and receive the gift of God’s tenderness.”

Christmas tree – rebirth

On the other hand, the fir tree is a sign of Christ, the tree of life, a tree to which man had no access because of sin, the Pope said.  With the birth of Christ, divine life joined human life.  Hence the Christmas tree evokes rebirth, the gift of God who unites Himself with man forever, who gives us His life. “The lights of the fir tree recall that of Jesus, the light of love that continues to shine in the nights of the world.”

Consumerism and indifference

The Holy Father invited Christians to keep to the true spirit of Christmas, urging, “Let us not allow it to be polluted by consumerism and indifference.” The symbols of the crib and the tree bring back the certainty that fills our hearts with the peace and joy that lives with us and gives us hope.  The tree and the crib introduce us to the typical Christmas atmosphere of tenderness, sharing and family intimacy mood. “Let us not experience a fake, commercial Christmas!” the Pope exhorted, adding, “Let us allow ourselves to be enveloped by God’s compassionate and tender closeness, and by the Christmas atmosphere that art, music, songs and traditions bring to our hearts.”

God with us

Thanking the group from Padua for their Christmas crib, Pope Francis said Christmas is the feast of trust and hope. That God is with us and trusts and never tires of forgiving us is the reason for hope.  He chooses to make His dwelling place with us and take on the realities where we spend our days. He is not one who is on high to dominate but who stoops down to become small and poor to serve. Hence, to resemble Him, one has to lower oneself in service.

At Christmas, God comes to be with us and asks us to take care of our brothers and sisters, especially the poorest, the weakest and the most fragile, whom the pandemic marginalizes even further, the Pope added.

(for photos and text: Pope: Let us not experience a fake, commercial Christmas – Vatican News)



Tune in to EWTN this Sunday, Divine Mercy Sunday, because Pope Francis will be saying Mass in a private fashion in the church of Santo Spirito in Sassia, – Holy Spirit Church – just a few blocks from Vatican City. This year marks the 20th anniversary of the canonization of St. Faustyna on April 30, 2000, and Pope John Paul’s designation of the Sunday after Easter as Divine Mercy Sunday. Check http://www.ewtn.com> for time.

On January 1, 1994, Saint John Paul II named Santo Spirito as the Rome center for Divine Mercy Spirituality. The church itself has a long history and today features beautiful images of Divine Mercy, St. Faustyna Kowalska, called the Apostle of Divine Mercy, and Pope John Paul.

Interestingly enough, John Paul II died on April 2, 2005, the vigil of Divine Mercy Sunday, was beatified on Divine Mercy Sunday, May 1, 2011, and was canonized with Pope John XXIII on Divine Mercy Sunday, April 27, 2014 by Pope Francis.


Welcome to a new edition of Vatican Insider on this special Easter season weekend of Divine Mercy Sunday! As you know, given that under the coronavirus quarantine rules I cannot go out to interview people, until those restrictions are lifted, I’m presenting a number of Specials I’ve prepared in the interview segment. This weekend, stay tuned after the news for Part II of my special on the Shroud of Turin, the burial cloth believed by many to have enveloped Christ’s body in the tomb. What do scientists say about the cloth, its provenance and dates, the stains on it – and much more.

IN THE UNITED STATES, you can listen to Vatican Insider (VI) on a Catholic radio station near you (stations listed at www.ewtn.com) or on channel 130 Sirius-XM satellite radio, or on http://www.ewtn.com. OUTSIDE THE U.S., you can listen to EWTN radio on our website home page by clicking on the right side where you see “LISTEN TO EWTN.” VI airs at 5am and 9pm ET on Saturdays and 6am ET on Sundays. On the GB-IE feed (which is on SKY in the UK and Ireland), VI airs at 5:30am, 12 noon and 10pm CET on Sundays. Both of these feeds are also available on the EWTN app and on www.ewtnradio.net ALWAYS CHECK YOUR OWN TIME ZONE! For VI archives: http://www.ewtn.com/multimedia/audio-library/index.asp (write Vatican Insider where it says Search Shows and Episodes)


On Thursday afternoon, Cardinal Konrad Krajewski, the papal almoner, brought Pope Francis’ greetings, along with food and hygiene products to Rome’s homeless.

Cardinal Krajewski and a handful of volunteers were out on the streets of Rome on Thursday afternoon. (photo: vaticannews)

They brought Pope Francis’s greetings, some food, and hygiene products to several homeless people living near Rome’s Termini train station.

“They were saying hi and thanking us,” said Daniele, one of the volunteers, “for what we had brought them: sleeping bags, food, soap, and some masks they weren’t expecting. But like always,” added Daniele, “we received more than we gave.”


Caritas Internationalis launches a new “Covid-19 Response Fund” to help support the efforts of local Churches as they assist those suffering the effects of the coronavirus pandemic.

By Devin Watkins (vaticannews)

Pope Francis recently set up a Commission to manifest the Church’s care for people around the world affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Caritas Internationalis plays a key role in the Vatican task force, due to its vast network of aid agencies spread out in local dioceses in 160 nations.

The Catholic Church’s human development arm released a communiqué on Thursday launching a new fundraising initiative called the “Covid-19 Response Fund”.

Aloysius John, the Secretary General of Caritas Internationalis, spoke to Vatican Radio about the Church’s role in helping those suffering during the ongoing pandemic.

“Pope Francis is very much preoccupied with Covid-19, and he wants the Church to express solidarity with the local Churches and help them at this moment as a gesture of witnessing the universal love and care of the universal Church for the local Church,” said Mr. John.

The commission that the Pope set up consists of five working groups. Caritas Internationalis belongs to the first working group, which is dedicated to listening and supporting local Churches.

“We have lots of experience in the areas of health and micro-development, and we are present down to the parish-level in a very capillary way in service of the Church,” said Mr. John.

Caritas has already sent out a survey and received responses from 140 Bishops’ Conferences.

Therefore, Caritas already has a wealth of information that can be used to better distribute aid in case of a local outbreak of Covid-19.

Mr. John said the solidarity fund will be used to provide healthcare services in the areas of prevention and control of infections, access to clean water and sanitation, and procurement of personal protective equipment (masks, gloves, etc).

Food security is one area that Caritas is most concerned about. Some poor people in developing nations consider Covid-19 to be the lesser of two evils. They prefer to defy social-distancing measures to go out in search of work.

“How are we going to help them? If they don’t have food, then they have to go out to search for food and expose themselves, and others, to the contagious effects of the disease,” Mr. John points out.

He said that Caritas is most concerned about parts of Africa and the Middle East where wars and internal conflicts have left many people poor and vulnerable.

Caritas Jerusalem’s staff in Palestine is already running out of money and may be forced to stop offering food and hygiene kits to 500 families in need.

With local agencies’ needs increasing as the coronavirus spreads, Caritas Internationalis has set up the Covid-19 Response Fund to raise money to send to local Churches.

“The coronavirus solidarity fund is a means to assist small projects which will allow Caritas to help the people who are confined,” Mr. John said.

One project is Caritas Philippines’ “Kindness Centers” set up at parishes. People wanting to help can bring their excess food supplies to the centers. They are then distributed to local families in need.

“We are there to help them create solidarity,” Mr. John said. “We are all in solidarity before the virus, but I think we also have to be in solidarity with people to help them live with dignity.”

The Covid-19 Response Fund offers people around the world a chance to help those in need, even from the confines of their own homes.

“Let us join hands in helping us to help the poor, the needy, and the most vulnerable,” said Mr. John. “Pope Francis wants us to be ‘educators of solidarity’ and, at the same time, actors in the field of solidarity.”

Anyone wishing to make a contribution to the Covid-19 Response Fundcan do so through Caritas Internationalis’s website.

A Bank Account has been opened specifically for this fund at the Vatican Bank (Institute for the Works of Religion). Funds can be wired using the IBAN: VA29001000000020179007


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: news.va)

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: https://www.dropbox.com/sh/p7v15sm12qhr44v/AACdJC_aX4WrcOjQQqeiL-YVa?dl=0&preview=Infographic.pdf


(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; https://youtu.be/z7GOduLAWSM

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.


To all my French friends, Happy Bastille Day!


(Vatican Radio) Caritas Europa and its local partners have called on the French and Italian governments to take action to respect the human dignity and fundamental rights of migrants stuck in the Italian border town of Ventimiglia. Caritas says more than a thousand migrants are stranded in “dire conditions” in Ventimiglia, having being denied entry into France by border police. The standoff has escalated tensions between the two neighbouring countries over the free movement of migrants to northern Europe. Marie Tempesta is the Policy and Advocacy Officer for Caritas Europa and she spoke to Susy Hodges about this issue.

Stranded in Ventimiglia with no proper reception centre, Tempesta said most of the migrants are having to sleep out in the open in what she described as “almost disastrous conditions” and they include pregnant women, children and babies.  The fortunate ones are being housed in a local Catholic Church which has some showers in its basement but it’s not nearly enough to cater for the needs of all those stranded in the border town. Most of the migrants were from Sudan, Eritrea and Ethiopia but Tempesta said they include some asylum seekers from Syria. She described how the local Caritas partners were helping to distribute hygiene kits containing the bare essentials.


EU seeks to “externalise” migrant crisis

Asked about the attitude of European Union nations towards the migrants and asylum seekers and how to solve the issue, Tempesta said showing “solidarity” towards these vulnerable people is the only “effective, long-term solution” for tackling this crisis. She criticized what she called moves to “externalize” the migrant crisis in Europe by persuading third party countries to take in the migrants and prevent them from coming to the EU in the first place.

Following is a press release from Caritas Europa on its appeal for Italy and France to take action on this issue:

“Caritas Europa, together with its members Secours Catholique-Caritas France and Caritas Italy, calls on the EU and in particular on the French and Italian governments to take action to respect the human dignity and fundamental rights of migrants stuck in Ventimiglia, Italy.

On 24 June, at Caritas Ventimiglia-San Remo’s 25th anniversary celebrations, the youngest person in the audience was Sharifa Maria, a baby girl only a few days old. She is the first baby born in the “camp” opened by Caritas Ventimiglia-San Remo to provide humanitarian assistance to migrants in Ventimiglia. But she will certainly not be the last one as several pregnant women live in the camp.

Migrants, mostly Sudanese, Eritreans and Ethiopians, arrived in Ventimiglia from Sicily with the hope of continuing their journey to France and northern Europe. However, they were blocked at the border between Italy and France. Stuck in Ventimiglia, with no access to any type of services or any proper reception centres, the families, pregnant women, children and babies are forced to sleep outside.

On 31 May, Mons. Suetta opened the church Sant’Antonio to provide a safe haven for 5,000 exhausted migrants, a place of respite for the people before they reattempt to cross the border. To further ease their suffering, Caritas Ventimiglia-San Remo, with the support of the Nice delegation of Secours Catholique-Caritas France, Caritas Monaco and other Christian and Islamic organisations, is distributing food, hygiene kits and clothes. The migrants also have access to a few showers in the basement of the church. In addition, Caritas has successfully advocated for the reopening of the reception centre in order to cover the basic needs and ensure respect for the human dignity of the migrants. The centre will finally open in a few days.

Yet, the situation remains dire and requires immediate action. Caritas Europa, Caritas Italy and Secours Catholique-Caritas France urge the EU and the Italian and French authorities to:

  • Provide for the basic needs of migrants, including those in transit, to guarantee their human dignity and refrain from using arbitrary detention or arrest;
  • Guarantee solidarity and responsibility-sharing among EU Member States and between the EU and non-EU countries; Italian and French governments must agree on a common response to the situation, respecting the fundamental rights of migrants;
  • Give priority to protecting people instead of protecting borders, with particular attention to women and children;
  • Open more safe and legal paths to come to Europe



At today’s general audience in a warm, sun-splashed St. Peter’s Square, Pope Francis focused on the Gospel story of Jesus dining at the home of Simon the Pharisee, an stressed that “All of us are sinners, and so many times we fall into the temptation of hypocrisy, believing that we are better than the other.” However, he added “look at your sin, all of us need to look at our sins, our mistakes and look to the Lord,” because “this is the lifeline, the relationship between the sinner and the Lord.”

“Saint Luke’s account,” says the English language catechesis summary, “tells us that a woman known as a sinner came up to Jesus, bathed his feet in her tears and anointed them with precious perfume.  The Pharisee, judging by appearances, is taken aback that Jesus is not afraid of contact with sinners.” But, said the Pope, “The Lord distinguishes between the sin and the sinner.  He teaches Simon that the woman’s act, as an expression of faith and trust in God’s mercy has merited the forgiveness of her sins.”

APril 20 appeals

“The story of the sinful woman,” says the papal catechesis, reminds us that God’s mercy reaches out to everyone; it overcomes prejudice and surmounts all barriers.  Through faith in Christ, we too have received the forgiveness of our sins and the new life of grace.  Having experienced this mystery of redeeming love, may we grow in gratitude for so great a gift, and in turn become witnesses and channels of that love in our families, our communities and our world.”


After the catechesis in Italian and summaries in the traditional languages of French, English, German, Spanish, Portuguese, Arabic and Polish, greetings in two additional languages were added – Russian and Ukrainian.

A Russian-speaking prelate from the Secretariat of State, on behalf of the Pope, greeted “the faithful from the Russian Federation, especially the pilgrims from the Dioceses of St. Clement and Saratov, accompanied by Bishop Clemens Pickel. May the Lord bless you abundantly in this Year of Mercy, making you witnesses of his charity.”

In Ukrainian, another prelate read the papal greetings: “I greet the pilgrims from Ukraine and Belarus on the occasion of the international conference in this 30th anniversary of the Chernobyl tragedy. We renew our prayers for the victims of that disaster and express our recognition to the rescuers and helpers and for all initiatives that sought to alleviate the suffering and damage.”

Ag April 20

After greetings in Italian, the Holy Father renewed his previous appeals for the people of Ukraine, “long suffering as a consequence of the armed conflict that many have forgotten.” He recalled his recent invitation to the Church in Europe to support the initiative to alleviate this humanitarian emergency, and thanked all those who will participate in the extraordinary collection in European parishes on Sunday, April 24. In fact, during his April 3 Regina Coeli remarks, the Pope announced a special charity collection to support the people of Ukraine, telling the faithful it would be possible to contribute to the collection in all Catholic Churches in Europe on Sunday April 24, adding that, “this gesture of charity, beyond alleviating material suffering, expresses my personal closeness and the solidarity of the entire Church.”

Also during the audience: Speaking Spanish, Pope Francis also expressed his closeness to the people of Ecuador who were struck this past weekend by a massive earthquake that has left over 500 people dead.


 (Sent from Caritas Internationalis, Vatican City) – Caritas Ecuador president, Msgr. Walter Heras, calls on Caritas around the world to support the current relief efforts in the aftermath of a 7.8 magnitude earthquake that rocked the nation last Saturday.

The quake that left more than 2,500 injured and over 500 dead ripped apart cities and severed access to remote coastal towns. The death toll is expected to climb as rescue workers pick through the rubble. A state of emergency has been declared in six provinces and 10,000 troops and 3,500 police have been deployed to assist the most affected areas.

“Of most immediate concern is rescuing victims,” said Msgr. Heras. “The time when the earthquake took place was when most people were at home. There are a lot of people trapped and are awaiting rescue. We are also concerned about the most remote areas that are difficult to reach.”

“This was a province with many rural areas,” said Gabriela Andrade, Caritas Ecuador Communication Coordinator. “The most remote parishes were very affected. Many of them have no resources or basic services. They lack infrastructure.”

A united front made up of local and international Caritas agencies is needed to provide long term assistance as the communities move from recovery to rebuilding their devastated communities.

“In the emergency zones we are seeing people who have evacuated their homes and are sleeping in the streets,” said Andrade. “People need tents and inflatable boats because some of the affected areas cannot be reached as the roads are destroyed.”

Heavy rains were already showing a rise in cases of vector-borne diseases such as chikungunya and dengue. These are expected to rise along with other infectious diseases in the earthquake’s aftermath. Hygiene and sanitation are of utmost importance in the coming weeks.

While Caritas Ecuador joins national efforts to reach immediate needs of displaced and affected populations it plans on assisting communities long after the earthquake falls off the international radar.

“As a Church we accompany the affected,” said Msgr. Heras. “We see that all our sister organizations are added to our efforts in accompanying the people. After the initial shock people will remain depressed. They will need to rebuild … to move forward in their lives. These are people who have lost their businesses and their homes. They have lost everything. Caritas can help fill this void that remains in people.”

”We know that as a Church we are one entity,” Msgr. Heras said. “The Church never asks people to wait. We are hoping for the assistance of the Church and call on churches from around the world to assist us in our efforts. We need all of you. There is so much to do. We thank everyone who adds their support to this response.”



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: http://www.rcan.org)


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 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=


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: http://www.caritas.org/ga2015/#speakers

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: lpj.org)


“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: http://en.lpj.org/2015/03/23/patriarchs-letter-for-the-canonization-of-the-two-palestinian-nuns/)


I will soon be leaving to film a spot for EWTN television and, immediately after that, will meet up with Caritas members at St. Peter’s Basilica for the papal Mass at 5:30 that will open the 20th General Assembly of Caritas Internationalis. The press conference held this morning to present the general assembly as it meets on the theme, “One Human Family, Caring for Creation,” just ended. Presenters included CI President, Cardinal Oscar Rodrigues Maradiaga (who is also one of the C9, the Council of 9 cardinals who advise the Pope), CI Secretary General Michel Roy, Dominican theologian, Fr. Gustavo Gutiérrez, and Haridas Varikottil, an agriculural expert in Caritas India.

For a report on that conference, you might want to go to news.va where, in midafternoon, Rome time,VIS will post its multi-lingual account of the press conference. Other news of the day will also be in the VIS report. (www.news.va)


The Cuban bishops have announced the preliminary details of Pope Francis’ September 19 to 22 visit to this Caribbean island. Francis will be the third Pope to visit since St. John Paul’s five-day stay in 1998 and Benedict XVI’s pilgrimage in 2012.

The Holy Father will visit three Cuban cities and the national Shrine of Our Lady of Charity of El Cobre, the shrine of Cuba’s patron saint, according to the Conference of Catholic Bishops of Cuba.EL COBRE

He is scheduled to go to Havana, Holguín, and the shrine of Our Lady of Charity of El Cobre (Nuestra Señora de la Caridad del Cobre). El Cobre is about 12 miles outside Santiago. The statue of Our Lady, known affectionately in Cuba as La Cachita, was rescued by three fishermen in the Bay of Nipe after a storm from a ship about to capsize. The Madonna wore a sign that read “Yo soy la Virgen de la Caridad” (I am the Virgin of Charity).

The most important shrine for Cubans is located in the foothills of the Sierra Maestra near the old copper mines that give it its name.  Built in 1927, its full name is El Sanctuario de Nuestra Señora de la Caridad del Cobre. The Virgin is the protectress of Cuba. In 1998 St. John Paul II visited the shrine, and called the Virgin “La Reina de los Cubanos” (Queen of Cubans) and donated a rosary and crown. Our Lady is clothed in a glittering gold robe.


The Cuban bishops said the Holy Father would arrive in Cuba on Saturday, September 19 and remain on the island until September 22 when he leaves from Santiago for his trip to the United States.