Here are a number of quake-related stories that might interest you, especially since so many of you have asked how you can help the numerous survivors who lost their homes and everything they own and are now living in tent camps


No email message today from the Benedictine Monks of Norcia, but they have updated their website to enable donations:

As you know, the monks decided to transfer from Norcia – many parts of which are not considered safe – to Rome where they will spend some time with the Benedictines of Sant’ Anselm.

If the name Sant’Anselmo sounds familiar, this is the church from which the Holy Father and others process to nearby Santa Sabina basilica on Ash Wednesday to receive ashes.


Caritas and Church volunteers have been providing food to rescue workers and people affected by Wednesday’s earthquake in central Italy, The quake struck on August 24 in the Rieti region causing severe damage and loss of life in the towns of Amatrice, Accumoli and Pescara del Tronto.


Andrea Piscopo of Caritas Marche said, “relief efforts in Arquata and Pescara del Tronto continued throughout the night. We had spent the whole day with the rescue workers and the survivors. Thanks to local church, youth and Caritas, it has been possible to provide food to them. It is hard to say what the concrete needs will be until the situation stabilizes.” Caritas Italy has allocated €100,000 for the initial intervention. Caritas offices have offered local accommodations for people forced from their homes and, where possible, is providing counseling and basic necessities.

Father Francesco Soddu, director of Caritas Italy will lead a team on Friday, August 26 to meet with the local Caritas staff and authorities to discuss the most immediate actions required and those needed for the medium and long-term. He said, “Caritas has been active since the first hours after the earthquake. We have made available €100,000 for the most pressing needs.”

Caritas Italy is asking supporters to contribute to its national appeal so that it can help communities rebuild. This appeal will be bolstered by a nationwide parish collection in Italy on September 18. Caritas national organizations from Germany and Croatia to Nepal have been offering their support.

As in the case of the earthquake that hit L’Aquila in 2009, Caritas will focus on putting towns and villages back together – ranging from social services, infrastructure and job creation.

Donations can be made through the Caritas Italy website:


(ANSA) – Rome, August 25 – Carabinieri police have deployed 430 officers in earthquake-stricken central Italy, including 30 “monuments men” from Italy’s new cultural defense Blue Helmets who are assessing the extent of the damage to local monuments, officials said Thursday.

“The Blue Helmets have gone into action for the first time,” said Brigadier General Marco Minicucci, who added that the unit’s baptism of fire was supposed to be in the Syrian city of Palmyra, which has been destroyed by Islamic fundamentalists. In addition, the carabinieri force has deployed a special forensic unit for the identification of victims who have not been claimed by relatives. That unit also went into action in Thailand after a deadly 2004 tsunami.

The total of 430 officers “went in support of their colleagues stationed at Amatrice, Accumoli, and Arquata, who immediately turned out to aid the population as soon as the first earthquake hit at 03:36 (on Wednesday),” the general told a press conference.

The mountain villages of Amatrice, Accumoli, and Arquata were the hardest hit by the quake, which has flattened them and killed hundreds.

Some images of Amatrice, before and after:

La combo mostra alcune strade di Amatrice tratte da Google Street View (sulla sinistra) e le stesse strade dopo il forte terremoto di oggi, 24 agosto 2016. ANSA/GOOGLE STREET VIEW-MASSIMO PERCOSSI +++EDITORIAL USE ONLY - NO SALES+++



(ANSA) – Pescara del Tronto, August 25 – A firefighter who pulled an eight-year-old girl out of the rubble alive in Pescara del Tronto on Wednesday evening said Thursday he hoped she would “forget everything.” “I hope Giorgia remembers little of this place, rather I hope she forgets everything,” Angelo Moroni told ANSA. “The joy was huge,” he said of the successful rescue effort that saw firefighters dig with their bare hands for hours.

Giorgia was extracted from the debris of her home 15 hours after the 6.2-magnitude earthquake in central Italy that left at least 241 people dead. Her 10-year-old sister was found dead beside her. The girls’ parents were both pulled out alive.

As soon as she was freed, Giorgia “asked to drink, she reacted well,” Moroni said. “At times like that you don’t think, you go on for hours without feeling thirst or tiredness. We were sure she was safe only when we put her on a stretcher and doctors carried her away. Then we exploded with joy for this great result.”

Pescara del Tronto in the central Marche region is a village that was one of the places worst affected by the earthquake.


Police in earthquake-hit Amatrice are stepping up their efforts to control attempted looting on Thursday, after detaining a man with a rolling suitcase who was allegedly stealing from homes there, ANSA sources said. Sources said the man was nearly lynched by a crowd before police arrived, in a climate of increasingly high tension following similar episodes of suspected looting on Wednesday in which some suspects were detained and others were arrested.

An Afghan refugee was also detained and later released Wednesday after attempting to remove rubble from a home where two Afghan women had been buried, in an area that rescue workers hadn’t yet reached.


In addition to the earthquake that devastated parts of central Italy early this morning, there are reports coming in from Burma of a magnitude 6.8 earthquake that struck that nation’s central region. Pray for those people and all rescuers as well.

I have been following the situation in Italy and present the following reports from the Vatican, the Benedictine Monks of Norcia, Caritas and the U.S. Embassy in Italy. I have been posting news and updates on my Facebook page since I got up this morning, hours after I was awakened by my bed shaking at 3:35 am. Words fail me to describe the total devastation but I am sure you have been viewing images on television.

Heartfelt thanks for all your wonderful messages of concern for me and of prayers and condolences for everyone affected by this gigantic tragedy.

Those of you who have asked how to help: there is information on how to do this from Caritas (see story below).


(Vatican Radio) In the wake of the powerful earthquake that struck central Italy on Wednesday, Pope Francis at the General Audience postponed his prepared catechesis, and led the faithful gathered in St Peter’s Square in the recitation of the Sorrowful Mysteries of the Most Holy Rosary.

The Holy Father expressed his “heartfelt sorrow and spiritual closeness” to all those affected by the earthquake and its aftershocks. He said he was deeply saddened upon learning several children were among the dead, and of hearing of the total destruction of the town of Amatrice.


Here are his remarks:

“I had prepared the catechesis for today, as for all Wednesdays during this year of mercy, focusing on the closeness of Jesus. However on hearing of the news of the earthquake that has struck central Italy, and which has devastated entire areas and left many wounded, I cannot fail to express my heartfelt sorrow and spiritual closeness to all those present in the zones afflicted.

“I also express my condolences to those who have lost loved ones, and my spiritual support to those who are anxious and afraid. Hearing the mayor of Amatrice say that the town no longer exists, and learning that there are children among the dead, I am deeply saddened.

“For this reason, I want to assure all the people of Accumuli, Amatrice, the Diocese of Rieti, Ascoli Piceno, and all the people of Lazio, Umbria, and Le Marche, of the prayers and close solidarity of the entire Church, who in these moments extends her merciful love, as well as the concern of all of us here in the Piazza.

“Thanking all the volunteer and rescue personnel who are assisting these people, I ask you to join me in praying to the Lord Jesus, Who is always moved by compassion before the reality of human suffering, that He may console the broken hearted, and through the intercession of the Virgin Mary, bring them peace. With Jesus let our hearts be moved with compassion.

“So we will postpone, then, this week’s catechesis until next Wednesday, and I invite you to pray with me a part of the holy Rosary, the sorrowful mysteries.”


Dear Friends,

Many of you have by now heard of the earthquake that struck us during the night. The quake was a powerful one with a magnitude of 6.2. We’ve taken the past few hours to assess the situation.

First: We are OK. We are alive, and there are no serious injuries to report. Sadly, there are many injuries to report among the people of the region, especially those in small mountain villages. Please pray for them. We monks will do what we can to contribute here on the ground, but we’ll need your spiritual support in a special way during this period.

Second: We, as many others in Norcia and surrounding areas, suffered a lot of damage to our buildings and especially to our basilica. It will take some time to assess the extent of the damage, but it is very sad to see the many beautiful restorations we’ve made to St. Benedict’s birthplace reduced, in a moment, to disrepair.

Click here for a virtual tour of the basilica (pre-earthquake)

Third: What can you do? Please, pray for us, for those who have lost their lives, who have lost someone they love, who have lost their homes and livelihoods. We will need your help, as always but now in a special way, to start the project of rebuilding. Please consider making a gift to help us get started.

The Monks of Norcia


A strong earthquake struck central Italy early on 24 August, causing severe destruction to buildings and the loss of life. The magnitude 6.2 earthquake struck around the Rieti region. The worst hit towns were Amatrice and Accumoli, with the epicentre in Norcia.

“The situation is terrible,” said Bishop Giovanni D’Ercole of Ascoli Piceno, who arrived a few minutes after the first quake in the town of Pescara del Tronto. “As dawn broke, I could see the area had been destroyed. We are already working with Caritas to get the right aid to the people.”

The Italian Catholic Church has immediately made available €1 million in response to the earthquake and is launching a nationwide parish appeal to support Caritas Italy relief efforts.

“We are gathered in prayer with those caught in this tragic event,” said the Italian bishops in a statement, inviting all to help alleviate the difficult conditions people in the affected areas will face in the coming days, weeks and months.

Caritas volunteers in Rieti have already started to deliver food and basic necessities and Caritas is organising further support, while the Italian Civil Protection are looking for survivors under the rubble.

n 2015, Caritas Rieti helped train migrants and refugees from Pakistan, Afghanistan, Congo, Syria, Senegal, Somalia, Rwanda, Mali and Ghana to work with the Italian Civil Protection in emergency response.

“Caritas and parish volunteers, priests and bishops are concretely helping with the delivery of aid,” said Caritas Italy’s Paolo Beccegato. “We’re in constant communication with them to organise relief efforts on the ground.”

Donations can be sent to: Caritas Italiana, Via Aurelia 796 – 00165 Roma, using the current account n. 347013 or by bank transfer to Banca Popolare Etica, Via Parigi 17, Roma. Iban: IT 29 U 05018 03200 000000011113. Please specify  “Colletta terremoto centro Italia”.

Other ways include:


– Banca Prossima, piazza della Libertà 13, Roma – Iban: IT 06 A 03359 01600 100000012474

– Banco Posta, viale Europa 175, Roma – Iban: IT91 P076 0103 2000 0000 0347 013

– UniCredit, via Taranto 49, Roma – Iban: IT 88 U 02008 05206 000011063119.

Earthquakes are a constant threat to communities living in the Apennine mountains in Italy. An earthquake in Abruzzo left almost 300 people dead and tens of thousands homeless when it struck on 6 April 2009. In the aftermath of that quake, the diocesan Caritas pitched in immediately to provide the people of Aquila with food, clothes and other essentials. Following the initial emergency, Caritas Italy turned its focus to rebuilding communities by providing them with homes and also spaces where they could meet and learn.


U. S. Embassy Rome, Italy – Italy EarthquakeAugust 24, 2016

(From an email I received) The U.S. Mission to Italy is assisting Americans in central Italy where a 6.2 magnitude earthquake struck communities today at approximately 03:36AM.  Reports by Italian media and the Civil Protection Agency note that many roads are blocked in these regions at this time, especially in more remote areas.  The U.S. Embassy has restricted all but essential official travel to these regions and recommends that U.S. citizens defer travel in these areas as well.   Americans affected by the earthquakes who require assistance, or persons with information or questions about Americans in the affected areas, may call the U.S. Embassy’s earthquake response center at 06-4674 2944, or contact the center by email at

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Rome’s “birthday” is considered to be April 21st and today the Eternal City marked 2,769 years!  Buon compleanno, Roma!


(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis told members of Italy’s Diocesan Caritas chapters their mission is to express “concrete love for every human person, with a preferential option for the poor.”

The Caritas network of Italy is holding its national convention in Rome. The local chapters are part of the Caritas Internationalis family, which helps the poor, vulnerable, and excluded across the world.

“Given the challenges and contradictions of our time, Caritas has the difficult – but fundamental – task of making sure charitable service become everyone’s task; that is, the whole Christian community becomes the subject of charity,” said Pope Francis.

“This is the main object of your existence and your actions: to be a stimulus and a soul so that the whole community grows in charity, and knows how to discover new ways to be close to the poorest, to be able to read and confront the situations that oppress millions of our brothers and sisters –  in Italy, in Europe, and in the world,” continued the Holy Father.

Pope Francis then noted the importance of properly recruiting and training Caritas volunteers for their various roles, and acknowledged the “time, resources, and abilities” each volunteer invests.

“Faced with the global challenges that sow fear, guilt, financial speculation – even on food, environmental degradation, and war,” – the Holy Father said – “it is necessary, along with the daily work on the ground, to continue efforts to educate on the respectful and fraternal encounter between cultures and civilizations; and the care of creation, for an ‘integral ecology’.”

The Pope said this includes advocating to civil institutions and promoting “appropriate legislation” in favor of the common good.

“I encourage you not to tire of promoting, with tenacity and patient perseverance, communities who possess a passion for dialogue, to experience conflicts in an evangelical way, without denying them but making them opportunities for growth and reconciliation,” Pope Francis said.

“May you always speak proudly of your desire to go to the causes of poverty, and try to remove them; of your efforts to prevent exclusion; to affect the mechanisms that generate injustice; to work against any structure of sin,” he said. “This begins in the parishes: It is the precious work and capillaries of the parochial Caritas chapters, which must continually spread and multiply through the territory.”

Pope Francis also encouraged the local Caritas chapters to continue to help immigrants, both with solidarity and to help them integrate into the community.


Pope Francis has sent a telegram to the chief rabbi of Rome, Riccardo Di Segni, to convey to his good wishes to the Jewish community of Rome for Pesach, the Jewish feast of Passover, which takes place this year from April 22 to 30.

“In remembering with renewed gratitude our meeting on January 17, when I was cordially welcomed by you and by the Jewish Community of the city in the Great Synagogue, I wish to express my most heartfelt wishes for the feast of Passover. It points out that the Almighty has released His beloved people from slavery and brought them to the Promised Land. May God also accompany you today with the abundance of His Blessings, protect your community and, in His mercy, bestow peace upon everyone. I ask you to pray for me, as I assure you of my prayers for you: may the Almighty allow us to be able to grow more and more in friendship.”


This page might be a bit light tomorrow as I spend time in the morning and early afternoon recording my weekly Vatican Radio show, “Joan Knows,” and also preparing “Vatican Insider,” my EWTN weekend radio show. Tomorrow afternoon, however, I will be attending a prayer vigil at St. Mary Major for all those who, like myself, will be invested Saturday into the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre. The investiture ceremony and Mass Saturday will take place at St. John Lateran.

Those will be two beautiful, memorable days in my life and I hope to share as much as possible with you. EWTN will be filming the investiture ceremony Saturday and I’ll let you know when you can view some of those images.

EWTN’s News Nightly will feature a brief conversation with me about this honor so tune in tonight or get your Tivo ready!


Did you know that we almost did not have a Pope Francis because of a ship?

In 1927 Mario Bergoglio, the Pope’s father, made a 60-mile trip by horse carriage from his home in Portacomaro, Italy to the port city of Genoa to purchase tickets for a boat trip to Argentina that he had booked earlier for himself and his family.

He sat in the offices of the Navigazione Generale Italian Shipping Company where an agent checked his papers and then told him: “I’m afraid that all the staterooms are booked for the Princess Mafalda.” The future Pope’s father protested, saying he had made reservations months earlier and had not been notified of any changes. The agent, looking at Mario’s papers, said someone made a mistakes, the prices were too low and the Bergoglio cabin in steerage had been booked at a higher price. Mario tried to book a higher class – no luck .It seemed the family dreams of doing well in Argentina like other relatives were shattered.

Back home, Mario Bergoglio, explained things to the family. Two weeks pass. One day Mario comes home, waving a newspaper that he shows to his parents –Pope Francis’ grandparents Giovanni and Rosa – The banner headline read: “PRINCESS MAFALDA SINKS!”  There were survivors and most of the dead were from steerage class, the one Mario had originally booked.

Only two years later were the Bergoglios able to leave Italy for Argentina on the ship Giulio Cesare, arriving in Buenos Aires in February, 1929.

On December 17, 1936 Jorge Mario Bergoglio – Pope Francis – was born.

By the way, the real Princess Mafalda of Savoy was captured by the Nazis during World War II for use as a hostage to manipulate her father. She died at Buchenwald concentration camp in 1944. Her full name was Princess Mafalda Maria Elisabetta Anna Romana of Savoy and she was the second daughter of King Victor Emmanuel III of Italy and his wife Elena of Montenegro. The future King Umberto II of Italy was her younger brother.

Pope Francis was serenaded today by members of Italian Catholic Action whom he thanked for their commitment to welcome migrants. They also gave him a cake. (photo



(Vatican Radio) Friday, Pope Francis will open a Holy Door at a newly refurbished homeless centre run by the Church near Rome’s main train station. The radio’s Lydia O’Kane went along to see the newly completed project which offers a bed, a meal and ray of hope to hundreds of people every night.

As you arrive at the Holy Door of the Caritas centre for the homeless at Rome’s Termini Station you can’t fail to notice the mosaic logo of the Year of Mercy depicting Jesus the Good Shepherd by Marko Ivan Rupnik. (photo: ANSA,


The door will be opened by Pope Francis on December 18th and he will also have the chance to see for himself the newly refurbished dormitory and soup kitchen which are named after Caritas Rome founder Don Luigi Di Liegro and Pope Saint John Paul II.

Speaking at the inauguration of the new centre which he described as a place of dignity and welcome, the present Director of Caritas Rome, Monsignor Enrico Feroci quoted the words of Don Luigi who said, “a city in which one man suffers less is a better city”.

Those words are inscribed on the walls of the new pristine soup kitchen which caters for up to 600 homeless people every evening and offers a much needed respite from the streets outside where people can come, for warmth, contact with others, and a good meal.

As I make my way to the hostel itself, I am impressed by how welcoming they have made the 200 bed dormitories, each one with its own signature colour.

It’s taken years of work and co-operation to have both the canteen and hostel ready for Pope Francis’ Jubilee visit as Fulvio Ferrari, the Chief Engineer responsible for the project explains.

“We worked during two years… in the last 6 months, we worked a great deal and for the Jubilee”.

So why does he think Pope Francis chose to open a Holy Door here?

He says it’s because it is putting service at the heart of the Church’s mission. This is a centre that offers hope and help to all who pass through its doors, but here at Termini there is also general agreement that in this Jubilee of Mercy more and more people are increasingly in need of services like these.



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

(Their intervention Thursday afternoon follows)

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



Just a very brief “Joan’s Rome” today and a line to introduce you to this week’s guest on “Vatican Insider.” My special guest on the interveiw segment is a friend from the Middle East!  No Q&A this week but stay tuned after the news for my conversation in Rome with Dana Shahin, head of communications of Caritas Jordan. Dana is one dedicated and amazing young woman and we spoke during the recent Caritas International General Assembly. She’ll tell you about the general assembly in Rome, about Caritas’ specific work in Jordan and about Jordan’s King Abdullah.  You won’t want to miss a minute of this conversation, especially given the situation in the Middle East where Jordan is one of America’s best allies.

Dana Shahin

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