As I write, I am awaiting the visit of one of the neighborhood parish priests who is scheduled to visit our building between 6 and 8 pm to bless each home. This is a traditional event during either Lent or at some point in the Easter season. There are two churches that are equidistant from my home so I do not know if it will be a priest from St. Gregory the Great or St. Mary of Graces alle Fornaci. Accompanied by a parishioner, the priest prays with he occupants of the house, gives the blessing and then you chat but very briefly as he has miles to go and many homes to bless before he sleeps tonight. My doorbell is broken so I hope he knocks with energy!

An interesting day for vaticanisti: Pope Francis received Nechirvan Barzani, president of the Council of Ministers of the Regional Government of Iraqi Kurdistan. There was no official press office statement on this audience but it had to be a fascinating visit. Barzani is from the region that I visited on two occasions, staying at the Chaldean seminary in Ankawa, near Erbil,on both occasions.

Pope Francis talks with Iraq's Kurdistan Prime Minister Barzani during a private audience at the Vatican

Almost simultaneously with the papal audience in the Apostolic Palace, there was a preview for the media at a nearby religious house of the Liana Marabini film, “Shades of Truth,”a film about Pope Pius XII, whom Marabini greatly admires. Pius XII, whose cause for beatification took a positive step forward when Pope Benedict approved his predecessor being named “venerable” in 2009, has been maligned by many for decades for supposedly not saying or doing enough during World War II to save the Jews.

In fact, the opposite was true. In this film, we follow the journalist David Milano who, assigned to produce a documentary on the war-time Pope for whom he has always and only felt deep antipathy, takes both a physical journey, visiting Rome, Israel, Germany and Portugal, and a spiritual journey. Written and directed by Marabini, “Shades of Truth” is also a love story between David and Sarah that seems to be taking a bad turn, a story that will be affected by his research on Pope Pius.

The film was inspired not only by Marabini’s love and respect for Pope Pius XII, but also by the work of a close Jewish friend of hers – and mine – Gary Krupp who, with his wife Meredith, has spent years researching documents in the Vatican Archives, talking to fellow Jews who were saved through Pius’ efforts and meeting church men and women who followed the late Pope’s instructions to do all they could to save the Jews fom Hitler and from extermination.  All of this is documented on Gary’s site www.ptwf.com (PTWF stands for Pave the Way Foundation). I’ve interviewed Gary a number of times on “Vatican Insider.”

If you have heard Liana Marabini’s name before, I’ve also interviewed her for “ Insider Insider” and written about her on these pages, especially when she is in Rome for the gala awards dinner each year for the International Catholic Film Festival that she founded.

Marabini calls Pius XII “the Schindler of the Vatican,” noting that he saved over 800,000 Jews. “Shades of Truth” will be presented outside competition at the Cannes Film Festival in May and will be shown in the United States in September at the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia.

EWTN – especially its theology department – played a consultant role on the film.

For a trailer and in-depth look at the film and cast, click here: http://www.condor-pictures.com/filmography/shadesoftruth

(It is 8:20 pm and my home and person were just blessed by a priest from Santa Maria delle Graze – the assistant pastor, from Vietnam. After the prayers and blessing with holy water, we spoke briefly. I told him of my trip to Vietnam last year and we also disovered we have mutual Vietnamese friends in the Vatican!).


His general prayer intention is: “That those involved in scientific research may serve the well-being of the whole human person.”

His mission intention is: “That the unique contribution of women to the life of the Church may be recognized always.”


The weekend Lenten station churches of Rome were St. Peter’s Basilica and Santa Maria in Domnica.


Saturday’s station church was St. Peter’s Basilica.  I have tons of photos of the basilica and have been to scores and scores of Masses and papal events there over the years. If time allows tonight, I’ll post some of those photos on Facebook but for now I have a real treat for you!  I am sure you have gone to the Vatican web site (www.vatican.va) and clicked on Papal Chapels and Basilica for information about Mass times, irtual tours, etc. of the papal basilicas. Great stuff…..

….BUT here is the most amazing site you will ever find! It has everything you wanted to know or did not know you could know about St. Peter’s Basilica! http://stpetersbasilica.info

A friend of mine, Alan Howard, put this site together a number of years ago and I’ve interviewed him for Vatican Insider (vi_01302010.mp3)

The Sunday station church was Santa Maria in Domnica, whose titular cardinal is American Cardinal William Levada, former prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

For the church history, click here:  http://www.pnac.org/station-churches/week-2/sunday-santa-maria-in-domnica/

And for some pretty amazing photos, click here: http://www.paradoxplace.com/Perspectives/Rome%20&%20Central%20Italy/Rome/Rome_Churches/Santa_Maria_in_Domnica/SM_in_Domnica.htm


This stunning church, with layers and layers of history, is everyone’s favorite here – Romans, expats who live here and visitors alike.  As you have seen on this page, many of the station churches in Rome do not have their own website – or, if they do, it is naturally in Italian. However, San Clemente does have its own wonderful site, so click here for an official tour! http://basilicasanclemente.com/eng/

We can also visit this jewel with Brian Lenz of NAC – here is his story (reprinted with his permission) from the 2014 pilgrimage by the NAC priests, deacons and seminarians: http://blenzinrome.blogspot.it/2014/03/monday-of-second-week-san-clemente.html


THE TRANSFIGURATION, A GLIMPSE OF JESUS’ GLORY VIS) – “On this second Sunday of Lent, the Church shows us the ultimate goal of this itinerary of conversion, or rather, participation in the glory of Christ,” said the Pope before this Sunday’s Angelus prayer upon returning from the week of spiritual exercises. He also recalled that last Sunday’s Gospel passage presented Jesus resisting Satan’s temptations in the desert.

“Today’s Gospel tells us of the event of the Transfiguration, which takes place at the culmination of Jesus’ public ministry. He is on the path to Jerusalem, where the prophecies of the Servant of God will be fulfilled and His redemptive sacrifice will be consummated”. Francis remarked that neither the multitude nor the apostles understood that the outcome of Jesus’ mission of suffering would be His glorious passion, and so He decided to show a glimpse of His glory to the apostles Peter, James and John, to confirm them in their faith and to encourage them to follow him on the path of trial, on the way of the Cross. (For more: http://www.news.va/en/news/angelus-let-us-be-transformed-by-love)

FRANCIS SPEAKS OF “INTOLERABLE BRUTALITY” AGAINST FAITHFUL IN SYRIA AND IRAQ (VIS) – Following today’s Angelus prayer the Pope made an appeal regarding “the dramatic situation in Syria and Iraq, involving violence, abduction and abuse of Christians and other groups. I wish to assure those involved in these situations that we have not forgotten them; rather, we are close to them and pray ceaselessly for a swift end to the intolerable brutality they are subjected to.” He also commented that, along with the members of the Roman Curia, he offered the second Holy Mass of the spiritual exercises (last week) for this intention. He asked all persons, as far as possible, to work to alleviate the suffering of those afflicted, often merely because of the faith they profess. Let us pray for these brothers and sisters who suffer for the faith in Syria and Iraq.”

The Pontiff also commented on the acute tension that Venezuela is experiencing at present. “I pray for the victims and, in particular, for the boy who died a few days ago in San Cristobal. I urge all involved to reject violence and to respect the dignity of every person and the sacredness of human life, and encourage them to undertake a joint path for the good of the country, reopening space for sincere and constructive encounter and dialogue.” (For more: http://www.news.va/en/news/syria-iraq-and-venezuela-in-the-popes-prayers)

HOLY FATHER WELCOMES BISHOPS OF NORTH AFRICA  (VIS) – This morning, the prelates of the Regional Episcopal Conference of North Africa (C.E.R.N.A), which encompasses the dioceses of Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia and Libya were received in audience by the Pope at the end of their “ad limina” visit. The Holy Father handed them a written address in which he recalls that the history of the region has been marked by many saintly figures from St. Cyprian and St. Augustine, a “spiritual patrimony for all the Church,” to Blessed Charles de Foucauld, who died 100 years ago next year.

“For several years your region has been experiencing significant changes, which offer hope that aspirations to greater freedom and dignity may be fulfilled and which favour greater freedom of conscience”, continues Francis. “But at times these events have led to outbursts of violence. I wish to mention, in particular, the courage, loyalty and perseverance of the bishops of Libya, as well as the priests, consecrated persons and laypeople who stay in this country despite the many dangers. They are genuine witnesses of the Gospel. I thank them with all my heart and encourage them to continue their efforts in contributing to peace and reconciliation throughout the region.” (For more: http://www.news.va/en/news/to-the-prelates-of-north-africa-always-be-men-of-h)