I just spent some quality time this afternoon watching the farewell ceremony at the Houston airport for former President George H.W. Bush as Air Force One brings his body to Washington D.C. for viewing and the official funeral.

While I never met Bush 41 as everyone is calling him, I enjoyed hearing stories about him in the early 90s when the late Tom Melady was U.S. ambassador to the Holy See and he and his wife Margaret invited me for dinners and other get-togethers at Villa Richardson, the ambassador’s residence.

At the time, Margaret was working on a doctoral thesis on how Pope John Paul communicated through travels and we had a number of meetings in my office at VIS, Vatican Information Service, where I tried to help her with copies of papal speeches, itineraries of all his visits and any other information I could provide. She was also president of AUR, American University of Rome, for several years. Margaret is a widely-respected and multi-talented individual and I’m sure she will be at some of this week’s ceremonies for the late president.

FYI: I wrote that Air Force One is taking Pres. Bush to D.C: that’s the name of the presidential plane when he is on board but if someone else is on board a different name is used. Today it is Special Air Mission 41. Air Force One is the official air traffic control call sign for a United States Air Force aircraft carrying the President of the United States. In common parlance the term describes those Air Force aircraft designed, built, and used to transport the president.


Pope and president underscore the need to re-activate the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

The Holy See Press Office released the follow statement on today’s meeting between Pope Francis and Mahmoud Abbas:

Today, 3 December 2018, the Holy Father Francis received in audience H.E. Mr. Mahmoud Abbas, President of the State of Palestine, who subsequently met with His Excellency the Secretary for Relations with States, Abp. Paul Richard Gallagher.

During the cordial discussions, the good relations between the Holy See and Palestine were noted, as were the positive role of Christians and the activity of the Church in Palestinian society, enshrined in the Global Agreement of 2015.

Attention then turned to the path of reconciliation among the Palestinian people, as well as the efforts to reactivate the peace process between Israelis and Palestinians, and to reach a two-state solution, hoping for a renewed commitment on the part of the international community to meet the legitimate aspirations of both peoples.

Particular attention was reserved for the status of Jerusalem, underlining the importance of recognizing and preserving its identity and the universal value of the Holy City for the three Abrahamic religions.

Finally, mention was made of the other conflicts afflicting the Middle East and the urgency of promoting paths of peace and dialogue, with the contribution of the religious communities, to combat every form of extremism and fundamentalism.


Pope Francis meets with the Citadel of Peace Association, praising their work in the field of conflict resolution and supporting their appeal to the UN.

The Citadel of Peace Association was founded 20 years ago by Franco Vaccari who had an interest in conflict resolution. Mr. Vaccari took the formerly abandoned Italian village of Rondine in Tuscany and turned it into a centre for conflict resolution that was nominated in 2015 for the Nobel Peace Prize.

Over the years, young people from areas of conflict around the world have come to the village and the centre in a bid to promote understanding and peace. Those who are welcomed at the centre for a course of study come from countries such as; Israel and the Palestinian Authority; Serbia and Bosnia; Armenia and Azerbaijan; Russia and Chechnya.

Transforming conflicts and Peace Building
Greeting the 350 members of the association in the Vatican on Monday, on the occasion of its 20th anniversary, Pope Francis told those gathered that in these twenty years they had “developed a method capable of transforming conflicts, bringing young people out of this deception and sending them back to their peoples for full spiritual, moral, cultural and civil development: generous young people who, blameless, were born with the burden of the failures of previous generations.”

By choosing to dedicate yourselves to young people, the Pope said, “you are also committed to fighting poverty and building peace, as a work of justice and love. An action that nourishes hope and places trust in man, especially in young people.”

Peace Appeal
The Pontiff went on to discuss an appeal the Citadel of Peace Association has written and which will be presented to the UN on December 10, on the occasion of the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Pope Francis said that, “listening to a young Palestinian and a young Israeli together asking the governments of the world to take a step that can reopen the future, transferring the cost of a weapon from the budget of defense to the budget of education to form a peace leader, is a rare and beautiful thing!… I feel I must give you all my support, my affection, my blessing.”

“Your appeal”, the Pope continued, “contains and proposes a concrete vision”, adding that he supported it and asked Heads of State and Government to do likewise.

The role of Peace Leaders
Peace leaders, the Pope underlined, “are not those politicians who do not know how to dialogue and confront each other: a leader who does not strive to meet the ‘enemy’, to sit with him at the table as you do, cannot lead his people towards peace. To do this we need humility and not arrogance.” Peace,” Pope Francis concluded, “is everyone’s responsibility.” (vaticannews)