Today is the first day of summer and the first day of a kind of rebirth. The block-long apartment building in which I live has been shrouded in canvas-covered scaffolding since the start of October 2020 – the front and back façades and the two sides of the building, a huge undertaking. Today, for the first time since then I can see my beloved dome of St. Peter’s Basilica as 90 percent of the scaffolding on the front of the building has come down!

Serious work is now being done on the back of the building where all of our balconies are located. I have three rooms in the back of the building, each of which has a balcony. However, as lovely as that might sound, there is no great view to enjoy and balconies get dirty and dusty so fast that no one ever uses them for just sitting and visiting with friends or sharing a cappuccino or glass of wine.

A downside in the work on the back of the building is that the outside units of my AC have all been covered so, until the work is finished and scaffolding comes down, I can’t turn on the air conditioning. And today it was 92!

As the expression goes, this too will pass!   Another thing to offer the Lord for the poor souls in purgatory!

We did get new elevator in the building renovation process and if nothing else had been done to the building, that was worth the inconvenience! In the old elevator, you opened one outside door and two small doors to enter the cabin. You reversed that once inside. Then you repeated the entire procedure when you got to your floor. So, all told, you opened and closed 12 doors in one trip! And now it is all automatic! Welcome to the 21st century!

Will soon post some photos of the building before and after the reno.

THE POPE’S DAY: Shortly after 8:45 this morning at the Santa Marta residence, Pope Francis met a group of about 20 inmates from Rome’s Rebibbia prison. Accompanied by the prison director, the chaplain and some officials, the group subsequently went to visit the Vatican Museums. (from Holy See Press Office)


The Holy See’s humanitarian arm for the Oriental Churches kicked off its plenary meeting on Monday with ROACO’s attention going to the Holy Land, Ethiopia, Armenia, and Georgia in particular.

By Devin Watkins (Vatican news)

The Reunion of Aid Agencies for the Oriental Churches (ROACO) began its 94th plenary assembly on Monday afternoon at the Casa Bonus Pastor in Rome.

The annual meeting runs until Thursday.

In a press release today, the Congregation for the Oriental Churches laid out the schedule for the 4-day assembly.

Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, prefect of the Congregation and ROACO President, will preside over the opening Eucharist on Tuesday, during which all the agencies donor will be prayed for.

The Mass also serves to entrust “to the Lord and the intercession of the Blessed Mother of God the progress of the scheduled sessions and especially countries which continue to suffer because of violence and social and political instability made worse by the ongoing pandemic.”

Concern for Holy Land

Tuesday morning’s sessions will be dedicated to the situation in the Holy Land, as well as ROACO’s work to assist people in the area. (vatican media photo)

Church leaders presenting on the topic include the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, Archbishop Pierbattista Pizzaballa, the Custos of the Holy Land, Fr. Francesco Patton, and the Vice Chancellor of Bethlehem University, Br. Peter Bray.

Participants will also be informed about the 2020 Collection Pro Terra Sancta.

Ethiopia, Armenia, Georgia

In the afternoon, ROACO’s attention shifts to the situation in Ethiopia to be presented by the Apostolic Nuncio, Archbishop Antoine Camilleri.

Ethiopia’s Tigray region saw a devastating conflict near the end of 2020 and into this year. The UN recently reported that Tigray is home to some 30,000 children who are severely malnourished, with over 400,000 people facing famine in the region.

The afternoon session will also focus on Armenia and Georgia, through an intervention from Archbishop José Avelino Bettencourt, the Apostolic Nuncio to both nations.

Middle Eastern region

On Wednesday, participants in the plenary session will turn their focus to the entire Middle East, concentrating especially on Syria and Iraq.

Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher, the Vatican Secretary for Relations with States, will speak at the assembly, along with the Pope’s representatives in Syria (Cardinal Mario Zenari), Lebanon (Archbishop Joseph Spiteri), and Iraq (Archbishop Mitja Leskovar).




The following decree from the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of Sacraments was published today by the Holy See Press Office:

DECREE In time of Covid-19 (II)

Considering the rapidly evolving situation of the Covid-19 pandemic and taking into account observations which have come from Episcopal Conferences, this Congregation now offers an update to the general indications and suggestions already given to Bishops in the preceding decree of 19 March 2020.

Given that the date of Easter cannot be transferred, in the countries which have been struck by the disease and where restrictions around the assembly and movement of people have been imposed, Bishops and priests may celebrate the rites of Holy Week without the presence of the people and in a suitable place, avoiding concelebration and omitting the sign of peace.

The faithful should be informed of the beginning times of the celebrations so that they can prayerfully unite themselves in their homes. Means of live (not recorded) telematic broadcasts can be of help. In any event it remains important to dedicate an adequate time to prayer, giving importance above all to the Liturgia Horarum.

The Episcopal Conferences and individual dioceses will see to it that resources are provided to support family and personal prayer.

1 – Palm Sunday. The Commemoration of the Lord’s Entrance into Jerusalem is to be celebrated within sacred buildings; in Cathedral churches the second form given in the Roman Missal is to be adopted; in parish churches and in other places the third form is to be used.

2 – The Chrism Mass. Evaluating the concrete situation in different countries, the Episcopal Conferences will be able to give indications about a possible transfer to another date.

3 – Holy Thursday. The washing of feet, which is already optional, is to be omitted. At the end of the Mass of the Lord’s Supper the procession is also omitted and the Blessed Sacrament is to be kept in the tabernacle. On this day the faculty to celebrate Mass in a suitable place, without the presence of the people, is exceptionally granted to all priests.

4 – Good Friday. In the Universal Prayer, Bishops will arrange to have a special intention prepared for those who find themselves in distress, the sick, the dead, (cf. Missale Romanum). The adoration of the Cross by kissing it shall be limited solely to the celebrant.

5 – The Easter Vigil: Is to be celebrated only in Cathedral and parish churches. For the “Baptismal Liturgy” only the “Renewal of Baptismal Promises” is maintained (cf. Missale Romanum).

Seminaries, houses of clergy, monasteries and religious communities shall follow the indications of this decree.

Expressions of popular piety and processions which enrich the days of Holy Week and the Paschal Triduum can be transferred to other suitable days in the year, for example 14 and 15 September, according to the judgement of the Diocesan Bishop.

De mandato Summi Pontificis pro hoc tantum anno 2020.

From the offices of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, 25 March 2020, on the Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord.

Robert Card. Sarah Prefect
Arthur Roche Archbishop Secretary


Dispositions issued today from the Congregation for Eastern Churches:

Considering the rapid evolution of the COVID-19 pandemic, including in many countries where faithful of the Eastern Catholic Churches live, the Congregation for the Eastern Churches invites the Heads of all the Churches sui iuris to issue norms in accordance with the measures established by the civil authorities for the containment of the contagion and to encourage such conduct with the other Christian Churches, Catholic and non-Catholic, present on the same territory. Considering the different ritual traditions and the Easter celebrations according to their respective calendars, it is not possible to issue a unitary provision that would cover all the uses present in each Church sui iuris.

Nevertheless, it seems appropriate to share the following recommendations:

– The feasts are strictly to be kept on the days foreseen by the liturgical calendar, broadcasting or streaming those celebrations that are possible,so that they can be followed by the faithful in their homes.

– Consideration should be given to the adaptations that will be made necessary by limited presence at the liturgical service. The participation of the choir and ministers expected by some ritual traditions is not possible at the present time when prudence advises avoiding gathering in significant numbers.

– Those parts of the celebrations connected to some rite outside the church are omitted.

– Remind the faithful of the value of personal and family prayer, which is authentic ecclesial prayer and an important means of transmitting the content of the faith between generations. Also arrange, and distribute through the means of social communication, aids that allow an adult of the family to explain to the little ones the mystagogy of the rites that under normal conditions would be celebrated in the church with the assembly present.

– The riches of the Paschal celebrations, from Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday, can also be valorised by suggesting that part of them be prayed at home and in families, with the aids to participation that are usually made available in each community every year.

– Priests who cannot celebrate the liturgy on their own pray the hours of the office, especially the psalms and those prayers that do not require a response from the choir and the faithful.

– On Holy Thursday, in the liturgical celebration of the morning, some Churches sui iuris celebrate the consecration of the Holy Myron. This celebration, not being linked in the East to this day, can be moved to another date.

– On Good Friday, encourage use – alone or with the family – of the precious texts that the oriental traditions present on this day for prayer around the Cross and the tomb of Christ.

– On the night of Pascha, families may be invited, where possible through the festive sound of the bells, to gather to read the Gospel of the Resurrection, lighting a lamp and singing some troparion or songs typical of their tradition that the faithful often know by memory.

Any baptisms scheduled for Easter are postponed to another date.

The provisions issued by the March 19 decree of the Apostolic Penitentiary remain valid. Since many faithful are accustomed to confessing in the period before Easter, where it is not possible to do so, let pastors indicate to the faithful the recitation of some of the rich penitential prayers from the oriental tradition, to be recited with a spirit of contrition.

Sincerely yours, ✠ Leonardo Card. Sandri Prefetto

Fr. Flavio Pace Sotto-Segretario




The “Collection for the Holy Land” was born from the desire of the Popes to maintain a strong link between all the faithful and the Holy Places, and given a decisive boost by Saint Paul VI through the Apostolic Exhortation ‘Nobis in Animo’ (March 25, 1974). It is an instrument that the Church provides her children in other parts of the world to express solidarity with the ecclesial communities of the Middle East. The funds traditionally collected on Good Friday are the main source of material support for Christian life in the Holy Land.

The Franciscan Custody uses the Collection to carry out its important mission of preserving the Sacred Places, the stones of memory, and promoting the Christian presence, the living stones, through many pastoral, educational, welfare, health and social structures. The territories that benefit in various forms of support from the Collection are Jerusalem, Palestine, Israel, Jordan, Cyprus, Syria, Lebanon, Egypt, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Turkey, Iran and Iraq.

As a rule, the Custody of the Holy Land receives 65% of the Collection, while the remaining 35% goes to the Congregation for the Eastern Churches, which uses it for the formation of candidates for the priesthood, the support of the clergy, educational activities, cultural formation and subsidies to the various ecclesiastical circumscriptions in the Middle East.

In summary, we report what the Congregation received in 2019 and how it was distributed:

Amount received in 2019 from the Collection                US$ 6.929.209,64
Amount received from the Custody for previous years  US$ 1.350.000,00
Total                                                                                 US$ 8.279.209,64

Academic, Spiritual and Human Formation of the Seminarians and Priests of the Churches under the Jurisdiction of the Congregation for the Eastern Churches

Thanks to the Collection, contributions can be made to seminaries, religious houses of formation and cultural institutions in the territories of competence, supporting in various forms (scholarships, university fees and health needs) young seminarians and priests, men and women religious and, depending on the funds available, and some lay people. About 300 students benefiting from scholarships are hosted in 7 colleges under the jurisdiction of the Dicastery in Rome. A new college that opened four years ago for nuns from different Eastern countries welcomes 32 female students this year. In addition, the Dicastery contributes to the sustenance of the Pontifical Oriental Institute, a higher academic institution with two faculties, Eastern Ecclesiastical Sciences and Eastern Canon Law, of which the Cardinal Prefect is Grand Chancellor.

Formation of seminarians, priests and nuns in Rome,

Maintenance of Colleges                                        US$ 2,310,681.00
Pontifical Oriental Institute (PIO)                            US$ 915,571.00
Extraordinary subsidies for cultural collaboration  US$ 50,000.00
Total                                                                         US$ 3,276,252.00

Subsidies for Educational Activities

The Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, the Custody of the Holy Land, the Eastern Catholic Churches of the Holy Land and Religious Institutes are committed to the education of young people in the Holy Land. Keeping in mind the particular circumstances faced by Christian students and taking into account the arrival into the Holy Land of thousands of school-aged children from Syria and Iraq, the Congregation for the Eastern Churches has decided to increase the subsidies also for the current academic year.

The work of the Secretariat of Solidarity in the coordination and distribution of subsidies to educational institutions managed by the aforementioned institutions is also noteworthy. One of the prestigious Institutions that ensures academic formation is Bethlehem University. Almost 3,300 young people, mostly Palestinian Muslims, are trained intellectually and humanly with the hope of engaging in the construction of a country where mutual respect reigns and where human dignity is preserved. The commitment of the De La Salle Brothers in running the university is much appreciated.

Secretariat of Solidarity                                         US$ 990,000.00
Schools of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem     US$ 850,000.00
Bethlehem University                                            US$ 1,200,000.00
Total                                                                      US$ 3,040,000.00

Ordinary and Extraordinary Subsidies

This Congregation contributes to supporting the Churches placed under its competence with subsidies drawn from the Holy Land Collection. The Middle East continues to live in instability and tension. Those who have no food, medical treatment or school make themselves heard, as do the orphans, the widowed and the wounded.

The Congregation pays particular attention to the needs of these people and works to rebuild social structures through the local Eastern and Latin Dioceses, as well as by coordinating the Catholic agencies involved in the aforementioned countries. Ensuring the means necessary for a dignified life for those returning to Iraq and Syria and for refugees in neighboring countries, such as Lebanon and Jordan, requires the collaboration of all people of good will. Furthermore, cultural, spiritual and psychological activities are encouraged that in various ways bring people closer, despite religious and ethnic differences.


How are your Latin language skills? Do you need to improve them? Well, here you go….

Every year at this time, the men from around the world who have been ordained new bishops over the previous year come to Rome for about a week in order to visit congregations, pontifical councils and other dicasteries of the Roman Curia, getting to know people and structures they will need in their years as bishops. They participate in a course organized by the Congregations for Bishops and for the Eastern Churches.

These fall gatherings, which always include a meeting with the Holy Father, have been nicknamed “the baby bishops conferences.” Pope Francis met the new bishops this morning as you can see from the Vaticannews summary of his remarks.


By Vatican News

Pope Francis told the Bishops: “Our mission is to be for the Church and for the world the ‘sacraments’ of God’s closeness.” Our world seeks this divine closeness, he said. “The Church herself is lost when she loses the life-giving tenderness of the Good Shepherd.”

Closeness to God
“Closeness to God is the source of the Bishop’s ministry,, said the Pope, and “we exist to make this closeness palpable.” But we cannot communicate God’s closeness without experiencing it, Pope Francis continued. “Without the closeness to the Sower,” we cannot accompany the growth of the seed “with patient confidence”.

Closeness to God’s people
“Closeness to the people entrusted to us,” the Pope continued, “is our essential condition.” “Jesus loves to approach His brothers and sisters” through His Bishops, through their comforting hands; through their words, proclaiming the Gospel, and not themselves; through their hearts, “when they are charged with the joys and sorrows of our brothers and sisters.”

“We have to proclaim with our lives a measure of life different from that of the world,” said Pope Francis: “the measure of a love without measure.”

Closeness of the Good Samaritan
“The closeness of the Bishop is not rhetoric,” continued Pope Francis. It is not about “self-referential proclamations, but of real availability.” Closeness uses concrete verbs, he said, like those of the Good Samaritan: “not looking the other way, not leaving people waiting and not to sweeping problems under the carpet.”

The Pope encouraged the new Bishops to “to stay in touch with people, to devote more time to them than to the desk.” The Good Samaritan bandages wounds, and gets his hands dirty. “To be close to the people of God is to identify with them,” said Pope Francis, to share their joys and their pains.

Closeness to the poor
“The thermometer of closeness is the attention to the least, to the poor,” continued the Pope. Living a simple life is “to witness that Jesus is enough for us and that the treasure we want to surround ourselves with is made up of those who, in their poverty, remind us of Him.”

The Pope insisted he was not speaking about poor people in terms of abstract “data and social categories, but concrete people, whose dignity is entrusted to us as their fathers.” Fatherhood, he said, means being able to see, to caress, to weep.

Closeness of listening
The Pope invited the new Bishops to be “Apostles of listening,” men who know how to listen to things that may not always be pleasant to hear. He told them not to surround themselves with “yes men.”

He encouraged them to make regular pastoral visits: to meet their people and their pastors; to visit following the example of Our Lady, who shows us how “to bring the comfort of the Lord.”

Closeness to priests
Finally, the Pope urged the new bishops to be especially close to their priests who need to be “loved, accompanied and encouraged. …The priest is the closest neighbor of the bishop,” said Francis. “Embrace them, and thank them in my name.”


Pope Francis tweeted today: The statute of Our Lady of Aparecida was found by poor workers. May Mary bless all of us, but especially those seeking employment.

There are so many fascinating institutes, academies and other institutions in Rome that to cover them, even summarily, would require full time dedication to just this area. The same could be said for any (or all) of the Vatican’s nine congregations, some going back almost 500 years while one, the Congregation for Oriental Churches, now celebrates its centenary.

For a small idea of the nature, scope, work and jurisdiction of this congregation – From the Vatican website:


Pope Francis celebrated a Mass of Thanksgiving this morning at St. Mary Major Basilica to commemorate the centenary of the Congregation for Oriental Churches and the Pontifical Oriental Institute. He also visited the pontifical institute as it is a very short distance from the basilica.

The Congregation for Oriental Churches is responsible for the 23 Eastern Catholic Churches in full communion with Rome, such as the Maronite, Melkite and Chaldean traditions, to name but three. There are about 16 million faithful in these Churches – about 1.5 % of the Catholic Church.

In his homily, Francis encouraged all Christians of the Oriental Churches to continue with their courageous witness, despite the dramatic persecutions that they suffer. Recalling the establishment of the PIO, the acronym for the pontifical institute, by Benedict XV in 1917, during the First World War, Pope Francis said that today we are living though another “piecemeal” world war. When we see the persecution and worrying exodus of Christians, he said, just like the people of the Old Testament, we cry out “Why?”

He answered by saying, if we pray and trust in the Lord, we know that “’everyone who asks, receives; those who seek, find; and to those who knock, the door will be opened’.. The Spirit is God’s great gift to us, so let’s learn how to knock courageously on the door of God’s heart. May courageous prayer inspire and sustain your service to the Church so that it may bear fruit that does not wither and die.”

Wednesday, at the general audience, Pope Francis had special greetings for Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, prefect of the congregation and grand chancellor of the Pontifical Oriental Institute. The “Orientale” as it is known in Rome, became part of the “Gregorian Consortium” that includes the Gregorian University and the Biblical Institute, all under the direction and tutelage of the Jesuits.(source: Vatican Radio)


(Vatican Radio) Church leaders from the different Eastern Catholic rites have been gathered in Rome this week to mark the centenary of the foundation of the Pontifical Oriental Institute and the Congregation for Eastern Churches. Pope Francis visited the Institute on Thursday and issued a mesage praising its “high achievements” and reminding it to be always attentive to the “enormous challenges facing Christians in the East”.

In 1917, in the middle of the First World War, Pope Benedict XV wstablished the Institute to be a bridge between East and West and to make the rich traditions of the Oriental Churches available to the entire Catholic world. A century on, the Institute maintains a world class reputation for its research, teaching and publishing on all issues of Eastern theology, liturgies, patristics, history, canon law, literature, spirituality, archeology, as well as questions of ecumenical and geopolitical importance.

Jesuit Father David Nazar is the current rector of the Pontifical Oriental Institute. Born in Canada to a family of Ukrainian origin, he’s a former superior of the Society of Jesus in Ukraine and  former Provincial of the Jesuits in the English Canada Province.

He spoke to Vatican Radio, and explained that the ‘Orientale’ as it’s known, is a papal institute, entrusted to the Society of Jesus, to focus on matters concerning all of the Catholic and Orthodox Eastern Churches.

Since many of the Eastern Churches are smaller and lacking the resources of Christians in the West, he says, the popes were concerned to make sure that the wealth of research on liturgy, ancient traditions, and original manuscripts could be made available to Christians across the globe.

Fr Nazar says that over the past century, the Jesuits have worked hard to establish a world class library, which was funded for a number of years by friends of Pope Pius XI. It remains second to none in the world, he notes, in the study of the ancient traditions and languages of the Eastern world.

Much of this work has been significant for the West as well, he adds, such as the Second Vatican Council’s document on the importance of the Eastern Churches “which would have been unimaginable without the fifty years of research that had been done at the Orientale”.



Pope Francis this morning welcomed King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands, accompanied by his wife, Queen Máxima, on the penultimate day of their visit to Italy. As is customary with leaders, the sovereigns then met with Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin and Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher, secretary for Relations with States.

The papal audience lasted about 35 minutes and, according to the media present at the encounter, was more than amiable as Queen Maximia was born, like Pope Francis, in Buenos Aires, thus the two could converse in their native Spanish

Among the gifts the royals gave to the Holy Father were Dutch tulips, with Queen Maxima noting they would be planted in the Vatican gardens and are good for more than just Easter.

Dutch flowers growers traditionally provide the plants, flowers and shrubs for the Easter Sunday Mass in St. Peter’s Square.

The Pope gifted the royals a medallion depicting St. Martin of Tours, known for dividing his cloak to give to a poor man. Francis also gave them the customary gift of copies of his environmental encyclical Laudato si, and two Exhortations, “Amoris Laetitia” and “Evangelii Gaudium,” and his Message for the 2017 World Day of Peace.

During the meeting today with the Dutch Royals the Vatican turned over what is known as the baton (stick, also called scepter) of William of Orange. This is a unique icon in the story of the Dutch state and the nation. The baton bears the coat of arms of William of Orange. It is believed there are no other copies.

The baton was given by William of Orange to a Dutch commander who participated in the battle of Mookerheyde 1574. William’s brother, Luigi of Nassau, waved the baton/ scepter during the battle of Mookerheyde as a general of the Dutch insurrectionists. After they lost, the baton came into the hands of a Spanish general and then after having been given to a general of the Jesuits, today, June 22 it was returned into the hands of William Alexander of Orange.

A note from the museum that will host the baton next year said, “the turning over of the baton represents a witness to reconciliation of the current union between the two countries and religions. It is also a symbol of the long paths that the Roman Catholic Church and the kingdom of the Netherlands have traveled on, fom past rivalries and wars, to today’s reciprocal respect and promotion of peace and human rights.

This special relic will be displayed from April 27 to the end of October 2018 at the National Military Museum in Soesterberg in an exhibit on William of Orange.


Pope Francis this morning addressed Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, prefect of the Congregation for Oriental Churches and all those gathered in Rome for the 90th Plenary Session of ROACO (Reunion of Aid Agencies to the Oriental Churches).

He renewed his “gratitude for the work and the constant effort of charity and solidarity guaranteed since 1968 to the Churches, Eastern and Latin, of the territories entrusted to the competence of the Congregation for Oriental Churches: you support the pastoral, educational and welfare activities and help meet their urgent needs, also thanks to the work of the Pontifical Representatives, whom I also have the pleasure of greeting. Through the Custos I greet and bless the Franciscan Friars of the Custody who have started to celebrate the eighth centenary of their presence in the Holy Land.”

Francis noted that,” the Congregation for the Oriental Churches is celebrating its centenary, a long period during which it has assisted the Supreme Pontiffs – who had been Prefects until 1967 – in their solicitude for all the Churches. There have been decades of dramatic events: Eastern Churches have often been overwhelmed by terrible waves of persecution and suffering, both in Eastern Europe and the Middle East. Major migrations have weakened its presence in the territories where they had flourished for centuries. Now, thanks to God, some of them have returned to freedom after the painful period of the totalitarian regimes, but others, especially in Syria, Iraq and Egypt, see their children suffer as a result of the ongoing war and the senseless violence perpetrated by fundamentalist terrorism.”

Pope Francis thanked congregation staff and ROACO members for their constant work of charity and solidarity over the past half century in support of Latin and Eastern-rite communities under the care of the Congregation for Oriental Churches.

He highlighted the persecution and emigration suffered by these Churches of the Middle East, as well as in Eastern Europe, saying they have often suffered from “terrible waves of persecution and pain.” Pope Francis said “emigration has also significantly weakened the presence of these Churches in places where they flourished for centuries.” Freedom has now returned to some of those regions, but others, particularly in Syria, Iraq and Egypt, are still devastated by “wars and absurd violence perpetrated by fundamentalist terrorism.” These experiences are a source of both suffering and salvation, he said, as we experience the Cross of Christ.”

The plenary members were reflecting on the current situation in the countries where ROACO is present, and they also reflected on what the Pope called, “the important issue of the initial formation of seminarians and the ongoing formation of priests. We are aware of the radical nature of the choice expressed by many of them, and the heroism of their testimony of dedication alongside their often sorely tried communities. But we are also aware of the temptations that one may encounter, such as the search for a social status attributed to the consecrated in some geographical areas, or a way of exercising the role of guide following criteria of human affirmation or according to patterns of culture and the environment.”

In concluding, the Holy Father said, “And let us not forget that even today in the East, Christians – be they Catholics, Orthodox, or Protestants – shed their blood as a seal of their witness. May oriental believers, if forced to emigrate, be welcomed in the places where they arrive, and continue to live according to their own ecclesial tradition. In this way your work, dear representatives of the Agencies, will be a bridge between the West and the East, both in the countries of origin and in those you yourselves come from.”


Don’t forget to tune in to “At Home with Jim and Joy” on Mondays and Thursdays at 2pm ET. I bring some commentary or news from Rome each week to both shows. If you watch EWTN in Europe, the Monday shows airs on Tuesday at 10am and Wednesday at 6 pm. The Thursday show airs Friday at 10 and Saturday at 6 pm.


VATICAN WELCOMES THREE NEW SYRIAN FAMILIES. They have found shelter and welcome in the Vatican as part of an ongoing effort to provide the means and the tools for integration and a new life of hope for those fleeing conflict and persecution. All told, 13 people from two Christian families and one Muslim family have been able make their homes in three Vatican-owned apartments recently vacated by other refugees who have since moved on to more permanent situations. Two of the families fled violence and discrimination because of their Christian faith. They arrived in Italy in March. The refugees hosted in the Vatican have all been able to travel safely to Italy thanks to the “humanitarian corridor” project promoted by the Community of Sant’Egidio, the Federation of Evangelical Churches in Italy and the Waldesian Table. (

POPE SAYS IT IS TIME TO END “WORSENING TRAGEDY OF CHILD trafficking and slavery. He said this in a Message sent Monday to a Vienna “Trafficking in Persons” conference. The Pope’s words came in a message read out by Fr. Michael Czerny, SJ, under-secretary of the Migrants and Refugees Section of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development. He was in Vienna at the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE)’s “17th Alliance against Trafficking in Persons Conference.” In hisMessage, Pope Francis spoke about the goal of prevention: “It should be acknowledged that very little has been done to address the “why” of many young people being tricked or sold into trafficking and slavery.” He said, “Demand and supply, in turn, are deeply rooted in the three great issues of conflicts and wars, economic privation and natural disasters, or what the victims experience as extreme poverty, underdevelopment, exclusion, unemployment and lack of access to education.” Protection against human trafficking, the Pope said, begins with protection of the family. ( Click here to read the full text of Pope Francis’ message to the OSCE Conference.

CARDINAL LEONARDO SANDRI URGES GENEROSITY FOR ANNUAL GOOD FRIDAY COLLECTION. The cardinal, who heads the Congregation for Oriental Churches, called on Catholics to be generous in their supòport of projects in the Holy Land. In an interview with SIR, the news agency of the Italian Bishops Conference the cardinal talks about the importance of contributing to the upkeep of the sacred sites, while at the same time supporting the search for peace in the land where Jesus lived. Faced with the events that “take place in this troubled region of the world”, the cardinal says, there is a risk that we see them as unconnected to our own lives, “as if we had no responsibility.”  (

Archbishop Pierbattista Pizzaballa, Apostolic administrator of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem.



My guest on “Vatican Insider” this week in the interview segment is John Meyer, executive director of the California-based Napa Institute. This was founded in 2010 to help Catholic leaders face the challenges posed in what the Institute calls the “next America” and to heed Christ’s call for ongoing evangelization. John is a native of Illinois, but lives now in Irvine, California. We met in Rome at a conference that Institute members were attending at the Pontifical Holy Cross University.



Among its goals, says the Napa Institute on its website are: 1) Deepening the knowledge of Catholic leaders in the teachings of the Church so they can evangelize others and defend their faith in secular society; 2) Encouraging religious freedom throughout our hemisphere; 3) Inspiring Catholic leaders to a better stewardship of their time, treasure, and talents.

AN UPDATE ON LISTENING TO VATICAN INSIDER: 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 9:00 am (Eastern time). On the SKY satellite feed to the UK and parts of Europe, VI airs on audio channel 0147 at 11:30 am CET on Saturdays, and 5:30am and 10pm CET on Sundays. It’s also available on demand on the EWTN app and on the website. Check for your time zone. Past shows are in VI archives:


More than 60,000 adolescents from all over the world will be in Rome from April 23 to 25 to participate in the Jubilee for Young Boys and Girls on the theme “Merciful Like the Father.” The Jubilee consists of three days of prayer, confession and pilgrimage to the Holy Door, as well as celebration and sharing in the Year of Mercy, according to a press release from the Pontifical Council for Promoting New Evangelization.

Saturday, April 23, will start with a pilgrimage to the Holy Door, beginning with a procession from Castel Sant’Angelo along Via della Conciliazione up to St. Peter’s Square. The Bernini Colonnade will thus be transformed into the Father’s “embrace” that the young boys and girls may experience with the help of more than 150 priests who will be present continuously, in alternation, from 9.30 a.m. to 5.30 p.m. to administer the Sacrament of Reconciliation in various languages.

In the afternoon, following the Jubilee itinerary inside the Basilica, which will conclude with the profession of faith at the Tomb of St. Peter, the young people will transfer to the Olympic Stadium for a large celebration with music and testimonies, beginning at 8.30 p.m., with the participation of personalities from the worlds of cinema, sport and astronomy.

On Sunday, April 24 Mass will be celebrated by Pope Francis in St. Peter’s Square, the culmination of this major Jubilee event. The day will continue with a visit to Mercy marquees set up for the occasion of this pilgrimage in seven squares throughout the centre of Rome (San Silvestro, Piazza di Spagna, San Salvatore in Lauro, Santa Maria in Trastevere, Santa Maria in Vallicella-Chiesa Nuova, Piazza Pia in Castel Sant’Angelo, and the area of the Pincio Terrace), in which, from Saturday to Monday, pilgrims and citizens of Rome may hear testimonies of works of spiritual and corporal mercy.


(Vatican Radio) – The Congregation for the Oriental Churches on Friday released a press statement, expressing support for the extraordinary collection to take place this Sunday in churches across Europe for the people suffering from the war in Ukraine. (Congregation prefect, Cardinal Leonardo Sandri presiding at Mass)


During his Regina Coeli address on April 3, Pope Francis 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. He renewed his appeal during his weekly General Audience on Wednesday, April 20.

In its statement, the Oriental Dicastery invites all people ‘to contribute generously so as to assure assistance to those people most weakened in body and spirit by violence’. It also recognizes the solidarity and material aid of many Dioceses and charitable organisations.

The statement goes on to list the many fruits of this charitable act.

“May the renewed gesture of charity which Pope Francis has asked of the Churches of Europe be again a sign of the brotherhood which unites us to our brothers and sisters in Ukraine, who are often forgotten as are many painful situations in the world. May the expression of closeness by many people be like a little lantern which reignites hope in those wounded hearts; may it help all the Pastors of the Christian Churches console and cure the pain of their own faithful; and may it force those who carry the fates of peoples to promote respect for human rights and peace.”

The statement concludes with a short prayer to the Holy Mother of God for all the people of Europe.

‘To the Most Holy Mother of God, ‘the Door of Mercy’ who watched over the opening of the Jubilee Year in St. Peter’s Square, may she watch over Europe and inspire with her prayer the desire for reconciliation and a renewed capacity to know how to live together as brothers and sisters.’


On the eve of the special collection for Ukraine,, the Holy See Press Office issued a detailed communiqué on the current situation in the country:

“The armed conflict in east Ukraine began in spring 2014 and continues despite the ceasefire of September 2015, claiming victims due mostly to the large amount of mines that have not been removed, and by relentless artillery fire. There have been around 9,000 confirmed deaths, to which disappearances and prisoners, often illegally held, must be added.

“The situation of instability, the unceasing armed threat and the consequent spread of uncontrolled arms groups subject the population to grave hardships, not only in the territories directly affected, but throughout the country. The outlook has worsened as a result of the general economic situation, affected by extreme inflation that has drastically reduced purchasing power; over half a million people are urgently in need of food. There are over 1.5 million displaced persons within the country.

“In the areas most directly affected, the greatest needs are in the health sector, as more than 120 health care centres have been damaged or destroyed. Expectant mothers are at particular risk, and the likelihood of the spread of AIDS and tuberculosis is significant. Anaesthetics are scarce and operations are often carried out without. Where medicines exist (many pharmacies have been closed), the price of medicine has reached prohibitive levels.

“In the regions currently most afflicted by the conflict there currently reside around 3 million people, in conditions of extreme hardship. The majority are elderly people who are unable to leave the combat zone.

“With regard to homes: Between 12,000 and 15,000 houses have been damaged, and more than a thousand completely destroyed. The situation is likely to become critical in view of the very low temperatures expected in autumn and winter.

“Many children are unable to attend school. At least 200,000 children have been evacuated to the regions of Ukraine outside the afflicted areas: one child in four is displaced. Many are affected by grave forms of psychological trauma, due to the violence they have witnessed or experienced; some have even lost the ability to read and write.

“The state of conflict constitutes the principle difficulty in the search for a solution to the humanitarian crisis. In particular, there are limitations on the importation of commercial goods including medicines, as well as enormous difficulties in facilitating the arrival of international aid to the most troubled areas.

“Ukrainian society is reacting by showing its extraordinary capacity for resistance. The best functioning aid network is constituted of religious confessions. These include Catholics who in Ukraine make up around 10 per cent of the population and are a small minority in the most affected area. They are fully mobilized to assist those in need, although their resources are inadequate to face the enormity of the most urgent needs.

“The Holy See is preparing specific interventions for the benefit of the entire population, without discrimination on the basis of religion or confession, in order to confront the humanitarian crisis, especially in the most critical areas. Therefore the mechanisms are in preparation for the gathering and selection of projects to be financed via a specific Commission in loco, responsible for overseeing them; the Pontifical Council ‘Cor Unum’ will approve and evaluate the technical management of the funds, reporting on its activity as appropriate.



When you got up today and saw the date, did you say “why does February 11 ring a bell?!” Well, it was exactly three years ago today that Pope Benedict resigned! Does that seem possible?! So many millions still miss him and many millions pray for him daily, as do I. Blessings on you, Holy Father emeritus!

Benedict and Joan

February 11 is traditionally a holiday at the Vatican because Vatican City State became an independent sovereign state after signing a treaty with Italy on February 11, 1929. This year we mark the 87th anniversary of the Lateran Pacts. In addition, the Church annually marks the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes and the World Day of the Sick on this date.

Pope Francis is getting ready to leave tomorrow on an apostolic pilgrimage to Mexico, but he made time today for a number of appointments as you will see. As a native Spanish-speaker he surely did not have to spend as much time in recent weeks practicing his language skills for his 6 days in Mexico. He will, however, have spent a lot of time honing diplomatic skills because his first stop tomorrow on the way to Mexico is of huge, dramatic, historic importance because he will meet in Cuba for two hours with Patriarch Kirill, head of the Russian Orthodox Church, the first time leaders of the Roman Catholic and Russian Orthodox Church have met since the great schism in 1054. The two are expected to sign a Joint Declaration.

Pope Francis is expected to land in Cuba at 2 pm (ET) and meet for two hours with Patriarch Kirill. More on that tomorrow. In the meantime, some highligjts of the day….


POPE FRANCIS THURSDAY MORNING PAID A PRIVATE VISIT to St. Mary Major Basilica in Rome, where – as has become customary – he prayed before the icon of Maria Salus Populi Romani ahead of his Apostolic Voyage to Mexico. From St Mary Major, the Holy Father made the short journey to Rome’s cathedral, St. John Lateran basilica, where the priests of the diocese were meeting at the beginning of Lent. During the visit, Pope Francis heard the confessions of several priests. St. John is the cathedral of the bishop of Rome, Pope Francis. Cardinal Agostino Vallini, vicar for the diocese of Rome, said the meeting with priests had a “penitential” character, offering the clergy the opportunity “to have an experience of the mercy of the Father; and, in turn, to be able to ministers of mercy in the communities entrusted to us.” As a Lenten “sign,” the offering taken up during the encounter was donated to the diocesan branch of Caritas. Pope Francis offered as a gift to each of the priests of the diocese a copy of his book “The Name of God is Mercy.”

POPE FRANCIS HAS DONATED 500 ROSARIES TO THE DETAINEES in a prison in the Italian city of Padua. Fr. Marco Sanavio, the priest entrusted with delivering the papal gift, had the idea to “more directly”involve prisoners in the “Moment of Peace” (Un’ attimo di pace) initiative launched four years ago on the web in Italy. The Vatican newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, reports that the request for the rosaries came from Zhang Augustine Jianqing, a young Chinese man currently incarcerated in the Padua prison, who also participated in Rome at the presentation of the book-length interview of Pope Francis by veteran Italian journalist Andrea Tornielli, The Name of God is Mercy.

CARDINAL LEONARDO SANDRI, PREFECT OF THE CONGREGATION FOR ORIENTAL CHURCHES, has sent a letter to the bishops of the world, appealing for aid to the Church in the Holy Land. The letter is dated Ash Wednesday, 2016, and looks forward to the worldwide collection for the Christians of the Holy Land, which is made at Good Friday each year in churches around the globe. The English-language letter starts, “Good Friday is the day when evil seemed to triumph, as the Innocent One suffered death on the Cross. It is a day that never seems to end in the Holy Land, where apparently interminable violence must be endured. Broadening our the gaze to the whole world, it is no less difficult to give wings to hope for a serene future.” The cardinal adds: “The Collection for the Holy Land reminds us of an ‘ancient’ duty, which the history of recent years has made more urgent, but no less a source of the joy that comes from helping our brothers.” Cardinal Sandri explains that, “In this Jubilee year, we are urged more than ever to demonstrate our mercy and solicitude for our brothers in the Middle East. Refugees, displaced persons, the elderly, children, and the sick are all in need of our help. In this land of the East, people are dying, being kidnapped and even killed. Many live in agony for their loved ones, or suffer when the family is divided on account of forced migration and exodus.”

POPE FRANCIS’ SPECIAL ENVOY, ARCHBISHOP ZYGMUNT ZIMOWSKI, celebrated Mass on Thursday in the town of Nazareth in the Holy Land to mark the Church’s World Day of the Sick. The Mass took place in Nazareth’s Basilica of the Annunciation and was the centerpiece of events marking the 2016 World Day of the Sick that is celebrated each year on February 11th, the feast day of St. Bernadette of Lourdes. In his homily at the Mass, Archbishop Zimowski, who is President of the Pontifical Council for Health Care Workers, reminded his listeners that the central theme of Pope’s Francis’ message for this year’s World Day of the Sick is the need for us to entrust our lives to the Merciful Jesus like Mary did.  Archbishop Zimowski said all of us are called in our different ways to help the person who is suffering and stressed we must not be intimidated by the fact that we cannot help in a satisfactory way, in the way that Jesus did. “The important thing,” he said, “is to go, to be at the side of the man who suffers.”


THE PHILATELIC AND NUMISMATIC OFFICE OF VATICAN CITY STATE has announced that the 2016 Vatican coins will soon be released. These include the 8 usual Euro coins (2 and 1 Euro, 50, 20, 10, 5, 2, 1 euro-cent), bearing the image of Pope Francis, as Sovereign of the Vatican City State. This year, the €20 Silver coin and the €50 Gold coin have images chosen for the Year of Mercy. The Silver coin has an image of Pope Francis embracing a teenager, while the back has an image of the Parable of the Prodigal Son. The Gold coin has an image of the Holy Father opening the Holy Door of St. Peter’s Basilica, while the back has an image of the Jubilee logo, which features Jesus carrying a man – representing humanity – on his shoulders. The Philatelic and Numismatic Office is also releasing a Jubilee of Mercy coin card. (sources for stories:



Just two news stories for today, one from the Vatican and the second from the Catholic Church in England and Wales – a fascinating bit of news.


(Vatican Radio) Parishes across the world year after year take up the traditional annual Good Friday Collection for the Church in the Holy Land. This year is no different and the prefect of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches, Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, has written a letter to all pastors of the Universal Church in which he expresses the gratitude of Pope Francis, of his dicastery and of all the Churches “in the land of Christ” for their attention and generous response to the Collection.

The proceeds from the Good Friday Collection go to the Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land. The Franciscans have been caring for the holy sites there since 1209. They also assist the poor, run schools, provide scholarships, and conduct pastoral ministries to keep Christianity alive in the land where it originated.

The Collection is still today the principal source that sustains the life and works of the region’s Christians. It helps Christians of many denominations remain in the region as living witnesses to Christ.

In his appeal to Catholics to donate generously this Good Friday, Cardinal Sandri noted that  “there are millions of refugees fleeing Syria and Iraq, where the roar of arms does not cease and the way of dialogue and concord seems completely lost. … This year presents a still more precious opportunity to become pilgrims of faith after the example of the Holy Father, who in May last year visited this patch of land, so dear to Christians, Jews and Muslims alike. It is a chance to become promoters of dialogue through peace, prayer and sharing of burdens.”


Press statement by the Catholic Diocese of Nottingham:.

On Monday, 23rd March 2015, just three days before Richard III is re-interred in Leicester Cathedral, the mediaeval Catholic parish church of Leicester, Cardinal Vincent Nichols, Archbishop of Westminster, will celebrate Mass for the repose of his soul in Holy Cross Church, the current Catholic parish church and Dominican priory in Leicester city centre.

In order that as many people as possible can be accommodated safely and the liturgy celebrated in a dignified manner, admission to this Mass will be by ticket only; the ballot for tickets is now closed, and successful applicants will be notified within the next few days.

The following day, Tuesday 24th March, Mass will be offered for the repose of the soul of Richard III in Holy Cross Church by the Dominican friars at 4.00 pm. This Mass will be open to the public, and no tickets are required. After Mass, the friars will process through the city centre to Leicester Cathedral, where they will sing Vespers, the Catholic Church’s evening service, at 5.30 pm.

Msgr. Thomas McGovern, the Diocesan Administrator of the Diocese of Nottingham, said: “We very much look forward to welcoming Cardinal Nichols to Leicester this month for the Mass which he will celebrate in Holy Cross Church in advance of the re-interment of Richard III, one of the last Catholic kings of England, in the city in which he was buried in 1485.”

Father David Rocks, OP, Prior and Parish Priest of Holy Cross Priory, said: “The Dominicans of Holy Cross Priory are looking forward to welcoming people from across the world to our beautiful church during the week when Richard III will be re-interred here in Leicester. More people than we could have ever hoped for have been in touch to ask for tickets for the Mass which Cardinal Nichols will celebrate on Monday 23rd March, which is why we are pleased to announce another celebration of Mass on Tuesday 24th March, before the friars depart for Leicester Cathedral to sing Vespers in the presence of the mortal remains of Richard III. No tickets will be required for this Mass, and everyone is welcome to come along.”