What an interesting workday this has been! I did the commentary this morning for EWTN’s television coverage of the weekly papal general audience in the Paul VI Hall, and enjoyed being part of, so to speak, all the pre-catechesis moments when the Holy Father arrives, walks down the central aisle of the hall, meets the faithful, kisses babies, receives gifts from well-wishers including lovely drawings by children and a half dozen red roses from one group or family, and so on. There are also some lovely moments after the catechesis as well (today there large numbers of babies and toddlers!) but, unfortunately these less formal moments are generally not seen on TV. I followed them on the closed circuit TV in the studio and they were delightful.

Pilgrims gathered in both the Paul VI Hall and St. Peter’s Basilica because the weather has been so bad – rain non-stop for at least a week! – that it was deemed prudent to have the audience inside. There was indeed sun for a few hours but the blue sky quickly turned to gray and we’ve had rain all afternoon.

The commentary is done from a small radio studio where there is a flat screen TV and all the various electronics that link us to EWTN in Birmingham which, in turn, is linked to Vatican Television in Rome! There’s also a computer linked to a printer but I used my iPad and translated the papal remarks from the official text that arrived via email. Until the papal speech or homily arrives, the heart beats a bit faster because simultaneously translating what the Pope says, rather than having the official text, is not an easy chore.

There’s always a lot more than meets the eye when you turn on a radio or television to listen to or watch a program. If things go smoothly and seem well choreographed, it’s because a team of talented people – like the EWTN engineers and technical people – put their skills together to create a seamless tapestry. Kudos to the behind-the-scenes people!

As today is Wednesday I also have my usual weekly appointment with Teresa Tomeo on Catholic Connection that airs on Ave Maria and EWTN radio at 9:40 am ET (3:40 pm in Rome).

Today we spoke about the sudden and tragic death in Rome of the archbishop of Ho Chin Minh Ville (Saigon), Vietnam. The Vietnamese bishops have been in Rome this week on the mandatory “ad limina” (to the threshold) visit all bishops must pay to Rome – usually every five years. During these visits, they meet with the Pope and visit various offices of the Roman Curia.

Archbishop Paul Bùi Văn Đọc had a stroke yesterday morning while concelebrating Mass in the Basilica of Saint Paul outside the walls. He had met Pope Francis the day before with the other Vietnamese bishops.

Originally from Da Lat, he was consecrated bishop of My Tho by John Paul II. Pope Francis appointed him coadjutor archbishop of Ho Chi Minh in 2013. He served as the archbishop of Ho Chi Minh City from 2014 to 2018 and was president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Vietnam from 2013 to 2016. Born in November 1944, he was 73.

Teresa and I also spoke about the upcoming canonizations of Blessed Pope Paul VI and Archbishop Oscar Romero of San Salvador and three others (see story below). The only date that has been announced is the canonization Mass for Paul VI – that will be in October at the end of the Synod of Bishops. St. John XXIII was the first Pope I ever saw and Blessed Paul Vi was the first Pope I ever spoke to (I do not have a digital copy of the photos I took that day at Castelgandolfo – will have to remedy that).

Teresa spoke of the long and complex process for the creation – the recognition, really! – of Blesseds and Saints. I told her I was now a formal part of that process because several months ago I became an official member of the Brother Joseph Dutton Guild in the diocese of Honolulu. We are in the very initial, exploratory stages of his cause: these are the stages where you discover what the Vatican requires for a process to begin. What information do they need? How do we prove heroic virtues? What has the person said or written? All their works – their entire life – have to be studied. How is a postulator for the cause chosen? What are their attributes? This is just the nutshell version of the work laid out ahead of the Guild!

And the nutshell version of ‘Who is Joseph Dutton?” He worked alongside St. Damien and St. Marianne of Molokai for 44 years, spending the final 44 years of his long life in service to these two saints and to the patients of leprosy whom they served so lovingly and faithfully on the peninsular of Kalaupapa – Damien for 16 years and Mother Marianne for 30.

Longtime readers of this column know of my passion for Hawaii, for these saints and for this future third saint of Molokai. I first went to Hawaii and to Kalaupapa in 2008. I was a passionate newcomer to the story of Fr. Damien who was canonized in Rome in October 2009. During the 2008 visit I also learned of Mother Marianne – and just a bit about Brother Joseph – and I followed their stories right through my 2012 return visit to Hawaii and Marianne’s canonization in 2012.

I have been back to Hawaii every year since, in fact, twice last year as I was there in September on vacation (and participated in my first meeting with the Guild!) and returned to give a speech at the Hawaii Convention Center for the First Saints Damien and Marianne Conference.

At some point in the future I will bring you Brother Joseph Dutton’s story. By the way, he was not a religious brother: It was Fr. Damien who told him one day, “You are like a brother to everyone here, and that is what I will call you.”
And now, some news from the Vatican:


The Congregation for the Causes of Saints published the following decrees that Pope Francis authorized in a meeting with Cardinal Angel Amato, prefect of the congregation.

The five Blesseds named below will become Saints in future canonizations. Blessed Paul VI’s canonization has been announced for the end of the October Synod of Bishops in Rome. October is a traditional month for canonizations, and such ceremonies often also take place in the spring. ( photo)

– a miracle attributed to the intercession of Blessed Paul VI (Giovanni Battista Montini), Supreme Pontiff; born in Concesio (Italy) on 26 September 1897 and died inCastel Gandolfo (Italy) on 6 August 1978;

— a miracle attributed to the intercession of Blessed Óscar Arnulfo Romero y Galdámez, Archbishop of San Salvador (El Salvador), Martyr; born in Ciudad Barrios (El Salvador) on 15 August 1917 and murdered in San Salvador (El Salvador) on 24 March 1980;

— a miracle attributed to the intercession of Blessed Francesco Spinelli, Diocesan priest, Founder of the Institute of the Sister Adorers of the Blessed Sacrament; born in Milan (Italy) on 14 April 1853 and died at Rivolta d’Adda (Italy) on 6 February 1913;

— a miracle attributed to the intercession of Blessed Vincenzo Romani, Diocesan priest; born at Torre del Greco (Italy) on 3 June 1751 and died there on 20 December 1831;

– a miracle attributed to the intercession of Blessed Maria Catherine Kasper, Foundress of the Institute of the Poor Handmaids of Jesus Christ; born on 26 May 1820 in Dernbach (Germany) and died there on 2 February 1898;

Other decrees regarded miracles, heroic virtues and martyrdom for 8 Servants of God:


Pope Francis sent a telegram expressing his condolences to the victims of the earthquake in Papua New Guinea through Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Secretary of State.

It was with great sadness that His Holiness Pope Francis learned of the tragic loss of life following the recent earthquake in Papua New Guinea. Commending the souls of the deceased to the mercy of Almighty God, he sends his heartfelt condolences to their families, and he assures all those affected by this disaster of his closeness in prayer. Upon all those who mourn at this difficult time, and upon the emergency personnel involved in the important relief efforts, Pope Francis willingly invokes the divine blessings of strength and consolation. Cardinal Pietro Parolin

UNICEF reports that in Papua New Guinea approximately 270,000 persons need humanitarian assistance in the wake of last week’s earthquake. This number includes more than 130 thousand children.

Since the 7.5 magnitude quake, there have been about 100 aftershocks as well as another 6.0 magnitude earthquake on Sunday. An estimated 65 percent of Papua New Guinea’s health facilities remain closed and schools may remain closed for the duration of the school year due to the damage sustained. This was a week after a larger quake flattened villages and killed at least 55 people.


Pope Francis during his general audience on Wednesday continued his catechesis on the Mass, focusing his attention on the Eucharistic Prayer. Speaking off the cuff, he said, “one does not pay to go to Mass,” as “the Mass is the sacrifice of Christ which is free. If you want you can make an offering, but you do not pay.”

Pope Francis also said there were three approaches that should never be lacking in disciples of Jesus: the first is, learn how to give thanks, the second, to make our life a gift of love, and third, to build concrete communion in the Church and with everyone.

Speaking to the pilgrims in the Paul VI hall the Pontiff spoke in particular about the Eucharistic Prayer noting that “this central prayer of the Mass educates us, little by little, to make a “Eucharist” of our whole life, that is an action of grace ”

The Pope went on to say that, “in offering the bread and wine which become the body and blood of Christ, we unite ourselves to his sacrifice of reconciliation on the cross.”

As the memorial of the mystery of the Lord’s death and resurrection, the Pope added, “the Eucharistic prayer asks that we may be drawn, in the Holy Spirit, into communion with one another in the mystical Body of Christ, and united to the Son in his eternal sacrifice of praise and intercession before the Father.”

In conclusion, Pope Francis prayed that at every Mass, the faithful would “enter more fully into this “mystery of faith”, which brings the forgiveness of sin, builds up the Church in unity and prays for the reconciliation and peace of our entire human family.”

At the end of his Wednesday general audience, Pope Francis said sport can overcome disabilities and build bridges between peoples in his greetings to the International Paralympic Committee and all the athletes taking part in the winter games in the South Korean city of PyeongChang.

Noting that the city recently hosted the Olympic games, the Pope said that major sporting event showed how “sport can build bridges between countries in conflict, giving a valid contribution and perspectives for peace among peoples”.

He said the Paralympic Games are a further sign of the way in which sport can help overcome disabilities. He described the athletes are “an example for everyone of courage, tenacity and perseverance”, refusing to let themselves be held back by their limitations. Sport, the Pope said, is a school of inclusion, of inspiration for our personal lives and of commitment to transform our societies.

Pope Francis concluded with a greeting to the Paralympic Committee, to all the competing athletes and to all the Korean people. He assured them of his prayers that this event may encourage days of peace and joy for everyone. The Paralympic games are due to take place in PyeongChang from March 9th to 18th.

The Holy Father also noted that this Friday, March 9, in St Peter’s Basilica he will celebrate a penitential Lenten liturgy known as ‘24 hours for the Lord’. He said he hoped that churches would remain open in order to welcome all those wishing to prepare for Easter by celebrating the sacrament of Reconciliation and finding God’s mercy in this way.




Pope Francis this morning, in an audience with Cardinal Amato. prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, authorized a number of decrees including the following: a miracle attributed to the intercession of Venerable Servant of God Francis Solanus Casey (ne Bernardo) a priest of the Order of Friars Minor Capuchin, born November 25, 1870 and died July 31, 1957; and heroic virtues of Cardinal Francis Xavier Nguyên Van Thuân, born April 17, 1928 and died September 16, 2002.

Fr. Solanus Casey was born Bernard Francis Casey on November 25, 1870 on a farm near Oak Grove, Wisconsin along the Mississippi River. He was the sixth child in a family of ten boys and six girls born to Irish immigrant parents who left Ireland after the famine years, the scourge of the Emerald Isle. For more on Fr. Casey’s life:

Cardinal Francis Xavier Nguyen Van Thuan was born on April 17, 1928 in the central part of Vietnam, in Phu Cam parish, a suburb of Hue. He was the eldest of 8 children: Thuan, Niem, Tuyen, Ham Tieu, Thanh, Anh Tuyet, Thuy Tien, and Thu Hong. Thuan was born into a family with a long Catholic tradition, including relatives who are among martyrs since 1698. From an early age, Thuan was brought up in a Catholic environment with deep faith, owing much to his exemplary holy mother, Elizabeth.



(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has given provisional approval to a new series of norms governing the establishment and management of funds for the advancement of investigations into the lives of people proposed for sainthood.


Given by Papal rescript, the approval ad experimentum for a period of three years governs the way funds for the Causes of Saints are established and managed, especially at the so-called “Roman phase” of the process, which follows initial evidence collection at the diocesan level and the preparation of a position paper – often thousands of pages long and containing painstakingly assembled intimate details of the proposed saint’s earthly life and career – to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints in Rome, which forms the basis of the Roman phase proper.

All of this can prove extremely costly and time-consuming.

The new norms seek to increase transparency in the process and assist in cost containment by requiring regular and detailed accounting, creating disciplinary procedures in case of misuse, and providing for the liquidation of funds established for causes, once the process reaches its conclusion.

In addition, the new norms provide for the creation of a “solidarity fund” that is supplied by freely given donations from the promoters of causes or any other source. In the case of real and genuinely documented need, appeals for assistance from the Solidarity Fund are to be made by the promoters of causes, through the local bishop. The Congregation for the Causes of Saints will evaluate case by case.



One of my favorite Vatican events is the annual swearing-in ceremony of the new Swiss Guards. I will miss it this year as I have a parish council meeting and some of the timing of the two events overlaps. In any case, I might be able to bring you a few photos tomorrow from a German friend who is a photographer and will be at the ceremony. Here are a few I took at a ceremony:

Swiss Guards - May 6 2008 055 Swiss Guards - May 6 2008 043 Swiss Guards - May 6 2008 034 Swiss Guards - May 6 2008 024 Swiss Guards - May 6 2008 011 Swiss Guards - May 6 2008 070

The Pontifical Swiss Guard was founded by Pope Julius II in 1506 as a stable corps, directly dependant on the Holy See, whose main duties were to guard the person of the Roman Pontiff and the Apostolic Palaces. The traditional swearing-in date of May 6 commemorates that day in 1527 when 147 members of the 189-member Swiss Guards lost their lives during the Sack of Rome when they fell in battle, protecting Pope Clement VII and the Church from the onslaught of the troops of Emperor Charles V.


(I posted this news on Facebook yesterday as it was announced) – Fr. Federico Lombardi, SJ, Director of the Holy See Press Office, issued the following statement to journalists Tuesday afternoon: “I confirm that on Sunday morning May 10, 2015, the Holy Father will receive in a strictly private manner the President of the Republic of Cuba, Mr. Raúl Castro Rux.  The meeting will take place in the study of the Paul VI Audience Hall.

As we already know, President Raúl Castro has publicly thanked the Pope for his role in fostering the rapprochement between Cuba and the United States of America. The Pope will visit the Caribbean island in September en route to the United States.”


Better late than never, as the saying goes. It is now – more or less – official:

Yesterday afternoon Pope Francis received in audience Cardinal Angelo Amato, S.D.B., prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints and, among the decrees he approved, was“the affirmative sentence of the ordinary session of the cardinals and bishops who are members of the congregation regarding the upcoming canonization of Blessed Junipero Serra.”

Of course, this had already been announced on January 15 by Pope Francis as he flew from Sri Lanka to the Philippines, the final leg of his apostolic trip in Asia. He said at the time, “In September, God willing, I will canonize Junipero Serra in the United States. He was the evangelizer of the West in the United States.”

The September canonization will be what is known as an equivalent canonization. The process was established in the 18th century by Pope Benedict XIV. In an equivalent canonization, the Pope waives the usual judicial process and declares that a blessed’s liturgical cult is extended to the universal Church.


During his weekly general audience on Wednesday, Pope Francis continued his catechetical reflections on the family, speaking of the nature and purpose of marriage in the order of creation and in the Divine plan of salvation. He focused specifically on Christian marriage as a Sacrament: an efficacious sign of God’s love for each and every person, for all humanity and for the whole world, a means of grace, and a genuine way of living our common baptismal call to holiness.

He was addressing 60,000 faithful and pilgrims who had gathered in St. Peter’s Square for this weekly papal event.

POPE - Marraiage AG

“Christian marriage,” said Francis, “is that sacrament which builds up the community of the Church and of society. Marriage has been inscribed in creation’s design by God, and, by his grace, countless Christian men and women have lived married life fully.”

The Holy Father went on to describe marriage as an act of faith in God’s plan for humanity and an act of selfless love. Drawing on the writings of St. Paul the Apostle, the Pope focused especially on the duties of husbands to their wives, saying that married love is an image of the love between Christ and his Church, and that a husband is therefore to love his wife as Christ loved the Church, by giving himself completely for her.

Francis said that marriage was “not just a ceremony that takes place in the Church, with flowers, a dress and photographs. Christian marriage is a Sacrament that happens in the Church, but it also makes the Church. It starts a new family life.”

Referring to a letter of St. Paul, he reiterated that a husband has the responsibility to love his wife, just as Christ loves the Church.

He had this to say to all husbands in off-the-cuff remarks: “I hope all you husbands here understand this. You must love your wives just like Christ loves His Church. This is serious business,” he said to applause, “this is no joke.”

“When a man and a woman marry in the Lord, they participate in the missionary life of the Church, by living not only for themselves or their own family, but for all people,” explained Pope Francis. Therefore, the life of the Church is enriched through every marriage which shows forth this beauty, and is impoverished when marriage is disfigured in any way.”

The Pope explained that “every couple that faithfully and courageously lives the grace of this sacrament assists the Church in offering the gifts of faith, hope and love to all people, and helps others to experience these gifts in their married lives and their families.” Francis prayed that married couples everywhere “live this mystery ever more fully, trusting in God’s tenderness and the Church’s maternal care.”


At today’s general audience in St. Peter’s Square, Pope Francis met with members of the Harlem Globetrotters, the famous basketball team from the United States, who gave the Pope a jersey with the name “Pope Francis” and the number 90. Before they met, some of the players entertained the faithful by spinning their signature red-white-and-blue basketballs. (photo:


The Harlem Globetrotters are an exhibition basketball team founded in the 1920’s, featuring African-American players at a time when most sports were segregated.  In later years, they were known for adding comedy and stunts to their routines. They are currently in Italy as part of their 2015 international tour.

Before the start of the audience catechesis, as Pope Francis circled St. Peter’s Square in his trademark jeep, he spotted a group of pilgrims from the Chinese diocese of Wenzhou. He stopped the popemobile and greeted the group as they carried a placard from their  diocese. Wenzhou is a city on the east coast of the Chinese mainland, which counts more than 9 million inhabitants in its metropolitan area. (Wenzhou is in the Annuario Pontificio, the Pontifical Yearbook, as Yongjia: it gives a street address as contact but, unlike other dioceses of the world, there are no name of a bishop, no numbers for total Catholics, priests, deacons, religious, seminarians, etc.)


Later, after finishing the catechesis summary in different languages and multi-lingual greetings to pilgrims, the Holy Father noted that, “n the next few days various capital cities will commemorate the 70th anniversary of the end of the Second World War in Europe. On this occasion I entrust to the Lord, by the intercession of Mary Queen of Peace, my hope that society may learn from the mistakes of the past and that, faced with the current conflicts that are tearing asunder various regions of the world, all civil leaders may persevere in their search for the common good and in the promotion of a culture of peace.”