Join me again on Vatican Insider on this final weekend of June – unbelievable! As you know by now, in recent months because of Covid-19 and restrictions placed on and by individuals for in-person interviews, I’ve prepared a number of Specials in place of interviews. Last week we visited the final basilica on our tour of Rome’s Seven Pilgrim Basilicas by going to St. Sebastian’s basilica and catacombs.

This week I take you on a tour of Vatican City State – its gardens, fountains, statues, buildings, the mosaic studio, the department store, train station and much more. At the very end I will tell you how to reserve tickets to visit Vatican City, its stunning gardens and even Castelgandolfo –all offered by the Vatican Museums.

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IN THE UNITED STATES, you can listen to Vatican Insider (VI) on a Catholic radio station near you (stations listed at or on channel 130 Sirius-XM satellite radio, or on 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.” VI airs at 5am and 9pm ET on Saturdays and 6am ET on Sundays. On the GB-IE feed (which is on SKY in the UK and Ireland), VI airs at 5:30am, 12 noon and 10pm CET on Sundays. Both of these feeds are also available on the EWTN app and on ALWAYS CHECK YOUR OWN TIME ZONE! For VI archives: (write Vatican Insider where it says Search Shows and Episodes)



As confirmed Covid-19 infections continue to surge in the US state of Florida, Archbishop Thomas Wenski says Catholic Churches in Miami are taking precautions seriously. “The priests were still offering the people of God the essential service of their prayers, even when they could not be physically with them.” In an interview with Vatican Radio, the Archbishop of Miami, Archbishop Thomas Wenski, described the current situation in the US state of Florida. “Many of our hospitals have reported a growing number of admissions. There are a couple of hospitals that are at their maximum, but there are still hospitals able to receive patients, so we’re not anywhere near the crisis of New York of a few months ago.” CONTINUE:


The bishop chairmen of three committees of the United States Bishops’ Conference have written to federal lawmakers in the US, urging them to consider proposals aimed at improving formation of police officers and accountability for police. Released on Wednesday, the letter comes in the wake of the current re-examination of “the evil of racism, both historic and present, and its devastating effects on individuals and society” occasioned by the “terrible and unjust killing of George Floyd, Rayshard Brooks, and so many others.” Archbishop Paul Coakley, chairman of the Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development; Bishop Mario Dorsonville, chairman of the Committee on Migration; and Bishop Shelton J. Fabre, chairman of the Ad Hoc Committee Against Racism acknowledge that “law enforcement officers perform a great and needed service” to society, but say “it is clear that there have been too many failures in serving everyone, with tragic consequences.” CONTINUE:


The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Secretariat of Child and Youth Protection released its 2019 Annual Report. The conference announced on Thursday that its Secretariat of Child and Youth Protection has released “Findings and Recommendations on the Implementation of the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People.” The 2019 report for the year July 1, 2018 to June 30, 2019 shows that 4,220 adults came forward with 4,434 allegations of abuse. The figures are a marked increase compared to the previous year. The statement says that the rise is due in part to new complaints that were added during trials, compensation programs and bankruptcy proceedings in progress. The document also shows 37 allegations were made by current minors, of which 8 were substantiated, 7 were unsubstantiated, and 6 were unable to be proven. Twelve allegations are still under investigation, 3 others were referred to religious orders, and 1 was referred to another diocese. CONTINUE:


Since so many of you – family members, friends and fans – have been in touch with me these many weeks and months with questions about the trip to Italy that you had to postpone from this spring, or a trip you have on your agenda for this fall, I am trying to follow events in both Italy and Europe as much as I can to bring you the latest news and updated information on travel.

When possible I will do so on a daily basis (see below). And, of course, anything can change on a daily basis. A number of airlines, for example, do not yet know when they can resume direct service to Italy.

I really am looking forward to saying WELCOME in coming months, to sharing a cappucino in Pza. Navona or a glass of red wine and a delicious dinner al fresco in one of Rome’s many splendid restaurants!


As has been the case for months now, this week’s general audience took place at 9:30 in the library of the Apostolic Palace, and Pope Francis dedicated his ongoing catecheses series on prayer to the prayer of Moses.

He delivers the principal catechesis in Italian and summaries are then given by multi-lingual staff members of the Secretariat of State, as are language greetings by the Pope.

The Holy Father began by noting, “In our continuing catechesis on prayer, we now consider the prayer of Moses. The book of Exodus portrays Moses – from a human point of view – as a failure. Yet at a certain point in his life, he encounters God in the wilderness.

“From a burning bush,” said Francis, “the Lord calls Moses to return to Egypt in order to lead his people to freedom. But Moses, faced with the majesty of Almighty God and his demands, resists the call, protesting his unsuitability for such a great task.

“Nevertheless,” explained the Pope, “God entrusts him with the responsibility of conveying the divine law to the people of Israel, and Moses becomes their great intercessor, especially when they are tempted or have sinned.”

Stating that we too can become intercessors, Pope Francis concluded: “With hands outstretched to God, Moses makes of himself a kind of bridge between earth and heaven, pleading for the people when they are most in need. In this way he prefigures Jesus, our great intercessor and high priest. We Christians are also called to share in this type of prayer, interceding for those who need God’s help, and for the redemption of the whole world.”


Marking the Day of Conscience, inspired by the witness of Portuguese diplomat Aristides de Sousa Mendes, Pope Francis appeals that freedom of conscience be respected always and everywhere.

By Vatican News

During his general audience on Wednesday, Pope Francis recalled that June 17 marks the “Day of Conscience”.

The day was inspired by the testimony of Portuguese diplomat Aristides de Sousa Mendes, who, eighty years ago, decided to follow his conscience, and in doing so, saved the lives of thousands of Jews and many others who were being persecuted.

In his words on Wednesday, the Pope appealed that “freedom of conscience always and everywhere be respected”.  “May every Christian”, he said, “give an example of the consistency of an upright conscience enlightened by the Word of God.”

Aristides de Sousa Mendes’ act of conscience was deeply embedded in his Catholic faith. It led him to disregard the direct orders of his government to help those in need.

During the Second World War, de Sousa Mendes, despite knowing the consequences he would face for his actions, issued visas to all refugees regardless of nationality, race, religion, or political opinions.

“I could not have acted otherwise”
This sense of humanity and courage led to his ostracization from the world in which he had lived. He was unable to continue his job as a diplomat and was forbidden from earning a living in order to support his family. His children, too, were prevented from finding gainful employment.

He spent the rest of his life trying to clear his name but was ignored by the Portuguese political regime at the time.

Aristides de Sousa Mendes died in poverty on April 3rd, 1954 at the Franciscan Hospital in Lisbon. But even at the end of his life he knew his actions had been justified in saving thousands of innocent lives. As he put it himself“I could not have acted otherwise, and I, therefore, accept all that has befallen me with love.”


There is a very interesting and helpful website put up by the EU, the European Union, that answers all (or most) of your questions about travel to and within the EU. The site is called “Re-open EU” and, as it describes itself, it contains regularly updated information available in 24 languages:

Users may select their preferred language and country of destination on the website, click on “go!” and find an interactive map providing the latest information on key point for travellers, such as: Is travel into the country for tourism purposes possible? Are non-essential (other than medicine and food) shops open? Are there any risk areas under lockdown in this country? And much more!

For example, in Italy (see below), the health situation is qualified as “green” by the EU at this point, which means that there are no areas in the country that are currently under lockdown.

You might be interested to learn that there is now a very interesting app in Italy called “Immuni” that, in the several days since it ended its test period in 4 Italian regions and has gone nationwide, has been uploaded by 2.5 million people in Italy. It is also now available in English. The app sends a notification to people who were in close contact with a user who tested positive for the COVID-19 virus, alerting them of the risk of infection. Thanks to Bluetooth Low Energy technology, this takes place without the app gathering any date on the identity or location of its users:

And here’s a link to all the travel info I posted yesterday on Joan’s Rome (and reposted in my Facebook page: /joan.lewis.10420):



If you are thinking of travelling to Europe, specifically to Italy, read every word of the articles I have posted.

I want to emphasize a few things they mention:
1.      Restrictions on carry-on luggage: I have heard and read that only one piece of carry-on will be allowed by most or all airlines (ie, a purse or small suitcase but not both: (MY ADVICE: check with the airline on which you will be travelling for this and any other pertinent information)
2.      Despite Alitalia restarting its New York-Rome route (see below), it is not yet known WHEN UNRESTRICTED TRAVEL FROM THE US WILL BE ALLOWED (the bold is mine)


(source: The Local – June 15, 2020 – – @thelocalitaly)

Pack an extra face mask and cut back on hand luggage: the Italian government has introduced new coronavirus precautions for anyone taking a flight in Italy.

As part of its latest Covid-19 decree, signed on June 11th, Italy’s government relaxed the rules on how far apart passengers have to sit – but introduced new restrictions on cabin baggage and set a time limit on how long travellers can wear the same face mask.

The new rules came into force on June 15th, the same day that most other members of the European Union dropped their restrictions on travel to and from Italy. Italy has allowed travel within the EU, Schengen Area and UK since June 3rd.

The precautions apply to everyone flying to or from an Italian airport, regardless of where you’re from or where you live, and will remain in place until further notice.

Here are the main rules you need to know about.

Social distancing is no longer compulsory on most planes

Italy has dropped the requirement for airlines to seat passengers at least a metre apart – which effectively halved the number of people who could board each flight – so long as the plane is equipped with a HEPA (High Efficiency Particulate Air) filter.

According to the International Air Transport Association, HEPA filters capture more than 99 percent of airborne microbes and keep fresh air flowing continuously, resulting in all the air in the cabin being replaced entirely every two to three minutes. Almost all large commercial aircraft operating in Italy and throughout Europe use them.

The change means that flights can once more depart full and passengers are no longer guaranteed empty seats around them.

Social distancing is still required in airports and on shuttle buses carrying passengers to and from the aircraft.

Face masks have to be changed every four hours

Masks remain compulsory for the duration of your journey, and on longer-haul flights they must now be replaced every four hours. Passengers are advised to bring their own replacements.

You must keep your mask on throughout the airport, too.

Limited hand luggage

Airlines are instructed not to allow passengers to bring large cabin bags onboard in order to minimise how much passengers move around accessing overhead lockers.

The government’s decree doesn’t specify maximum dimensions, leaving it up to airlines to set their own limits.

Italy’s national airline Alitalia says its passengers are allowed only one piece of hand luggage total, instead of the bag plus personal item that used to be permitted. The airline’s usual size and weight limits apply.


(The Local) – As Italy begins to allow some international tourism, how many flights are available? (This article was updated on June 16th)

As of June 3rd, Italy is allowing arrivals with no quarantine requirements from within Europe, including from the UK.

Tourists arriving from these countries will not face any restrictions upon entering Italy, though depending on their own country’s rules they may be required to quarantine when they return home.

Non-urgent travel from outside Europe is still not permitted, with the EU’s external borders now expected to remain closed until at least July 1st.

But, while Italy is allowing (some) visitors again, getting here may not be easy as many airlines have not yet restarted flights. Here’s a look at which airlines are – or soon will be – flying to Italy again.

From June 1st, the Air France-KLM group began to gradually resume flight links with Rome, Milan, Venice, Bologna, Florence, Naples and Bari.

By the end of June there will be 78 weekly flights operated by Air France and KLM to Italy, the company said in a statement.

Italian airline Alitalia also announced in May that it would steadily resume flights between Rome and New York as well as certain flights to Spain, including from Rome to Madrid and Barcelona, from June 2nd.

It has also resumed some domestic Italian flights, including routes between Milan and southern airports.

From July, Alitalia said it plans to be operating at about 40 percent of its level it planned before the coronavirus crisis hit.

Alitalia continued to operate a limited number of international flights throughout the nearly three-month shutdown.

“Flight offering will increase according to demand, which is already recovering on some domestic routes, and benefiting from the progressive abolition by foreign countries of restrictions on flights and passengers from Italy” as well as relaxed measures Italy is imposing on inbound travellers, it said in a statement.

Despite Alitalia restarting its New York-Rome route, it is not yet known when unrestricted travel from the US will be allowed.

Low-cost airline Ryanair, which dominates many direct UK-Italy routes, is set to restart some Italian routes from June 21st, including between Rome and  Lisbon, Budapest, Manchester, Paris, Madrid, Athens, Prague, Warsaw, Valencia, Krakow and Brussels.

The Irish carrier, Europe’s largest low-fare airline, said 40 percent of its normal flight schedule will operate in July, serving 90 percent of its pre-lockdown routes.

Budget carrier Wizz Air restarted some scheduled flights from Rome’s Ciampino airport on June 16th. Direct flights are currently operating to and from Romania, Moldavia and North Macedonia.

UK-based Easyjet on June 16th restarted some domestic flights within Italy as well as one international route – from Brindisi to Geneva – after Italy loosened some of its rules on air travel.

The company had said in May that it wouldn’t be able to operate flights to Italy while the Italian government continued to require social distancing measures to be enforced on planes.

As new rules came into force on June 15th, Italy dropped a requirement for airlines to seat passengers at least a metre apart – which effectively halved the number of people who could board each flight – so long as the plane is equipped with a HEPA (High Efficiency Particulate Air) filter.

Several other airlines continue to operate a limited number of flights to Italy, including Lufthana, KLM, and Turkish Airlines, with direct flights from each company’s hub airports only.


Things are moving very precipitously in Hong Kong and I am worried for all who live there, Catholic and not. The following is an excellent piece by UCAN staff and indicates the reasons why Catholics and the Church in Hong Kong are and should be worried, as we should be worried for these our brothers and sisters.


The Holy See warns that religiously-motivated hate crimes are on the rise, as the Covid-19 pandemic increases intolerance and inequality.

By Devin Watkins (vaticannews)

Msgr. Janusz Urbańczyk took part this week in an OSCE conference aimed at raising awareness about intolerance and discrimination. The Holy See’s Permanent Representative to the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe focused his remarks at the 25-26 May event on the impact that intolerance has on Christians.

The OSCE is an intergovernmental organization whose members include most countries of the Northern Hemisphere and is concerned with conflict prevention and crisis management.

Religious intolerance on the rise
Hate crimes against Christians and members of other religions, said Msgr. Urbańczyk, negatively impact the enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms. “These include threats, violent attacks, murders and profanation of churches and places of worship, cemeteries and other religious properties,” he said.

The Vatican representative expressed “great concern” about a divide between religious belief and religious practice.

“The false idea that religions could have a negative impact or represent a threat to the well-being of our societies is growing,” he warned.

Believers are frequently told that prayer and religious convictions are a private matter that have no place in the public sphere.

Discrimination in digital space
The Internet and social media, said Msgr. Urbańczyk, often become a place to put others down or incite hatred of cultural, national, and religious groups.

The Covid-19 pandemic has worsened the trend, since people are spending more time online during lockdowns.

Discrimination on social media, he noted, can lead to violence, the final step in a “slippery slope which starts with mockery and social intolerance.”

Dignity and unity
Msgr. Urbańczyk also urged OSCE member states to promote the inherent dignity of every person and the fundamental unity of the human race. He said these two principles form the basis of all truly democratic societies. National minorities, he added, should be free to profess and practice their religion.

Rising inequalities
Lockdowns to stem the Covid-19 pandemic have contributed to rising inequalities and “de facto discriminatory treatment.” “Rights and fundamental freedoms,” said Msgr. Urbańczyk, “have been limited or derogated throughout the whole OSCE area.” These include the closure of churches and restrictions on religious services.

Tolerance and freedom
In response to these threats, the Holy See’s representative urged OSCE member states to promote both tolerance and fundamental freedoms, which include religious liberty.

“Tolerance,” said Msgr. Urbańczyk, “cannot be an alibi for denying or guaranteeing fundamental human rights.”


ROME: PANTHEON TO LIVE STREAM ROSE PETAL CEREMONY: Thousands of rose petals will rain down into the Pantheon on 31 May 2020 but this year the event takes place behind closed doors. The spectacular tradition of rose petals fluttering down through the oculus of the Pantheon is scheduled on Sunday 31 May from 10.00 following Mass for the Feast of Pentecost. However, due to the covid-19 crisis, this year the annual tradition will take place behind closed doors for the first time, broadcast live from the Pantheon’s official website, beginning at 10.00. The ancient ceremony involves fire-fighters dropping tens of thousands of rose petals 43 metres into the interior of the Pantheon, symbolising the Holy Spirit’s descent to Earth. Hopefully we will be able to return to witness the fascinating spectacle in person next year but in the meantime we can be grateful to modern technology and watch from afar. For full details see Pantheon website.

HERE’S HOW MUCH TOURISM ITALY CAN EXPECT TO GET THIS YEAR: Italy is hoping to restart tourism again from June, but how many visitors will actually come back this year? The Local spoke to the president of Italy’s National Tourism Agency to find out. Italy’s tourism sector, and its economy as a whole, has taken a major hit as visitors stay away this year due to the coronavirus outbreak. Huge losses were reported as travellers cancelled their bookings even before Italy shut down in early March, when all but the most essential travel to Italy became impossible. The resulting economic hit to one of the world’s most-visited nations is profound. Tourism employs an estimated 4.2 million people in Italy – just under a fifth of the entire official workforce. The tourism sector accounts for 13 percent of Italian GDP. Up to 420 million people visited Italy annually in the past few years, and until the coronavirus outbreak, that figure was only expected to keep growing. With Italy now planning to restart tourism in June, many hope this will be enough to keep tourist businesses afloat. But will visitors return in the same numbers? And if so, when? Giorgio Palmucci, President of Italy’s National Tourism Agency (ENIT), told The Local that hundreds of thousands of people are already planning to return to Italy in the second half of 2020 – with Brits and Americans leading the charge. “At the moment there are 300,000 reservations, a provisional figure which we hope will keep growing,” he said. can-expect-to-get-this-year

ITALY’S FRECCE TRICOLORI JETS GO ON NATIONWIDE TOUR: Italy cancels Festa della Repubblica parade in Rome. Italy’s Frecce Tricolori fighter jets are conducting a nationwide tour ahead of the 74th anniversary of the nation’s proclamation as a republic on 2 June. The tour, which began on 25 May with Trento, Codogno, Milan, Turin and Aosta, will fly over all the Italian regions over the coming days, culminating in an aerobatic display in Rome on 2 June, Festa della Repubblica. To celebrate Italy’s national day the jets will fly over the capital as Italy’s president Sergio Mattarella places a wreath at the Altare della Patria in the centre of Rome. The tour, which sees the jets emit plumes of the green, white and red of the Italian tricolour, is designed as a symbolic embrace of all regions during the coronavirus emergency in a sign of “unity, solidarity and recovery.”

AIR FRANCE-KLM GROUP TO RESUME FLIGHTS TO ITALY: Fiumicino, May 28 – The Air France-KLM Group will gradually resume links with Rome, Milan, Venice, Bologna, Florence, Naples and Bari from June 1, the group said Thursday. By the end of the month, 78 weekly flights will be operational by Air France and KLM to Italy, a statement said.  “Resuming flights to the Bel Paese is cause for great pride for us and confirms the importance of the Italian market for the Air France-KLM Group,” the statement said.

BOY, 18, GETS NEW LUNGS AFTER COVID-19 ‘BURNED’ HIS: May 28 – An 18-year-old Italian boy had a successful lung transplant 10 days ago after both of his were ‘burned’ by COVID-19, leaving him in a life-threatening condition, medical sources said Thursday. It is the first operation of its kind in Europe. The organs were rendered incapable of breathing in a few days, medical sources said. The operation was carried out at Milan’s Policlinico Hospital, under the coordination of the National Transplant Centre, with the regional transplant…Such an operation had only been tried before in some rare cases in China, while another one was carried out in Vienna a few days after the Milan one, which took place on May 18. The boy was put on an urgent waiting list on April 30 and less than two weeks ago suitable organs were found, donated by a person who died in another region, and who was negative for the coronavirus. centre and the northern Italy transplant program. The boy, who was named as Francesco, started suffering a fever on March 2 and on March 6 was taken into intensive care at Milan’s San Raffaele Hospital.

DAVID BACK ON SHOW JUNE 2: Florence, May 27 – Michelangelo’s David will be back on show on June 2 as Florence’s Accademia Gallery reopens after almost three months of lockdown, the gallery said Wednesday. The gallery will boast a new airing system while tickets will be discounted from 12 to eight euros, it said. Another novelty is the app The Right Distance, downloadable onto visitors’ smartphones, which will beep when they get too close to anyone else.

(Sources: Wanted in Rome, The Local, ANSA)



As he has done for several months now, Pope Francis presided at the weekly general audience in the library of the Apostolic Palace, accompanied by monsignori from the Secretariat of State who, practicing social distancing, delivered summaries of the main audience catechesis in diverse languages.

Francis began his reflections by noting that, “in our continuing catechesis on prayer, we now consider the prayer of the just. In the book of Genesis, the accounts of the fall of Adam and Eve and of the murder of Abel by his brother Cain, tell of the emergence and expansion of evil and sin across successive generations. We too still experience the presence of wickedness in the world. Yet God’s will for his creatures is for the good, not for evil.”

He went on to explain that, “in the first pages of the Bible we also see another, less conspicuous story, with Abel, Seth, Enoch and Noah, who acted humbly and prayed to God with sincerity. These just men of prayer were peacemakers who show that authentic prayer, freed from the tendency to violence, is a hope-filled gaze directed to God, which can cultivate new life in place of arid hatred.”

Francis underscored the fact that, “throughout history, righteous men and women of prayer – often misunderstood or marginalized – have ceaselessly offered up intercession for the world, invoking God’s power to bring about healing and growth. May we, like them, faithfully ask God to fulfil his work of transforming hearts of stone into hearts of flesh.”


Congratulations to the Knights of Columbus! Truly a red-letter day for them as their founder, Dr. Michael McGivney, is slated for beatification! Yesterday afternoon, in a meeting with Cardinal Becciu who heads the Congregation for Saints, Pope Francis authorized the promulgation of a number of decrees, including a miracle attributed to the intercession of the Venerable Servant of God Michael McGivney, Diocesan priest, Founder of the Order of the Knights of Columbus. McGivney was born August 12, 1852 in Waterbury, and died in Thomaston on August 14, 1890.

The Vaticannews biography states: Venerable Michael McGivney was the founder of the Knights of Columbus, now the world’s largest Catholic fraternal organization. After studies in Canada and the United States, he was ordained to the priesthood by Archbishop James Gibbons in Baltimore. He founded the Knights of Columbus as a mutual aid society, geared especially to working men and their families. He was known for his tireless work among his parishioners. He died at the early age of 38 from pneumonia. Following Wednesday’s announcement, the Knights of Columbus released a statement, where you can read more about the life of Ven Michael McGivney and the work of the Knights. 


THE COLOSSEUM IN ROME, ITALY’S MOST VISITED TOURIST SITE, WILL REOPEN on Monday June 1, after being closed for more than two months due to the coronavirus pandemic. With over 7 million visitors a year, the Colosseum is one of Rome’s major tourist attractions. The Flavian amphitheatre, which is listed as world heritage, “will finally reopen to the public, under the banner of accessibility, welcome and above all, safety,” according to a statement from the archaeological site.

ITALY IS PUSHING FOR A COORDINATED RESUMPTION OF TRAVEL IN EUROPE FROM JUNE 15, Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio said Monday evening. “For tourism, June 15 is a bit like the European D-Day,” Di Maio stated on Italian television channel Rai 1. “Germany aspires to reopen on June 15,” Di Maio pointed out, and “we are working on this together with Austria and other countries,” he added. His statements come as France and Germany have called for the borders to be reopened as soon as possible. So far, announcements of plans to reopen borders have been made by individual European countries despite the European Commission calling for more consultation. Di Maio hopes to be able to present “homogeneous indications to tourists” in all regions of Italy so tourists can move freely from one region to another. “We must save what we can save of the summer to help our entrepreneurs.”

POMPEII TO OPEN IN TWO PHASES AND WITH NEW TIME SLOTS FOR VISITORS. Italy’s archaeological site Pompeii reopens to the public in two stages after being closed for more than two and a half months due to the coronavirus lockdown. In the first phase, from May 26, visitors will be able to walk along a pre-established route through the ruins of the ancient Roman city that was buried under a thick carpet of volcanic ash in 79 AD. Visitors must book online and select a time slot for entry – scheduled every 15 minutes for a maximum of 40 people at a time. Tickets must be presented either using the QRcode or already printed. All visitors must pass through thermoscanners before entering the site and are obliged to wear masks for the duration of their visit as well as respecting social distancing: one metre outside and 1.5 metres inside. For the duration of the first phase tickets will be reduced to €5 before returning to normal prices on June 9 when the site reopens fully, with access to areas previously closed-off to the public. For full details about access, tickets and opening times see Pompeii website.

Speaking of Pompeii: if you have to be in lockdown….

A GOVERNMENT CALL FOR 60,000 VOLUNTEERS NEEDED TO HELP ENSURE SOCIAL DISTANCING in Italy sparked a new controversy within the ruling coalition. Photos of Italian beaches and piazzas crowded with people enjoying the first weekend outdoors continued to alarm authorities and experts. That prompted local authorities to issue a call to recruit 60,000 volunteers who will help people comply with the social distancing measures. The move, however, sparked a new political controversy, as the Interior Ministry complained that it was not informed of the initiative and several politicians expressed doubts over the new figures. The volunteers will oblige people — “with kindness” and without the possibility of imposing fines — to respect social distancing rules in the parks, beaches and clubs, while also supporting the weakest part of the population, including kids and elderly people. Civil assistants, or volunteers, must be older than 18 years of age, unemployed or low-income earners, and supported by social safety nets.

ROME TO HAND OUT MASSIVE FINES FOR DUMPED MASKS AND GLOVES. Rome is to issue fines of up to €500 for those caught dumping used protective masks or plastic gloves on the streets of the capital during the pandemic. The measure is part of a zero-tolerance approach by Rome’s mayor Virginia Raggi who says she is taking the action after repeated complaints from the city’s refuse collectors who have to dispose of the used gloves and masks. Raggi said that “uncivilised people” were responsible for the “shameful behavior that, thanks to this measure, will be severely sanctioned,” reports Italian newspaper La Stampa. Environmental association Legambiente said recently that with rain there is a high risk of the plastic trash finding its way into the sea.

ITALIAN TENOR ANDREA BOCELLI ON TUESDAY DONATED BLOOD PLASMA after saying he had had the coronavirus. Bocelli told journalists at a Pisa hospital that he had had mild symptoms, a slight fever, and had practically been asymptomatic. Speaking at the blood sampling centre of Cisanello Hospital, he said his wife and children had also had COVID-19, but were now fine. His wife had also given plasma for the study, led by the AOUP association of Pisa, into treatment for COVID patients. He said he had discovered he had the virus after taking a test on March 10.Bocelli said he hoped his plasma would help find a treatment for the deadly virus.

(Sources: Brussels Times, ANSA, Wanted in Rome, AA)



The five photos below, courtesy of Vatican Media, show in part the cleaning process that is taking place in St. Peter’s Basilica. Similar cleanings and sanitizings will take place at St. Mary Major, St. John Lateran and St. Paul’s Outside the Walls as the four papal basilicas prepare to reopen to the faithful on Monday, May 18, with restrictions (numbers of people allowed in, masks mandatory, social distancing, etc and temperatures will be measured before allowing visitors in).

It is my understanding at the moment that larger churches like the papal basilicas can allow a maximum of 200 people in at a time and when liturgies once again take place outside, a maximum of 1000 people will be allowed….at least for the time being.

Monday, May 18 at 7am, as I have previously posted, Pope Francis will say Mass at the altar of the tomb of Saint John Paul (see photo) on what would have been the late Holy Father’s 100th birthday. That will be his last televised and online morning Mass following the months of Masses televised from the chapel at the Santa Marta residence.

(To be honest I have been in the basilica for early morning Mass and have seen cleaning going on – sans hazmat suits, etc – including a kind of Zamboni floor polisher). The Vatican also provided a video with Italian commentary.

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Inside Italy in the coronavirus era as reported by Italian news agency ANSA:

(ANSA) – Rome, May 11 – Rome got a scary start today when a 3.3-magnitude earthquake shook the capital at 5:03 am, waking up many residents. The epicentre of the quake was 11 kilometres from the capital, near to the town of Fonte Nuova, at a depth of 10 kilometres. There have been no reports so far of injuries or major damage

(ANSA) – Rome, May 8 – Italy’s mafias will invest in tourism and restaurants hit by the coronavirus emergency, the government’s COVID-19 criminal infiltration monitoring body said Friday. The tourism and catering sectors will have a “lack of liquidity that will expose them to loan sharking” with the risk of the mafia taking over the activities with the aim of laundering money, the report said.

(ANSA) – Rome, May 8 – The government is thinking of setting up a fund for the hotel sector, one of the sectors hardest hit by the coronavirus emergency and one of those most at risk of mafia infiltration, sources said Friday. The idea is to set up a fund “from which hotel owners can quickly obtain liquidity after partially ceding ownership, temporarily and at face value, with the prospect of being able to repay the funding obtained in an easier timeframe”, the sources said.

(ANSA) – Rome, May 5 – Italians put on an average two kilos of weight during the 55-day coronavirus lockdown, farm group Coldiretti said Tuesday. Staying at home and unable to take their usual vigorous exercise, coupled with a boom in comfort foods filled with sugar, carbohydrates and fat, has bloated the average Italian, Coldiretti said. The amount of food on Italian tables rose by 18% during the lockdown, it said.

Italians have now started trying to shed that excess baggage after they have been allowed to jog, walk and take personal exercise in parks and along seafronts in phase two of the coronavirus emergency. Some 47% of Italians have said losing weight is one of their priority goals, according to the Ixè polling firm that says Italians have turned to diets and exercise to get back in shape.

(ANSA) – Rome, May 8 – Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio on Friday proposed giving a posthumous gold medal for civic valour to medical staff, priests and others who have died in the coronavirus emergency. “We must honour those who, while fighting against the virus, gave their lives to save those of so many other Italians, “Di Maio said. “A gold medal for civic valour awarded to these angels. Doctors, nurses, priests and many others. The country owes it to them. Let’s not give up”.

(ANSA) – Rome, May 7 – Italy is still in the “epidemic phase” of COVID-19, Higher Health Institute (ISS) chief Silvio Brusaferro told the Lower House’s social affairs committee on Thursday. “The fact that the curve for infections is dropping is positive and this is a result of the measures taken and the behaviour of Italians,” he said. “However, this does not change the fact that we have new cases and that the virus is still circulating in the country and thus must lead us to take the necessary measures” for containment.

He said the data available shows that the level of immunity to COVID-19 is still very low in Italy. Though this varies between the different areas of the country, “at an overall level we are very far from the 70% necessary for the herd immunity threshold”, he said. Brusaferro added that the “aim is to contain the virus. We cannot yet imagine eradication of the virus, which will only be possible with a vaccine”.

(ANSA) – Rome, May 6 – The Senate gave definitive approval Wednesday to a decree on holding the 2026 Winter Olympics in Milan and Cortina. The decree was passed by 225 vote to nil with one abstention. The Games are scheduled to take place from 6 to 22 February 2026 in Milan and Cortina d’Ampezzo. This will be the fourth Olympic Games hosted in Italy and the first hosted in Milan. It will mark the 20th anniversary of the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin, the 70th anniversary of the 1956 Winter Olympics in Cortina d’Ampezzo and the 80th anniversary of the Italian Republic. It will be the first Olympic Games featuring two host cities.

(ANSA) – Rome, May 5 – A sinkhole that opened up in front of the Pantheon in Rome last week has uncovered ancient Roman paving stones, sources said Tuesday. The seven travertine blocks, which have been found about two and a half metres below today’s cobblestones, were part of the original paving when the Pantheon was built by Emperor Augustus’s friend Marcus Agrippa in 27-25 BC, Rome special superintendent Daniela Porro said.   “This is further evidence of Rome’s inestimable archaeological riches,” she said. The paving was first discovered during the laying of service lines in the 1990s.

More travel news:

A fascinating interview with Italian archaeologist Alfonsina Russo, director of the Parco Archeologico del Colosseo which, in addition to the Colosseum, includes the Roman Forum, the Palatine Hill and the Domus Aurea. A really good read, thanks to Wanted in Rome:

Fiumicino Airport debus portable thermoscanner to test passengers and staff:

Rome’s Fiumicino international airport has become the first airport in Europe to introduce a portable thermoscanner, known as the Smart Helmet, to screen passengers and staff for possible symptoms of covid-19. The airport says that the high-tech helmets, worn by authorised airport officials, are capable of checking body temperatures, at a distance. Fiumicino, also known as Leonardo da Vinci airport, is currently in possession of three of these helmets that will be used by staff walking around the terminals.

The airport says that if the technology detects that a person has a high temperature, they will be informed immediately and invited to undergo a medical check. The helmet is part of a co-ordinated effort by the airport to increase its screening measures as Italy prepares to enter “Phase Two” of the coronavirus emergency. The airport says it has re-organised its spaces in line with social distancing measures and has made hand sanitiser and masks available. Fiumicino will have a total of 90 thermal scanners in operation to “guarantee maximum safety conditions and prevent the spread of infections.”

Important information in English for those who need to travel to, or through, Italy under the coronavirus travel restrictions:

Italy’s ministry for foreign affairs outlines the rules, requirements and various scenarios in which you can travel to Italy. The ministry provides detailed information in English on documents required, self-isolation and rules after arriving at an airport, ferry port or railway station in Italy. The ministry provides answers to a series of questions including: * I’m an Italian expat or a foreign national resident in Italy, may I return to Italy? * I live abroad and need to transit through Italy on my way to the country where I live. What must I do? * I’m a foreign national in Italy, may I return to my home country?

For full details, in English, see Ministero degli Affari Esteri website.


As Pope Francis noted at the Wednesday general audience, “Friday, May 8 the intense prayer of the ‘Supplication to Our Lady of the Rosary’ will rise at the Shrine of Pompeii. I urge everyone to join spiritually in this popular act of faith and devotion, so that through the intercession of the Holy Virgin, the Lord may grant mercy and peace to the Church and to the whole world.” Here is a link from the shrine website to the “supplica” in English:


As you know, because of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic and Italian restrictions for movement in one’s neighborhood or town, I have been unable for the past two months to go out and interview people for what is normally the interview segment. In that period, I’ve offered a number of specials until I can resume in person interviews.

This weekend we will visit St. Mary Major Basilica, a church that, as you know, Pope Francis visits often to pray before the image of Mary so loved by Romans called Salus populi romani – salvation of the Roman people.

Be a tourist once again! Come back to Rome! Enjoy the visit!

Here are some photos I took one August 5, the day of the famous snowfall on Rome’s Esquiline Hill that marked the founding of this basilica dedicated to Mary. Listen to the Special to learn the whole story!

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IN THE UNITED STATES, you can listen to Vatican Insider (VI) on a Catholic radio station near you (stations listed at or on channel 130 Sirius-XM satellite radio, or on 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.” VI airs at 5am and 9pm ET on Saturdays and 6am ET on Sundays. On the GB-IE feed (which is on SKY in the UK and Ireland), VI airs at 5:30am, 12 noon and 10pm CET on Sundays. Both of these feeds are also available on the EWTN app and on ALWAYS CHECK YOUR OWN TIME ZONE! For VI archives: (write Vatican Insider where it says Search Shows and Episodes)


Pope Francis continues saying daily Mass in the chapel of the Santa Marta residence, Masses that have been televised and online for months now. He has a special prayer intention every day and announces it at the start of Mass.

On Sunday, May 3, Good Shepherd Sunday, the Pope prayed for doctors and priests, likening them to the Good Shepherd laying down their lives serving the flock.

Monday, May 4, he prayed for families closed up in their homes because of the pandemic, acknowledging that they are trying to do many things they have never done before. He mentioned the reality of domestic violence, and said: “Let us pray for families, that they might persevere in peace with creativity and patience during this quarantine.”

Tuesday, May 5, Francis prayed for those who have died because of the pandemic. “They have died alone, without the caresses of their loved ones. So many did not even have a funeral. May the Lord welcome them in His glory.”

Wednesday, May 6, the Holy Father prayed for the men and women who work in the media: “In this time of pandemic they risk a lot and work a lot. May the Lord help them to always transmit the truth.”

Thursday, May 7, Pope Francis prayed for artists: “I would like to ask the Lord to bless them because through artists we understand beauty, and without beauty we cannot understand the Gospel.”

Friday, May 8, “Today is World Red Cross and Red Crescent Day,” said the Pope. “Let us pray for the people who work in these meritorious institutions. May the Lord bless their work that does so much good.”


(CNA) – Dioceses in Italy can resume the celebration of public Masses beginning Monday, May 18, under conditions issued Thursday by the head of Italy’s bishops and by government officials.

The protocol for Mass and other liturgical celebrations states that churches must limit the number of people present – ensuring a one-meter (three feet) distance – and congregants must wear face masks. The church must also be cleaned and disinfected between celebrations.

For the distribution of the Eucharist, priests and other ministers of Holy Communion are asked to wear gloves and masks covering both the nose and mouth and to avoid contact with communicants’ hands.

The Diocese of Rome suspended public Masses March 8 due to the coronavirus outbreak. Several dioceses in hard-hit northern Italy, including Milan and Venice, had suspended public liturgies as early as the last week of February.

All public religious celebrations, including baptisms, funerals, and weddings, were prohibited during the Italian government’s lockdown, which went into effect March 9.

Funerals were allowed again beginning May 4. Public baptisms and weddings may now also resume in Italy starting May 18.

The protocol issued May 7 lays out the genera l directions for complying with health measures, such as the indication of a maximum capacity in a church based on maintaining at least one-meter distance between people.

Access to the church must be regulated to control the number present, it says, and the number of Masses can be increased to ensure social distancing.

The church should be cleaned and disinfected after every celebration and the use of worship aids such as hymnals is discouraged.

Church doors should be propped open before and after Mass to aid traffic flow and hand sanitizer must be available at entrances.

Among other suggestions, the Sign of Peace should be omitted, and holy water fonts kept empty, the protocol states.

The protocol was signed by Italian bishops’ conference president Cardinal Gualtiero Bassetti, Prime Minister and President of the Council Giuseppe Conte, and the Minister of the Interior Luciana Lamorgese.

A note says the protocol was prepared by the Italian bishops’ conference and examined and approved by the government’s Technical-Scientific Committee for COVID-19.

April 26 Italy’s bishops had criticized Conte for failing to lift the ban on public Masses.

In a statement, the bishops’ conference denounced Conte’s decree on “phase 2” of Italy’s coronavirus restrictions, which it said, “arbitrarily excludes the possibility of celebrating Mass with the people.”

The prime minister’s office responded later the same night indicating that a protocol would be studied to allow “the faithful to participate in liturgical celebrations as soon as possible in conditions of maximum security.”

The Italian bishops issued a statement May 7 stating that the protocol for restarting public Masses “concludes a path that has seen collaboration between the Italian Episcopal Conference, the Prime Minister, the Minister of the Interior.”





The long-awaited partial reopening of what is hoped will be a post-coronavirus Italy began today. Italians have been patient beyond belief in bearing with some of the strictest lockdown rules and regulations imaginable. And, though they handled things with much grace and humor – and music! – for the first five or six weeks, nerves have recently begun to fray.

Parents unused to having their children at home all day have been home-schooling or accompanying their offspring through online lessons for 8 weeks. Too often they find themselves unable to help a son or daughter with a subject they know little or nothing about. They also find they cannot take the place of their children’s best friends – their BFFs – at a time when there are no social outings, no sports, no walks to a local gelateria, no getting together to listen to music or, simply, just to be together.

People used to working in social settings or who own businesses conducive to gatherings – restaurants, coffee and snack bars, ice cream stores, hair salons and barbers, etc – to close and lay off staff and stay at home in strict confinement. No customers, no income, yet payments due on rent and utilities and business licenses.

One reads daily in the nation’s papers about government provisions such as unemployment payments, small business loans, etc, etc. but there are just as many articles outlining how individuals and businesses have yet to see a cent.

An estimated 4.4 million people returned to work today, with just a few categories of businesses re-opening. Restaurants, bars, hair salons and many other services have yet to see a green light. And when they do there will be such serious restrictions that many will question whether it is worth it to be open.

Some headlines say that if there is an increase in cases, Italy will close down again. However, I believe that a new case or cases would demand tracing. If someone goes shopping or to get take-out food or to go to church (when allowed), and a week later becomes ill, how will doctors know where that happened? Did they take a bus or taxi? Did they walk a bit to get to destination? Did they pass other people on the way? Did they stop for a take-out coffee or ice cream on the way? Did they always have a mask and gloves? Did they remove them briefly?

So many questions. I have always felt that tracing has been the weakest link in this entire chain of events.

Following are some bullet points I’ve put together about Italy’s coronavirus Phase Two re-opening. I did not go out today myself but I felt I heard a few more cars than normal on the major street in front of my building – just a few, mind you. Italian TV reports a fair increase in traffic on major roads and highways, and greater numbers of people boarding busses and trains for work, all the while obeying social distancing and other restrictions.


Some industries and stores re-open.

Public transport: increase in number of busses in cities. Train and bus terminals have police doing so-called ‘crowd’ control: keeping at least one meter (3 feet) distance between people entering stations or metros or busses; seats marked where people can or cannot sit, floors marked where people can stand, etc. When busses or train carriages have reached their maximum number, no more people allowed to board. If a bus has reached its allowable number, it will not stop at next scheduled bus stop to pick up more people (until or unless someone gets off)

Visiting relatives is allowed but not friends. Government allows visits between “congiunti” an ill-defined word in Italian law but one that basically means kin or relative. Government has extended that and it seems to include engaged couples and people in same sex unions.

Family reunions and large gatherings not allowed, in homes or in public.

Visiting grandparents allowed: keep social distance (who on earth is going to check that!): staying for a meal OK.

Social distancing obligatory in taxis – no one in front seat with driver, only two in back seat. Distancing obligatory in private cars if people not related (thus, one driving and the other person in the back seat).

There may be 2 people on a motorbike provided they are related of live together (2 members of the same family or a married couple).

Going to the beach is allowed if one goes for sport (‘motor activity’) such as swimming, surfing, etc but not just to sunbathe.

Funerals OK but no more than 15 people, masks and social distancing, etc. obligatory.

No definitive word yet on when churches can be open to the public for Masses but two dates suggested for “progressive normality” re-opening are May 24 (Ascension) and May 31 Pentecost). Talks between Italian government and church hierarchy ongoing. It seems that churches will all receive thermal scanners but there have been pastors who have already told the bishops they do not intend to use them. It is to be expected that masks, perhaps gloves and for sure social distancing will be required. There was a meeting on Saturday, May 2 in the Vatican between Pope Francis and the head of CEI, the Italian Episcopal Conference, Archbishop Gualtiero Bassetti.

Masks obligatory in public enclosed spaces (stores, transport etc) not necessarily while walking on street. Gloves to be worn in public spaces.

If you have a professional ID, have it available for officials who might question you.

Going to second home (a country or seaside or mountain vacation home) prohibited.

Parents may take children to parks but social distancing must be respected at all times. No gathering with other families and their children.

Some (but very few) restaurants and coffee bars may function but only for carry out: food may not be eaten in vicinity of restaurant, bar, etc.

Shopping is OK only at stores allowed to open. However, home deliveries of items ordered online, etc. are allowed, always respecting social distancing, wearing mask and gloves with delivery person.

Travel within the region where one lives (Rome is in the region of Lazio) is OK (except for going to second home), but not between regions (unless you leave a region where you were working and in lockdown to go to the region where you are domiciled).

Italy’s various regions are approaching all of the above-mentioned rules and regulations with a variety of responses, some more amenable to re-opening and others sticking more closely to central government regulations. Where the virus has been present in small numbers (ie Calabria), restaurants and bars are open to patrons with outside tables.

Regions near bodies of water vary with their permission to use boats or go fishing

Region of Campania (Naples, the Amalfi coast) – no boat trips allowed to islands (Ischia, Capri, etc)


On another subject for just a moment: Would you like to attend a May Crowning this Sunday? Virtual, of course! Here’s the site:


As you will read below in a report from Wanted in Rome online magazine, Phase Two of the Italian government’s coronavirus plan is about to start on Monday May 4. As I wrote yesterday, there was a ton of pushback after the Prime Minister spoke Sunday night about this phase as it does not resemble what people had been hearing would happen and what they had been planning for, whether it was for the re-opening of restaurants, hair salons, updating of transportation systems, etc.

Several large unions linked, for example, to the hospitality industry and to restaurants and bars, have complained that these businesses have been planning for weeks to reopen, re-arranging table positions and numbers of tables, to sanitizing locales to having plastic menus printed that could be sanitized, etc. Now their opening dates has been pushed back by several weeks – a huge loss in income and yet expenses that continue – rent, the cost of business licenses, etc. If staff has to be reduced that means employees will have to apply for unemployment compensation and that could cost the government more than it would to help businesses financially or to let them finally open and operate.

For hairdressers and barbers, it seems only one client can be allowed in the salon at a time. That might be OK for a 30-minute hair trim and blow dry but not for a lengthy procedure that might require two hours. And gloves and masks for everyone! Can’t wait to have a shampoo and hair trim and see how that works with a mask!

Those issues are just the tip of the iceberg.

One of the biggest problems was that churches were not included in Sunday’s Phase 2 list of openings except for wording such as “a date to be determined.” That did not go well with the Italian Episcopal conference and other religious leaders in Italy, and it seems the government has backtracked and we are now looking at a possible date of May 10 for Masses open to the public – with a thousand restrictions, of course. In fact, the government indicated it favored Masses outdoors! Like where outdoors?   Most churches have only the sidewalk leading to the church steps as an “outdoor” area.

There is Article 2 of the 1984 Church State Concordat: “The Italian Republic recognizes the Catholic Church’s full freedom to carry out its pastoral, educational and charitable th. The Church is guaranteed freedom of organization, public exercise of worship, exercise of the magisterium and spiritual ministry as well as jurisdiction in ecclesiastical matters.”

Relative to that, we have this comment:

And relative to Phase 2 of Italy’s coronavirus plan, there is this:


(Wanted in Rome) Italian prime minister Giuseppe Conte has unveiled details of Italy’s Phase Two plan in the coronavirus emergency, outlining the gradual loosening of the restrictions in place since the country went into lockdown on 10 March.

The current period of quarantine and restrictive measures expires on 3 May, with Phase Two – “co-existing with the virus” – beginning cautiously on 4 May, with social distancing to remain in place.

Conte thanked Italians for their sacrifice, strength, courage and sense of responsibility in a live address broadcast on the evening of 26 April. However he warned of the risk that the coronavirus curve could rise again, stating that it was fundamental for the public to maintain social distancing measures.

“If you love Italy keep your distance,” said Conte who added that the price of protective face masks would be reduced and fixed at 50 cent.

From 4 May people will be allowed to move around within the region in which they live, with greater freedom for outdoor excerise and the chance to visit family members, all while maintaining social distancing.

However the ban on travel between different regions of Italy remains in place, except for proven reasons of work, health or emergencies.

Gatherings of any kind, private or public, will remain strictly banned. Public parks, gardens and villas can reopen from 4 May but mayors will have the power to close them if necessary.

People can go walking and jogging away from their home so long as they practice social distancing: two metres apart for joggers, one metre for walkers.


Factories and building sites can reopen from 4 May however public construction projects can get back to work from 27 April, as can manufacturing and wholesale trade related to exports.


The commercial sector including clothes shops will reopen on 18 May, with strict rules on social distancing.


Museums, galleries, libraries and places of culture are to reopen on 18 May.


From 4 May restaurants and bars will be allowed to operate a take-away service – in addition to home delivery which is already permitted. However Conte warned that this didn’t mean people could gather or eat outside the premises.

The government has identified 1 June as the date when bars and restaurants can reopen.


Barbers, hairdressers and beauty salons can reopen on 1 June.


Protective face masks will be mandatory for commuters on public transport, with restricted numbers on buses and trains especially during rush hour.


Professional athletes including Serie A footballers can resume individual training on 4 May, with group training to begin again on 18 May.


From 4 May funerals can be attended by a maximum of 15 mourners, while respecting social distancing measures and wearing protective masks.


Conte confirmed that Italy’s schools will reopen in September, as he outlined in an interview with Italian newspaper La Repubblica earlier the same day.

 Read also:


The news comes the same day as Italy registered its fewest coronavirus-related deaths since the early days of the lockdown, reporting 260 fatalities over the last 24 hours – compared to 415 the day before. (