Pope Francis was really busy this week as we know, but I guess he has not had time to tweet!  His last tweet, in fact, was February 8, and he usually posts 4 or 5 times a week at least. Looking forward to your next gem, Holy Father!

And that gem finally came today, Monday the 16th: “Jesus came to bring joy to everyone in every age.”


(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Monday denounced the murder of 21 Coptic Christians by ISIL militants in Libya. The Islamist terrorist organization released a video of the killings on Sunday.

Speaking in Spanish to an ecumenical delegation from the Church of Scotland, the Holy Father noted those killed only said “Jesus help me.”

“They were murdered just for the fact they were Christians,” Pope Francis said.

“The blood of our Christian brothers is a witness that cries out,” said the Pope.  “If they are Catholic, Orthodox, Copts, Lutherans, it is not important: They are Christians. The blood is the same: It is the blood which confesses Christ.”

Pope Francis said that in remembering “these brothers who have been killed simply for confessing Christ,” Christians should encourage one another in the ecumenical goal, noting the “ecumenism of blood.”

“The martyrs are from all the Christians,” he said.

Monday afternoon, Pope Francis telephoned the Patriarch of the Coptic Orthodox Church, Pope Tawadros II, to express sincere condolences to the Coptic Church for the recent barbaric assassination of Coptic Christians by militants of the fundamentalist Islamic State. The Holy Father promised his prayers today and also tomorrow, the day of the funeral celebrations for the victims, and unites himself spiritually to the prayers and the sorrow of the Coptic Church in his morning Mass.


As you all know, Saturday, February 14 and the feast of St. Valentine, was a wonderful day for the Universal Church when Pope Francis created 20 new members of the College of Cardinals, men hailing from some very faraway lands, including a remote series of islands in the Pacific Ocean.  The new Princes of the Church, in fact, come from Tonga, Thailand, Myanmar, Vietnam, Ethiopia, New Zealand and Cape Verde, joining cardinals from countries that traditionally have one or more red hats – Mexico, Portugal, Italy, Uruguay, Spain, Panama and Colombia. Tonga, Myanmar and Cape Verde are the three countries that, up to yesterday, never had a cardinal.

The consistory in which the new cardinals receive the red hat, their cardinalatial ring and a titular church in Rome is obviously the focus of this important day but there is an event later that afternoon that offers another important occasion to the cardinals and to their friends, family members, and members of the Roman Curia.

A two-hour slot – 4:30 to 6:30 pm – is set aside the afternoon of the consistory for what the Vatican calls “courtesy visits.” Each new cardinal is assigned a room (or part of a room) in the Apostolic Palace or a place in either the atrium or the main hall of the Paul VI Hall. Signs clearly indicate where guests can find the cardinal they want to meet and greet, and each cardinal is provided with a table, a chair if they wish to sit, some water and a potted plant or two that completes the atmosphere. Most cardinals have at their side their priest secretary who, in many cases, receives a visitor’s card if they have one and offers holy cards to visitors as a kind of souvenir of this red-letter day in the cardinal’s life.

I always look forward to these visits for a myriad of reasons, foremost of which is, of course, meeting the new cardinals as well as some of the faithful from their country. It is also an occasion to see friends from out of town who come to Rome for such important events and to see former colleagues and many friends of the Roman Curia with whom I worked for years.

There are receiving lines for each cardinal but they become, usually after only a few minutes, “bunches” of pilgrims, instead of lines. Men, women and children, but especially nuns, I have to say, vie to be the next person to meet, greet, hug or be blessed by the new cardinal. Bishops and cardinals also come to greet the new red hats but they automatically go to the head of the line (or bunch, as it may be)!

It was enormous fun this year to meet the cardinals from Tonga, Cape Verde, Thailand, Myanmar and Ethiopia – but especially the faithful who came to Rome with them on pilgrimage as they really increased the level of joy in the Paul VI Hall with their smiles, infectious laughter and singing.

In fact, I just posted a video I took of the faithful from Cape Verde and Tonga who sang for almost the entire time of the courtesy visit, The Cape Verdean and Tongan pilgrims  sat across from each other in the Paul VI Hall and, at times sang alternately and at other times seemed to compete with each other. http://youtu.be/1lbV-vLrBRQ

Friday morning as I was leaving my apartment to go to the Vatican, a sizeable group of Tonga faithful was walking by my house from their nearby hotel. They personified joy. I stopped them, we spoke briefly and I assured them I’d see them again Saturday during the courtesy visits.

Cardinal Mafi of Tonga was the first cardinal I met at the courtesy visits. He is not only the youngest member of the College of Cardinals, he is Tonga’s first ever cardinal.

My priority Saturday was to greet those cardinals from countries that had never had one before, the cardinals from lands where relations with the Church are perhaps troubled or the country itself has big political issues and also the cardinals from lands so distant they might not be visiting Rome as frequently as other members of the College of Cardinals.  All the new men, however, will be assigned as members of some Vatican congregation or pontifical council and will thus be in Rome at least a few times a year. All new cardinals will also have to take official possession of their titular church: some might remain in Rome these days to do so while most will return to the Eternal City at a future date.

Having media credentials allowed me to bypass the very long line of visitors waiting to be screened by security (we had our own brief check) so when I got inside the Paul VI Hall just after 4:30 there were few people waiting to see each cardinal. I immediately went to see Cardinal Mafi who was being interviewed by several television stations. When it was my turn, I held out my card and told him that, after many years of working at the Vatican, I was now the bureau chief in Rome for EWTN. His face lit up like a Christmas tree, he looked at my card, put his hand on my shoulder and said, “Joan, we have just begun to receive EWTN in Tonga and are overjoyed.  It is wonderful to have such access and to have such a wonderful tool and school for our faith!”

Speaking English, he went on in that vein, thanking me and the entire EWTN family for what we do for the Church.

I then met Cardinal Charles Mauna Bo, SDB, of Yangoon, Myanmar (Burma), and he said almost the same thing. He thanked me and asked me to thank my EWTN colleagues for all we do for the Church, and also asked me to stay in touch with him. The Church in Myanmar is small but very vibrant, as I saw in the faithful who had come with Cardinal Bo – their enthusiasm mirrored the cardinal’s own, even as he faces challenges peculiar to the Church in Myanmar and some he has in common with the Universal Church.

As I left Cardinal Bo to go meet Cardinal Francis Xavier Kriengsak Kovithavanij of Bangkok, Thailand, I ran into an acquaintance, Cardinal Oswald Gracias of Bombay (Mumbai), who is a member of Pope Francis’ C9 or Council of Cardinals that advise the Holy Father.  We chatted only briefly before he too paid his respects on the new cardinals of Yangon and Bangkok. Cardinal Gracias emphasized what a wonderful day it had been for the Universal Church with the “new” faces from both the new and old worlds.

Cardinal Gracias:20150214_172350


Pilgrims at the courtesy visits:

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Faithful from Yangon and Bangkok:


Working my way through a big crowd of his fans and friends, I next met Cardinal Kovithavanij of Bangkok. He said he was greatly honored by the Holy Father but, more than that, his Church was honored when he was named a cardinal. A nation of almost 65 million people, Catholics are less than one-half of a percent.

I then visited, as you will see in the photos below, Cardinals Arlindo Gomes Furtado of Santiago de Cabo Verde, Archipelago of Cape Verde, Pierre Nguyen Van Nhon of Hanoi, Vietnam, Manuel Jose Macario do Nascimento Clemente of Lisbon, Portugal and Berhaneyesus Demerew Souraphiel, Archbishop of Addis Abeba, Ethiopia.

I was taken aback when I met Cardinal Souraphiel because, as I was about to introduce myself, he smiled and said, “I know you, Joan’s Rome. I’m always watching you on EWTN.” He thanked me and the network for all we do for the Church and to explain and proclaim the faith.

The last cardinal I greeted was Cardinal John Atcherley Dew, archbishop of Wellington, New Zealand, but I totally forgot to take a photo.

There are many reasons to follow these prelates and all the new cardinals because, in naming them, Pope Francis truly did change the face of the College of Cardinals, going out to the peripheries, as he has said from Day One of his papacy, and selecting men from cultures that many of us in the West do not know well.

For the first time in the history of the Church, there are almost as many cardinals from outside Europe (109) as there are from Europe. And, for the first time, there are more non-European electors that European: as of now, only 57 of the 125 cardinal electors are European. Notably, however, 26 of those 57 are from Italy.

In toto, the College of Cardinals includes 5 continents (America is considered as one continent by the Vatican, whereas for many people, North America is a continent and South America is another, separate one), and 73 countries, 59 of which have cardinal electors.

Talking to the new Princes of the Church, so many from farflung lands, what surfaced was a vibrant faith, a strong sense of hope, great enthusiasm for the tasks ahead and a desire to learn from Pope Francis and to bring to the Holy Father and the Church insights coming from different cultures, some extraordinarily rich because they are ancient cultures, some rich because they are fairly new. Humility in service was a common denominator. And surprise! Surprise at learning, without advance warning, that Pope Francis had chosen them for the College of Cardinals.

Along with photos I took Saturday at the courtesy visits in the Paul VI Hall (I never did get to the Apostolic Palace to see the other five cardinals), I offer some biographical information on each of the cardinals whom I was able to meet and briefly speak with on Saturday. These bios are published by the Vatican. Click here for bios in English of all cardinal electors: http://press.vatican.va/content/salastampa/en/documentation/card_bio_typed/card_bio_ele.html


Cardinal Soane Patita Paini Mafi was born on 19 December 1961 in Nuku’alofa on the island of Tongatapu in the diocese of Tonga. He studied philosophy and theology in the Pacific Regional Seminary in Fiji.

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He was ordained a priest on 29 June 1991.

Following priestly ordination, he served as parish priest in Ha’apai (1992-1994), and vicar general and parish priest in Nuku’alofa from 1995 to 1997. For two years, from 1998 to 1999, he studied psychology at the Loyola College, Baltimore, U.S.A., and upon returning to his homeland, served as parish priest in Houma (1999-2000), professor and formator at the Pacific Regional Seminary in Fiji and, from 2003, vice-rector of the same seminary


On 28 June 2007 he was appointed as coadjutor bishop of Tonga (Kingdom of Tonga) by Pope Benedict XVI.

From 2010 he has served as president of the Episcopal Conference of the Pacific, and in this role he participated in the Third Extraordinary Assembly of the Synod of Bishops on the family in October 2014.

Created and proclaimed Cardinal by Pope Francis in the consistory of 14 February 2015, of the Title of Santa Paola Romana.

Monday at noon, Pope Francis received King Tupou VI (Ahoeitu Unuakiotonga Tukuaho Tupou VI), Queen Nanasipau’aho and an entourage comprising the official Tonga delegation to the consistory.


Cardinal Charles Maung Bo, S.D.B., was born in Monhla Village, Shwebo District, Mandalay Division,  in the archdiocese of Mandalay on 29 October 1948.


He studied at “Nazareth” Salesian Aspirantate, Anisakan, in Pyin Oo Lwin from 1962 till 1976. He made his First Profession on May 24, 1970 and his Final Profession on March 10, 1976.


He was ordained to the priesthood of Salesians of Saint John Bosco, in Lashio, N.S.S. on 9 April, 1976.

Upon ordination, he was assigned as Parish Priest at Loihkam from 1976 to 1981, and in Lashio from 1981 to 1983. After serving as Parish Priest, from 1983 until 1985 he was posted at Anisakan as Formator.



He served as Apostolic Administrator in Lashio from 1985 to 1986 and as Apostolic Prefect from 1986 to 1990. When the prefecture was elevated to the status of diocese (7 July 1990), he was appointed as first bishop of the new diocese. He received Episcopal consecration on 16 December of the same year.

He was appointed as bishop of Pathein by Pope John Paul II on 13 March 1996.

On May 24, 2003, he was nominated Archbishop of Yangon and was installed on 7 June, 2003.

He served as president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Myanmar from 2000 to 2006.

Created and proclaimed Cardinal by Pope Francis in the consistory of 14 February 2015, of the Title of Sant’Ireneo a Centocelle.


Cardinal Francis Xavier Kriengsak Kovithavanij was born on 27 June 1949 in Ban Rak in the archdiocese of Bangkok.


He studied in the seminary of St. Joseph in Sampran. Sent to Rome, he undertook studies in theology and philosophy at the Pontifical Urbanian University (1970-1976), residing at the Collegio Urbano.

With Cardinal Marc Ouellet:


He was ordained a priest on 11 July 1976 and incardinated in the archdiocese of Bangkok.


With family, friends and fans:


In the same year he served as parish vicar in the Nativity of Mary Church in Ban Pan; parish vicar in the Epiphany Church in Koh Vai from 1977-1979, and vice-rector of the St. Joseph in Sampran minor seminary from 1979 to 1981. From 1982 to 1983 he undertook specialist studies in spirituality at the Pontifical Gregorian University, Rome. He then returned to Thailand, where he spent six year as rector of the Holy Family intermediate seminary in Nakhon Ratchasima. He was rector of the Lux Mundi national major seminary from 1992 to 2000, and from 1989 to 1993 he served as under-secretary of the Episcopal Conference.

He was appointed as extraordinary professor at the major seminary of Sampran in 2001. He served as parish priest of the Our Lady of Lourdes parish in Hua Take from 2000 to 2003, and parish priest of the Cathedral and secretary of the presbyteral council of the archdiocese of Bangkok from 2003 to 2007.

He was appointed as bishop of Nakhon Sawan by Pope Benedict XVI on 7 March 2007, receiving Episcopal consecration on 2 June 2007.

He was appointed as metropolitan archbishop of Bangkok (Thailand) on 14 May 2009. He has served as vice-president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Thailand since 2009.

Created and proclaimed Cardinal by Pope Francis in the consistory of 14 February 2015, of the Title of Santa Maria Addolorata.


Cardinal Arlindo Gomes Furtado was born in November 1949 in Santa Catarina, in the diocese of Santiago de Cabo Verde. He studied in his homeland and in Rome, at the Biblicum, where he obtained a licentiate in holy Scriptures.

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He was ordained a priest on 18 July 1976.

After priestly ordination he served as parish vicar (1976-1978), diocesan chancellor and bursar (1978-1984), and chaplain of the people of Cabo Verde in the Netherlands (1985-1986). He studied holy Scriptures in Rome from 1986 to 1990, and upon returning to his homeland, served as professor (1990-1996), vicar general and parish priest (1996-2003).

On 9 December 2003, Pope John Paul II appointed him as first bishop of the newly-erected diocese of Mindelo.

On 22 July 2009 he was appointed as bishop of Santiago de Cabo Verde by Pope Benedict XVI.

Created and proclaimed Cardinal by Pope Francis in the consistory of 14 February 2015, of the Title of San Timoteo.


Cardinal Pierre Nguyên Văn Nhon was born on 1 April 1938 in Ðà Lat (Viêt Nam).


He studied in Viêt Nam and received priestly ordination on 21 December 1967.


He was appointed as coadjutor bishop of Ðà Lat on 11 October 1991 and received Episcopal consecration on 3 December 1991.

As coadjutor, he went on to become ordinary bishop of Ðà Lat on 23 March 1994.

In 2007 he was elected president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Viêt Nam, a post he held until 2013.

With Cardinal Giovanni Lajolo:


On 22 April 2010, Pope Benedict XVI appointed him as coadjutor of the Archdiocese of Hà Nôi. A few weeks later, on 13 May, he become archbishop of the same archdiocese following the resignation of Archbishop Joseph Ngô Quang Kiêt.

Created and proclaimed Cardinal by Pope Francis in the consistory of 14 February 2015, of the Title of San Tommaso Apostolo.


His Eminence Manuel Jose Macário do Nascimento Clemente was born in Torres Vedras, Patriarchate of Lisbon (Portugal) on 16 July 1948.


After obtaining a degree in general history from the University of Lisbon, he entered the Cristo Rei dos Olivais Patriarchal Seminary, where he received a doctorate in theology, specialising in historical theology at the Portuguese Catholic University.

On 29 June 1979 he was ordained a priest in the Patriarchate of Lisbon.

He served in the following roles in the Patriarchate: vice-rector and rector of the major seminary; lecturer in the Faculty of Theology of the Portuguese Catholic University; and member of the Cathedral Chapter, the presbyteral council and the pastoral council.

On 6 November 1999 he was appointed by the Holy Father John Paul II as titular bishop of Pinhel and auxiliary of Lisbon, and received Episcopal ordination on 22 January 2000.

On 22 February 2007 the Holy Father Benedict XVI appointed him as bishop of the diocese of Porto.

On 18 May 2013 Pope Francis appointed him as Patriarch of Lisbon.

On 19 June 2013 he was appointed as President of the Portuguese Episcopal Conference, after having served as vice-president. Within the same Episcopal Conference he has served in the roles of President of the Episcopal Commission for Culture, Cultural Heritage and Social Communications.

He is the author of numerous publications and since 2012, member of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications.

Created and proclaimed Cardinal by Pope Francis in the consistory of 14 February 2015, of the Title of San Romano Martire.


Cardinal Berhaneyesus Demerew Souraphiel was born on 14 July 1948 in Tcheleleka, in the apostolic vicariate of Harar in central Ethiopia.

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In 1963 he entered the Guder minor seminary, entrusted to the Lazarists. He studied philosophy at the Makanissa major seminary.

He was ordained a priest in Addis Abeba on 4 July 1976.


In 1980 he was elected as delegate to the general assembly of Lazarists in Rome. During this period he obtained a degree in sociology from the Pontifical Gregorian University. He returned to Addis Abeba in 1983. In 1990 he became Superior of the Lazarist house in Addis Abeba.

Blessing some pilgrims:


In 1992 he was appointed as Episcopal vicar for Kaffa and Illubabor.

With the erection of the apostolic prefecture of Jimma-Bonga on 10 June 1994 he became its first apostolic prefect.

On 7 November 1997 he was appointed as titular bishop of Bita and auxiliary of Addis Abeba,. He received Episcopal ordination on 25 January 1998.

On 16 June, as the metropolitan archiepiscopal see of Addis Abeba became vacant following the resignation of Cardinal Paulos Tzadua, he was appointed as administrator “sede vacante” of the same archieparchy.

On 7 June 1999 the Holy Father John Paul II appointed him as metropolitan archbishop of Addis Abeba (Ethopia).

He is President of the Bishops’ Conference of Ethiopia and Eritrea (since 1999); President of the Council of the Ethiopian Church (since 1998) and, since July 2014, President of the A.E.C.E.A. (Association of Member Episcopal Conferences in Eastern Africa).

In his role as President of the Bishops’ Conference of Ethiopia and Eritrea, he participated in the recent Third Extraordinary Assembly of the Synod of Bishops on the family (October 2014).

Created and proclaimed Cardinal by Pope Francis in the consistory of 14 February 2015, of the Title of San Romano Martire.