Pope Francis continued his weekly general audience catechesis on the Lord’s Prayer, focusing on the words, “hallowed be thy name.”

Greeting the faithful for the first general audience of the year in St. Peter’s Square, Francis began by noting, “In our continuing catechesis on the Our Father, we now turn to the first of the seven petitions, ‘hallowed be thy name.’ Here we see the pattern of all prayer, which is always made, on the one hand, in contemplation of God, and on the other, in a sincere supplication for our needs.

“When we speak to God,” the Holy Father continued, “he already knows us better than we know ourselves, for even if God is a mystery to us, we are not an enigma in his eyes. He is like a mother for whom a simple glance enables her immediately to perceive the condition of her children. A first step in prayer, then, is to entrust ourselves to God and His providence.”

Pope Francis explained that “this leads us to pray: “Hallowed be thy name,” where we not only express our trust in God’s greatness, but also ask that his name be sanctified in us, in our families, our communities and the whole world. We can do this because it is God who sanctifies and transforms us by his love. Prayer casts out every fear, since the Father loves us, the Son lifts up his arms to support ours, and the Spirit works in a hidden way for the redemption of the world.

In greetings to Arabic-speaking pilgrims, Francis said: “I extend a cordial welcome to those present in the Arabic language, especially those from Egypt, Iraq and the Middle East. The invocation of the name of God has the sole objective of sanctifying it and not of exploiting it. ‘Hallowed be your name’ means to commit oneself so that one’s life may be a hymn of praise to the greatness of God; be a concrete manifestation of my faith in him; it means engaging in the way of holiness for others to glorify His holy name. May the Lord bless you and always protect you from the evil one!”

Monsignors who work in the Secretariat of State at the various language desks usually read a summary of the main papal catechesis and translate the Pope’s greetings to language groups as well, doing so in English, French, German, Spanish, Portuguese, Polish, Arabic and Croatian. The Pope generally gives the main catechesis in Italian and delivers the Spanish summary in his other native language.


The Pope, in a video message, exhorts rulers and all those who have the responsibility in their countries to take the necessary steps towards the total abolition of the death penalty.

Pope Francis sent a video message to the “World Congress Against the Death Penalty” organized by the association “Together against the Death Penalty” ( ECPM) that is meeting in Brussels, Belgium, from February 26 to March 1.

ECPM acts to fight against the death penalty around the world. The association promotes the universal abolition through the creation and dissemination of publications and teaching tools, as part of public campaigns and lobbies governments at both national and international levels.

Click here for video with English translation:



Wednesday 6 – Ash Wednesday Church of Sant’Anselmo, 4.30 pm Statio and penitential procession Basilica of Santa Sabina, 5 pm Holy Mass, blessing and imposition of Ashes

Sunday 10 – First Sunday of Lent – In Ariccia, beginning of the spiritual exercises for the Roman Curia

Friday 15 – Conclusion of the spiritual exercises for the Roman Curia

Friday 29 – Vatican Basilica, Celebration of Penance 5 pm

Saturday 30 and Sunday 31, Apostolic trip to Morocco


Sunday 14 – Palm Sunday and the Lord’s Passion, Saint Peter’s Square 10 am Commemoration of the Lord’s entry into Jerusalem and Holy Mass

Thursday 18 – Holy Thursday of Holy Week, Vatican Basilica at 9.30 Chrism Mass

Friday 19 – Good Friday, Vatican Basilica at 5 pm – Celebration of the Passion of the Lord – Colosseum at 9:15 pm Via Crucis

Saturday 20 – Holy Saturday, Vatican Basilica at 8.30 pm Easter Vigil in the Holy Night

Sunday 21 – Easter Sunday St. Peter’s Square, 10 am Holy Mass of the day – Central Loggia of the Vatican Basilica at 12 noon “Urbi et Orbi” Blessing


Happy Birthday, Pope Francis!


Like millions of people who are getting ready for the birth of our Savior, the Vatican is putting the finishing touches on Christmas preparations. We’ve seen that the amazing Jesolo sand nativity scene and the tall, elegant fir tree are up and yet another Vatican Christmas tradition – Bambinelli Sunday – took place yesterday at the Angelus. The Third Sunday of Advent for many years has been the day when the children of Rome bring the Baby Jesus statues – the bambinelli – from their Nativity scenes to St. Peter’s Square to be blessed by the Pope during the Angelus.

The Holy Father told the children, “when you gather in your homes in prayer before the manger, looking at the Child Jesus, you will feel amazement at the great mystery of God made man; and the Holy Spirit will give your heart the humility, tenderness and goodness of Jesus. This is the true Christmas! May this be so for you and for your families.”

A cold snap and some strong winds – the so-called tramonta from across the Apennines – have dominated Rome for days but an estimated 25,000 faithful gathered in St. Peter’s Square for this festive occasion.

Earlier Sunday morning in the Paul VI Hall, Francis met with the staff and little patients of the Santa Marta Pediatric Dispensary – perhaps one of the best-kept secrets of the Vatican! Established in 1922 by Pope Pius XI, the dispensary occupies several floors of a building at the Perugino entrance to Vatican City and is about 100 feet from the Santa Marta residence where Pope Francis lives! Also present Sunday morning were friends and family members of the dispensary’s young patients.

As a surprise, and in anticipation of Pope Francis’ 82nd birthday on Monday, the children and staff of the Santa Marta presented him with a big birthday cake. (The following link to a Vatican news report in Italian has some good video of that Santa Marta event and the Pope’s speech:

Pope Francis said he often “wondered if the Child Jesus ever had the flu or perhaps a cold. If so, what did his mother do? I am not sure there was a dispensary in Nazareth or in Egypt, but I certainly know that if the Madonna had lived in Rome she would have taken him to this dispensary, surely. I thank all of you, who are the structure and life of the Dispensary, the doctors, the collaborators, the nurses …; and also the collaboration of the boys, the fathers and the mothers of the children. It is seen in the spontaneity of children. Working with children is not easy, but it teaches us so much. It teaches me one thing: that to understand the reality of life, we must lower ourselves, as we lower ourselves to kiss a child. They teach us this. The proud, the proud can not understand life, because they can not lower themselves.”


By Sr Bernadette Mary Reis, fsp (vaticannews)

Pope Francis Monday received in audience members of the International Commission against the Death Penalty. In prepared remarks that were given to members of the Commission, Pope Francis begged countries still applying the death penalty to “adopt a moratorium”.

Every life is sacred

Since the beginning of his ministry, Pope Francis told commission members, the truth that “every life is sacred” had convinced him to commit himself to abolishing the death penalty at the international level. This commitment became concrete, the Pope said, with the recent change of paragraph 2267 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. He said Church teaching now reflects “the doctrine of the latest Pontiffs as well as the change in the conscience of Christians who reject a penalty that seriously harms human dignity.”

Pope Francis reiterated that the doctrine accepting the death penalty came from a “period that was more legalistic than Christian” which “ignored the primacy of mercy over justice”. The Pope affirmed the Church’s current teaching that “in the light of the Gospel, the death penalty is always inadmissible because it is an attack on the inviolability and dignity of the person”.

Moral rehabilitation

At the same time, an ongoing prison sentence that does not allow the moral rehabilitation of the person and his or her reinsertion into the community is a “hidden death”, Pope Francis said. No one can be deprived either of life, or the hope of “redemption and reconciliation”, he said.

Obligation of nations

The Church’s commitment to opposing the death penalty needs to be equalled by the international community, Pope Francis continued. The sovereign right of nations to determine their legal systems cannot be in contradiction with international law or “the universal recognition of human dignity, the Pope said. He also praised the UN’s resolution encouraging that member nations “suspend the application of the death penalty”.

Direct appeal to nations

Pope Francis then made a direct appeal to countries that have not yet abolished the death penalty. To those countries where the death penalty is legal but not applied, he asked that they continue applying the moratorium not only by not carrying out death sentences, but by not imposing death sentences in the first place. “The moratorium”, he said, “cannot be lived by the person condemned to death as a mere prolongation” of the time until the execution of the sentence. To the countries still applying the death penalty, the Pope begged them to “ adopt a moratorium in view of abolishing this cruel form of punishment.”

Ethic of caring

Society has developed its penal culture around the concept of injury caused to another or to their rights. “Less attention has been paid to the omission of doing good to others”, the Pope said. The traditional approach to justice “must be complemented with an ethic of caring”. Such an ethic would consider “causes of behaviour, the social context, the situation of vulnerable offenders of the law, and the suffering of the victims”. Reasoning in this way is guided by divine mercy and takes each specific case into account. In the end, “we need a style of justice that besides being a father, is also a mother”. This ethic of reciprocal care for one another is the basis for a loving society in which people are committed to the common good, Pope Francis said.

Commitment to abolition of death penalty

Returning to the theme of the abolition of the death penalty, Pope Francis’ prepared remarks concluded with a declaration that both the Church and the Holy See desire “to collaborate with the International Commission against the Death Penalty in building the necessary consensus to eradicate capital punishment and every form of cruel punishment. “It is a cause”, he said, “that all men and women of good will are called to and it is a duty for those of us who share the Christian vocation of Baptism”.


The following statement was released this morning by Holy See Press Office Director Greg Burke:

“The seventh meeting of the Vietnam-Holy See Joint Working Group will be held in Ha Noi on December 19th. The meeting aims to deepen and develop bilateral relations, following what was agreed at the end of the sixth meeting of the Working Group, held at the Vatican in October 2016, and subsequently on the occasion of the visit of His Excellency Hà Kim Ngoc, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Vietnam at the Vatican in August 2017 and that of Msgr. Camilleri in Ha Noi in January 2018, as well as the recent visit by His Excellency Truong Hoà Binh, First Deputy Prime Minister of Vietnam, who last October 20th at the Vatican was received in audience by His Holiness Pope Francis. During its stay in Vietnam, from the 18th to the 20th December, the Delegation will also meet the Bishops of the country who will be present in Ha Noi to take part in the Mass when the new Metropolitan Archbishop Joseph Vu Van Thien takes possession.”



Following is the change in the CCC (Catechism of the Catholic Church) regarding the death penalty and then the letter from Cardinal Ladaria, prefect of the CDF (Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith) to the world’s bishops about this change in Church teaching.

Letter to the Bishops regarding the new revision of number 2267 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church on the death penalty

The death penalty

2267. Recourse to the death penalty on the part of legitimate authority, following a fair trial, was long considered an appropriate response to the gravity of certain crimes and an acceptable, albeit extreme, means of safeguarding the common good.

Today, however, there is an increasing awareness that the dignity of the person is not lost even after the commission of very serious crimes. In addition, a new understanding has emerged of the significance of penal sanctions imposed by the state. Lastly, more effective systems of detention have been developed, which ensure the due protection of citizens but, at the same time, do not definitively deprive the guilty of the possibility of redemption.

Consequently, the Church teaches, in the light of the Gospel, that “the death penalty is inadmissible because it is an attack on the inviolability and dignity of the person”,[1] and she works with determination for its abolition worldwide.

[1] FRANCIS, Address to Participants in the Meeting organized by the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization, 11 October 2017: L’Osservatore Romano, 13 October 2017, 5.

1. The Holy Father Pope Francis, in his Discourse on the occasion of the twenty-fifth anniversary of the publication of the Apostolic Constitution Fidei depositum, by which John Paul II promulgated the Catechism of the Catholic Church, asked that the teaching on the death penalty be reformulated so as to better reflect the development of the doctrine on this point that has taken place in recent times.[1] This development centers principally on the clearer awareness of the Church for the respect due to every human life. Along this line, John Paul II affirmed: “Not even a murderer loses his personal dignity, and God himself pledges to guarantee this.”[2]

2. It is in the same light that one should understand the attitude towards the death penalty that is expressed ever more widely in the teaching of pastors and in the sensibility of the people of God. If, in fact, the political and social situation of the past made the death penalty an acceptable means for the protection of the common good, today the increasing understanding that the dignity of a person is not lost even after committing the most serious crimes, the deepened understanding of the significance of penal sanctions applied by the State, and the development of more efficacious detention systems that guarantee the due protection of citizens have given rise to a new awareness that recognizes the inadmissibility of the death penalty and, therefore, calling for its abolition.

3. In this development, the teaching of the Encyclical Letter Evangelium vitæ of John Paul II is of great importance. The Holy Father enumerated among the signs of hope for a new culture of life “a growing public opposition to the death penalty, even when such a penalty is seen as a kind of ‘legitimate defense’ on the part of society. Modern society in fact has the means of effectively suppressing crime by rendering criminals harmless without definitively denying them the chance to reform.”[3] The teaching of Evangelium vitæ was then included in the editio typica of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. In it, the death penalty is not presented as a proportionate penalty for the gravity of the crime, but it can be justified if it is “the only practicable way to defend the lives of human beings effectively against the aggressor,” even if in reality “cases of absolute necessity for suppression of the offender today are very rare, if not practically non-existent” (n. 2267).

4. John Paul II also intervened on other occasions against the death penalty, appealing both to respect for the dignity of the person as well as to the means tha t today’s society possesses to defend itself from criminals. Thus, in the Christmas Message of 1998, he wished “the world the consensus concerning the need for urgent and adequate measures … to end the death penalty.”[4] The following month in the United States, he repeated, “A sign of hope is the increasing recognition that the dignity of human life must never be taken away, even in the case of someone who has done great evil. Modern society has the means of protecting itself, without definitively denying criminals the chance to reform. I renew the appeal I made most recently at Christmas for a consensus to end the death penalty, which is both cruel and unnecessary.”[5]

5. The motivation to be committed to the abolition of the death penalty was continued with the subsequent Pontiffs. Benedict XVI recalled “the attention of society’s leaders to the need to make every effort to eliminate the death penalty.”[6] He later wished a group of the faithful that “your deliberations will encourage the political and legislative initiatives being promoted in a growing number of countries to eliminate the death penalty and to continue the substantive progress made in conforming penal law both to the human dignity of prisoners and the effective maintenance of public order.”[7]

6. In this same prospective, Pope Francis has reaffirmed that “today capital punishment is unacceptable, however serious the condemned’s crime may have been.”[8] The death penalty, regardless of the means of execution, “entails cruel, inhumane, and degrading treatment.”[9] Furthermore, it is to be rejected “due to the defective selectivity of the criminal justice system and in the face of the possibility of judicial error.”[10] It is in this light that Pope Francis has asked for a revision of the formulation of the Catechism of the Catholic Church on the death penalty in a manner that affirms that “no matter how serious the crime that has been committed, the death penalty is inadmissible because it is an attack on the inviolability and the dignity of the person.”[11]

7. The new revision of number 2267 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, approved by Pope Francis, situates itself in continuity with the preceding Magisterium while bringing forth a coherent development of Catholic doctrine.[12] The new text, following the footsteps of the teaching of John Paul II in Evangelium vitæ, affirms that ending the life of a criminal as punishment for a crime is inadmissible because it attacks the dignity of the person, a dignity that is not lost even after having committed the most serious crimes. This conclusion is reached taking into account the new understanding of penal sanctions applied by the modern State, which should be oriented above all to the rehabilitation and social reintegration of the criminal. Finally, given that modern society possesses more efficient detention systems, the death penalty becomes unnecessary as protection for the life of innocent people. Certainly, it remains the duty of public authorities to defend the life of citizens, as has always been taught by the Magisterium and is confirmed by the Catechism of the Catholic Church in numbers 2265 and 2266.

8. All of this shows that the new formulation of number 2267 of the Catechism expresses an authentic development of doctrine that is not in contradiction with the prior teachings of the Magisterium. These teachings, in fact, can be explained in the light of the primary responsibility of the public authority to protect the common good in a social context in which the penal sanctions were understood differently, and had developed in an environment in which it was more difficult to guarantee that the criminal could not repeat his crime.

9. The new revision affirms that the understanding of the inadmissibility of the death penalty grew “in the light of the Gospel.”[13] The Gospel, in fact, helps to understand better the order of creation that the Son of God assumed, purified, and brought to fulfillment. It also invites us to the mercy and patience of the Lord that gives to each person the time to convert oneself.

10. The new formulation of number 2267 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church desires to give energy to a movement towards a decisive commitment to favor a mentality that recognizes the dignity of every human life and, in respectful dialogue with civil authorities, to encourage the creation of conditions that allow for the elimination of the death penalty where it is still in effect.

The Sovereign Pontiff Francis, in the Audience granted to the undersigned Secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith on 28 June 2018, has approved the present Letter, adopted in the Ordinary Session of this Congregation on 13 June 2018, and ordered its publication. Rome, from the Office of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, 1 August 2018, Memorial of Saint Alphonsus Liguori.

Luis F. Card. Ladaria, S.I.
+Giacomo Morandi
Titular Archbishop of Cerveteri Secretary


What a day this has been! To say I am floored and delighted about what has happened since mid-morning is an understatement! I received an email, a news alert, with the article that AP did last week after interviewing me about the video I took last April at the Rector’s Dinner at the North American College of the dancing seminarians. I had posted that video on and the response has been exceptional. As the article said, “Video of the dancing seminarians has gone viral!”

I posted a link to the story by AP on Facebook (they naturally also interviewed Fathers David and John) and life has not been the same since. The AP story has travelled far and wide and requests from media organizations wanting to feature the video have come in to me nonstop. It has been gratifying to know that two wonderful young men – David Rider, now an ordained priest for the archdiocese of New York, and John Gibson, ordained a priest for the diocese of Milwaukee – have brought and will bring so much joy into the lives of so many!

Here is another of the many links:

Among those who asked for permission to feature the video online and/or in their TV news are ABC (as well as an ABC15 News affiliate in Phoenix where I have friends and family), SKY news in the UK, Telemundo, TIME online, TheMail online, CBS, the Press Association (UK’s biggest newswire) – and the beat goes on.

And now, a truly serious issue and strong papal speech – it is a long report by Vatican Radio on Pope Francis’ talk this morning to jurists because it includes his many off-the-cuff remarks.


(Vatican Radio) – In an address to members of the International Association of Criminal Law, Pope Francis on Thursday called on all men and women of good will to fight for the abolishment of the death penalty in “all of its forms” and for the improvement of prison conditions.

He also addressed the need to combat the phenomena of human trafficking and corruption, and stressed that the fact that the enforcement of legal penalties must always respect human dignity.

In a dense and impassioned discourse to the jurists assembled in the Vatican for a private audience, Pope Francis said that the “life sentence” is really a “concealed death sentence,” and that is why – he explained – he had it annulled in the Vatican Penal Code.

Many of the off-the-cuff comments during the Pope’s speech shone the light on how politics and media all too often act as triggers enflaming “violence and private and public acts of vengeance” that are always in search of a scape-goat.

Recalling the words of Saint John Paul II who condemned the death penalty, as does the Catechism of the Cathoic Church, Francis decried the practice and denounced  “so-called extrajudicial or extralegal executions,” calling them “deliberate homicides” committed by public officials behind the screen of the Law:

“All Christians and people of goodwill are called today to fight not only for the abolition of the death penalty be it legal or illegal, in all of its forms, but also for the improvement of prison conditions in the respect of the human dignity of those who have been deprived of freedom. I link this to the death sentence. In the Penal Code of the Vatican, the sanction of life sentence is no more. A life sentence is a death sentence which is concealed..

And Pope Francis had words of harsh criticism for all forms of criminality that undermine human dignity, saying there are forms of this even within the criminal law system which too often does not respect that dignity when criminal law is applied.

“In the last decades,” the Pope said, “there has been a growing conviction that through public punishment it is possible to solve different and disparate social problems, as if for different diseases one could prescribe the same medicine.”

He said this conviction has pushed the criminal law system beyond its sanctioning boundaries, and into the “realm of freedom and the rights of persons” without real effectiveness.

“There is the risk of losing sight of the proportionality of penalties that historically reflect the scale of values upheld by the State. The very conception of criminal law and the enforcement of sanctions as an ‘ultima ratio’ in the cases of serious offenses against individual and collective interests have weakened. As has the debate regarding the use of alternative penal sanctions to be used instead of imprisonment.”

Pope Francis spoke of remand or detention of a suspect as a “contemporary form of illicit hidden punishment” concealed by a “patina of legality” as it enforces “an anticipation of punishment” upon a suspect who has not been convicted. From this – the Pope points out – derives the risk of multiplying the number of detainees still awaiting trial, who are thus convicted without benefiting from the protective rules of a trial. In some countries – he says – this happens in some 50% of all cases with the trickledown effect of terribly overcrowded detention centers:

“The deplorable conditions of detention that take place in different parts of the world are an authentic inhuman and degrading trait, often caused by deficiencies of criminal law, or by a lack of infrastructures and good planning. In many cases they are the result of an arbitrary and merciless exercise of power over persons who have been deprived of freedom.”

Pope Francis also spoke of what he called “cruel, inhuman and degrading punishments and sanctions,” and compared detention in maximum-security prisons to a “form of torture.” The isolation imposed in these places – he says – causes “mental and physical” suffering that result in an “increased tendency towards suicide.” Torture – the Pope pointed out – is used not only as a means to obtain “confession or information”:

“It is an authentic ‘surplus’ of pain that is added to the woes of detention. In this way torture is used not only in illegal centers of detention or in modern concentration camps, but also in prisons, in rehabilitation centers for minors, in psychiatric hospitals, in police stations and in other institutions for detention or punishment.”

The Pope said children must be spared the harshness of imprisonment – as must, at least in a limited way – older people, sick people, pregnant women, disabled people as well as parents if they are the sole guardians of minors or persons with disabilities.

He also highlighted one of the criminal phenomena he has always spoken out against vehemently: human trafficking which – he says – is the result of that “cycle of dire poverty” that traps “a billion people” and forces at least 45 million to flee from conflict:

“Based on the fact that it is impossible to commit such a complex crime as is the trafficking of persons without the complicity, be it active or of omission of action of the State, it is evident that, when the efforts to prevent and combat this phenomenon are not sufficient, we find ourselves before a crime against humanity. This is even truer if those who are responsible for the protection of persons and the safeguard of their freedom become an accomplice of those who trade in human beings; in those cases the State is responsible before its citizens and before the international community.”

Pope Francis dedicated an ample part of his discourse to corruption. The corrupt person – according to the Pope – is a person who takes the “short-cuts of opportunism” that lead him to think of himself as a “winner” who insults and persecutes whoever contradicts him. “Corruption” – he said – “is a greater evil than sin,” and more than “be forgiven, must be cured.”

“The criminal sanction is selective. It is like a net that captures only the small fish leaving the big fish to swim free in the ocean. The forms of corruption that must be persecuted with greatest severity are those that cause grave social damage, both in economic and social questions – for example grave fraud against public administration or the dishonest use of administration.”

Concluding, Pope Francis exhorted the jurists to use the criteria of “cautiousness” in the enforcement of criminal sanctions. This – he affirmed – must be the principle that upholds criminal law:

“The respect for human dignity must operate not only to  limit the arbitrariness and the excesses of State officials, but as a criteria of orientation for the persecution and the repression of those behaviors that represent grave attacks against the dignity and the integrity of the human person.”