I recently aired a Special report on the Vatican Observatory in the interview segment of my weekend radio show, Vatican Insider. I keep up with news about the Vatican specola because of my many visits there, including full days spent at the observatory in the Apostolic Palace of Castelgandolfo covering the summer schools offered for students of astronomy. The specola offices, classrooms and museum are no longer in the palace but on the ground of of the apostolic territory. I was thus interested when I saw this story today on Vatican News.


Vatican Observatory Foundation announced that astronomers from the Leibniz-Institute for Astrophysics Potsdam (AIP) and the Vatican Observatory (VO) teamed up to spectroscopically survey more than 1000 bright stars which are suspected to host their own exoplanets.

According to a Vatican Observatory statement, the team – which includes VO astronomers Fr. Paul Gabor, S.J., Fr. David Brown, S.J., and Fr. Chris Corbally, S.J., and VO engineer Michael Franz – now presents precise values of 54 spectroscopic parameters per star in the first of a series of papers in the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics and releases all its data to the scientific community.

This unprecedented large number of parameters will be essential to interpreting the stellar light and finding connections between the properties of stars and their possible planets.

Pope Paul VI watching moon landing

Stars, the statement explained, tell stories about themselves, and sometimes about their undiscovered planets. Their language is light. Starlight reveals many physical properties of a star, such as its temperature, pressure, motion, chemical composition, and more. Researchers analyze the light with a method called quantitative absorption spectroscopy. Searching for new worlds using Vatican telescope – Vatican News


The Vatican Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development announces the theme of this year’s World Day of Migrants and Refugees focused on the right to choose migration as an option for livelihood and personal development.Pope Francis has chosen “Free to choose whether to migrate or to stay” as the theme for the 109th World Day of Migrants and Refugees, to be celebrated on 24 September.

The Day is observed every year on the last Sunday of September as an occasion to express support and concern for people who are forced to flee their homes, to encourage Catholics worldwide to remember and pray for those displaced by conflict and persecution, and increase awareness about the opportunities that migration offers. It was first celebrated in 1914. World Day of Migrants and Refugees to focus on right to stay – Vatican News


Addressing the 52nd session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva, Archbishop Fortunatus Nwachukwu, Secretary of the Dicastery for Evangelisation, stressed the desire of the Holy See to bring to the attention of this Council “the plight of many individuals and communities who endure persecution because of their religious beliefs.”

The Archbishop, in reiterating Pope Francis’ words, noted that peace also calls for the universal recognition of religious freedom. It is troubling that people are being persecuted simply because they publicly profess their faith, he said, noting that in many countries religious freedom is limited. “About a third of the world’s population lives under these conditions.” Holy See draws attention to people facing religious persecution – Vatican News



I was delighted to learn that a friend, Archbishop Fortunatus Nwachukwu, will return to Rome after an absence of several years as an apostolic nuncio to a number of different countries. Pope Francis today named him the new Secretary of the Dicastery for Evangelization, as part of the Section for First Evangelization and the New Particular Churches.

We first met in late 2007 when he began serving in the Vatican as the Chief of Protocol of the Secretariat of State. In 2012, Benedict XVI had named him nuncio to Nicaragua and in ensuing years he served as nuncio to Trinidad and Tobago, Barbados, Dominica, Jamaica, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Vincent and Grenadines, and Guyana, Saint Lucia, Grenada, Bahamas, Suriname, and Belize.

The Nigerian-born prelate speaks English, Italian, German, French, Spanish, and Arabic. These languages definitely served him well in the protocol office where he met leaders from many nations around the world.


Pope Francis, at today’s general audience, held in St. Peter’s Square for the second week in a row, told the pilgrims in the square, “In our continuing catechesis on missionary zeal, we now consider the apostolic dimension of evangelization. In the Creed, we profess that the Church is ‘apostolic’.”

He explained that, “an ‘apostle’ is literally one who is ‘sent’. In the Scriptures, we read that Jesus chose the twelve Apostles, called them to himself and then sent them forth to proclaim the Gospel. After his resurrection, he appeared to the Twelve and said: ‘As the Father has sent me, so now I send you’, breathing upon them the Holy Spirit for the forgiveness of sins.”

Francis asked, “But are we aware that being apostles concerns every Christian? Are we aware that it concerns each one of us? Indeed, we are required to be apostles – that is, envoys – in a Church that, in the Creed, we profess as apostolic.

“The experience of the Twelve apostles and the testimony of Paul also challenges us today,” continued the Holy Father. “They invite us to verify our attitudes, to verify our choices, our decisions, on the basis of these fixed points: everything depends on a gratuitous call from God; God also chooses us for services that at times seem to exceed our capacities or do not correspond to our expectations; the call received as a gratuitous gift must be answered gratuitously.”

He then explained that the Christian vocation “is a great thing because, although by the will of Christ some are in an important position, perhaps, doctors, ‘pastors and dispensers of mysteries on behalf of others, yet all share a true equality with regard to the dignity and to the activity common to all the faithful for the building up of the Body of Christ’.”

Francis, in concluding remarks, said, “Those who are ordained have received the mission of teaching, governing and sanctifying in Jesus’ name and authority, yet all the members of the faithful, as sharers in the Lord’s priestly, prophetic and regal office, are called to be missionary disciples, ‘apostles in an apostolic Church’. May the recognition of our common dignity and equality inspire us to ever greater unity and cooperation in proclaiming, by word and example, the good news of our salvation in Christ.”


I found the following article intriguing and interesting for a number of reasons but principally because I consider myself a storyteller. A few years ago at an embassy reception, a woman I had just met asked me what I did and I replied – for the first time ever in my life as a writer and journalist – “I’m a storyteller.”

That spontaneous response surprised her and, in a way, surprised me as well! I then explained how as a writer, in recounting the news, for example, one is, in fact, telling a story.

I then added that I was a storyteller in another way as well. From the time they were little enough to understand, I told stories to my many nieces and nephews. As they will tell you today, I did not read stories to them. I told them stories of my life and work in Italy, stories of the Church, the Vatican, the pope, of my travels, what I had seen and experienced and learned. To this day, some of those stories are so imprinted on their minds that they re-tell them to their own children.

To those nieces and nephews who might be reading this today, yes, I know your favorite story: Aunt Joan skiing in Zermatt, Switzerland!

Storytelling is sharing emotions and experiences. It is above all communication.

How many of you today will tell a story? A story about your day at work, something extraordinary that happened to you, something fascinating that you learned, perhaps answering the question of a child or family member or friend?

Storytelling (Smithsonian Magazine)


Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle reflects on eight points regarding stories and storytelling, and urges those attending a Propaganda Fide conference to learn to apply them to their communities and institutions.

By Francesca Merlo (vaticannews)

Addressing an international study conference for the IV centenary of the Congregation “De Propaganda Fide,” Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, prefect of the Dicastery for Evangelization, reflected on the fact that many stories regarding the history of the congregation would be told throughout the conference.

“Human life is unimaginable without stories,” said the cardinal, and with that idea in mind he shared some aspects of story and storytelling that he discussed in the mission Congress.


Good stories are based on experience

“There are good stories and bad ones,” said Cardinal Tagle, “but the difference does not always depend on the style of the narrator or the ending of the story.” We tell our best stories when they are about our experience, when they are true.” And, he added, “good history relies on stories of eyewitnesses.”

Stories reveal personal identity and what shaped that identity

Cardinal Tagle then went on to note that, “stories reveal who we are, the sense of our lives and where we are going.” On top of this, he continued, “I am what I am because I am immersed in other people’s stories and the stories of my time. If I neglect or deny them, I have no personal story to tell.”

Stories are dynamic, open to re-telling, and transformative.

The cardinal then went on to stress that personal identity is shaped by interaction with the world put into memory. With this in mind, he noted that, “remembrance is vital for self-knowledge.” By remembering our stories, Cardinal Tagle explained that we realize that the past is not static and that it actually continues to mold us. “Through stories we see how much we have changed and how much more we need to change.”

Stories are the ground for understanding symbols

“Stories are the ground for understanding spiritual, doctrinal, and ethical symbols,” said Cardinal Tagle, introducing his next reflection. “Stories disclose the values, moral norms, and priorities of a person or community.”

Stories shape community

“Common experience and memories bind unique individuals into a cohesive body,” he said, explaining that, “a community’s distinguishing beliefs, rituals, celebrations, customs, and lifestyle will make sense to us only if we go back to the stories that the members of that community hold and cherish in common.”

Stories can transform the listener

Cardinal Tagle then reminded those present that, “when we experience something significant, we cannot wait to tell it to someone.” He explained that, “this tells us that a story begs for a listener, for someone with whom to share.” In fact, one’s story can awaken memories of similar experiences in a listener, “open new meanings, create wonder, and awaken from slumber.”

There are different ways of telling stories

“Stories can be told in a variety of ways, even when not literally telling a story,” said Cardinal Tagle. “Oral narration is still the most common, but stories can be told through writing letters, novels, or poems.” Likewise, he continued, there are photos and videos, gestures, mannerisms, tone of voice, facial contortions, and body postures. And there is silence, he added, which can also be “a powerful way of telling a story.”

Stories can be suppressed

Cardinal Tagle’s final reflection is that “even if telling stories comes spontaneously to us, some factors can suppress storytelling.” He explained that the pain brought about by a traumatic memory, shame, or guilt can prevent victims from telling their story or prompt them to deny that a story is part of their memory. “Dictators forbid stories of corruption, oppression, killings, and destruction from being told, they bribe media people and threaten those who want to expose the truth, they impose an official national history that erases memories that would put them in a bad light. …Some stories are too dangerous to tell, but healing is possible.”

Finally, Cardinal Tagle invited those attending the conference to apply all these points to a community or institution like Propaganda Fide. And he asked them: “Will the history of Propaganda Fide embolden us to enter the contemporary worlds of artificial and digital intelligence, extremism, polarization, religious indifference, forced migration, climatic disasters, to name a few? How will the story of Jesus be told in these worlds? Who will tell the story of Jesus? Euntes in mundum universum,” said the cardinal.