At the Sunday Angelus, January 31st of this year, Pope Francis announced the institution of the World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly to take place each year on the 4th Sunday in July, close to the July 26 feast of Sts Joachim and Anne, the parents of Our Blessed Mother and grandparents of Jesus.

Francis said he wanted a World Day of Grandparents and the Elderly because “grandparents are often forgotten, and we forget this wealth of preserving roots and passing on what the elderly have received.” He said it is important for grandparents and grandchildren to get to know one another, because “as the prophet Joel says, grandparents see their grandchildren dream, … while young people, drawing strength from their grandparents, will go forward and prophesy.”

That day is now just over a month away and the Vatican this morning, in a press conference, presented a papal video about this new Church celebration and plans for the celebration in Rome and in dioceses throughout the world.

The World Day of Grandparents and the Elderly, prepared by the Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life, will take place on Sunday, July 25 on the theme “I am with you always” (cf. Mt 28:20). Pope Francis will preside at a Mass together with the elderly in St Peter’s Basilica at 10am.

When I posted the news of the papal announcement on February 1st, I thought immediately of two people, now very dear friends, who were in no small way behind the idea for such a day – Catherine Wiley who founded the Catholic Grandparents Association (CGA) in the UK and Marilyn Henry who founded the American branch of this association.

We spoke (and I interviewed them for Vatican Insider) when they were in Rome for the January 29-31, 2020 “The Richness of Many Years of Life” conference organized by the Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life that brought together 550 participants from 60 countries. Catherine told us how she came to found this Association and both women spoke about the work of CGA and how grandparents can join this unique, lively and loving association.

When the Holy Father held an audience for this group, Catherine was able to personally greet him and, taking advantage of that brief time with Pope Francis, asked him if he might consider the idea of a World Day for Grandparents!

It seems he listened to that proposal!

Here is a link to Pope Francis’ video message, made public today by the Vatican: Pope to the elderly: God sends his angels to console your loneliness – Vatican News

Lots of info and suggestions and good ideas here: Pastoral resources and other information: World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly (

Cardinal Kevin Farrell, head of the dicastery for Laity, Family and Life said at tofay’s press conference, “The World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly is a celebration. We really needed it: after such a difficult year we truly need to celebrate, grandparents and grandchildren, young and old. We should celebrate and rejoice.” (vatican media)

Noting that tenderness is a key word of Pope Francis’ message, the cardinal said, “Tenderness towards the elderly is needed because, as the Holy Father recalls in the message we present to you today, the Virus ‘has been much harsher with them’. For this reason, the Pope hopes that an angel will visit, and will come down to console them in their solitude, and he imagines that this angel looks like a young person who visits an elderly person.2

“On the other hand,” he added, “the Day also speaks to us of the tenderness that grandparents show towards their grandchildren, of the solid guide that the elderly can be for many disoriented children, especially in a time like the one we are living in, in which personal interaction has become rare. Tenderness is not just a private feeling, one that soothes wounds, but a way of relating to others, which should also be experienced in public. We have become accustomed to living alone, to not hugging each other, to considering the other as a threat to our health.

Cardinal Farrell explained that, “In a frayed and hardened society emerging from the pandemic, not only is there a need for vaccines and economic recovery (albeit fundamental), but also for relearning the art of relationships. In this, grandparents and the elderly can be our teachers. This is also why they are so important.” (CNS photo)

Princess Leonore, held by Sweden’s Queen Silvia, gives a papal key chain to Pope Francis during her grandmother’s private audience with Pope Francis in the Apostolic Palace at the Vatican in this April 27, 2015, file photo. The pope has chosen the theme, “I am with you always,” for the first World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly, which will be celebrated July 25, 2021. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

“I would like to focus on a theme dear to the Holy Father: the wisdom of the elderly,” said the cardinal. “Insisting on wisdom does not stem from the idea that elderly people are endowed with greater wisdom than others, rather they have an experiential wisdom – the wisdom of many years of life. The elderly are a great resource for getting out of a crisis, better and not worse. This is above all to help us understand that what we are experiencing is not the first crisis, nor will it be the last, and that the story of mankind is placed in a history that transcends them.”

He concluded: “I hope that the World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly helps us to grow in our love for the elderly and to discover them as teachers of tenderness, guardians over our roots and dispensers of wisdom. For our part, the whole Church repeats to every grandparent and to every elder: “we will be with you always”, until the end of time. (vatican media)

The Apostolic Penitentiary grants a Plenary Indulgence for this day, “under the usual conditions (sacramental confession, Eucharistic communion and prayer according to the intentions of the Supreme Pontiff) to grandparents, the elderly and all the faithful who, motivated by a true spirit of penance and charity, will participate on 25 July 2021, on the occasion of the First World Day of Grandparents and the Elderly, in the solemn celebration that the Most Holy Father Francis will preside over in the Vatican Papal Basilica or at the various functions that will be held throughout the world, who may also apply it as suffrage for the souls in Purgatory.”

“This Court of Mercy also grants the Plenary Indulgence on this same day to the faithful who devote adequate time to actually or virtually visiting their elderly brothers and sisters in need or in difficulty (such as the sick, the abandoned, the disabled and other similar cases).

“The Plenary Indulgence may also be granted to, provided that they detach themselves from any sins and intend to fulfill the three usual conditions as soon as possible, the elderly sick and all those who, unable to leave their homes for a serious reason, will unite themselves spiritually to the sacred functions of the World Day, offering to the Merciful God their prayers, pains or sufferings of their lives, especially during the transmission, through the means of television and radio, but also through the new means of social communication the words of the Supreme Pontiff and the celebrations.”

The Penitentiary requested “priests, equipped with the appropriate faculties to hear confessions, to make themselves available, in a ready and generous spirit, for the celebration of Penance.”


What a fun day this has been so far, in addition to the sheer joy of a splendid day weatherwise! I always have to make sure my phone is charged because I never know when a good Facebook Live moment will occur – and I had two such moments today in St. Peter’s Square!

The first was when I stopped by the just-unveiled Nativity Scene and spoke to my friends from Gozo, Malta who built the scene: these are the eight men whom, if you recall, I met at La Vittoria restaurant about ten or twelve days ago. In particular, I videoed a brief conversation with the head of the building crew, Manwel who told me they will be on the scene through Friday’s official unveiling of the Nativity Scene and the lighting of the Vatican Christmas tree, after which most will remain in Italy for a vacation period.

My second FB Live moment was minutes after the first when I encountered a colorfully dressed group of Mexicans, in Rome to mark the December 12th feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. On that day, in fact, Pope Francis will celebrate Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica. The group had been marching up Via della Conciliazione as I was interviewing Manwel and when I walked over to them, they were no longer playing the music but still were very colorful, as you will see if you go to FB.

This evening, as I do every December 7th, I will join the Marian Fathers for First Vespers of the vigil of the solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, patroness of the Order, followed by a celebratory dinner. This evening will also be an expression of gratitude for the canonization last June 5th of the founder of the Marian Fathers, St. Stanislao Papczynski. Cardinal Joao Braz de Aviz, prefect of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life will preside vespers and be the guest of honor at dinner.

Probably the most well known Marian Father for EWTN viewers is Fr. Joe Roesch whom you see whenever there are wonderful stories of Divine Mercy to be told., especially at Divine Mercy Shrine in Stockbridge, Ma.

Tomorrow, solemnity of the Immaculata, a holy day and holiday in Italy, I will attend Mass at the North American College presided over by Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, followed by lunch. More on that later.


The website of the new Dicastery for the Laity, the Family and Life:  is now online.

A message from the dicastery explains that one “can find news about us, updates on social happenings, and videos. Just like our dicastery, the site has just been born and is evolving, but we would like it to increasingly become a place of listening and dialogue with the Christian laity and families around the world. The sites of the Pontifical Councils for the Laity and for the Family will no longer be updated, but all the material published there over the years will remain accessible at the following links:


Links to the projects of the Pontifical Council for the Family: Children, The Meeting Point, and The Great Mystery, can also be found on

Contact the Dicastery for the Laity, the Family and Life


Twitter @laityfamilylife

Instagram laityfamilylife


The Japanese strike at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 became more than a lesson in a history book for me on one of my first visits to Honolulu. My friend Jan, wife of a retired Navy officer, has brought me to Pearl Harbor a number of times, In fact, when I am a guest with Trip and Jan at their home on a hill in Aiea, the first thing I see in the morning and the last at night from my bedroom is Pearl Harbor! It’s magnificent and awesome at the same time.

I did the following videos on one of my first trips to Honolulu








Pope Frances tweeted today: How much I desire that the years to come will be full of mercy, so that every person can experience the goodness and tenderness of God!


The Vatican, through the Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life, today announced the themes for the next three World Youth Days as chosen by Pope Francis. The Blessed Virgin Mary is the focus of all three celebrations, the first two in 2017 and 2018 at the diocesan level and the third at the international in 2019 in Panama. Pope Francis presided at the last international WYD in July of this year in Krakow, Poland.


The three themes are taken from the Gospel of Saint Luke:

32nd World Youth Day, 2017: “The Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is His Name” (Lk 1:49)

33rd World Youth Day, 2018: “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favour with God” (Lk 1:30)

34th World Youth Day, 2019: “I am the servant of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word” (Lk 1:38)

Noting that the themes are a continuation of the reflections begun by Pope Francis for the last three World Youth Days on the Beatitudes, the dicastery communique recalled Pope Francis’ remarks at World Youth Day in Krakow, when he invited young people to have “memory of the past, courage for the present and to have/be hope for the future.” The themes “are intended to give a clear Marian tone to the spiritual journey of the next three WYDs” and at the same time “give a picture of young people on a journey between the past (2017), present (2018), and future (2019), inspired by the three theological virtues of faith, charity, and hope.”

The Dicastery note says the “path that is being proposed to young people can also be seen to be in harmony with the reflection that Pope Francis has entrusted to the next Synod of Bishops: Young People, Faith and Vocational Discernment.”


The annual collection taken up around the world for the Pope’s charities, known in the United States and many other countries as Peter’s Pence and in Italy as the “obolo di San Pietro” now has its own page on the Vatican website –

The announcement was made this morning by the Secretariat of State as it unveiled  the new website. It went online on yesterday, November 21 and is currently available in English, Italian, and Spanish, though it will soon be translated into other languages.


This annual collection usually occurs on or around the June 29th Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul. Funds are given to the Holy Father who then chooses the recipients whom he feels are most in need.

The dicastery communique notes that faithful throughout the world will now have the opportunity to “reflect on the significance of their acts and offer, also online, their concrete support for the works of mercy, Christian charity, peace, and aid to the Holy See.” It adds that, “created by desire of the Holy See, the site is the fruit of an important synergy between the Governorate of the Vatican City State, the Secretariat for Communications, and the Institute for the Works of Religion” (i.e. the Vatican Bank).

The site presents papal messages, the history of Peter’s Pence, lists various works of mercy and, of course, offers the chance to donate online.




This weekend and next I have a fascinating guest on Vatican Insider – Fr. Bill Petrie, pastor of St. Damien parish on the Hawaiian island of Molokai’i. We have been friends for a number of years and usually meet on Kalaupapa, a peninsula of Molokai’i, to talk about St. Damien or St. Marianne Cope and their work there with victims of leprosy. A week ago we met in Honolulu to talk about his 25 years of work with Mother Teresa! 25 years! Tons of insight and remarkable stories about this holy woman who will be declared a saint in two weeks!

Here we are on the lanai of our friends, the McKinneys. As you will hear me say in Part 2 of the interview, a rainbow graced a nearby hill just as we finished our conversation– you can see it over Fr. Bill’s shoulder.



You will hear this little fellow (or another member of his family) in the background of our conversation. One of these little creatures started singing every morning at sunrise, usually about 5:40 am and often on the lanai right outside my bedroom. There also was a rooster somewhere in the hills but a certain point he became quiet while the birds continued to sing (so to speak).


As you know, in the United States, you can listen to Vatican Insider on a Catholic radio station near you (there is a list of U.S. stations at or on channel 130 Sirius-XM satellite radio. If you live 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.” Vatican Insider airs Saturday mornings at 9:00 am (Eastern time). On the SKY satellite feed to the UK and parts of Europe, VI airs on audio channel 0147 at 11:30 am CET on Saturdays, and 5:30am and 10pm CET on Sundays. It’s also available on demand on the EWTN app and on the website. CHECK FOR YOUR TIME ZONE. Past shows are in VI archives:


(Vatican Radio) Bishop Kevin J. Farrell of the Diocese of Dallas, Texas, said he was “humbled” when Pope Francis asked him to be the new prefect of the new dicastery for Laity, Family and Life.

“I was obviously humbled by the fact that the Holy Father would ask me to go and do such an important work,” Bishop Farrell told Vatican Radio.

“I have always considered myself to be just a bishop of the diocese and at service to the people here, so when you get a call from the Holy Father asking you to do something like this you cannot but be amazed and humbled at the same time by the whole venture,” he said.

He takes up his new position in just a matter of weeks: The new dicastery has a start date of September 1, when it takes over the duties of the Pontifical Councils for the Family and for the Laity (when they cease to exist as councils).

“I look forward to it,” Bishop Farrell said.

“It seems to me to be a great challenge, especially given the fact that the Holy Father’s letter Amoris laetitia is so important and so well-received by the whole world; and being in charge of what was the Council for the Family, obviously that is going to be my number one agenda,” he continued. “And obviously to promote lay ministry, and to ensure that the lay people take their rightful place in the Church, and to promote the apostolate of the laity in the world. I see it as a challenge. I didn’t expect this at this stage in my life, but that’s where we are!”

When Bishop Farrell arrives in Rome, he will become the second Bishop Farrell at the Vatican: His older brother, Bishop Brian Farrell, is the secretary of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity.

“Yes, I do have a brother there that works there in the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity,” Bishop Kevin Farrell said.

“I am looking forward to it,” – he explained. – “We have been priests for many, many years, but we have never worked together in the same city, so it will be unique, it will be change.”


On August 26, 2016, the U.S. Embassy to the Holy See will launch an online tribute to Mother Teresa. Check the home page on that date:

Saint Mother Teresa, the founder of the Missionaries of Charity, was often a guest in the United States. An adamant pro-life advocate and opponent of the death penalty, she opened her first American-based house of charity in New York in 1971. She was a frequent guest at the White House, met with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on the World Food Resolution, addressed the United Nations in New York, and became an honorary American citizen in 1996. Although the Nobel Peace Prize winner was often the attention of the powerful and the media, she never forgot her true calling to care for the poor and sick.

With materials collected from her past collaborators in organizations such as Catholic Relief Services, our tribute will feature original speeches, congressional records, and rare photographs, all of which speak to her tireless efforts to rid the world of poverty, homelessness, and hunger.



My first day back on the job, so to speak, started with a bang and that is today’s main piece of news from the Vatican – the official establishment of the Dicastery for Laity, the Family and Life, and the naming of a prominent American as its first head.

I faced the day with great satisfaction for another reason: I was finally able to open my suitcase. Our doorman Carlo is on vacation and his substitute did not know where Carlo keeps the tools that could have helped me remove the lock so I did the next best thing – I went to the neighborhood gelateria!

You see, a friend had told me yesterday that Giorgio, the owner of Capitano Cono ice cream shop, about 30 feet from my front door, had a ton of tools in his shop and could undoubtedly help me. Giorgio had taken a few days off and was not in his store yesterday but he was there today and assured me he’d be able to open my luggage – and he did! It felt like Christmas!

I try to exert a lot of self discipline when I walk by Capitano Cono – and that’s several times a day!– because their ice cream is superlative, as are other desserts they offer. I’ve written about it before and I always tell people to come here for gelato when they are in the vicinity of the Vatican.

And now, on to the news….

It is Wednesday and the Holy Father held the weekly general audience in a jam-packed Paul VI Hall and also met this afternoon with French President Francois Hollande but I want to focus on the news of the new Vatican dicastery.


The big news here today was the Apostolic Letter Moto Proprio by Pope Francis that officially establishes the Dicastery for Laity, the Family and Life. A big part of this story is that the Holy Father named Irish-born American Bishop Kevin Joseph Farrell of Dallas, Texas as prefect of the dicastery.


The title of the Latin language document, “Sedula Mater” means “caring mother.”

Bishop Farrell was ordained for the Legionaries of Christ but became incardinated into the Archdiocese of Washington when he was named as an auxiliary in 2001. He was appointed to Dallas in 2007 and currently serves as treasurer of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. His brother is Bishop Brian Farrell, secretary of the Pontifical Council for Promiting Christian Unity.

The new Dicastery, said a Vatican statement, will be governed by special Statues and all responsibilities and functions held by the current Pontifical Councils for the Laity and for the Family will be transferred to the new office on September 1 when these two councils cease to exist.

Up to now, the heads of the nine Vatican offices known as congregations have been called ‘prefects.’ Those heading the various pontifical councils – 11 councils until recently – have the title of ‘president’. Pope Francis calls the new office a Dicastery and names its head a prefect but has not specified whether it will become a congregation.

In Sedula Mater Francis writes: “As a loving Mother, the Church has always throughout the centuries shown her concern for the laity, the family and life, by witnessing our Lord’s merciful love for humanity and we want to ensure that the riches of Jesus Christ are poured out appropriately and with profusion among the faithful.

“For this reason,” he continues, “we are taking prompt moves so that that the Dicasteries of the Roman Curia can respond to the situation of our times and adapt to the needs of the universal Church. In particular, our thoughts are turned towards the laity, the family and life to whom we wish to offer our support and help so that they are active witnesses of the Gospel.”

The family was the subject of two synods of bishops in 2014 and 2015 and of an entire series of Wednesday general audience catecheses between those two October meetings.

Outgoing president of the council for the family, Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, was named by Pope Francis as the new president of the Pontifical Academy for Life. He was also appointed as Grand Chancellor of the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family. The new president of this institute, named today by the Pope, is Msgr. Pierangelo Sequeri, up to now dean of the Theology Faculty of Northern

Pope Francis’ appointment of Bishop Farrell to an important new Vatican dicastery comes just over a month after he named another American to head a Vatican office when he appointed Greg Burke as director of the Holy See Press Office.