I may be taking some time off tomorrow to celebrate another beautiful gift from God – another year of life in a beautiful family – my blood relatives as well as friends who are like family and my huge faith family, the Catholic Church! I don’t actually know how many times day I thank God for things, large and small, but it surely in the dozens.

I am grateful for countless things and events and people in my life and you, my readers and those who listen to “Vatican Insider” on the radio are high on that list. May each day of your lives be filled with many God-given moments for which to be thankful!

However, I will be with you briefly tomorrow! Don’t forget to listen to Catholic Connection with Teresa Tomeo. I join her every Wednesday, birthday or not, at 9:39 ET (3:39 pm in Rome).


Today, June 29 is the feast of Saints Peter and Paul, Apostles and patron saints of the City of Rome. It is a holiday in the Vatican and in Rome and usually is a very festive occasion but the Coronavirus has again muted some celebrations this year, although the papal Mass during which Pope Francis blessed the palliums to be given to the new metropolitan archbishop created since last June 29 took place in the splendor of St. Peter’s Basilica.

The pallium is a white woolen circular band embroidered with six black crosses and two hanging pieces, one in front and another in back, that is worn over the shoulders and symbolizes their authority as archbishop and their special bond with the Roman Pontiff.

For decades the pallium was placed by the Pope on the shoulders of the new metropolitan archbishops, However, in 2015 Francis changed the traditional ceremony, having decided that the public ceremony of investiture of the pallium on metropolitan archbishops would henceforth take place in their home dioceses and not in the Vatican as has been the case under recent pontiffs. The nuncio to the country of the new archbishop places the pallium on his shoulders.

June 29 is also one of two days a year (the other is the February 22 feast of the Chair of Peter) when the bronze statue of the saint for whom the basilica is named is adorned with pontifical vestments, the triple tiara and a papal ring. His right foot is almost worn away from years of pilgrims kissing or rubbing the foot. Pope Francis kissed the foot this morning.


In 2006 I covered the visit to Turkey by Benedict XVI and learned a great deal about Catholic-Orthodox relations, as well as those between the Catholic Church and Islam. Before this apostolic pilgrimage, I studied at length both aspects of the papal trip – the visit to the Orthodox patriarchate and the Church’s relations with Islam given that Pope Benedict made history with a much-applauded visit to Istanbul’s Blue Mosque. Today I provide a capsule summary of what I learned and wrote about at the time.

The Holy See and the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople exchange regular annual visits and send delegations for the feast days of their respective patrons. The Vatican celebrates the June 29 feast of Sts. Peter and Paul, Apostles and the Orthodox patriarchate marks the November 30 feast of St. Andrew, patron of the Ecumenical Patriarchate.   Roman Catholics believe St. Peter was given the mandate by Christ to lead the church and was thus the first Pope. The Orthodox believe that mandate was given to his brother, Andrew.

Both Pope Benedict and Pope Francis have travelled to Turkey to celebrate this feast together with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I. I was in Turkey to cover Benedict’s trip in November 2006 but did not accompany Francis in 2014.

On both occasions a Divine Liturgy was celebrated in St. George Church, located in the Phanar neighborhood (also spelled Fanar) of Istanbul. The name is the Turkish transliteration of the original Greek word meaning a lighting lantern, a streetlight, a lightpost with a lantern. The name is also linked to the classical phanárion and the modern fanári meaning “lantern.”

The Phanar neighborhood became home to many Greeks as well as to the Patriarchate of Constantinople after the fall of Constantinople in 1453, 400 years after the Great Schism, the divide between Constantinople and Rome, between the Eastern and Western Churches.

Today Phanar houses the offices of the patriarchate and the residence of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I. Just as the term Vatican – Vatican City State – is used the describe the heart of the Catholic Church, the Holy See, Phanar is often shorthand for the Ecumenical Pariarchate.

In his talk on November 30, 2006, Pope Benedict said, “the divisions that exist among Christians are a scandal to the world and an obstacle to the proclamation of the Gospel.”

One of the principal reasons for the thousand-year old split between Catholics and Orthodox is the Petrine ministry – Petrine referring to St. Peter – and the Petrine ministry being the office of the Pope.

Benedict made reference to that as well in his talk. He said that Christ gave Peter and Andrew the task of being “fishers of men,” but entrusted that task to each in different ways. Peter, said the Pope, was called “the rock upon which the Church was to be built and entrusted him with the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven.” Peter traveled from Jerusalem to Antioch to Rome “so that in that city he might exercise a universal responsibility.”

“The issue of the universal service of Peter and his Successors,” said Benedict XVI, “has unfortunately given rise to our differences of opinion, which we hope to overcome.”

Some historical background on the East-West split:

What has come to be known as the East-West Schism occurred in 1054 when Patriarch Michael Cerularius of Constantinople, leader of the Eastern Christian Churches, and Pope Leo IX, leader of the Western Church, excommunicated each other. The mutual excommunications were lifted only in 1965 when both Pope Paul VI and Patriarch Athenagoras, following their history-making meeting in Jerusalem in 1964, held ceremonies that revoked the excommunication decrees.

Differences between the two Churches on matters of doctrine, theology, and language had been growing for years, with the most prominent issue being papal primacy. There were also issued over claims of jurisdiction. However, the two Churches have been seeking unity ever since.

The Petrine ministry – the primacy of the Pope – was specifically mentioned vis-a-vis the Orthodox Church in the document from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith entitled “Responses to Some Questions on Certain Aspects of the Doctrine of the Church,” dated June 29, 2007.

Pope Francis quoted this document – specifically the fourth question – in his talk during the Divine Liturgy in 2014. (This 1,200-word document, excluding footnotes, with five questions and five answers is eminently readable:

If you have time today, or want to save this for a later reading, here is the transcript of my lengthy interview for EWTN radio in Phanar with Archbishop Demetrios, the then primate of the Greek Orthodox Church in America, spiritual leader of some 1.5 million Greek Orthodox Christians, and exarch of the Ecumenical Patriarchate to the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. The interview came at the end of Pope Benedict’s visit to Ankara, Ephesus and Istanbul where he met with Muslims as well as with the Orthodox, with whom he celebrated their November 30th patronal feast day of St. Andrew. Though I did this in November 2006, much of what the archbishop explains as the realities of the Catholic-Orthodox dialogue and the differences between the Churches remain current. A CONVERSATION WITH ORTHODOX ARCHBISHOP DEMETRIOS: A PAPAL TRIP, CHRISTIANS IN TURKEY, CHRISTIAN UNITY | Joan’s Rome (


A crowded schedule, work on scripts for 11 new videos for Joan’s Rome and a move from my hotel to the NYC residence of the Paulist Fathers precluded my having time to post a column yesterday. The Paulist Fathers, of course, are in charge of St. Patrick’s parish in Rome (and for 95 years before that, they administered the church of Santa Susanna) and, whenever I can, I renew friendships with some of the Paulists residing here who, in previous years, were at Santa Susanna’s.

Yesterday I posted on Facebook a Paulist feature about Father James Lloyd who turned 97 – an amazing man and story! I wonder if he blew out 97 candles!

This page might be dark again tomorrow as I leave for Rome in the evening, but let’s see what the day brings!

In the meantime, I wish everyone a beautiful and blessed Divine Mercy Sunday!


By Sr Bernadette Mary Reis, fsp (vaticannews)

Thursday, in the company of outgoing Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan, two Patriarchs of the Armenian Apostolic Church and the Patriarch of the Armenian Catholic Church, Pope Francis presided over the inauguration and blessing of the statue of St Gregory of Narek in the Vatican Gardens.

Thursday thus marks a high point in the ecumenical journey between the Catholic Church and the Armenian Apostolic Church. For the first time in history, all three Armenian Church leaders are gathered together with the Roman Pontiff. It is something that Pope Francis prayed for in 2015: “Through the redemptive power of Christ’s sacrifice, may the blood which has been shed bring about the miracle of the full unity of his disciples. In particular, may it strengthen the bonds of fraternal friendship which already unite the Catholic Church and the Armenian Apostolic Church.”

The event does not end today in the Vatican Gardens. A copy of the same statue is currently in production and will be placed in the gardens of the Cathedral of Etchmiadzin where an inauguration ceremony will be held at the end of 2018. The Cathedral of Etchmiadzin is the mother church of the Armenian Apostolic Church, and is considered by scholars to be the oldest Cathedral built in ancient Armenia, and is among one of the oldest Cathedrals in the world.

The groundwork for today’s ceremony was laid by Pope Francis on April 12, 2015 when he celebrated Mass in St Peter’s marking the centenary of the genocide of a million and a half Armenians whom the Pope referred to as martyrs. “A century has passed since that horrific massacre which was a true martyrdom of your people, in which many innocent people died as confessors and martyrs for the name of Christ,” Pope Francis said on that occasion.

During that same liturgy, Pope Francis elevated St Gregory of Narek to the dignity of Doctor of the Universal Church. The Pope characterized St Gregory as a monk who “knew how to express the sentiments of your people more than anyone,” and who, as “an extraordinary interpreter of the human soul, offers words which are prophetic for us.”

Later in June 2016, he visited Armenia. Calling the genocide “the first of the deplorable series of catastrophes of the past century,” Pope Francis praised the faith of the Armenian people, “who, illuminated by the light of the Gospel, even at the most tragic moments of their history, have always found in the cross and resurrection of Christ the strength to rise again and take up their journey anew with dignity.”

St Gregory of Narek is recognized as a saint in both the Catholic Church and in the Armenian Apostolic Church, being venerated in a particular way among Catholics of the Armenian Rite.

His legacy lives on through this ecumenical effort that is centered on him. In an interview with Vatican News, Mikayel Minasyan, ambassador of the Republic of Armenia to the Holy See, described St Gregory of Narek as a symbol of brotherhood and a bridge between the two Churches and for all Christians, “above all those of the Middle East.”

Gregory of Narek was a 10th century Armenian monk, poet, and mystical writer and composer. His most well-known literary work is a book of prayers, known as the “Book of Lamentations”. It is considered a masterpiece of Armenian literature. St Gregory himself defined the work as an “encyclopedia of prayer for all nations”. He hoped that his book would provide guidance in prayer for people of all walks of life in order to reach God.


In a tweet posted to his official @Pontifex account Wednesday evening, Pope Francis prays for British baby Alfie Evans. His parents’ legal battle to keep him alive on life support in hope of further treatment has failed.

By Devin Watkins (vaticannews)

Pope Francis on Wednesday tweeted his prayers for Alfie Evans, a 23-month old English baby who is in a “semi-vegetative state” in a Liverpool hospital. It is believed that Alfie has a rare degenerative neurological condition, but doctors have not yet definitively diagnosed his condition.

In his tweet, the Holy Father said, “It is my sincere hope that everything necessary may be done in order to continue compassionately accompanying little Alfie Evans, and that the deep suffering of his parents may be heard.”

Pope Francis said he is “praying for Alfie, for his family and for all who are involved.”

Little Alfie has been on life support at Alder Hey Children’s Hospital since December 2016 following a chest infection, which caused seizures. Alfie overcame the infection and started breathing on his own. But another chest infection led to more chronic seizures, and he had to go back on a ventilator. Doctors at Alder Hey said it was in Alfie’s best interests to stop “mechanical ventilation.”

Alfie’s parents, Kate James and Tom Evans, fought for the right to keep him alive, taking their case to the courts. An English High Court ruled on March 6th that he should only receive palliative care. The Supreme Court upheld that decision, and the European Court of Human Rights refused to examine the case. They have now exhausted every legal means of preventing the hospital from withdrawing Alfie from life support. The British press say this could happen by Friday.

Kate and Tom Evans want to transfer Alfie to another hospital to try experimental therapies with money raised from a crowd funding effort. The courts have also rejected this request.

His parents say Alfie is now showing signs of improvement after having his medication reduced.

The case brings to mind two other English babies, Charlie Gard and Isaiah Haastrup, who died after their life support was removed on July 28, 2017 and March 7, 2018, respectively. Alfie Evans is thought to have a mitochondrial condition, similar to Charlie Gard.

People around the world have come out in support of Alfie’s cause through prayer, petitions, and demonstrations.

Alfie’s parents had pleaded with the Pope to help. With his Tweet, Pope Francis has brought worldwide attention to little Alfie’s fight for life.


Pope Francis’ Apostolic Exhortation “Gaudete et Exsultate” will be presented at the Holy See Press office in the Vatican on Monday, April 9.

A statement released by the Holy See Press Office on Thursday said a Press Conference to launch and present Pope Francis’ Apostolic Exhortation “Gaudete et Exsultate” (Rejoice and be glad), and subtitled “On the call to holiness in the contemporary world” will take place on 9 April at noon.

An Apostolic Exhortation is considered the second-highest form of papal teaching, after an Encyclical Letter.

Since his election as Pope, Francis has issued two other Exhortations: “Evangelii Gaudium” in 2013 and “Amoris Laetitia” in 2016.

Set to speak at the presentation of “Gaudete et Exsultate” are Bishop Angelo De Donatis, the vicar general of the Rome diocese, Italian journalist Gianni Valente and Paola Bignardi, a former president of Catholic Action Italy.


By Christopher Wells (Vatican Radio and news)

As is traditional, Pope Francis presided over an ecumenical Vespers service at the Basilica of Saint Paul’s Outside the Walls for the conclusion of the annual Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. The end of the Week coincides with the Feast of the Conversion of Saint Paul.

The Song of Moses and Miriam

During the liturgical service, a cantor proclaimed a reading from the Book of Exodus, the “Song of Moses and Miriam,” which Pope Francis took as the starting point for his homily. The hymn was sung by the Israelites after they had been saved from the Egyptians by God, an event that many of the Church Fathers saw as an image of Baptism. “All of us Christians,” the Pope said, have passed through the waters of Baptism; and the grace of the Sacrament has destroyed our enemies, sin and death.” Precisely for this reason, he continued, together we are able to sing God’s praise.

Called to community

But, the Pope said, as with Moses, “our individual experiences bind us to an even greater story, that of the salvation of the people of God.” Saint Paul, he said, whose conversion is celebrated in this liturgical feast, likewise had a “powerful experience of grace,” and this experience led him “to seek out communion with other Christians.” This, the Pope said, is also our experience as believers: “As soon as we grow in the spiritual life, we understand ever better that grace reaches us together with others, and is to be shared with others.”

The Pope explained that in recognizing the Baptisms of Christians of other traditions, we acknowledge that they too have received forgiveness, and that God’s grace is at work in them too. “And even when divergences separate us,” he said, “we recognize that we pertain to the same people of the redeemed, to the same family of brothers and sisters loved by the only Father.”

United in suffering

Our growth in the spiritual life, however, is often a difficult one, the Pope said, and pointed to the suffering of Christians endured for the Name of Jesus. The Holy Father argued that “when their blood is shed, even if they belong to different [Christian] Confessions, together they become witnesses of the faith, martyrs, united in the bond of baptismal grace.”

Even with other religious traditions, the Pope said, “Christians today confront the challenges that demean human dignity: flying from situations of conflict and misery they are victims of human trafficking and other forms of modern slavery; they suffer hardships and hunger, in a world that is ever more rich in means and poor in love, where inequality continues to grow.” But, he said, Christians are called to remember the history of what God has done for us, and to help and support one another, and “to face every challenge with courage and hope, armed only with Jesus and the sweet power of His Gospel.”


On Sunday, January 28, 2018 at 9 am, Pope Francis will celebrate Mass in the Papal Basilica of St. Mary Major on the occasion of the feast of the Translation of the Salus Populi Romani icon that depicts the Madonna with the Child Jesus in her arms in a blessing position.

This solemnity, that takes place every year on the last Sunday of January, hopes to be a choral thanksgiving for the presence of the centuries-old sacred image in the Liberian Basilica, says a communiqué from the papal basilica.

Salus Populi Romani is among the most famous and venerated Marian icons and, as is well-expressed by its very name, is particularly venerated by Romans who, with trust invoke her protection in various moments of daily life and in especially critical moments.

After restoration –

Pope Francis is particularly devoted to her and, as happened immediately after his election to the papacy when he came to pay homage to her, he does so now on every one of his international trips.

The liturgical celebration will coincide with the exposition of the icon that has been restored following a delicate and challenging intervention done by the restoration laboratories of the Vatican museums and coordinated by Museum director, Dr. Barbara Jatta, with the supervision of a commission presided over by the archpriest of the Liberian Basilica, Cardinal Stanislaw Rylko.

The sophisticated technology of the research undertaken before the restoration and the extraordinary expertise of the Vatican restorers allowed for the recovery of the original beauty and the historical reality of this work that had been hidden by centuries of varnish, repainting and the effects from devotional use.

Thus, says the communiqué, the intimate conversation of souls is able to re-emerge without barriers in the intense look on the face of the Mother of God and our Mother.


As I write, Pope Francis is presiding at Vespers at the Basilica of St. Paul’s Outside the Walls for the solemnity of the Conversion of St. Paul. This is an annual ecumenical encounter that is the traditional conclusion to the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. This is the 49th annual Week of Prayer.

The big news today is also of an ecumenical nature. The Holy See Press Office annouced that the Holy Father Francis intends to participate in a joint ceremony of the Catholic Church and the World Lutheran Federation to commemorate the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, scheduled to take place in Lund, Sweden on Monday, October 31, 2016. (See below).

My maternal grandfather, William Bromann, was born in Uelzen, Germany in 1869, into a Lutheran family. When he was 18 months old, he and his parents (my great grandparents) and three older brothers came to the U.S. They left Hamburg, Germany on the steamship “Vandalia” on its maiden voyage on June 28, 1871.

My grandfather married my grandmother, Teresa Blattner, a Catholic, in Petoskey, Michigan 1905 at which time he promised to raise their children as Catholics. He was a big supporter of their parish, economically and otherwise. On Sundays he attended Mass with Grandma and the three kids – my Mom, Uncle Bill and Aunt Doris – and afterwards he would go to the Lutheran service. Grandpa became a Catholic six weeks before he died in 1950. He never knew it but Grandma had pinned a scapular to the mattress of their bed when they were married, always praying that he would become Catholic “if it was God’s will.”


(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis will travel to Sweden in October for a joint ecumenical commemoration of the start of the Reformation, together with leaders of the Lutheran World Federation and representatives of other Christian Churches.

The event will take place on October 31st in the southern Swedish city of Lund where the Lutheran World Federation was founded in 1947. While kicking off a year of events to mark the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation, it will also highlight the important ecumenical developments that have taken place during the past 50 years of dialogue between Catholics and Lutherans.

The one-day event will include a common worship service in Lund cathedral based on a Catholic-Lutheran “Common Prayer” liturgical guide, published earlier this month by the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity (PCPCU) and the Lutheran World Federation (LWF).

The commemoration in Lund follows on directly from the publication in 2013 of a joint document entitled ‘From Conflict to Communion’, which focuses on the themes of thanksgiving, repentance and commitment to common witness. While asking for forgiveness for the divisions of past centuries, it  also seeks to showcase the gifts of the Reformation and celebrate the way Catholics and Lutherans around the world work together on issues of common concern.

Below is the joint press release from the LWF and the PCPCU on the joint ecumenical commemoration of the Reformation in Lund:

GENEVA/VATICAN CITY, 25 January 2016 – The Lutheran World Federation (LWF) and the Catholic Church will hold a joint ecumenical commemoration of the Reformation on 31 October 2016 in Lund, Sweden.

Pope Francis, LWF President Bishop Dr Munib A. Younan and General Secretary Rev. Dr Martin Junge will lead the Ecumenical Commemoration in cooperation with the Church of Sweden and the Catholic Diocese of Stockholm.

The joint ecumenical event will take place in the city of Lund in anticipation of the 500th Reformation anniversary in 2017. It will highlight the solid ecumenical developments between Catholics and Lutherans and the joint gifts received through dialogue. The event will include a common worship based on the recently published Catholic-Lutheran “Common Prayer” liturgical guide.

“The LWF is approaching the Reformation anniversary in a spirit of ecumenical accountability,” says LWF General Secretary Rev. Dr Martin Junge. “I’m carried by the profound conviction that by working towards reconciliation between Lutherans and Catholics, we are working towards justice, peace and reconciliation in a world torn apart by conflict and violence.”

Cardinal Koch, President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity (PCPCU) explains further: “By concentrating together on the centrality of the question of God and on a Christocentric approach, Lutherans and Catholics will have the possibility of an ecumenical commemoration of the Reformation, not simply in a pragmatic way, but in the deep sense of faith in the crucified and resurrected Christ.

“It is with joy and expectation that the Church of Sweden welcomes The Lutheran World Federation and the Catholic Church to hold the joint commemoration of the Reformation in Lund,” says Church of Sweden Archbishop Antje Jackelén. “We shall pray together with the entire ecumenical family in Sweden that the commemoration will contribute to Christian unity in our country and throughout the world.”

“The ecumenical situation in our part of the world is unique and interesting. I hope that this meeting will help us look to the future so that we can be witnesses of Jesus Christ and His gospel in our secularized world,” says Anders Arborelius OCD, Bishop of the Catholic Church in Sweden.

The Lund event is part of the reception process of the study document From Conflict to Communion, which was published in 2013, and has since been widely distributed to Lutheran and Catholic communities. The document is the first attempt by both dialogue partners to describe together at international level the history of the Reformation and its intentions.

Earlier this year, the LWF and PCPCU sent to LWF member churches and  Catholic Bishops’ Conferences a jointly prepared “Common Prayer”, which is a liturgical guide to help churches commemorate the Reformation anniversary together. It is based on the study document From Conflict to Communion: Lutheran-Catholic Common Commemoration of the Reformation in 2017, and features the themes of thanksgiving, repentance and commitment to common witness with the aim of expressing the gifts of the Reformation and asking forgiveness for the division which followed theological disputes.

The year 2017 will also mark 50 years of the international Lutheran-Catholic dialogue, which has yielded notable ecumenical results, of which most significant is the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification (JDDJ). The JDDJ was signed by the LWF and the Catholic Church in 1999, and affirmed by the World Methodist Council in 2006. The declaration nullified centuries’ old disputes between Catholics and Lutherans over the basic truths of the doctrine of justification, which was at the center of the 16th century Reformation.


Even though the weather was the coldest we’ve had all winter – with bone-chilling winds yesterday – there were a lot of big events at the Vatican that brought out fairly large numbers of faithful.

How cold was it? I did an unscientific, informal survey of several area restaurants and pizzerias whose owners told me their phones were ringing off the hook: Everyone wanted pizzas delivered, no one wanted to go out in the frigid temperatures!

My comment on the weather is just that – a comment. How can I complain about cold when I think of the tens of thousands of migrants, refugees, our countless brothers and sisters who, as they leave their country of birth, whether by choice or force, and have not found better times (in fact, have found worse ones!) leave everything behind – homes, possessions, security, etc. They probably do not know where their next meal is coming from, where they will rest their head for the night and even if they will hygiene facilities!

But the cold is the Number One story on Italian news tonight!

Sunday, in fact, marked the World Day for Migrants and Refugees and thousands of migrants and refugees of different nationalities entered St. Peter’s Basilica by the Holy Door to attend a special Mass for this world day. Afterwards they filled St. Peter’s Square for the Angelus and heard Pope Francis say: “Each of you carries a story, a culture, precious values; and unfortunately often experiences of poverty, oppression and fear. Your presence in this square is a sign of hope in God.” He urged them not to allow difficulties deprive them of hope and of the joy of life.

Francis also prayed for the victims of attacks by extremists in Burkina Faso and Indonesia. And, interestingly enough, he thanked the inmates of a detention center in Milan who made the hosts for the Mass dedicated to migrants and refugees.

Before the Marian prayer, the Pope reflected on the day’s Gospel about Jesus’ first miracle at the wedding at Cana. “In that miracle,” said Francis, “Jesus imparts an act of kindness toward the groom, a divine blessing upon marriage. Love between man and woman is a good way in which to live the Gospel and with which to undertake with joy the path towards holiness.” However, said Francis, “the miracle of Cana is not just about the bride and groom. Each human person is called to meet the Lord in his or her life.”

Also on Sunday: In the afternoon, Pope Francis visited Rome’s Jewish community 30 years after St. John Paul was the first ever pope to visit a synagogue. I put the EWTN/CNA account of that visit on my Facebook page – here is a link to the news story:

This morning was nonstop for the pontiff. Following is an abbreviated version of his various audiences based on Vatican Radio and VIS stories on Photos also from

Before I close: Don’t forget to watch ”At Home with Jim and Joy” today (Mondays and Thursdays, 2 pm ET) when I’ll bring some of the weekend news from Rome.


POPE WELCOMES PRINCE ALBERT II OF MONACO – The prince was accompanied by his wife Princess Charlene, a convert to Catholicism. A statement from the Holy See Press Office called the talks “cordial,” and said they highlighted the good bilateral relations between Monaco and the Holy See, and reference was made to the historical contribution of the Catholic Church in the life of Monaco. Other issues of common interest that were discussed included environmental protection, humanitarian aid, and the integral development of peoples. The parties considered some issues affecting the international community, including peace and security, the reception of migrants, and the general situation in the Mediterranean region, as well as the Middle East. Prince Albert gave Pope Francis a food basket containing fruit, vegetables, and cheeses from the royal farm/vacation home.


HOLY FATHER WELCOMES IMF MANAGING DIRECTOR. The Pope today welcomed Christine Lagarde, Managing Director of the IMF, International Monetary Fund. The two previously met in the Vatican December 10, 2014. The IMF, composed of 188 countries, was established in 1944 to help manage countries’ balance of payments. According to its website, it  is “working to foster global monetary cooperation, secure financial stability, facilitate international trade, promote high employment and sustainable economic growth, and reduce poverty around the world.”

VATICAN SECURITY PERSONNEL RECEIVED BY POPE. During his annual address to Officers and Agents of the General Inspectorate for Public Security at the Vatican, the Pope expressed appreciation for the work they carry out every day, as well as during pastoral visits in Italy. “Our meeting today is even more significant because it is within the context of the Holy Year of Mercy, an event of spiritual significance, which has already seen the presence of many pilgrims in Rome from all over the world.” He noted that, in a special way, the members of public security are called to a greater commitment “to ensure that the celebrations and events connected with the special Jubilee” run smoothly and take place in an atmosphere of serenity and peace. He asked the Lord to protect them in the fulfillment of the task they carry out in collaboration with other security forces. Francis added that, although the Christmas season is over, the crib can still be viewed in St. Peter’s Square –  a reminder to safeguard within ourselves the mystery we have just celebrated.


FRANCIS RECEIVES FINNISH ECUMENICAL DELEGATION OF LUTHERAN –  As is traditional, an ecumenical delegation from Finland, led by the Lutheran bishop of Helsinki, came to visit the bishop of Rome for the feast day of St. Henry of Uppsala, patron of the country. Pope Francis told his guests, “Your ecumenical pilgrimage is an eloquent sign of the fact that, as Lutherans, Orthodox and Catholics, you have recognized what unites you and together you wish to bear witness to Jesus Christ, Who is the foundation of unity. Expressing his joy at their visit, the Pope said, “In a special way, we can thank the Lord for the fruits of the dialogue between Lutherans and Catholics. Here I think in particular of the common document on ‘Justification in the Life of the Church’. Building on these foundations, our dialogue is making promising progress towards a shared understanding, on the sacramental level, of Church, Eucharist and Ministry. Finland has 5.5. million people, mostly Lutheran, but 1.1% is Orthodox Christian. The Catholic population numbers a little over 12,000 people.


IN OTHER PAPAL NEWS: Pope Francis is set to release a new children’s book in February, entitled “Love before the World”. Published by Loyola Press (original title, “L’amore prima del mondo”), the book contains the Holy Father’s responses to letters written by children from around the world. For example: What did God do before creating the world? “God loved.” Or: Why do my parents fight sometimes? “They are human.” These are some of the questions put to Pope Francis by children between the ages of 6-13 from 26 countries, including Albania, China, Nigeria, and the Philippines. Fr. Antonio Spadaro, SJ, director of ‘La Civiltà Cattolica’, met with the Pope at the Casa Santa Marta several times in recent months, giving him a chance to respond to the children’s letters spontaneously. “These are hard questions,” Pope Francis said, smiling. The drawings and questions of 31 children were chosen for the book, which will be presented to the Holy Father by several of the children who wrote the letters on 22 February. The book debuts in Italy on February 25 and around the world on March 1.




The Holy Father Thursday welcomed an ecumenical delegation of the Lutheran Church from Finland on its annual visit to Rome during the January 18 to 25 Week of Prayer for Christian Unity and the feast of St. Henry of Uppsala, patron saint of Finland.

He quoted from St. John Paul who, thirty years ago, welcomed the first such delegation and said, “The fact that you come here together is itself a witness to the importance of efforts for unity. The fact that you pray together is a witness to our belief that only through the grace of God can that unity be achieved. The fact that you recite the Creed together is a witness to the one common faith of the whole of Christianity.”

Reiterating the words of Bishop Vikstrom, in Rome with the delegation, Francis said, “there is so much that Catholics and Lutherans can do together to bear witness to God’s mercy in our societies. A shared Christian witness is very much needed in the face of the mistrust, insecurity, persecution, pain and suffering experienced so widely in today’s world.”

The Pope said, “The Joint Declaration on the Doctrine on Justification which was solemnly signed some fifteen years ago between the Lutheran World Federation and the Catholic Church, can produce further fruits of reconciliation and cooperation between us. …Let us hope that further convergence will emerge from that dialogue on the concept of the Church, the sign and instrument of the salvation brought to us in Jesus Christ.”


Thursday morning Pope Francis received a group of agents from the General Inspectorate for Public Security in the Vatican as it celebrates the 70th anniversary of the presence of the Italian forces of order in the Vatican. He thanked the officials and members of their families for the work they carry out on a daily basis “with professionalism and dedication.” The officers work normally in and around St. Peter’s Square and they staff the airport-style security maches for people entering St. Peter’s Basilica or entering the square for a papal general audience.

As we start a new year, he said, “we have many hopes and expectations, and we also see on the horizon the shadows and dangers that trouble humanity. As Christians we are called upon not to lose heart or to be discouraged. Our hope rests upon an immovable rock: God’s love, revealed and given in Christ Jesus, our Lord.”

Francis explained that, “In the light of this firm hope, your work assumes a different meaning that brings human and Christian values into play. Indeed, you have the task of protecting and supervising places of the utmost importance for the faith, and of guaranteeing the security of millions of pilgrims. Many people who come to visit the heart of Christian Rome frequently turn to you.”

“May every person,” said the Holy Father, “feel helped and protected by your presence and your care. … We are all called to be our neighbor’s guardians. The Lord will call us to account for the responsibilities entrusted to us, for the good and the bad we have brought upon our neighbors.”


Vatican City, January 22, 2015 – The Holy Father declared on 10 January 2015 by way of a Rescriptum ex audientia Ss.mi presented to the President of the IOR Supervisory Commission of Cardinals that the Statute of the Istituto per le Opere di Religione (IOR) has been changed to elevate the number of members in the IOR Supervisory Commission of Cardinals and the IOR Board of Superintendence from five to six respectively. The Rescriptum ex audientia Ss.mi has come into effect on 10 January 2015 and will be published in the Acta Apostolicae Sedis in due course. In addition, the nomination of a non-voting Secretary General to the IOR Board of Superintendence has been formalized by the President of the Supervisory Commission of Cardinals.

The full Rescriptum ex audientia Ss.mi as well as information on the IOR governance structure and its key personnel can be found on the Institute’s website at

About the Istituto per le Opere di Religione (IOR):

The “Istituto per le Opere di Religione” (IOR) is an institute founded on 27 June 1942 by Papal Decree. Its origins date back to the “Commissione Cardinalizia ad Pias Causas” established in 1887 by Pope Leo XIII. The purpose of the IOR is to serve the global mission of the Catholic Church by providing for the custody and administration of its customers’ assets, and rendering dedicated worldwide payment services to its customers. The Institute’s mission was confirmed by the Holy Father, Pope Francis, on 7 April 2014. The IOR operates from a single location – its headquarters in the Vatican City State – and is regulated by the “Autorità di Informazione Finanziaria” (AIF), the financial supervisory body for the Vatican City State. The IOR serves approximately 15,500 customers. As of 31 December 2013, the Institute was entrusted with customers’ assets totalling €5.9 billion.


When Pope Francis appealed for peace in Niger yesterday at the general audience, he was referring to events in that country that have received little coverage in the secular media. The following reports, datelined Niamey, Niger, are from Fides, the news agency of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples:

(Fides) – “Between Friday 16 and Saturday 17 January, various churches and religious communities in Niger suffered extensive damage because of demonstrators protesting against the publication of the French weekly Charlie Hebdo. In the Diocese of Maradi and Niamey, several churches were burned, along with some religious houses. Other Protestant churches were also affected by the protesters.” Fr. Nicolas Ayouba, superior of the Redemptorists of Niger, confirmed the news to Fides, adding: “According to the latest news, our Community of St. Clement of Niamey was not attacked, while the church of St. Gabriel yes. All the Redemptorists are still in good condition.”

The churches of St. Paul, St. Augustine, St. Gabriel, St. John, St. Teresa and St. Joseph were burned and looted in Niamey, as well as two convents of nuns. Because of the situation, all Sunday celebrations were suspended.

The Apostolic Administrator of Niamey, Archbishop Michel Cartatéguy told Vatican Radio: “As a Christian community, we are still under shock. All our churches – 12 out of 14 – have been completely looted: there is nothing left … everything is burned. The cathedral was not touched, because of my request to monitor it. We have suspended all activities of the Catholic mission; we have closed our schools, our dispensaries … We are not able to understand what is going on. I summoned all the priests and community leaders to pray in silence, and we meditated on love for enemies. Many of our religious, who today have lost everything, were protected, and still are, by Muslim families. I said to the highest authorities: ‘We have nothing against the Muslim community, on the contrary’. Indeed, we must further strengthen the bonds of unity and brotherhood that we have built.”

In another report, Fides said, quoting a statement sent to the agency, “The bishops of Niger have suspended “until further notice” all the activities of the Catholic Church (schools, health centers, charitable activities), “following the looting of churches and infrastructure of our institutions, and the desecration of our places of worship. The measure will allow us to pray and to read, in serenity, the painful events that we have suffered.” The bishops “thank very warmly all those who have expressed their solidarity in these difficult times.”



Archbishop Josepk Kurtz of Louisville, president of the USCCB – United States Conference of Catholic Bishops – spoke to me in Rome in the middle of the second week of the synod on the family as the small language groups were meeting. Hear his report on both the talks in the synod hall the first week and what the work of the language groups entails.

20141015_130515 20141015_130859 Abp. Kurtz

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Pope Francis is going to receive the highest honor of Israel’s Bar Ilan University, the Award of Distinction, according to an announcement today by the university. Bar Ilan said the honor, which will be presented at the Vatican on October 27, was to pay tribute to Francis’ “continual efforts and his commitment to building bridges between different worlds, promoting peace and harmony among nations and faiths, defending human rights and fighting for them.” The university also praised Pope Francis for his “contribution to understanding and tolerance between Christians and Jews and for the warmth he has shown towards the Jewish nation, especially during his official visit to Israel (earlier this year).”


ANSA also reported that Pope Francis is working on his second encyclical. Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin on Thursday told the Pontifical University Antonianum on Thursday that the Pope’s new work is on the “protection of creation. The cardinal was speaking at the Antonianum during the presentation of Code 338, the only copy ever made of the Canticle of the Creatures by St. Francis.


Pope Francis on Friday welcomed members of the Orientale Lumen Foundation in America as they meet in Rome as part of an ecumenical pilgrimage. He told them that,

“every Christian pilgrimage is not only a geographical journey, but also and above all an opportunity to take a path of inner renewal taking us ever closer to Christ our Lord.” He added that, “these dimensions are absolutely essential in proceeding along the path that leads us to reconciliation and full communion among all believers in Christ. There is no true ecumenical dialogue without openness to inner renewal and the search for greater fidelity to Christ and to His will.”

Francis expressed his delight in learning that the pilgrims had decided to honor the memory of Popes St. John XXIII and St. John Paul II, saying “this decision underlines their great contribution to the development of ever closer relations between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Churches. The example of these two saints is without doubt enriching for all of us, since they always bore witness to an ardent passion for Christian unity”.

The Holy Father, noting his late November trip to Turkey, asked for prayers for his three-day pilgrimage, during which he will meet with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I. (source: VIS)


The Holy See Press Office this morning presented the World Meeting of Popular Movements, that will be held in Rome from October 27 to 29. The three-day event was organized by the Pontifical Council “Justice and Peace” in collaboration with the Pontifical Academy for Social Sciences and the leaders of various movements.

Presenters included Cardinal Peter Turkson, president of Justice and Peace, Archbishop Marcelo Sanchez Sorondo, chancellor of the Pontifical Academy for Social Sciences and Juan Grabois, head of the Confederation of Workers of the Popular Economy, dedicated principally to organizations and movements for the excluded and marginalized.

Grabois, who knew Pope Francis as archbishop of Buenos Aires, said that the then-Cardinal Bergoglio sympathized with the struggle of excluded workers in very difficult moments, and accompanied them in the work of assisting the cartoneros or peasants, who are forced to live on the streets and, in general, are the heirs of a crisis brought on by neo-liberal capitalism. “Francis summons us again today, from a universal perspective; he calls to the poor, organized in thousands of popular movements, to fight, without arrogance but with courage, without violence but with tenacity, for this dignity that has been taken from us, and for social justice.”

The World Meeting of Popular Movements will be attended by the social leaders of the five continents, representing organizations of increasingly excluded social sectors: workers in precarious employment conditions; migrants; temporary workers; the unemployed and the self-employed, without legal protection, labor rights or union recognition; peasants; the landless; indigenous peoples and those at risk of expulsion from the fields as a result of agricultural speculation and violence; and those who live in the peripheries and in temporary settlements, often migrants and displaced peoples, who are marginalized, forgotten, and without adequate urban infrastructure. Alongside them there are trades unions and social, charitable and human rights organizations, who have demonstrated their closeness to these movements and who, it has been suggested, might accompany them, respecting the role of grass-roots movements.

“The aims of this meeting include sharing Pope Francis’ thought on social matters, debating the causes of growing social inequality and the increase in exclusion throughout the world, reflecting on the organizational experiences of popular movements and the resolution of problems regarding land, housing and work, evaluating the role of movements in the processes of peace-building and care for the environment, especially in regions affected by conflicts and disputes over natural resources, discussing the relationship between popular movements and the Church, and how to go ahead in the creation of joint and permanent collaboration.”

Cardinal Turkson stated that it was essential for both the Church and the world to “listen to the cry for justice” from the excluded; “not only to the sufferings, but also to the expectations, hopes and proposals which the marginalised themselves have. They must be protagonists of their own lives, and not simply passive recipients of the charity or plans of others. They must be protagonists of the needed economic and social, political and cultural changes. … The Church wants to make its own the needs and aspirations of the popular movements, and to join with those who, by means of different initiatives, are making every effort to stimulate social change towards a more just world.” (VIS)