In this week’s interview segment, I talk to Cris Gangemi, executive director of the KAIROS FORUM, an organization that seeks to highlight and respond to the spiritual and religious needs of people with intellectual or cognitive disabilities. The aim of Kairos is to facilitate the crafting and empowerment of ‘communities of belonging’ within both religious and secular settings. Kairos is partnering with the Pontifical Council for Culture for a three-day conference in Rome June 24 to 26 that is entitled LIVING FULLY 2016.  Don’t miss this wonderful and informative conversation.


Here are some links to Kairos and to the June 2016 conference in Rome:

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 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:


Following is the telegram of condolences sent by Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin, in the name of Pope Francis, to Abdel Fattah Al Sisi, president of Egypt for the loss of EgyptAir Flight MS-804, which crashed into the Mediterranean Sea in the night between Wednesday and Thursday, claiming the lives of 66 people – 56 passengers and 10 crew members:

“Having learned with sadness of the tragic crash of the Egyptian passenger airliner, Pope Francis wishes to assure you of his prayers and solidarity at this difficult time and commends the souls of the deceased of various nationalities to the mercy of the Almighty. Upon the relatives of the passengers and all those involved in the search and rescue efforts, His Holiness invokes the divine blessings of strength and peace.”


Vatican Radio)  Pope Francis on Friday urged Italian football (soccer) players to not just be champions in their sport but above all champions in their lives, by displaying key moral values such as brotherhood, mutual respect, understanding and forgiveness. His remarks came during an audience at the Vatican with top representatives of Italy’s Seria A Football League as well as players from the Juventus and AC Milan teams. The two Seria A teams play each other at the weekend in the final of the Italian cup (Coppa Italia) in Rome’s Olympic Stadium.

A keen football fan himself, Pope Francis reminded the players, that as role models for many fans, especially the young, their behaviour should always reflect “the authentic values of sport.” He said the success of a team depends on a fusion of human and moral virtues such as “harmony, loyalty, friendship, dialogue and solidarity.” By being a witness of those moral virtues, he continued, you can emphasize even more the real purpose of the world of sport that is “sometimes marred by negative episodes.”

The Pope reminded the players that they are not just footballers but first and foremost a human being, each with their own conscience, and urged them to always show “brotherhood, mutual respect, understanding and forgiveness.” “Be champions in sport but above all champions in your life,” he stressed.

Pope Francis concluded by encouraging the players to always highlight whatever is “truly good and beautiful” and to not be afraid to share and display with their fans “the moral and religious principles” on which they wish to base their life.


(L’Osservatore Romano) – Br Francesco Patton is the new Custos of the Holy Land, succeeding Br Pierbattista Pizzaballa, who led the Custody for the past ten years. The nomination by the General Council of the Order of Friars Minor was ratified by the Holy See, according to the Pontifical Statutes dealing with this entity of the Franciscan Order.

The new Custos was born in Vigo Meano, Italy in the Archdiocese of Trent on 23 December 1963, and belongs to the Province of St Anthony of the Friars Minor of northern Italy. He made his first religious profession on 7 September 1983 and his solemn profession on 4 October 1986. He was ordained a priest on 26 May 1989. In 1993 he earned a Licentiate in Communication Sciences at the Pontifical Salesian University in Rome.

He has served in various capacities in his province and also within the Order. He was twice Secretary General of the General Chapters in 2003 and 2009; Visitator General in 2003; Minister Provincial of St Vigilium of Trent from 2008 to 2016; and President of the Conference of Provincial Ministers of Italy and Albania (COMPI) from 2010 to 2013.

Br Francesco has also served in many capacities outside of the Order, including: as member of the Diocesan Presbyteral Council and secretary of the Diocesan Pastoral Council of the Archdiocese of Trent; professor of Social Communications at the Studio Teologico Accademico Tridentino; collaborator of the Diocesan Weekly, of Diocesan Radio and of Telepace Trento. He has also been enrolled with the journalists of Trentino-Alto Adige as a publicist since 1991.

JFL: He succeeds Fr. Pierbattista Pizzaballa, a native of Bergamo, Italy, who has been the Franciscan Custos of the Holy Land since 2004. As such, Br. Patton is the Minister Provincial, the superior, of the Friars Minor living in the Middle East. He has jurisdiction over the territories of Israel, Palestine, Jordan, Lebanon, Egypt (partially), Cyprus and Rhodes without counting the numerous houses known as commissariats in various parts of the world such as Rome, Madrid, and Washington.


There were no public engagements on Pope Francis’ agenda today but there are a number of interesting stories to report: a beautiful papal homily on the true meaning of love, a good news story from Egypt about Christians and a special moment for the British Ambassador to the Holy See and invited guests at a special wreath-laying ceremony in St. Peter’s Basilica.


In this week’s interview segment, you will meet Msgr. Dan Mueggenborg, pastor since 2011 at Christ the King parish in Tulsa, Oklahoma. We became friends during the six years that he was in Rome at the North American College as vice rector and director of admissions. Over the years we broke bread together many times, at NAC and at my home and recently we met serendipitously at a favorite restaurant when he arrived in Rome for a visit. I asked Msgr. Dan about life in a parish and the conversation was riveting and I asked him to tell his story. So be sure to tune in this week for an inspiring conversation.


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 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 9:30 am (Eastern time) and re-airs Sundays at 4:30 pm (ET). Check for your time zone. Past shows are found in Vatican Insider archives:


This morning, in his homily during morning Mass in the Santa Marta residence, Pope Francis focused on the Gospel reading from the letter of John the Apostle, and meditated on the different meanings of the word ‘love’ , emphasizing that the two most important commandments for a Christian are to love God and our neighbor.

Vatican Radio records the morning papal homilies and transcribves them for the website. Today’s was the second daily Mass since the end of the Christmas break on the January 6 feast of the Epiphany.

“This word ‘love’,” said the Holy Father, “is a word that is used so many times and when we use it we don’t know exactly what it means. What is love? Sometimes we can think of the love in the soap operas but that doesn’t appear to be love. Or else love can seem like having a crush on a person but then it fades away. Where does true love come from? Whoever loves has been created by God because God is love. Don’t say: ‘Every love is God,’ No, God is love.”

The Pope said the Apostle John underlines how God loves us first and there are many examples of this in the Gospel, such as during the multiplication of the loaves of bread by Jesus or in the parable of the Prodigal Son.

“When we have something on our mind and we want to ask God to forgive us, it’s He who is waiting for us – to forgive us.  This Jubilee Year of Mercy, to some extent, is also this: that we may know that our Lord is waiting for us, each one of us.  Why? To embrace us.  Nothing more.  To say to us: son, daughter, I love you. I let my Son be crucified for you: this is the price of my love, this is the gift of my love.”

Pope Francis went on to stress how “the Lord is waiting for me, the Lord wants me to open the door of my heart” and we must have this certainty that He will wait for us just as we are and not as we are told to be.

“We must go to the Lord and say: ‘You know, Lord, how much I love you.’ Or, if you don’t feel able to say it in that way: ‘You know, Lord, that I would like to love you but I am such a bad sinner.’ And He will do the same as he did with the prodigal son who squandered all his money on vices: he won’t let you finish your speech and with an embrace will silence you. The embrace of God’s love.”


The following is a story I read in the daily bulletin I receive via email from AINA, the Assyrian International News Agency. If you are an avid follower of events in the Middle East, as I am, this is a fascinating news site. Many stories are written by local journalists while others are written by members of the international media and carried by AINA.

Finally, a good news story from Egypt:

We Will Rebuild Your Torched Churches, Egyptian President Tells Christians – By Ruth Gledhill (


Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi greets Christians during Egypt’s Coptic Christmas eve mass led by Pope Tawadros II, the 118th Pope of the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria, at St Mark’s Cathedral, in Cairo, Egypt.The president of Egypt, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, has pledged to rebuild every single one of the dozens of churches, Christian institutions and homes destroyed during the last two years of anti-Christian violence in his troubled nation.

President al-Sisi, a Muslim who has spoken in the past of the need to “revolutionise” Islam, was addressing Christians during a Coptic Christmas Eve mass yesterday at St Mark’s Cathedral in Abbassiya. Mass was celebrated by the head of the church, Pope Tawadros II. Orthodox churches, which follow the traditional Julian calendar, mark Christmas two weeks later than the Western Christian churches which follow the Gregorian calendar.

Extremist Islamic groups are still influential in Egypt in spite of the defeat of the Muslim Brotherhood in 2013. Shortly after former President Morsi was ousted, there was an increase in violence against Coptic Christians and at least 65 churches, Christian bookshops, schools and convents were burned down, looted or destroyed, according to Open Doors.

President al-Sisi, who last year became the first Egyptian President to attend a Christmas mass, greeted the Coptic Christian community and, while emphasising the diversity of Egyptians, said that the way to overcome hardships was to remain united as a nation.

“On this occasion, I want to exhort you all, let no one come between us. Nothing can harm us, not our economic conditions or political conditions. Unless we diverge, we can overcome anything.”

He continued: “God Has created us different, in religion, manner, colour, language, habit, tradition, and no one can make us the all same.”

He admitted the government should have acted sooner to help the Christians.

“We have taken too long to fix and renovate churches that were burned. This year everything will be fixed. Please accept our apologies for what happened. God willing, by next year there won’t be a single church or house that is not restored.

“We will never forget the stance you and the Pope took during this period…thank you all. Merry Christmas.”


This afternoon, having received permission from Queen Elizabeth, the British Ambassador to the Holy See Nigel Baker laid a wreath at the tomb of James Francis Edward Stuart at St. Peter’s Basilica, to commemorate the 250th anniversary of his State funeral.


James Francis Edward Stuart was the son of King James II of England and Ireland, VII of Scotland and Queen Mary of Modena, explains a note from the British embassy. He was also known as “the Old Pretender” and claimed the throne as “James III of England and Ireland, VIII of Scotland.” He died in exile in Rome on January 1, 1766 and was given the unprecedented honor of a State funeral by the Pope on January 8 in St. Peter’s Basilica, where he lies. The Pope recognized him as King, but did not extend that title to his sons in tacit, and later explicit recognition of the Hanoverian succession.

James Francis Edward Stewart was the father of “Bonnie” Prince Charles Edward Stuart and Henry Benedict, Cardinal York. Born at St James’s Palace, London, on June 10, 1688, he was taken into exile in December 1688 following the deposition of James II. He lived in the Palazzo Muti in Rome from 1719 until his death.

The commemoration ceremony consisted of a simple wreath-laying by Ambassador Baker and the reading of the Rite of Commendation (in Latin) by Cardinal Angelo Comastri, archpriest of St Peter’s Basilica, and the singing of the Antiphon In Paradisum Deducant Te Angeli.

The Stuart tomb at St. Peter’s was restored in the 1940’s, including with money donated by Queen Elizabeth (wife of George VI). In 2012, the Duke of Gloucester unveiled a restored coat of arms of Cardinal York at the Pontifical Scots College, and viewed the original Stuart gravestones which were transferred there in the 1940s.



A year ago yesterday, Sunday, was November 24, 2013, the feast of Christ the King and the end of the Year of Faith. That occasion was a very special moment in my life for a number of reasons but most especially because I received the Apostolic Exhortation “Evangelii gaudium” – the Joy of Faith” – from the hands of the author, Pope Francis!


Over the years I have met and spoken to a number of Popes but for me, just being in the presence of a Pope, the Successor of Peter, our Holy Father, fills me with a great sense of awe. In 1961 I attended an audience with Pope John XXIII and in the years since I have met and spoken to Paul VI, John Paul II, Benedict XVI, and Francis on a previous occasion when he met the Patrons of the Arts of the Vatican Museums on October 19, 2013.

Receiving the Exhortation personally from the Pope was naturally an immensely personal moment and highlight for each of us, the 36 faithful, lay and religious, to whom the Holy Father gave his work.

A year ago was also unique for another reason. As I wrote then:

“Sunday, November 24, 2013, Feast of Christ the King and final day of the Year of Faith, the Vatican, in a momentous, historical, first-time-in-two-millennia occasion, offered the world a glimpse of relics – bone fragments – of St. Peter! Had nothing else happened yeterday morning, just being in the presence of these relics would have been worth the hours spent in St. Peter’s Square under gray, threatening skies and very cold temperatures. We had had a week of rain, so no rain was one of the big blessings of the morning.”

NOTE: Tomorrow, Tuesday, November 25, Pope Francis travels to the French city of Strasbourg where he is scheduled to address the European Parliament and the Council of Europe. He returns to Rome tomorrow afternoon. The last Pope to visit was St. John Paul II on October 8, 1988.


SATURDAY: Over the weekend, I posted several stories on my Facebook page ( about Pope Francis’ meeting Saturday in the Paul VI Hall with 7,000 participants in the 29th International Conference organized by the Pontifical Council for Health Workers. The conference was dedicated to autism and included persons affected by this disorder and their families. By all accounts of those present, it was an amazing meeting, especially for the parents of autistic children or relatives of adults living with autism. I was delighte by the responses to those postings.

I had a nephew who was diagnosed with an “autism-like” disability and was thus moved by this conference theme and by the Pope’s reaction to and embrace of – literally and figuratively – of autistic children. Christopher, my nephew, died November 30, 2001, of double pneumonia at the age of 20. He was a twin. His sister Andrea had no health problems and today is married with two little girls.

Pope Francis Saturday thanked the organizers of the conference for having chosen such a complex theme, “which appeals directly to the responsibility of governments and institutions, without forgetting, of course, Christian communities.” He also emphasized the need for common efforts to promote “acceptance, encounter and solidarity … to break through the isolation and, in many cases, the stigma that burdens people affected by autism spectrum disorders, and frequently also their families.”

The Holy Father “encouraged scholars and researchers in the arduous task of discovering therapies and support mechanisms in the treatment and above all the prevention of these disorders.” He concluded, “All this is to be done with the necessary attention to the rights of those affected, considering their needs and their potential, and always safeguarding the dignity of every person.”

Saturday afternoon, Pope Francis had an 80-minute private, previously unannounced meeting with Italian President Giorgio Napolitano that papal spokesman, Fr. Federico Lombardi, defined as “very cordial.”

SUNDAY, the feast of Christ the King, Pope Francis canonized four Italians – Amato Ronconi, Giovanni Antonio Farina, Nicola da Longobardi, and Ludovico da Casoria – and a priest and a nun from Kerala, India – Kuriakose Elias Chavara and Mother Eufrasia Eluvathingal – during Mass in St. Peter’s Square. About 5,000 pilgrims came from India to witness the canonization of the nation’s second and third saints and, according to the blog of one priest accompanying some pilgrims, many of whom arrived at St. Peter’s Square at 5 a.m, even though Vatican did not open security check until 8 a.m.

He said, “The starting point of salvation is not the confession of the sovereignty of Christ, but rather the imitation of Jesus’ works of mercy through which he brought about his kingdom.  The one who accomplishes these works shows that he has welcomed Christ’s sovereignty, because he has opened his heart to God’s charity.  In the twilight of life we will be judged on our love for, closeness to and tenderness towards our brothers and sisters.

“Today,” said Francis, “the Church places before us the example of these new saints.  Each in his or her own way served the kingdom of God, of which they became heirs, precisely through works of generous devotion to God and their brothers and sisters.  They responded with extraordinary creativity to the commandment of love of God and neighbour.  They dedicated themselves, without holding back, to serving the least and assisting the destitute, sick, elderly and pilgrims.  Their preference for the smallest and poorest was the reflection and measure of their unconditional love of God.  In fact, they sought and discovered love in a strong and personal relationship with God, from whence springs forth true love for one’s neighbour.  In the hour of judgement, therefore, they heard that tender invitation: ‘Come, O blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world’.”

MONDAY: At 9 this morning, the Holy Father met in St. Petetr’s Basilica with a group of faithful of the Syro-Malabar rite who had come to Rome for the canonization on Sunday of Kuriakose Elias Chavara of the Holy Family, and Euphrasia Eluvathingal of the Sacred Heart. He thanked the Church in India, and specifically in Kerala, for “all its apostolic strength and for the witness of faith you have. Continue in this way! Kerala is a land that is very fertile in religious and priestly vocations. Carry on working in this way, with your witness.”

The Pope noted that !Father Kuriakose Elias was a religious, both active and contemplative, who generously gave his life for the Syro-Malabar Church, putting into action the maxim ‘sanctification of oneself and the salvation of others’. For her part, Sister Euphrasia lived in profound union with God so much so that her life of holiness was an example and an encouragement to the people, who called her ‘Praying Mother’.”

At 9:30 Monday morning, Pope Francis presided at a three-hour meeting of the ranking officials of the Roman Curia, including the prefects of the 9 congregations and presidents of the 12 pontifical councils to further discuss proposals for reform of the Roman Curia.

The director of the Holy See Press Office, Father Federico Lombardi, reminded journalists that these meetings are routinely held about every six months or so.  He said that the secretary of the so-called “C9” Council of Cardinals examining the issue of reform, Bishop Marcello Semeraro gave a brief presentation of the subjects under consideration.  Those present were then given time to contribute their opinions which will be taken into account in future meetings of the C9. The next scheduled meeting is December 9-11. Two officials could not be present, Cardinals Antonio Vegliò and Zenon Grocholewski.

Though no statement was made on the appointment today by the Pope of Cardinal Robert Sarah as the new prefect of the Congregation of Divine Worship and the Discipline of Sacraments, it is believed that the council he led up to today, “Cor Unum” will possibly be merged with another pontifical council (most likely Justice and Peace) as part of the curia reform.

 Monday afternoon Pope Francis had two appointments: an audience with Abdel Fattah Al Sisi, president of the Arab Republic of Egypt and entourage and, at 3 pm in St. Peter’s Basilica, he gave the final commendation and farewell at the end of the funeral of Cardinal Fiorenzo Angelini who died Saturday at the age of 98. Cardinal Angelo Sodano, dean of the College og Cardinals, presided the funeral Mass. Cardinal Angelini was born in Rome in 1916 – the last native of the city to be made a cardinal – and served the Church under seven different Popes.