As you know from earlier posts, I was recently in Warsaw, and spent several amazing days attending and speaking at a conference co-sponsored by Ave Maria Law School and Cardinal Stefan Wyszyński University of Warsaw.

The conference focus was Pope St. John Paul’s Natural Law Legacy and International Human Rights. My guests this weekend, as they were last weekend, are John Czarnetzky, CEO and dean of the Ave Maria Law School, and Ron Rychlak, vice chair of the Board of Governors of this pre-eminent Catholic law school.

We spoke of many of the topics raised in the Warsaw conference, such as the need for a positive change in the human rights climate towards freedom of speech, of practice, of religion. Other talks centered on how national constitutions have changed over the years, going in some cases from protecting rights to watering them down. Many talks focused on human dignity.

As I wrote last Friday, I envisioned a huge, vibrant tapestry as I listened to the talks in Warsaw – the depth of each one, the brilliance, the thoroughness with which each topic was treated and the challenging nature of each presentation! The common thread, of course, was always St. John Paul and his teaching on natural law, human rights, the right to life, human dignity, etc.

I think you will be riveted by the conversation so tune in after the news segment – no time this week for a Q&A.

IN THE UNITED STATES, you can listen to Vatican Insider (VI) on a Catholic radio station near you (stations listed at or on channel 130 Sirius-XM satellite radio, or on 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.” VI airs at 5am and 9pm ET on Saturdays and 6am ET on Sundays. On the GB-IE feed (which is on SKY in the UK and Ireland), VI airs at 5:30am, 12 noon and 10pm CET on Sundays. Both of these feeds are also available on the EWTN app and on ALWAYS CHECK YOUR OWN TIME ZONE! For VI archives: go to and write the name of the guest for whom you are searching in the SEARCH box. Below that, will appear “Vatican Insider” – click on that and the link to that particular episode will appear.


Pope Francis released his prayer intention for June 2022 via video, in which he urged Catholics to pray for all families during the month in which Rome hosts the 10th World Meeting of Families.

Devin Watkins (vaticannews)

“There is no such thing as a perfect family. There are always ‘buts’.’’

Pope Francis made that affirmation in The Pope Video released on Thursday to promote his prayer intention for June.

Yet, he added, “that doesn’t matter. We shouldn’t be afraid of mistakes; we have to learn from them so we can move forward.”

As the Church prepares to gather in Rome on 22-26 June for the 10th World Meeting of Families, Pope Francis upheld the family and urged all Catholics to pray for them.

For the video and more: Pope’s June prayer intention: ‘For families’ – Vatican News




If anyone reading this column has reserved for August 3 (this weekend) the Vatican Museums’ visit to Castelgandolfo and the papal residence that takes place on Saturdays throughout the year, the Museums have issued the following notice (obviously this refers to any tourists who still wants to reserve this special visit in August):

“For extraordinary summer maintenance work on the Ciampino-Albano Laziale railway line (vice versa) – and in order to cause the least inconvenience to visitors, the Vatican Museums’ “Vatican by Train” initiative has arranged for a private substitute shuttle service dedicated to visitors who reserved the visit in lieu of scheduled train service on the following Saturdays: August 3, 10, 17, 24 and 31. This visit, whose destination is the papal villas in Castelgandolfo, normally starts with departures from the Vatican City train station and from the Roma San Pietro. On the above dates busses will substitute the trains.”

If you can manage to have your Rome itinerary include a Saturday, be sure to reserve for this special trip. I have done it and it is a full day but a lot of fun and a real beautiful experience – the Castelli Romani hills towns, the papal residence and gardens, Lake Albano, an extinct volcano, etc. (JFL photos)

For anything related to the Vatican Museums, go to the OFFICIAL website:

For the Saturday Castelgandolfo visit:

Do not Google “Vatican Museums” and get some tour group or website that will charge you a higher price than the Museums do. After all, they have to make a profit. Go straight to the official site!


Pope Francis has released a video message accompanying his prayer intention for August, which is that families may become “schools of true human development”.

In his prayer intention for the month of August 2019, Pope Francis invites us to pray that, “families, through their life of prayer and love, become ever more clearly schools of true human development.”

It has become the custom of Pope Francis to release a video message detailing his prayer intention for each month.

The full text of his intention is below:
What kind of world do we want to leave for the future?
Let us leave a world with families.
Let us care for our families, because they are true schools for the future, spaces of freedom, and centers of humanity.
And let us reserve a special place in our families for individual and communal prayer.
Let us pray that families, through their life of prayer and love, become ever more clearly “schools of true human development”.

The Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network of the Apostleship of Prayer developed “The Pope Video” initiative to assist in the worldwide dissemination of monthly intentions of the Holy Father in relation to the challenges facing humanity.

Click here to see the August papal video:


There are more wonderful stories to tell about my time in Prague, in particular the afternoon visit for Mass and prayer in the church of Our Lady Victorious, home to the celebrated statue known as the Infant of Prague. I’ve been preparing Vatican Insider for this weekend, among other projects, so don’t have time today for Prague adventures but I’ll set aside some time in coming days to continue my travelblogue © about the Infant of Prague, St. Vitus Cathedral and the wonderful Premonstratensian monastery of Zeliv! So stay tuned!

It’s unusually hot here in Rome, although as I write, it is 6:30 pm and the skies are dark and threatening. A little rain – or a lot of it! – might help the temps go down, though I’m not sure if it will bring down the high humidity. The weather has been a huge problem for millions and surely none more so than the homeless. Shelters here are being strained to the limits and there is no immediate relief in sight. Even if a storm occurs, temps will probably be back up within hours.


My guest in the interview segment of “Vatican Insider” this week is Cardinal and Chaldean Patriarch of Babylon Louis Raphael I Sako. We spoke the day after Pope Francis made him a cardinal in the June 28th consistory. We met at an international house for clergy and spoke for about a half hour.

The patriarch and I have been friends since 2010, having first met in Kirkuk, Iraq when he was bishop of that diocese. We’ve met a number of times since, in Iraq, Lebanon and Rome and it was a joy to renew our acquaintance on this auspicious day for the Chaldean Church and faithful.

An alert: The residence for clergy has few public rooms for interviews and they all have the same drawback – small rooms very high ceilings and nothing to soften or reduce an echo when we speak. However, you will probably not notice that when you listen to Cardinal Sako’s message. This week it is Part I of our conversation.

Cardinal Sako was not new to the color red when he became a cardinal – his color as patriarch is red. Speaking on behalf of all the new cardinals, Patriarch Sako addressed the Pope at the start of the June 28th consistory. You will hear some of those remarks in our conversation this weekend.

“A number of Muslims have come to give me their best wishes, and they expressed their admiration for the opening of the Church and for your always being close to people in their concerns, fears and hopes.

”As far as I am concerned, I am the recipient of your special attention for the Eastern Churches and for the small flock at constitutes the Christians in the Middle East, in Pakistan and in other countries that are going through a difficult period because of wars and sectarianism and where there are still many martyrs. We pray and hope that your efforts to promote peace will change the hearts of men and women for the better and will contribute to assuring a dignified atmosphere for every person.”

“Naming one to the cardinalate is not a prize or a personal honor, as is sometimes thought but rather it is sending us into mission with a red habit (indicating) that we will give our life to the very end, even to the shedding of blood, bringing “Evangelii gaudium” –the gospel of joy – to everyone.”

IN THE UNITED STATES, you can listen to Vatican Insider (VI) on a Catholic radio station near you (stations listed at or on channel 130 Sirius-XM satellite radio, or on 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.” VI airs at 5am and 9pm ET on Saturdays and 6am ET on Sundays. On the GB-IE feed (which is on SKY in the UK and Ireland), VI airs at 5:30am, 12 noon and 10pm CET on Sundays. Both of these feeds are also available on the EWTN app and on ALWAYS CHECK YOUR OWN TIME ZONE! For VI archives: (write Vatican Insider where it says Search Shows and Episodes)


Pope Francis on Thursday released a video message accompanying his prayer intention for August 2018, “For the treasure of Families”.
In his prayer intention for this month, Pope Francis says: “Together, let us ask Jesus that any far-reaching decisions of economists and politicians may protect the family as one of the treasures of humanity.”

It has become the custom of Pope Francis to release a video message detailing his prayer intention for each month.

The full text of his intention follows:

“When speaking of families, often the image of a treasure comes to my mind. Today’s rhythm of life, stress, pressure at work, and also the little attention paid by institutions, could put them in danger. It’s not enough to talk about their importance: it’s necessary to promote concrete means and to develop their role in society with a good family policy.Together, let us ask Jesus that any far-reaching decisions of economists and politicians may protect the family as one of the treasures of humanity.”

The Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network of the Apostleship of Prayer developed “The Pope Video” initiative to assist in the worldwide dissemination of monthly intentions of the Holy Father in relation to the challenges facing humanity. (

Click here to see video:


There’s an interesting array of news out there about Saturday’s audience with Pope Francis for a group called the Forum of Family Associations.

The first story, as you will see below, was on the Vatican news website. It mentions that the Holy Father set aside his prepared remarks and spoke off the cuff, yet the story summarizes only the prepared remarks. I will be anxious to see if they eventually publish the improvised remarks as they contained some very important statements about abortion, marriage and same sex unions.

For the off the cuff remarks, I offer a story by a colleague at CNA and a report by Robert Royal for The Catholic Thing – just a few paragraphs of each article, then a link to the full story.


On Saturday, Pope Francis met in the Sala Clementina with members of the Forum of Family Associations celebrating its twenty-fifth anniversary in Italy thanking them for their advocacy for family values.
By Sr Bernadette Mary Reis, fsp (

Pope Francis set his prepared remarks aside after hearing the passion spoken by the member of the association who introduced the group to the Pope. The following are the remarks prepared in advance by the Pope, and given to the representative of the association to be distributed.

Family is centre of God’s plan
“The family, which you promote in various ways, is at the centre of God’s plan,” are the words with which Pope Francis opened his prepared remarks to members of the Forum of Family Associations. The Pope received the group in the Sala Clementina on the occasion of their twenty-fifth anniversary.

Cradle of life
Pope Francis called the family “the cradle of life”. Jesus’ love for children, his teaching on the family and the indissolubility of marriage reveal the family’s place in God’s plan. “It is like a window which is directed toward the mystery of God Himself which is Love in the unity and trinity of Persons”, he said.

A world guided by self-centered logic has lost the sense of stable bonds, the Pope continued. This makes it difficult to understand the value of the family. Civil institutions should rather work toward providing families with adequate support. Those who have learned “to live authentic relationships within the family” will also live them in other contexts in society, he said.

Testify to the joy of love
Pope Francis then encouraged those present to testify to the joy of love. “There is no more persuasive argument than joy” with which to “indicate the treasure that we have discovered and wish to share”, he said.

‘Thank you for your efforts!’
The Pope also expressed his gratitude to the group. Citing the Statutes of the Association, he said, “thank you for the commitment you have taken on, … through an ‘active and responsible participation of the family in the cultural, social, and political spheres’ and for the ‘promotion of adequate family policies that protect and sustain the functions of the family and its rights’.”

Family rights rooted in the dignity of every person
Concluding his remarks, the Pope said that the problems families find in society need to be confronted “firmly and charitably”. “The sensitivity you bring to society regarding the family cannot be labelled ‘confessional’,” the Pope said. Rather it is rooted “on the dignity of the human person. Thus, it can be recognized and shared by all”.


(CNA/EWTN News).- In a speech to a family association Saturday, Pope Francis again stressed that God’s vision of the family is between a man and a woman, and compared the abortion of children who are sick or disabled to a Nazi mentality.

“I’ve heard that it’s fashionable, or at least usual, that when in the first few months of pregnancy they do studies to see if the child is healthy or has something, the first offer is: let’s send it away,” the pope said June 16, referring to the trend of aborting sick or disabled children.

This, he said, is “the murder of children…to get a peaceful life an innocent [person] is sent away…We do the same as the Nazis to maintain the purity of the race, but with white gloves.”

“It’s an atrocity but we do the same thing,” he said, according to Italian media.

Pope Francis spoke to members of the Forum of Family Associations, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year.

His words on abortion come just days after his home country of Argentina voted June 14 in favor of a bill that would legalize abortion as early as the first 14 weeks of pregnancy. The comments also come just over a month ahead of his Aug. 25-26 trip to Ireland for the World Meeting of Families, which will feature Jesuit Fr. James Martin as a keynote speaker on how to be welcoming to the LGBT community.

During his speech, Francis tossed his prepared remarks, telling participants that a prepared text “seems a bit cold,” according to Italian newspaper La Stampa.

To continue:


In The Catholic Thing – Robert Royal praises recent pro-life words by Pope Francis. But why was the Holy Father all but silent about abortion votes in Ireland and Argentina?

I’d been on the road for much of the past week and hadn’t been very carefully following the news. But I woke yesterday to the heartening news that Pope Francis had strongly condemned selective abortion and the various attempts to redefine marriage as something other than a life-long commitment between one man and one woman.

Even more, he did so off-the-cuff, departing from the text he had prepared to deliver to the Forum delle famiglie, an Italian family association. It’s usually been on just such occasions – when he speaks spontaneously and “from the heart” – that he’s delivered the most troubling remarks of his pontificate. It was largely because of those and his early criticism of Catholics who are constantly “insisting” and “obsessing” on life issues and marriage that he alienated and, sad to say, even lost the confidence of many active Catholics – even before the ambiguities and implied infidelities of Amoris Laetitia.

He has, of course, condemned abortion and gay “marriage” on multiple occasions. But the world, Catholic and not, seemed to sense that his heart wasn’t in it. The coverage of his recent remarks in the main secular outlets was very brief, usually just reproducing parts of an Associated Press story – quite a contrast to the extensive coverage when he seemed to be moving towards modern culture.

Only the Wall Street Journal made the obvious observation that the latest remarks were “unusually strong for a pope who has generally played down medical and sexual ethics and taken a strikingly conciliatory approach to gay people.”

The question arises: why now?

To continue:



Busy days for Pope Francis as he prepares to preside at a huge Pentecost vigil Saturday night in the Circus Maximus with, among others, tens of thousands of members of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal, and then celebrate Mass on Pentecost Sunday in St. Peter’s Square.

Today, however, he received the European Federation of Catholic Family Associations as it celebrates 20 years. He called the family “Europe’s most precious treasure”…All of us must esteem families,” he began. Families are not museum pieces, …. Their gift is their mutual commitment and generous openness to children…and service to society. Families are thus a kind of leaven that helps to make the world more humane and more fraternal, where no one feels rejected or abandoned.”

He said the Federation’s activity should help remind everyone that there is no better ally for the integral progress of society than the presence of families in the social fabric. “In Amoris Laetitia, “ said the Holy Father, “I emphasized how, on the basis of the family, we can make the gift concrete through the beauty and the joy of mutual love. Seen in this light, your activity should help remind everyone that there is no better ally for the integral progress of society than to favor the presence of families in the social fabric.”

Francis emphasized that the family is “the foundation of society, the fundamental cell of society,” and it remains “the most suitable structure for ensuring for people the integral good necessary for their continuing development. … The family is the interpersonal relationship par excellence, inasmuch as it is a communion of persons. Your relationships as spouses, fathers and mothers, sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, make it possible for every person to find a place in the human family. These relationships …are the driving force of true humanization and evangelization.”

He also noted that “crises of different types are presently springing up in Europe, not least in the institution of the family. But crises are incentives to work harder and better, with trust and hope. Francis wished them well in their “initiatives to promote concrete policies favoring the family in many areas… with the goal of procuring a dignified and fitting employment for all, especially the young, who in many areas of Europe endure the scourge of unemployment.

“In these initiatives, as well as in others directly related to the legislative field, concern for showing respect and for the dignity of each person should always prevail. In this sense, the culture of encounter always includes an attitude of dialogue in which listening is always necessary. May your dialogue be always based on actions, testimonies, experiences and lifestyles that speak more loudly than your speeches and programs.



I dedicate the entire news segment of Vatican Insider this weekend to the just-released Apostolic Exhortation Amoris laetitia but there was plenty of time for my special guest on the interview segment, Cardinal Dolan, and this may be one of the funniest you have ever heard on Vatican Insider!


I had spent some time this week with Cardinal Dolan and the 120 members of his archdiocedan pilgrimage group. We have shared a number of meals, I’ve signed a lot of books, and I had asked the cardinal for an interview, knowing very well how full his schedule was but I’m always optimistic.

Last night was the annual elegant, gala fund-raising Rector’s Dinner at the North American College and the cardinal asked that I arrive at bit before the start of the 6:30 reception. I got to NAC about 6:10 and eventually found the cardinal with all the other American cardinals as they were taking a group photo in the gardens. We ended up sitting in two chairs overlooking the garden and just outside NAC’s celebrated Red Room where other dignitaries and guests were enjoying a cocktail. Seating or standing close by were other cardinals.

I started to record our coversation and was shortly in to the conversation when a friend of Cardinal Dolan’s came up, there was a brief conversation – and so the program went! People talking and laughing, the cardinal and I having an excellent time but none of this in the acoustic purity of a studio – so thanks for being understanding about the sounds.

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:


If I had to give today’s press conference on the Apostolic Exhortation Amoris laetitia a title, it would be doctrinal unity – pastoral plurality. No teachings of the Church on marriage and the family were upended, in fact, they were reaffirmed.

We learned in reading Amoris laetitia that this is a very beautiful document written by a man who well understands the beauty of love and marriage and family life but also a man who well undestands the wide varierty of difficulties into which a couple, a family, can fall, and he looks at all those situations, with love and pastoral understanding. In fact, the key words to reading this document – and it should be ready very slowly, at your leisure, to get its full beauty – are respect, discernment, accompaniment.


One of the common threads in this document was Pope Francis’ insistence that the Church, bishops, priests, work much harder to help those in difficulty. Saying, “Divorce is an evil and the increasing number of divorces is troubling,” he added: “Our most important pastoral task with regard to families is to strengthen their love, helping to heal wounds and working to precent the spread of this drama of our times.”

Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, head of the Synod of Bishops, explained at the press conference that the Exhortation Amoris laetitia is made up of 9 chapters, subdivided into 325 paragraphs with 391 notes and the final prayer to the Holy Family. (see CNA summary below)


He said, “the title Amoris laetitia (AL) is in continuity with that of the Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium (EG): from the joy of the Gospel to the joy of love in the family. The synodal process has presented the beauty of the family by speaking of love. This constitutes the foundation of the family institution, because God is love among Persons, Trinity and not solitude. In this document, the Holy Father deepens the “gospel of marriage and the family” (AL 89) and offers concrete pastoral orientations which, in continuity with the previous EG, take on new dynamism and value.


Cardinal Baldiseri quoted Pope Francis: “The various interventions of the Synod Fathers, to which I paid close heed, made up, as it were, a multifaceted gem” (AL 4) – writes the Holy Father, evoking the geometric design of the polyhedron already used in EG (cf. 236). In fact, the results of the Synod Fathers’ work brings together the diversity of experiences and points of view of the particular Churches. Disputes between different opinions took place with freedom and openness, which allowed an almost unanimous outcome to be achieved.

He said, “In full harmony with the Jubilee period that the Church is living, a suitable key for reading the document is “the logic of pastoral mercy” (AL, 307-312). The Holy Father clearly affirms the doctrine of marriage and the family, especially in Ch. III, and he proposes it as an indispensable ideal….. On the other hand, the Pope does not overlook the fragility of families and even their failure.

Cardinal Christoph Schonborn of Vienna, who has been in Rome for a congress on Divine Mercy, noted: “It must be said that the documents of the Church often do not belong to one of the most accessible literary genres. This text of the Pope’s is readable, and those who are not dissuaded by its length will find joy in its concreteness and realism. Pope Francis speaks about families with a clarity that is not easy to find in the magisterial documents of the Church.


The cardinal explained, “Pope Francis has succeeded in speaking about all situations without cataloguing them, without categorising, with that outlook of fundamental benevolence that is associated with the heart of God, with the eyes of Jesus that exclude no-one (cf. AL 297), that welcome all and grant the “joy of the Gospel” to all. This is why reading Amoris Laetitia is so comforting. No-one must feel condemned, no-one is scorned. In this climate of welcome, the discourse on the Christian vision of marriage and the family becomes an invitation, an encouragement, to the joy of love in which we can believe and which excludes no-one, truly and sincerely no-one.

For me, said Cardinal Schonborn, whose own parents separated, “Amoris laetitia is, first and foremost, a “linguistic event”, as was Evangelii gaudium . Something has changed in ecclesial discourse. This change of language was already perceptible during the Synod process. Between the two Synods of October 2014 and October 2015, it may clearly be seen how the tone became richer in esteem, as if the different situations in life had simply been accepted, without being immediately judged or condemned. In Amoris Laetitia this tone of language continues.


Before this there is obviously not only a linguistic choice, but rather a profound respect when faced with every person who is never firstly a “problematic case” in a “category”, but rather a unique person, with his story and his journey with and towards God. In Evangelii gaudium Pope Francis said that we must take off our shoes before the sacred ground of others (EG 36). This fundamental attitude runs throughout the Exhortation. And it is also provides the most profound reason for the other two key words, to discern and to accompany . These words apply not only to the so-called “irregular situation” (Pope Francis underlines this “so-called”) but rather for all people, for every marriage and for every family. Indeed, we are all journeying and we are all in need of “discernment” and “accompaniment”.

The archbishop of Vienna said, “Pope Francis leaves no doubt regarding his intentions or our task: “As Christians, we can hardly stop advocating marriage simply to avoid countering contemporary sensibilities, or out of a desire to be fashionable or a sense of helplessness in the face of human and moral failings. We would be depriving the world of values that we can and must offer. It is true that there is no sense in simply decrying present-day evils, as if this could change things. Nor it is helpful to try to impose rules by sheer authority. What we need is a more responsible and generous effort to present the reasons and motivations for choosing marriage and the family, and in this way to help men and women better to respond to the grace that God offers them.” (AL 35). Pope Francis is convinced that the Christian vision of marriage and the family also has an unchanged force of attraction. But it demands “a healthy dose of self-criticism”: “We also need to be humble and realistic, acknowledging that at times the way we present our Christian beliefs and treat other people has helped contribute to today’s problematic situation” (AL 36).

Cardinal Schonborn, on one issue that he called a “hot potato” issue – communion for the divorced and remarried – reiterated St. John Paul’s words in his 1981 Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris consorzio, Para 84: “…The Church reaffirms her practice, which is based on Sacred Scripture, of not admitting to Eucharistic Communion divorce persons who have remarried.”

However, the cardinal pointed out that, while there has been no change from that 1981 statement, there has been development, what he called “an organic development of doctrine.” He was quite clear that there is no new canonical disposition. The Pope does not “innovate” but uses pastoral prudence.

Before the press conference, Cardinal Schornborn spoke to Vatican Radio and offered one significant clarification, explaining that, when Pope Francis discusses the possibility of admitting people in irregular marital situations “to the sacraments,” the Holy Father is speaking first and foremost of the Sacrament of Reconciliation. “I think it is very clear there are circumstances in which people in irregular situations may really need sacramental absolution, even if their general situation cannot be clarified.”


Vatican City, Apr 8, 2016 / 04:00 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Catholics who have divorced-and-remarried need the fullness of Church teaching. They also need a wise pastoral and community response to their difficulties that can help them grow in the Christian life, Pope Francis said on Friday in his new document on love in the family.

“The Church’s pastors, in proposing to the faithful the full ideal of the Gospel and the Church’s teaching, must also help them to treat the weak with compassion, avoiding aggravation or unduly harsh or hasty judgements,” the Pope said in Amoris Laetitia.

Pope Francis’ highly anticipated post-synodal apostolic exhortation on the gifts and challenges of family life was published April 8.

Titled Amoris Laetitia, or The Joy of Love, the document was presented to journalists in Italian, French, English, German, Spanish and Portuguese. Signed March 19, the Feast of St. Joseph, the release of the document was delayed in order to allow time for its translation into other languages.

The apostolic exhortation is the conclusion of a two-year synod process discussing both the beauty and challenges of family life today. Hosted at the Vatican in 2014 and 2015, these synods gathered hundreds of bishops from around the world.

While much of the Western secular media focused its coverage on homosexuality and the question of communion for the divorced-and-civilly remarried, actual topics discussed in the meetings were much broader, with synod fathers touching on themes such as domestic violence, incest and abuse within families, and marriage preparation.

Pope Francis acknowledged the attention generated by the synods, saying, “The debates carried on in the media, in certain publications and even among the Church’s ministers, range from an immoderate desire for total change without sufficient reflection or grounding, to an attitude that would solve everything by applying general rules or deriving undue conclusions from particular theological considerations.”

The wide-ranging document included Biblical reflections on family, as well as discussion of the family as a place of faith and labor, celebration and tears. The Pope spoke about sexuality within marriage and on the sometimes devastating effects of poverty and migration on families. He also touched on the importance of communication within the family, the challenges of raising children in a technology-saturated world, and the witness of virginity.

Pope Francis devoted a substantial section of the document to the topic of educating children, observing, “The family is thus the place where parents become their children’s first teachers in the faith.” He also offered suggestions for improving marriage preparation programs, inviting engaged couples to consider a simple wedding and to set aside technological distractions.

In a world where many have lost respect for marriage and are delaying the union or choosing cohabitation instead, the Church must speak up, Pope Francis said.

“As Christians, we can hardly stop advocating marriage simply to avoid countering contemporary sensibilities, or out of a desire to be fashionable or a sense of helplessness in the face of human and moral failings,” he reflected. “We would be depriving the world of values that we can and must offer.”

At the same time, he said, “there is no sense in simply decrying present-day evils, as if this could change things. Nor it is helpful to try to impose rules by sheer authority. What we need is a more responsible and generous effort to present the reasons and motivations for choosing marriage and the family, and in this way to help men and women better to respond to the grace that God offers them.”

Pope Francis praised the “indissolubility of marriage,” saying that it “should not be viewed as a ‘yoke’ imposed on humanity, but as a ‘gift’ granted to those who are joined in marriage.” He added that “Divorce is an evil and the increasing number of divorces is very troubling.”

In addition, he said that, “divorced people who have not remarried, and often bear witness to marital fidelity, ought to be encouraged to find in the Eucharist the nourishment they need to sustain them in their present state of life.”

In the document’s introduction, Pope Francis wrote that, “everyone should feel challenged by Chapter Eight,” which is titled “Accompanying, Discerning and Integrating Weakness.”

That chapter, which describes the Church as “a field hospital,” discusses the pastoral care of the divorced-and-civilly-remarried, as well as those who cohabit and face other irregularities.

Pope Francis wrote that, “it is a matter of reaching out to everyone, of needing to help each person find his or her proper way of participating in the ecclesial community.” He emphasized that the divorced-and-remarried “can find themselves in a variety of situations” and that this variety requires discernment and accompaniment on the part of pastors.

The Pope voiced agreement with the Synod Fathers’ observations that divorced-and-remarried Catholics need to be “more fully integrated into Christian communities…while avoiding any occasion of scandal.” He restated that the divorced-and-remarried are not excommunicated, and quoted the Synod Fathers, who had said that, “language or conduct that might lead them to feel discriminated against should be avoided.”

Care for these persons is not a weakening of Christian faith and belief in the indissolubility of marriage, but is rather “a particular expression of its charity,” he said, again quoting the Synod Fathers.

While he affirmed the ideal of sacramental marriage in ministering to those in broken situations, the Pope also rejected a one-size-fits-all approach to individual cases.

Considering the “immense variety of concrete situations” that the divorced-and-remarried have put themselves in, he said, “it is understandable that neither the Synod nor this Exhortation could be expected to provide a new set of general rules … applicable to all cases.”

Instead, he said, what is possible is “a responsible personal and pastoral discernment of particular cases” which would recognize varying degrees of responsibility and therefore varying consequences or effects.

This is also the case with admission to the sacraments of Confession and Communion, he said, due to mitigating factors that might reduce a person’s culpability.

“Hence it can no longer simply be said that all those in any ‘irregular’ situation are living in a state of mortal sin and are deprived of sanctifying grace,” Pope Francis said. “More is involved here than mere ignorance of the rule. A subject may … be in a concrete situation which does not allow him or her to act differently and decide otherwise without further sin.”

Someone in such a situation of objective sin but without full culpability can grow in charity with the help of the Church, and “in certain cases, this can include the help of the sacraments,” he noted. “I would also point out that the Eucharist ‘is not a prize for the perfect, but a powerful medicine and nourishment for the weak’,” he added, quoting from his 2013 apostolic exhortation Evangelii gaudium.

The Pope acknowledged the importance of fidelity to the Gospel, saying that, “To show understanding in the face of exceptional situations never implies dimming the light of the fuller ideal, or proposing less than what Jesus offers to the human being.”

He called it “reductive” in discernment merely “to consider whether or not an individual’s actions correspond to a general law or rule.”

“A pastor cannot feel that it is enough simply to apply moral laws to those living in ‘irregular’ situations, as if they were stones to throw at people’s lives. This would bespeak the closed heart of one used to hiding behind the Church’s teachings.”

Pope Francis professed understanding for those who prefer “a more rigorous pastoral care which leaves no room for confusion.”

“But I sincerely believe that Jesus wants a Church attentive to the goodness which the Holy Spirit sows in the midst of human weakness, a Mother who, while clearly expressing her objective teaching, ‘always does what good she can, even if in the process, her shoes get soiled by the mud of the street’.”




As a prelude to the release this Friday of Pope Francis’ Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia, (the Joy of Love,) the highly anticipated post-synodal document on the family, Vatican Radio today published a number of papal interventions on the family, Following is that lengthy summary of papal speeches.

The press conference will be available via live streaming at and will remain available on demand. The document has been published into Italian, French, English, German, Spanish and Portuguese.

(Vatican Radio) At many Wednesday general audiences during 2015, Pope Francis dedicated his catechesis to the topic of the family. He reflected on the family in the light of scripture and tradition, social realities and challenges, current roles and future possibilities. Out of more than 30 talks, here is a selection highlighting some main features of the Holy Father’s teaching on the family.

“The Incarnation of the Son of God opens a new beginning in the universal history of man and woman. And this new beginning happens within a family, in Nazareth. Jesus was born in a family. (…) God chose to come into the world in a human family, which He himself formed.” (17.12.2014)

“There is a close link between the hope of a people and the harmony among generations. The joy of children causes the parents’ hearts to beat and reopens the future. Children are the joy of the family and of society. They are not a question of reproductive biology, nor one of the many ways to fulfill oneself, much less a possession of their parents…. No. Children are a gift, they are a gift: understood? Children are a gift. Each one is unique and irreplaceable; and at the same time unmistakably linked to his/her roots.” (11.2.2015)

“In the family, among siblings, human coexistence is learned, how one must live in society. Perhaps we are not always aware of it, but the family itself introduces fraternity into the world!” (18.2.2015) “First of all children remind us that we all, in the first years of life, were completely dependent upon the care and benevolence of others. The Son of God was not spared this stage. It is the mystery that we contemplate every year at Christmas. The Nativity Scene is the icon which communicates this reality in the simplest and most direct way.” (18.3.2015)

“Man and woman are the image and likeness of God. This tells us that it is not man alone who is the image of God or woman alone who is the image of God, but man and woman as a couple who are the image of God.” (15.4.2015) “Sin generates distrust and division between man and woman. Their relationship will be undermined by a thousand forms of abuse and subjugation, misleading seduction and humiliating ignorance, even the most dramatic and violent kind. And history bears the scar. Let us think, for example, of those negative excesses of patriarchal cultures. Think of the many forms of male dominance whereby the woman was considered second class. Think of the exploitation and the commercialization of the female body in the current media culture. And let us also think of the recent epidemic of distrust, skepticism, and even hostility that is spreading in our culture — in particular an understandable distrust from women — regarding a covenant between man and woman that is capable, at the same time, of refining the intimacy of communion and of guarding the dignity of difference.

If we do not find a surge of respect for this covenant, capable of protecting new generations from distrust and indifference, children will come into the world ever more uprooted from the mother’s womb. The social devaluation for the stable and generative alliance between man and woman is certainly a loss for everyone. We must return marriage and the family to the place of honour!” (22.4.2015)

“The family tops all the indices of wellbeing among young people; but, fearing mistakes, many do not want to even consider it; even being Christians, they do not consider the sacrament of matrimony, the single and unrepeatable sign of the covenant, which becomes a testimony of faith. Perhaps this very fear of failure is the greatest obstacle to receiving the Word of Christ, which promises his grace to the conjugal union and to the family. (…) The Christian seed at the root of equality between spouses must bear new fruit today. The witness of the social dignity of marriage shall become persuasive precisely in this way, the way of a testimony which attracts, the way of reciprocity between them, of complementarity between them. For this reason, as Christians, we must become more demanding in this regard. For example: firmly support the right to equal pay for equal work; why is it taken for granted that women should earn less than men? No! They have the same rights. This disparity is an absolute disgrace! At the same time, recognize women’s motherhood and men’s fatherhood as an always precious treasure, for the good of their children above all.” (29.4.2015)

“The sacrament of marriage is a great act of faith and love: a witness to the courage to believe in the beauty of the creative act of God and to live that love that is always urging us to go on, beyond ourselves and even beyond our own family. (…) The decision to “wed in the Lord” also entails a missionary dimension, which means having at heart the willingness to be a medium for God’s blessing and for the Lord’s grace to all.” (6.5.2015)

“Around us we find various families in so-called irregular situations — I don’t really like this word”. (24.6.2015) “The Church is fully aware that such a situation is contrary to the Christian Sacrament. However, her gaze as a teacher always draws from a mother’s heart; a heart which, enlivened by the Holy Spirit, always seeks the good and the salvation of the people. This is why she feels obliged, “for the sake of truth”, to “exercise careful discernment of situations”. This is how St John Paul II expressed it in the Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris Consortio (n. 84). (…) In fact, these persons are by no means excommunicated — they are not excommunicated! — and they should absolutely not be treated as such: they are still a part of the Church. Pope Benedict XVI spoke about this question, calling for careful discernment and wise pastoral accompaniment, knowing that there are no “simple solutions” (Speech at the Seventh World Meeting of Families, Milan, 2 June 2012). Here the repeated call to Pastors to openly and consistently demonstrate the community’s willingness to welcome them and encourage them, so they may increasingly live and develop their membership in Christ and in the Church through prayer, by listening to the Word of God, by attending the liturgy, through the Christian education of their children, through charity and service to the poor, through the commitment to justice and peace.” (5.8.2015)

“Jesus never stops accepting and speaking to everyone, even those who no longer expect to encounter God in this life. That is an important lesson for the Church! The disciples were chosen to care for this assembly, for this family of God’s guests. In order to maintain this reality of the assembly of Jesus in today’s situation, it is indispensable to renew the covenant between the family and the Christian community. We could say that the family and the parish are the two places where the communion of love, which finds its ultimate source in God, takes place. A Church truly according to the Gospel cannot but take the form of a hospitable home, with its doors open, always. Churches, parishes, institutions with closed doors must never be called churches, they should be called museums!” (9.9.2015)

“The faith draws it from the wisdom of the creation of God, who has entrusted to the family, not the care of intimacy as an end in itself, but rather the exciting project of domesticating the world. The family is at the beginning, at the root of this world culture that saves us… saves us from many, many attacks, from so much destruction, from so many “colonizations”, like that of money or of the ideologies that threaten so much of the world. The family is the basis of our defense!” (16.9.2015) “The family, the fruitful covenant between man and woman, is the answer to the great challenge of our world. That challenge is two-fold: fragmentation and standardization, two extremes that coexist and foster each other, and together they support the economic model of consumerism. The family is the answer because it is the cell of a society that balances the personal and the communal dimensions, and that at the same time can be the model for the sustainable management of the goods and resources of creation. The family is the principal agent of an integral ecology, because it is the primary social agent, which contains within it the two foundational principles of human civilization on the earth: the principle of communion and the principle of fruitfulness.” (30.9.2015)

“With this reflection we arrive at the threshold of the Jubilee, its close. The door is before us, not just the Holy Door, but another: the great door of the Mercy of God — and that is a beautiful door! (…) An inhospitable Church, like a family closed off within itself, mortifies the Gospel and withers the world. No armoured doors in the Church, none! Completely open! The symbolic management of “doors” — of thresholds, of passages, of borders — has become crucial. The door must protect, of course, but not reject. The door must not be forced but on the contrary, one asks permission, because hospitality shines in the freedom of welcoming, and dims in the arrogance of invasion. The door is frequently opened, in order to see if there is someone waiting outside, perhaps without the courage nor, perhaps, the strength to knock. How many people have lost faith, do not have the courage to knock at the door of our Christian heart, at the doors of our churches…. And they are there, they don’t have the courage, we have taken away trust: please, may this never happen. A door says many things about the house, and also about the Church. Tending the door requires careful discernment and, at the same time, must inspire great faith.” (18.11.2015)



I don’t know if you all have noticed but there have been no tweets from Pope Francis in November. I posted on his twitter account today (@pontifex) that I missed his frequent mini- catecheses.

I did not write a column yesterday nor did I post on Facebook because I spent the morning researching information about Pope Francis’ trip to Prato and Florence for my afternoon commentary in English for EWTN’s coverage of the papal Mass in a Florentine stadium. I had to translate the homily into English and that took some time as well. It was only a day trip but it was certainly a fascinating one and, as one bishop said after the papal address to the 2,500 participants in the Fifth National Ecclesial Congress – the reason for the Pope’s visit – “Pope Francis, with his address, just gave the Italian church an encyclical!”

In his speech to the Convention members the Holy Father truly defined what he felt the Catholic Church – and not just in Italy – should be. I posted that talk on Facebook as well as his speech in the morning in Prato, not far from Florence, where he spoke of the “cancer of corruption” and appealed against the exploitation of workers.

Today I want to focus on the great catechesis of the general audience where Pope Francis, in some very serious moments and a few amusing ones as well, spoke of the importance of family “togetherness,” especially around the dinner table, something, he said, that seems to be disappearing from many cultures.

Right now I can just picture many of you nodding your heads at that sentence, sonething you’ll do when you read the catechesis as well! You are thinking of the after school events that go so late your kids have to either forfeit a sport event or some club or forfeit dinner. And guess who wins? Most of the time it is the school, the extra-curricular event! Or the cell phone, the tablet or the TV – they are also big “winners” for attention. I’d actually call them interlopers!

A subtitle for the following story could be the headline used by one Italian publication: “Silence the cell phone, not the family members.”


A dense fog enveloped Rome this morning but had pretty much lifted by the time Pope Francis arrived in St. Peter’s Square to start the general audience. The dome of St. Peter’s basilica gradually came into view as the faithful gathered to hear the Pope talk about family “togetherness,” especially at mealtime, a trait that seems to be disappearing from so many homes. His catechesis could be summarized by paraphrasing Fr. Peyton’s famous “The family that prays together stays together” as “the family that eats together, stays together.”

Francis said that the unity – or lack thereof – in a family can be seen at table. A sure measurement, a barometer, of healthy relations in a family, occurs when, around the family table, all or most of the children are gathered, the father has the pleasure of looking his childrenn in the face rather than looking at TV, and the children are looking at their parents with pleasure instead of looking at their tablets.


Family conviviality is essential not only to the family, said Francis, but to society as a whole. It is a precious virtue whose practice does not seem to be too widespread today.

“A family who hardly ever eats together,” said the Pope, “or where no one at the table speaks but only looks at television or their smart phone is barely a family, when the children at the table are attached to the computer to their cell phone and don’t even listen to each other, this is not a family these are pensioners, retired people. We must find a way to recover things at table. People should speak, people should listen, There must be no silences, when there is silence, it is not the silence of monks but the silence of ego. Each one has their own television or computer and no one is speaking. No, No, no silences. Please, let’s recover that family conviviality even if we have to adapt it to the times.”

The Holy Father also noted that rich countries so often spend a great deal for excessive nourishment and then they spend a lot again to remedy that excess. And this, he said, “takes away our attention from true hunger, hunger of the body and the soul. When there is no conviviality, there’s egoism, each one thinking of themselves: We forget to reflect on how too many brothers and sisters do not even get to the table. It’s a shame, it really is shameful, right!”

Francis said, “Christianity has a special vocation to conviviality, as we all know. The Lord Jesus taught at the table, and represented the Kingdom of God as a festive banquet. Jesus also chose to consign to the disciples His spiritual testament at the table, condensed in the memorial gesture of His Sacrifice.” He explained that from the model of the Eucharist of Christ’s sharing at the Last Supper comes the most beautiful icon of the family, a family united around a “domestic dinner table” that we feel where we feel the sharing of the lives of family members.

“The symbol of conviviality, its icon,” noted the Pope, “is the family gathered around the table, partaking of a meal together – and therefore not merely food, but also sentiments, stories, and events. It is a fundamental experience. When there is a celebration – a birthday, an anniversary – the family gathers around the table. In some cultures it is customary to do so also following bereavement, to stay close to those who suffer for the loss of a family member.”

The Holy Father explained that, “the togetherness we experience in our families is meant, in the family of the Church, to extend to all as a sign of God’s universal love.  In this way the Eucharist becomes a school of inclusion, in which we learn to be attentive to the needs of everyone.  Sadly, the family meal, this great symbol of togetherness, is disappearing in some societies.  Food itself, the very sign of our sharing with other, is wantonly wasted in some places, while our brothers and sisters go hungry in others.  The Eucharist reminds us that our bread is meant to be shared with all.”



(VIS) – Married couples are participating as auditors in this year’s synod dedicated to the family, presenting their concrete experiences as couples, parents or grandparents before the assembly of cardinals, bishops, priests and experts.

On 5 October the assembly heard the testimony of a Mexican couple, Gertrudiz Clara Rubio de Galindo and Andres Salvador Galindo, executive secretaries of the Episcopal Commission for the Family of the Episcopal Conference, secretaries of CELAM for the Mexico-Central America zone.


On 6 October, during the third General Congregation, the synod heard from Buysile Patronella Nkosi and Meshack Jabulani Nkosi, members of the Advisory Committee for the National Family Desk of the Southern African Episcopal Catholic Bishops’ Conference.

Rubio de Galindo and Galindo Lopez have been married for 45 years and have two children and four grandchildren. They commented that the early years of their marriage were difficult due in particular to the economic problems they encountered, and some relatives even advised them to separate for this reason. “In spite of insistence to the contrary, Andres and I decided to fight against the imbalance that this had caused and to persevere with our marriage and the family we had started to raise, although we took this decision without a clear awareness of what the sacrament of marriage meant”, said Gertrudiz Clara Rubio de Galindo.

“Shortly after, thanks to God we had the opportunity to have an experience with the Encuentro Matrimonial Catolico, in which we learned to communicate, to forgive, but above all to understand God’s plan for us as a married couple and as a family. And we continue to fight for our relationship, but now with more awareness, in accordance with God’s plan”.

“Years later, in other period of economic difficulty, after visiting the Basilica of Guadalupe, we decided to collaborate with the family pastoral ministry of the diocese. This decision led us to contribute in various parts of Central America, where throughout the years we have seen that the great problems that occur within families are caused by social, cultural, political, educational, economic and religious factors, and if marriage and the family are weakened, they need to be resuscitated through formation and teaching in terms of its identity and mission”.

Therefore, Rubio de Galindo concluded, the pastoral care of the family in the third millennium requires “pastors impassioned by God’s plan”, who accompany and form families so that they may discover and experience “their identity and mission”.

On 6 October the Synod Fathers heard the story of Meshack Jabulani and Buysile Patronella Nkosi, married for 35 years and with five children and eight grandchildren. Three of their children, Meshack Jabulani said, are married with non-Catholics and so they “are walking in two faiths but one love”. One of their sons-in-law and their daughter-in-law intend to convert to Catholicism and in Easter 2016 they will be welcomed into the Catholic Church.

During the last 33 years they have accompanied many young people with whom they have shared their life experience, the Word of God and the teachings of the Church. “We pass on the Good News of the love of God for us through His Son Jesus Christ, and we in our life every day try through God’s grace to become good news to each other and to young couples and the world. This is made possible by letting the Word of God, Christ Himself, be our compass”.

“We have and have had our numerous challenges, of perhaps not seeing things the same way or hurting each other in one way or another but our redemption has always been to try to be humble enough to say ‘I am sorry’. As in the words of the Holy Father, ‘pardon me, thank you and may I please’ are indispensable words if we are to live in peace and harmony in our family. It is important to remember to say ‘I love you’ to each other and to the children. Pope Benedict XVI, in his encyclical ‘Caritas in Veritate’, emphasises the importance of love as the principle of life in society, the place where a person learns common good since the family is the first place where a new person learns to love, to forgive, experiences forgiveness and learns to share”.

“The choice we made 35 years ago is the choice we continue to make every day to care for each other in the family and to be faithful to each other as we committed to love forever. To modern society, which unfortunately has developed a ‘throwaway culture’, this kind of commitment seems to be utter foolishness and is ridiculed and discouraged. Young people then tend to be afraid to get married, and look at this commitment as a burden. Part of our calling is to encourage them to enter into the journey of holy matrimony looking at Christ as their new hope”.

“We have experienced new life being born, and have seen our parents giving us support in raising our children. We have also seen them getting older and more frail and have taken care of them until they passed on. We have seen our children develop to parenthood themselves and us assuming a supportive role for them and their families. We continue to pass on our faith, all the Christian values and the culture of ‘Ubuntu’ – humaneness. This brings joy and fulfilment and has made our lives richer and fuller through the grace of God”, concluded Nkosi.



The Vatican has confirmed that Pope Francis intends to visit Mexico next year, including a visit to the Our Lady of Guadalupe shrine. No dates were given. It is expected that Francis will also visit his native Argentina for the first time since his March 2013 election. Definitely on his 2016 agenda will be his trip to Krakow, Poland, for World Youth Day in July.


At his weekly general audience, Pope Francis told the faithful gathered in St. Peter’s Square that, “during the Synod of Bishops, I would like to reflect on some aspects of the profound relationship between the Church and the family, with a view to the common good of society.”

AG - Ocober 7

“When families journey along the way of the Lord,” said the Pope, “they offer a fundamental witness to God’s love, and they deserve the full commitment and support of the Church.  In the family we learn of the bonds which unite us, of fidelity, sincerity, trust, cooperation and respect, even when difficulties abound.  Indeed it is in family life that the most vulnerable of society are cared for.  And yet, political and economic life today does not always support the family, and seems to have lost the ability to incorporate the virtues of family life into the common life of society.  Here the Church is called to exercise her mission by first examining to what extent she is living as the family of God.”

Francis explained that. “like Saint Peter, the Church is called to be a fisher of men, and so too needs a new type of net.  Families are this net.  They free us from the sea of loneliness and indifference, so that we can all experience the freedom of being children of God.  May the Church go out into the deep, confident that the catch will be great.  And may the Synod Fathers, inspired by the Holy Spirit, encourage the Church to cast out her net with confidence and faith in the Word of God.”

In greetings to English-language pilgrims, the Holy Father said, “I ask you to continue to pray for the Synod on the Family, and to recommit your families to Christ. May you always be witnesses to his mercy and love in the world. God bless you all!”

Pope Francis will hold two more Wednesday general audiences during the time of the synod on the family.