UPDATED REPORT: See Press Briefing below –


Statement from the Director of the Holy See Press Office

With regard to the unfounded news on the health of the Holy Father, the director of the Holy See Press Office, Fr. Federico Lombardi, S.J., has issued the following statement:

The circulation of entirely unfounded news regarding the health of the Holy Father by an Italian newspaper is gravely irresponsible and unworthy of attention. Furthermore, as is clearly evident, the Pope is carrying out his very intense activity in an totally normal way.

AT SYNOD PRESS BRIEFING ON WEDNESDAY, Fr. Lombardi said, referring to the original article, that no Japanese doctor ever came to the Vatican to see the Pope, no helicopter ever brought a person to the Vatican. He also mentioned that, next to the article about the papal health, was an interview by the same writer with a woman doctor about tumors. She called Fr. Lombardi from NY, saying she saw the report of a papal tumor, knew absolutely nothing, only that a journalist had called her and asked, in a very generic way, about tumors.



Statement from the Director of the Holy See Press Office

With regard to the unfounded news on the health of the Holy Father, the director of the Holy See Press Office, Fr. Federico Lombardi, S.J., has issued the following statement:

The circulation of entirely unfounded news regarding the health of the Holy Father by an Italian newspaper is gravely irresponsible and unworthy of attention. Furthermore, as is clearly evident, the Pope is carrying out his very intense activity in an totally normal way.



From Archbishop Mark Coleridge’s October 15 blog:


“We need to draw more deeply on the Bible in shaping our vision of marriage and the family and the way we speak about them. This doesn’t mean just sticking a few more quotes from Scripture into the text.”


Yesterday morning the Pope wasn’t in the Synod Hall because he was out in the rain in St Peter’s Square at the General Audience. I thought he might say something about the Synod, but he didn’t. Perhaps he thought it would be premature or that his words, whatever they were, would be pounced upon and misinterpreted in a way that wouldn’t be helpful at this delicate midpoint of the Synod process.

Benedict XVI learnt the hard way how the words of a Pope can be misread: think of his Regensburg address which would have been perfectly OK in an academic common room but which really stirred the pot given it was the Pope who was speaking. When I was working in the Vatican Secretariat of State, helping to prepare and finalise texts for the Pope, the golden rule was: “when in doubt, leave it out”. In other words, if there’s any chance that this or that text may be misread or turned against the Pope, “drop it”.

Interestingly, Pope Francis decided to offer a public apology for some recent – and unspecified – mishaps that have happened in the Vatican and perhaps the Church more broadly. You can speculate about what exactly he had in mind; it was hard to know exactly. Perhaps his point was simply to have the Pope say sorry in public. That’s not something Popes have done too often.

I remember when Pope John Paul proposed the Day of Pardon during the Great Jubilee of 2000, saying sorry publicly for the Church’s sins over two millennia, there were voices of disquiet, even complaint – at least in the Vatican. Some of these voices were worried that if you started saying sorry, where and when would it stop. As it turned out, there was something to this because, after the Day of Pardon had been celebrated, all kinds of groups and individuals wrote to the Pope saying: “what about us? You left us out”.

Click here to read the rest of Archbishop Coleridge’s blog: http://brisbanecatholic.org.au/articles/on-the-road-together-field-of-god/


(Vatican Radio) Oct 15. “The Polish Episcopal Conference does not support the notion of admitting divorced and remarried Catholics to the Eucharist,” said Archbishop Stanislaw Gadecki at the daily Synod briefing. Following is a report on that briefing by VR’s Fr. Russell Pollitt SJ:

Archbishop Gadecki, President of the Polish Episcopal Conference, and Archbishop Carlos Aquiar Retes of Mexico, were guests at the briefing. Holy See Press spokesman, Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, told the media that there had been about 93 interventions on Wednesday afternoon and Thursday morning in the General Assembly. Fr. Lombardi was joined by four language assistants who sit in on the synod meetings.

Fr. Lombardi explained that the delegates would continue to make interventions on part three of Intrumentum Laboris on Thursday afternoon. On Friday the auditors and fraternal delegates will be given time to make their interventions.

On Friday there will be two media briefings at the Holy See Press Office: one on Sunday’s canonization of the parents of St. Thérèse of Lisieux, Blesseds Louis and Zelie Martin, at 11:00 am and the daily Synod briefing at 1 pm.

The interventions made at the Synod assembly spanned many issues. Some of these included: the need to defend Church doctrine and ensure we are faithful to the tradition of the Church; correct understanding of Scripture texts; clarification of Church teaching on marriage; a possible catechetical pathway for accompanying the divorced and remarried; the important role that the sacrament of reconciliation plays; the teaching of the Church on sin should be highlighted and not lost; the complexities of inter-faith, inter-cultural, inter-religious and multi-racial marriages; the trafficking of women and children and the suffering of couples who are not able to have children – adoption was spoken about in such cases.

The formation of priests for pastoral accompaniment was also addressed. If young men do not have a good experience of family and are not given adequate formation, they will not be effective ministers. Young men need to be taught the “art of friendship” so that they can accompany families on the pathway to holiness.

The issue of the admission to the Eucharist for the divorced and remarried was discussed extensively. Archbishop Gadecki said that the Polish position was clear, “We do not support a process of admitting the divorced and remarried to the Eucharist, we believe in the current annulment process.”

He said that there were many ways in which people in second unions could participate in the life of the Church without receiving the Eucharist. “People can participate in different forms and bear witness to the hardships of family life.” Gadecki added that remarried divorcees had the “right to participate” in the life of the Church without receiving the Eucharist.

It was reported that some interventions in the Synod Assembly made it clear that admitting remarried people to the Eucharist would not be an “indiscriminate process” but a carefully structured one. Divorce must always be seen as a tragedy for the family. The Church should not punish those who are weak but find ways of helping them. Many of the interventions underlined that it was not a doctrinal change that was sought but a change in pastoral attitude.

Archbishop Retes said that the Holy Father has shown the Church what attitude we should have: that of mercy towards everyone. He said that this was the mission of the Church and, in the family, people should “taste” the love of God.

There were other interventions about the serious problems related to inter-religious marriages in Africa and Asia. However, many delegates said that the positive side of this was that it opened the door to dialogue with people of other religions who were married to Catholics.

The media were told that some interventions had thanked the Holy Father for his Moto Proprio that made annulments more accessible. He was also thanked for teaching ministers of the Church how to smile when pasturing God’s people.


(Vatican Radio) ‘Mission impossible’ was how Fr Federico Lombardi on Thursday described the task of trying to sum up the dozens of daily interventions by participants in the Synod of Bishops on the Family, currently coming to the close of its second week in the Vatican’s Synod Hall.

Friday will mark the final day of presentations on part three of the Synod’s working document, before participants move back into their small groups to decide on final changes they’d like to see reflected in a concluding document on marriage and family life.

Philippa Hitchen has been listening to the bishops as they seek to draw together some very diverging points of view and reports …

“The way of Jesus or the way of Walter Kasper”, was how one disgruntled bishop was overheard describing the divisions at the start of this Synod, painting the retired German cardinal into the role of reluctant cheerleader for the perceived ‘progressive’ wing of the Church. It was Kasper’s book on mercy that Pope Francis quoted in his first Angelus address, and it was he whom the Pope asked to speak about the challenges facing the family at the very start of the lengthy Synod process. The cardinal’s suggestion of exploring new ways to show mercy and readmit divorced and remarried Catholics to the Eucharist, through a path of penance and reconciliation, alarmed those who saw it as an overturning of doctrine on the indissolubility of marriage.

While Pope Francis explicitly asked bishops not to see this as the only theme of the Synod, the past two weeks of discussions have highlighted this fault line, with many bishops speaking out firmly in favour of defending unchanging truths, while others have pleaded for a more merciful and compassionate approach to those in both second marriages and in same-sex relationships.

But as participants move towards the crucial process of summing up their three weeks’ work, I’m increasingly hearing a desire to overcome that divide, to bridge the gap and to see these apparent extremes as simply two sides of the same coin. Just as Jesus was both teacher and pastor, and John XXIII described the Church in his encylical as both mother and teacher, so today’s Church leaders must learn to teach clearly, while offering the unqualified warmth and welcome that a parent shows to his or her child.

Faced with different attitudes and changing legislation on marriage and the family, one Latin American bishop said, the Church can neither shut herself up in a ghetto, nor dilute her beliefs, but rather she must learn to engage with a new attitude of understanding and respect for those who hold very different views. And as one Asian prelate put it, Pope Francis himself has shown the way forward, by teaching through a welcoming presence, a listening heart and a discerning spirit.



Just a quick note to say this column may be a bit “lite” for the rest of the day as I have been busy at the press office attending today’s synod briefing, among other things, and also preparing to join Mary Shovlain tonight at 7 pm on the set of EWTN’s live nightly news program on the synod. I always like to be well prepared, having researched stories and verified news and names and events, etc.

I must also mention, for those of you who might not know, that each week on Mondays and Thursdays at 2 pm, ET, I bring news from Rome to EWTN’s very popualr “At Home with Jim and Joy.” See you then!

And now, here’s an update from VIS on a story that has, unfortunately, been dominating the synod news.


(VIS) – The director of the Holy See Press Office, Fr. Federico Lombardi, S.J., has given the following clarification regarding the publication yesterday of a “Letter to the Pope from thirteen cardinals”.

As we are aware, at least four of the Synod Fathers who were included in the list of signatories have denied their involvement (Cardinals Angelo Scola, Andre Vingt-Trois, Mauro Piacenza and Peter Erdo).

Cardinal Pell has declared that a letter sent to the Pope was confidential and should have remained as such, and that neither the text published nor the signatories correspond to what was sent to the Pope.

I would add that, in terms of content, the difficulties included in the letter were mentioned on Monday evening in the Synod Hall, as I have previously said, although not covered extensively or in detail.

As we know, the General Secretary and the Pope responded clearly the following morning. Therefore, to provide this text and this list of signatories some days later constitutes a disruption that was not intended by the signatories (at least by the most authoritative). Therefore it would be inappropriate to allow it to have any influence.

That observations can be made regarding the methodology of the Synod is neither new nor surprising. However, once agreed upon, a commitment is made to put it into practice in the best way possible.

This is what is taking place. There is very extensive collaboration in the task of allowing the Synod to make good progress on its path. It may be observed that some of the “signatories” are elected Moderators of the Circuli Minori, and have been working intensively. The overall climate of the Assembly is without doubt positive.

Cardinal Napier has expressly asked me to clarify the comments published in an interview with “Crux”, which do not correspond to his opinion. With regard to the composition of the “Commission of the 10” for the final text, it was incorrectly written that “… Napier said, adding that he would actually challenge ‘Pope Francis’ right to choose that’”. Cardinal Napier has requested that this be corrected, affirming the exact opposite: “… no-one challenges Pope Francis’ right to choose that”.

I have no further observations to make.



I really love this! I have joined together two recent tweets Cardinal Wilfrid Napier of Durban, South Africa: https://twitter.com/CardinalNapier

One who works with his hands is a labourer. One who works with his hands & head is a craftsman. One who works with his hands, head & heart is an artist.


This afternoon the Synod Fathers and invited guests moved into small language group discussions, following the General Congregations of Monday and of Tuesday morning where a total of 72 Synod Father gaves talks, each limited to just three minutes.

A press briefing was held at 1 pm in the Holy See Press Office. It was moderated by Fr. Federico Lombardi, in the presence of two Synod Fathers, Archbishops Claudio Maria Celli of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications and Paul-Andre Durocher of Gatineau, Quebec, and translators for English, French, Spanish and German.

Fr. Lombardi noted the Pope’s presence at this morning’s General Congregation and that he asked to speak briefly, following remarks by Cardinal Baldisseri, secretary general of the Synod of Bishops, who had previously explained “certain processes of the methodology” of the synod and new elements. In fact, some of the “new elements” in the synod process were troubling to many Synod Fathers, especially those who had attended previous synods. (photo news.va)POPE SYNOD DAY 2

Fr. Lombardi said, “The Holy Father thought it important to say that what we are doing here must be seen as a continuation of last year.” The Pope stressed that the group work is going to be very important. Francis also reminded the Fathers that “Catholic doctrine on marriage was not called into question in the previous sitting of the Synod” and that “the Synod is not about one single issue – Eucharist for the divorced and remarried – but many issues and we must take them all into account.”

Three of the issues troubling Synod Fathers about the new synod process include: the absence of an interim report, the fact that the speeches in the synod hall will not be released, so the public will not have a chance to read what participants actually said but will have to rely on press conferences and briefings and, perhaps the most worrisome matter: there will be no concluding propositions voted on by the bishops.

Fr. Thomas Rosica, an English-speaking assistant to Fr. Lombardi, said the comments made by the Synod Fathers were brief, as three minutes is the maximum time. One Father called this a “tweet-like speech time.”

It was noted at the briefing that some participants were disturbed by the fact that so much emphasis seemed to be brought to bear on the negatives involving family and marriage –divorce, communion for the divorced and remarried, etc. Fr. Rosica said, in his summary of the General Congregation, that one of the Fathers suggested that we acknowledge the “beauty and joy” of family life. He added: “Some of the interventions suggested we should be more inclusionary in our language, especially in the Jubilee Year of Mercy. Gay persons are our sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, neighbors and colleagues.”

Asked if the question of the admission of divorced and remarried Catholics to communion was still open to discussion. Archbishop Celli said that the issue was open. A number of both participants and members of the media felt that Cardinal Peter Erdo, in his talk yesterday, had closed the door to certain topics, or that he was suggesting some solutions had already been found.

Another journalist asked if the reception of the Eucharist by divorced and remarried persons was a “doctrine or a discipline.” Archbishop Durocher replied by saying that different people may see this differently and that it was part of the work of the Synod to discuss this. He did say that the bishops are united in acknowledging that there is a gap between contemporary culture and church teaching.

Archbishop Celli agreed, adding it was important for the church to find ways of entering into dialogue with the world. “We need to speak about what the Church teaches but must also avoid a ghetto mentality.”

Fr. Lombardi was asked if Pope Francis was going to participate in a small group. He said that the Pope did not normally attend small groups but that he was a Pope of surprises so “he may also surprise us!”



Days after Pope Francis had returned to Rome from his trip to Cuba and the U.S., news came out that the Pope had met with Kim Davis in Washington on Sept. 24. Fr. Federico Lombardi, papal spokesman, said at the time hat he “could not deny that the meeting had taken place” but added no details or further comment.

The following is a clarification with added details that was issued Friday. Davis continues to say it was a “private” meeting while the Vatican says she was one among many guests received, as is customary during a papal trip, at the nunciature in Washington.

(VIS) – The director of the Holy See Press Office, Fr. Federico Lombardi, S.J., today issued the following statement regarding the Pope’s meeting with Kim Davis, an American public official who spent five days in prison for refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

“The brief meeting between Mrs. Kim Davis and Pope Francis at the Apostolic Nunciature in Washington, D.C. has continued to provoke comments and discussion. In order to contribute to an objective understanding of what transpired I am able to clarify the following points:

“Pope Francis met with several dozen persons who had been invited by the nunciature to greet him as he prepared to leave Washington D.C. for New York City. Such brief greetings occur on all papal visits and are due to the Pope’s characteristic kindness and availability. The only real audience granted by the Pope at the nunciature was with one of his former students and his family.

“The Pope did not enter into the details of the situation of Mrs. Davis and his meeting with her should not be considered a form of support of her position in all of its particular and complex aspects”.

(Reuters) The Vatican later confirmed on Friday that the Pope met with Yayo Grassi, a U.S.-based Argentine caterer who is gay and brought his male partner of 19 years to the meeting. Grassi, 67, has known the Pope since Francis taught him literature and psychology at a high school in Argentina in the 1960s and has stayed in touch. “What I can say is that he met with me knowing that I am gay, and we had an extraordinary, very moving conversation,” Grassi told Reuters.


The following statement was issued October 3 by Fr. Federico Lombardi, director of the Holy See Press Office:

“With regard to the declarations and interview given by Msgr. Krzystof Charamsa it should be observed that, notwithstanding the respect due to the events and personal situations, and reflections on the issue, the decision to make such a pointed statement on the eve of the opening of the Synod appears very serious and irresponsible, since it aims to subject the Synod assembly to undue media pressure. Msgr. Charamsa will certainly be unable to continue to carry out his previous work in the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and the Pontifical universities, while the other aspects of his situation shall remain the competence of his diocesan Ordinary.”

Background – JFL: The Polish priest in question, Msgr. Krzysztof Charamsa is a theologian who has worked at the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith since 2003, anf also teaches at several pontifical universities. In an interview Saturday with the Italian daily, Corriere della Sera, he admitted publicly he was gay, had a partner and asked for changes in Church teachings on homosexuals and homosexual activity. He also held a news conference with his partner at a Rome restaurant.

His comments came on the vigil of the 2015 Ordinary synod on the family.

The Church’s Magisterium teaches that homosexuality is not a sin but homosexual acts are.


Chastity and homosexuality

2357   Homosexuality refers to relations between men or between women who experience an exclusive or predominant sexual attraction toward persons of the same sex. It has taken a great variety of forms through the centuries and in different cultures. Its psychological genesis remains largely unexplained. Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity,141 tradition has always declared that “homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered.”142 They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved.

2358   The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible. This inclination, which is objectively disordered, constitutes for most of them a trial. They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God’s will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord’s Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition.

2359   Homosexual persons are called to chastity. By the virtues of self-mastery that teach them inner freedom, at times by the support of disinterested friendship, by prayer and sacramental grace, they can and should gradually and resolutely approach Christian perfection.


Just a brief note to start this column today to thank so many of you who, through Facebook messages and emails, have said you are looking forward to my participation in the coverage of the papal visit to the U.S. and who have wished me safe travels. I’ve even received invitations to speak post-papal trip about what it is like to cover the visit of a Pope. However, I will not be on this trip. I know my colleagues will be doing very able jobs and that the coverage will be special.

Maybe I’ll try to be at the airport next Monday – or the Santa Marta residence – when Pope Francis returns and I can officially welcome him back to Rome!

I am sure you all have been following Pope Francis’s first days and events in Cuba and that you’ll be even more riveted to the television – or perhaps the radio or some form of social media – when the Holy Father arrives Washington, D.C. tomorrow.

There are countless ways, with EWTN alone, to follow the Pope’s every move, every word, every embrace of a little child or disabled person, every homily or important speech as, in coming days, he addresses a joint session of the U.S. Congress and speaks at the U.N. in New York. Thus, I’ll not be doing a summary every day of the papal visit as you will have already seen and heard all he important news stories, but I do have a few interesting items today for this column.

I’ve spent part of this afternoon, and will spend this evening, watching the coverage of Pope Francis’ visit to Holquin and Santiago de Cuba. I have been asked by TV2000, the network of the Italian bishops’ conference, to appear for two hours tomorrow on their morning show that will look at the Pope’s day in Cuba today and his prospects for the U.S. TV2000 wants to learn more about EWTN and our worldwide coverage, and to hear about my years at the Vatican, especially the period regarding St. John Paul’s 1998 trip to Cuba, the first ever by a Pope. I have some interesting background material for that!

Now, here’s today’s stories from news.va


(Vatican Radio) Perhaps the event that created most media interest during Pope Francis’s first full day in Cuba was his meeting with revolutionary leader Fidel Castro.

During a private encounter at the 89-year-old retired President’s home, the Pope and Castro discussed religion and world affairs.

The meeting took place just hours after the Pope at Mass urged Cubans to serve one another and not ideology. His message reaches out as their Communist-ruled country enters a new era of closer ties with the United States.

During the afternoon Pope Francis also went to the Palace of the Revolution, where he held private talks for about an hour with President Raul Castro, Fidel’s 84-year-old younger brother.

At the conclusion of the busy day packed with events of both pastoral and a political nature, Vatican Radio’s Sean Patrick Lovett spoke to Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, Head of the Vatican Press Office about the meetings between the Pope and the Castro brothers.

Sean Patrick Lovett recalls the fact that in 1988, when Mario Bergoglio was not yet even Archbishop of Buenos Aires “he wrote a little book called ‘Dialogues between John Paul II and Fidel Castro’. One of his conclusions in that book, after comparing the discourses of the two men, was that they had failed to listen to one another: there was not sufficient dialogue in their encounters” he says.

And pointing to the fact that 17 years have passed since then, Sean Lovett asks Fr Lombardi whether he thinks there is a “new kind of listening happening between the Pope and Cuba?”

Lombardi says he thinks that Cuba understands very well that the Catholic Church and the Popes are the world’s moral authorities today, and that they take Cuba, its history and its people very seriously. He says Cubans know that “they need a dialogue with the Popes”. Lombardi points out that the presence of 3 Popes in 17 years on the island and the help they have proffered in finding the way towards more openness is something really exceptional.

He says that history also shows how aware the Church has been regarding the importance of this land for the American continent. “I think that the experience of important diplomats like that of Cardinal Parolin who knows very well the region – he was nuncio in Venezuela – allows the Church to understand well the significance of Cuba for the Latin American continent.”

Lombardi also points out that if Cuba finds the way to become more open, it could become a bridge between continents and peoples. This, he says, will also help reconciliation between other peoples and encourage reconciliation in nations like Venezuela, Colombia and so on. “This is really important for this part of the world” he says.

He says the United States also understands very well the importance of a relationship with Cuba and points out that the process that is going on is a clear sign of this.

“Cuba is a very important point of encounter, as the Pope said yesterday, between North and South, between East and West. … I think the Castro brothers have understood very well that the Popes are great moral and religious authorities, that they are pastors that can give a contribution to the nation of invaluable importance” he says.


(Vatican Radio)  Pope Francis on Monday traveled from the Cuban capital, Havana, to visit Holguin and Santiago de Cuba on the eastern tip of the Caribbean island nation.

Both cities are closely linked to the famous statue of Our Lady of Charity of El Cobre, formally declared patroness of the Cuban people by Pope Benedict XV a century ago.

Philippa Hitchen reports on this second stage of the Pope’s pastoral visit to Cuba:

The city of Holguin is famed as the birthplace of Cuba’s revolutionary leader Fidel Castro and his brother Raul, who between them have ruled the country since 1959. It’s also known for its five-metre high cross on the hillside that looks out over the city –and offers a unique view of he entire island of Cuba – where, at 3:34 pm local time, Pope Francis will stop to pray. He has already celebrated Mass in Holquin’s main square.

It was not far from the city of Holguin that Christopher Columbus first landed in Cuba in 1492 and it was in the bay there that three local fishermen first saw Our Lady of Charity of El Cobre, floating on the water in 1612. The small wooden statue of Our Lady, wearing a gold mantle and holding the Infant Jesus in her left arm, is now housed in the shrine dedicated to her in the nearby city of Santiago de Cuba where the Pope will conclude his journey to the island nation.

Over the centuries many miracles have been attributed to Our Lady who’s seen as a powerful symbol of liberation during the struggle for independence from the Spanish and for the slaves, brought in to work the copper mines in the early 16th century. Descendants of those African slaves make up over 30 percent of Cuba’s population, yet they remain amongst the poorest inhabitants of the country.

Both Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI came to pray at the shrine during their trips to Cuba and another famous visitor, author Ernest Hemingway, left his Nobel medal for Literature there as a sign of gratitude for the warm welcome he received from the people of Cuba.

Pope Francis will join the crowds of other pilgrims down the centuries who’ve come to pray before the statue of La Mambisa, as she’s popularly known. He’ll celebrate Mass there on Tuesday and rededicate the nation to her, before travelling on to Washington D.C. with the hopes of encouraging the ongoing ‘miracle’ of reconciliation between Cuba and the United States.


(Vatican Radio) A communiqué released today by the United Nations says the Holy See flag will fly at the UN building in New York when Pope Francis arrives there on Friday.


It says that after consultations with the Holy See, the United Nations will raise the flag of the Holy See for the first time on the morning of September 25, so that it will be flying when Pope Francis arrives at the UN Headquarters.

The Holy See and the United Nations Secretariat have agreed that the flag will be raised with no ceremony. UN personnel will raise it at the same time they will raise the other flags that day.

The flag of the Holy See has two vertical bands, one gold and one white. The white side features an image of two traversed keys, one gold and one silver, bound together by a red cord, and topped by a triple-crown or tiara crowned by a cross. The keys (Mt 16:19) and tiara are both traditional symbols of the papacy. It has been the official flag of the Holy See since 1929.



Today’s column is a bit of this and a bit of that – short takes on a variety of topics. In Sweden they would call this a smorgasbord

Before I launch into those stories, take a look at this! Take Amazing 360° Tour of St. Peter’s in Vatican City From Your Chair! Get comfortable, click here and enjoy! http://news.nationalgeographic.com/2015/07/150720-Vatican-360-Degree-Tour-Saint-Peters-Basilica/


WOMEN READ MORE THAN MEN: (ANSA) – Vatican City, July 17 – As religious publishing houses struggle with the same financial woes hitting the secular world, a bonus to encourage readership could help, says the director of the Vatican Publishing House (Lev). Providing a bonus for priests and nuns could encouraging more purchases of books, said Fr. Giuseppe Costa.

Just as in secular society, religious women read much more then men, he added.  “The records of book sales show an obvious fact: nuns read more than priests,” Costa told L’Osservatore Romano, the Vatican daily newspaper. “But the effects of the crisis are being felt in each level and purchases in bookshops have become less frequent for everyone, even among the religious. Hence, the proposal to establish a bonus for reading priests and nuns.” A monthly allowance for priests and nuns to encourage reading and meditation on spiritual texts could be another option, said Costa.

PAPAL STYLES, PAST AND PRESENT: The next edition of National Geographic features Fr. Federico Lombardi, director of the Holy See Press Office as he talks about the styles of Pope Francis and his predecessor, Pope emeritus Benedict XVI. Here, in part, is what that story says: “When Federico Wals, who had spent several years as Bergoglio’s press aide, traveled from Buenos Aires to Rome last year to see the pope, he first paid a visit to Father Federico Lombardi, the longtime Vatican communications official whose job essentially mirrors Wals’ old one, albeit on a much larger scale. ‘So, Father,’ the Argentine asked, “how do you feel about my former boss?” Managing a smile, Lombardi replied, ‘Confused’.

“Lombardi had served as the spokesman for Benedict, formerly known as Joseph Ratzinger, a man of Germanic precision. After meeting with a world leader, the former pope would emerge and rattle off an incisive summation, Lombardi tells me, with palpable wistfulness: ‘It was incredible. Benedict was so clear. He would say, ‘We have spoken about these things, I agree with these points, I would argue against these other points, the objective of our next meeting will be this’—two minutes and I’m totally clear about what the contents were. With Francis—‘This is a wise man; he has had these interesting experiences’.

“Chuckling somewhat helplessly, Lombardi adds, ‘Diplomacy for Francis is not so much about strategy but instead, ‘I have met this person, we now have a personal relation, let us now do good for the people and for the church’.” http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2015/08/vatican/draper-text

GOOD NEWS FOR TRAVELERS: ROME AIRPORT SLOWLY RE-OPENS FOR BUSINESS: (ANSA) – Fiumicino, July 17 – Rome’s Fiumicino airport is set to reopen an area of the airport that has been closed as a result of a fire in May this weekend, airport operator ADR (Aeroporti Di Roma) said on Friday. The boarding area D in Terminal 3 has been closed in alternating phases after the electrical fire in the night of May 6-7 devastated the terminal, which handles international flights. The closure has led to many cancellations and disruption of flights, that capacity at the airport has been reduced to 60 percent. Area D was set to reopen the night between Saturday-Sunday, July 18/19. Fiumicino Mayor Esterino Montino has said the terminal will still need extensive renovation following the blaze, which tore through many luxury boutiques and took more than five hours to bring under control.

WYD 2016, KRAKOW – POLISH SURVIVAL PHRASES: Tons of interesting stuff on the official site for World Youth Day 2016 to help pilgrims prepare for this big event. You have plenty of time – a year – to get ready, including learning a bit of Polish. “Before arriving in a foreign country,” says http://worldyouthday.com/krakow-2016, “it is best to know a few key phrases to help you get around and for use in emergency situations. To start brushing up on basic Polish, visit SurvivalPhrases.com. There, you can access three FREE lessons in Polish to learn how to say Thank you, You’re Welcome, and Please. Each lesson has a detailed audio tutorial paired with a PDF transcript.”

You also learn that Campus Misericordiae (“Field of Mercy”) is the official name of the vigil site for World Youth Day 2016 where Pope Francis will meet with young people from around the world. On the border of Krakow and Wieliczka, this site will host the Saturday night vigil with the Holy Father and the Sunday morning Mass that together are the climax of World Youth Day. Other events central to World Youth Day – the opening Mass, the welcome ceremony for the Holy Father, and the Way of the Cross – will be held in Błonia Park in central Krakow.

To learn about flights, communication, money, electricity, passport and visas, medical, transportation, group travel, etc., click here: http://worldyouthday.com/travel-tips


I was heartbroken last night, as Fr. Frank Pavone and Janet Morana and I were having dinner, to learn that Cardinal Egan, archbishop emeritus of New York had died suddenly of cardiac arrest. I have a lot of wonderful memories of this man whom I met a number of times over the years, a man with whom I shared a birth place, Oak Park, Illinois. I’ll post my own photos and memories in short order but for now, you might enjoy hearing from a classmate of CardinalEgan, Msgr. Roger Roensch. Many of you might have met him if you ever visited the Casa Santa Maria and the U.S. Bishops Office for Visitors to Rome where you got tickets for the Wednesday general audience.

Click here to listen to Msgr. Roensch’s story: http://en.radiovaticana.va/news/2015/03/06/remembering_cardinal_egan_msgr_roensch/1127603


My guest in the interview segment this weekend is Fr. Scott Borgman, the coordinating secretary for the Pontifical Academy for Life. The Academy is meeting in plenary session on the theme, “Assisting the Elderly and Palliative Care.”  Fr. Borgman talks about the academy and its work, the plenary and the great audience that the members and guests had with Pope Francis on Thursday!  Some surprises there!

Father Scott and I had our conversation in the synod hall, part of the Paul VI Hall. Afterwards, as we walked down a hallway to the stairs that lead to the atrium, we passed an exquisite little chapel that I had never seen, notwithstanding all the times I’d been in the synod hall. We said a brief prayer and then Father took the following photos inside the chapel, including the amazing panorama shot!


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FYI: 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 www.ewtn.com) 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: http://www.ewtn.com/vondemand/audio/file_index.asp?SeriesId=7096&pgnu=


Pope Francis has sent a telegram of condolences to Cardinal Timothy Dolan, archbishop of New York, upon learning of the death of his predecessor, Cardinal Edward Egan at the age of 82.  The former leader of the New York archdiocese died of cardiac arrest on Thursday. (photo from news.va)


“Having learned with sadness of the death of Cardinal Edward M. Egan, Archbishop Emeritus of New York, I offer heartfelt condolences to you and to the faithful of the Archdiocese. I join you in commending the late Cardinal’s noble soul to God, the Father of mercies, with gratitude for his years of episcopal ministry among Christ’s flock in Bridgeport and New York, his distinguished service to the Apostolic See, and his expert contribution to the revision of the Church’s law in the years following the Second Vatican Council. To all assembled in Saint Patrick’s Cathedral for the Mass of Christian Burial, and to all those who mourn Cardinal Egan in the sure hope of the Resurrection, I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing as a pledge of consolation and peace in the Lord.”   FRANCIS PP.

The Vatican published a brief biography: Cardinal Egan was born on April 2, 1932, in Oak Park, Illinois and was ordained a priest for the Archdiocese of Chicago on December 15, 1957. He was consecrated a bishop in 1985. From 1985 to 1988, he served as auxiliary bishop and vicar for education of the Archdiocese of New York. In 1988 he was appointed the bishop of the Diocese of Bridgeport by Pope John Paul II. In the year 2000, he was appointed archbishop of New York and made a cardinal in 2001. He retired in 2009. Cardinal Egan’s death brings the number of cardinals in the College of Cardinals down to 226.


Friday morning in the Paul Vi Hall, Pope Francis met with members of the Neocatechumenal Way, including families that are about leave on missionary diuty in various parts of the world.

Heartfelt laughter greeted part of the Pope’s opening remarks to the organizers and families who will leave on mission. He said, “Peter’s task is to confirm his brothers and sisters in the faith. So you too have wanted with this gesture to ask the Successor of Peter to confirm your call, to support your mission, to bless your charism. And I want to confirm your call, support your mission and bless your charism.  I’m doing that not because I’ve been paid to: No!  – and the audience laughed – I’m doing it because I want to.  You will go forth in the name of Christ into the world to bring His Gospel: Christ will precede, Christ will accompany and Christ will fulfill the salvation of which you are bearers!”

He said that the communities, “called by the Bishops, are formed by a priest and four or five families, with children including grown-up ones, and are a ‘missio ad gentes’, with a mandate to evangelize non-Christians. Non-Christians who’ve never heard about Jesus Christ and the many non-Christians who’ve forgotten who Jesus Christ was, who is Jesus Christ: baptized non-Christians but who have forgotten their faith because of secularization, worldliness and many other things. Re-awaken that faith!”

“Today’s world,” said Pope Francis, “badly needs this great message. How much solitude, how much suffering, how much distance from God in the many peripheries of Europe and America, and in many cities of Asia! Today, in every latitude, humanity greatly needs to hear that God loves us and that love is possible! These Christian communities, thanks to you missionary families, have the essential task of making this message visible. And what is this message? ‘’Christ is risen, Christ lives. Christ lives amongst us’.”

For more: http://www.news.va/en/news/pope-francis-addresses-members-of-the-neocatechume


(Vatican Radio)  Vatican press spokesman, Fr. Federico Lombardi has confirmed that discussions on financial transparency are ongoing between the Holy See and Italy.  Fr. Lombardi released a brief statement late Thursday in which he said discussions are underway “to collaborate with Italy and go towards the goal of greater and more complete transparency and exchange of information for tax purposes.”

The statement follows comments made by Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi who, in a lengthy interview with the Italian magazine L’Espresso, spoke of Italy’s efforts to combat tax evasion.  Renzi said he hoped to reach an accord similar to those struck with Switzerland, Montecarlo and Liechtenstein to “recover a little bit of money also from the Vatican.”


A press release from IOR, Institute for Works of Religion, commonly known as the Vatican bank, announced today that the Board of Superintendence of the Istituto per le Opere di Religione has appointed Gianfranco Mammi as Deputy-Director with immediate effect for an indefinite term. The appointment has been approved by the IOR Supervisory Commission of Cardinals and the regulator AIF.

Gianfranco Mammi, 59, says the press release, started his career at IOR in 1992 at the cashier desk. Over the past 23 years he has gained vast experience in various positions working with the Institute’s Italian and Latin American clients in subsequent roles as Client Relationship Manager or later as Deputy Head of the Succession Office. Most recently he served as Head of Purchasing Office.

In his new position as Vice Director, he reports to the Board of Superintendence and is jointly responsible with the Institute’s Director General Rolando Marranci for all operational activities. Rolando Marranci has been confirmed as Director General. The position of Vice Director had been vacant.

The press release added an explanatory note about IOR:  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” (The Cardinals’ Commission for Pious Causes) established in 1887 by Pope Leo XIII. The purpose of 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.

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. IOR serves approximately 15,500 customers. As of 31 December 2013, the Institute was entrusted with customers’ assets totalling EUR 5.9bn.


This weekend – February 27 and 28 – marks the second anniversary of the resignation of Benedict XVI. His resignation became official at 8 pm on Thursday, February 28. On those last two days of February 2013, among the many “good-byes” he said, Benedict held his final general audience on Wednesday the 27th, greeted members of the College of Cardinals and, in a memorable scene the world will never forget, departed Vatican City by helicopter for Castelgandolfo where he would spend two months as workers readied the monastery he now lives in. Upon his arrival, he greeted the populace of Castelgandolfo from a balcony of the apostolic palace, a building whose doors were slowly and solemnly closed by Swiss Guards promptly at 8 pm.  At that moment, the See of Peter became vacant.

We pray for the continued health, happiness and tranquility of this Servant of the Servants of God, a title he dearly loved!


My guest this week on the interview segment of Vatican Inside is a longtime friend, Msgr. James Checchio, who is in his 10th year as rector of the Pontifical North American College, We look at those 10 years and at NAC’s growth – growth in the number of seminarians attending NAC but also in the physical sense of new buildings, etc.  The newest building was inaugurated on the January 6 feast of the Epiphany by Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin. I posted photos on this page as well as a few videos on my Youtube page (joansrome). A do-not-miss conversation this weekend.

I took these photos in Msgr. Checchio’s new office in the new building.

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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 www.ewtn.com) 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: http://www.ewtn.com/vondemand/audio/file_index.asp?SeriesId=7096&pgnu=


I have always loved this old and very beautiful church and try to stop in, even for just a brief Hail Mary, anytime I am near it. One day, not long ago, I was walking from the Gregorian University to catch a bus on the nearby Pza. Venezia and saw that an evening Mass would begin shortly, so I went into the church and briefly explored before attending Mass. I quickly went into the crypt area and took the following photos, I only had my phone so will have to go back some day for better and more comprehensive pictures of the tomb of two of the 12 Apostles who are buried in Rome.



Franciscan friars administer this basilica and, as they say on their website (http://www2.ofmconv.pcn.net/en/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=12&Itemid=21): “Just a few meters off of the Piazza Venezia, often considered to be the very center of Rome, you will find the administrative center of the Order at the Friary of the Twelve Holy Apostles (Santi Apostoli) next to the Basilica of the Twelve Holy Apostles first given to the Conventual Franciscan Friars in 1517 by the Holy See. The Friary is owned by the Vatican, while the Basilica is under the care of the Italian State.  Given the expense of maintaining such magnificent buildings as the Basilica, we are grateful that the State is assuming so much of the expense so that the Order is able to use our monies for our work around the world, even though it is a very sacred place, containing the mortal remains of the Apostles Philip and James the Less.

“The Friars living here have a variety of ministries. Not only are we engaged in the work of the General Government of the Order, but we also care for the Basilica, work at the Vatican, teach in some Universities in Rome, serve the poor, develop the arts within the Order, plus everything that is involved in taking care of a house this size. There are 37 Friars presently assigned to the Friary, ranging in age from 31-99. They come from 11 different countries representing 18 different jurisdictions within the Order. Being in the heart of Rome, Italian is the most common language for everyday use, but one often hears all four of the official languages of the order spoken.”

Here is Brian Lenz’s account of the Lenten station church Mass here in 2014:


And for a real-in-depth visit, explore this site: http://romapedia.blogspot.it/2013/10/basilica-of-holy-apostles.html

Even TripAdvisor writes: “Santi Apostoli, or Santi Dodici Apostoli as the Italians say, is the Church of the Twelve Holy Apostles at the Piazza bearing the same name. This is really an astonishing Church, hidden behind Piazza Venezia. We visited this hidden gem during a guided tour of ancient Rome with ‘When in Rome Tours’ and we were glad we did…… Santi Dodici Apostoli was the parish church of Michelangelo and his tomb was shortly placed here before its transportation to the Basilica di Santa Croce di Firenze. …A visit of Santi Apostoli is really worthwhile. So when you are at Piazza Venezia or at the Trevi Fountain, look for Piazza Santi Apostoli and spend an hour to absorb the beauty of this unique Church.”


The Holy Father and members of the Roman Curia who accompanied him to Ariccia for a six-day retreat that started last Sunday afternoon, have returned to Vatican City.  The final prayers and meditation by Carmelite Father Bruno Secondin were held Friday morning at the Pauline Fathers’ Casa Divin Maestro. Busses carrying the Pope and prelates back to the Vatican left Ariccia about 10:30 this morning. (news.va photo)


At the end of the retreat Pope Francis thanked Father Secondin for leading the spiritual exercises: “On behalf of all of us, I too would like to thank the father for his work among us during the spiritual exercises. It’s not easy to give exercises to priests, right?  We’re a bit complicated, all of us, but you succeeded in sowing seeds. May the Lord make these seeds that you have given us grow and I also hope that myself and all the others can leave here with a piece of Elijah’s cloak, in our hands and in our hearts. Thank you, Father!”


(Vatican Radio) Even during his retreat in the hills of Rome, immersed in Lenten spiritual exercises, Pope Francis is following the situation in Syria with deep concern. Speaking to Vatican Radio, Archbishop Mario Zenari, the apostolic nuncio in Damascus, says “the Pope is constantly adjourned of developments and his prayers are tuned to the suffering of the people.”

Noting the three-day offensive this week that has seen at least 220 people abducted by so-called Islamic State militants, most of them from Assyrian Christian villages in the north east, the nuncio said, “not only the Christians are afraid. Those who have the possibility to do so are fleeing the region.” He says that the perception of the people is that they have been abandoned by the international community because there have been no tangible changes to the situation as yet.

He expresses his belief that measures that have been undertaken to isolate the fundamentalists such as freezing bank accounts, cutting off provisions and fuel and tracking down potential Jihadists in Europe must continue. He describes the situation as one of the most serious humanitarian catastrophes after the Second World War, saying, “it is under the eyes of all! The civil conflict must be halted but so must the advance of the so-called Caliphate.”

Abp. Zenari says, “we are dealing with two different fronts: the civil war front which has been going on for almost five years, a conflict which has killed over 200,000 people, has injured more than a million and displaced 11 million; and then there are all the terrible things that are happening in the areas under the control of the so-called Islamic State: two different fronts, the one worse than the other!”


(Vatican Radio) The Director of the Holy See Press Office, Father Federico Lombardi, SJ, has responded to a collection of articles published in the Italian weekly L’Espresso. The articles purport to show internal struggles within the Vatican on ongoing economic reforms.

“Passing confidential documents to the press for polemical ends or to foster conflict is not new, but is always to be strongly condemned, and is illegal,” Father Lombardi said. “The fact that complex economic or legal issues are the subject of discussion and diverse points of view should be considered normal. In light of the views expressed, the Pope issues guidelines, and everybody follows them.”

Father Lombardi continued, “The article makes direct personal attacks that should be considered undignified and petty. And it is untrue that the Secretariat for the Economy is not carrying on its work with continuity and efficacy. In confirmation of this, the Secretariat is expected in the next few months to publish the financial statements for 2014 and the estimated budgets for 2015 for all of the entities of the Holy See, including the Secretariat itself.”