Today, August 6, is the beautiful feast of the Transfiguration. One of the most beautiful art works that depict this feast is actually located in two places in the Vatican. Raphael’s stunning oil painting, “The Transfiguration,” is located in the Vatican Museums’ Pinacoteca but the Vatican’s mosaic artists recreated this masterpiece and it is now inside St. Peter’s Basilica, at the end of the left aisle, just outside the mammoth pier that holds the statue of St. Andrew.

Today also marks the 41st anniversary of the death of Pope St. Paul VI in the papal palace of Castelgandolfo. Little did anyone know that day that 1978 would be the year of three Popes! Paul was followed by John Paul I who reigned for barely a month, and then John Paul II whose pontificate lasted just over 26 and half years!

Tomorrow Pope Francis will preside at the first general audience in a little over a month, going to the air-conditioned Paul VI Hall to welcome pilgrims who have requested to be present at this traditional weekly meeting with the pontiff. He has been on a working vacation in the Santa Marta residence since the start of July, making only a few exceptions to the “all audiences are suspended in July” rule for papal vacation time.

It continues to be very hot in Rome (we are to reach 98 in a day or two) and, unless you are walking on the shady side of the street or in an air-conditioned building, you will definitely feel the effects of the heat and humidity. Visitors often arrive 90 minutes or more before the start of a papal audience because of security measures and to spend that amount of time in a sweltering St. Peter’s Square – even in the morning hours – would be a trial for sure.

The audiences are always one of the Vatican events that typically depict the face of the Universal Church with visitors coming from around the world to spend an hour with the Holy Father. Francis delivers his weekly catechesis in Italian and addresses Spanish-speaking pilgrims in their (and his) native language but monsignori from the Secretariat of State assist the Pope as they offer multi-lingual summaries of his catechesis, speaking in French, English, German, Portuguese, Polish and Arabic.


Each week, the general audience is an important moment when people from all over the world have the opportunity to see and hear Pope Francis, as he proposes in a simple manner the fundamental teachings of the Church.
By Vatican News

Pope Francis’ Wednesday general audiences will resume tomorrow, August 7, after the usual summer hiatus in July.

In the six years since his election to the See of Peter, Pope Francis has held 279 general audiences, including both the regular weekly audiences and the special Jubilee audiences held on Saturdays during the Year of Mercy.

Together with his Angelus addresses, delivered on Sundays and Holy Days; and his homilies, both for major feasts and at his daily Mass at the Santa Marta residence, the catechetical lectures delivered at the weekly general audience represent the spiritual heart of Pope Francis’ ordinary Magisterium or teaching office.

Since 2013, in addition to reflections on specific topics such as Advent, Christmas, Lent, and Easter, Pope Francis has presented 12 cycles of catechesis. The first was a series of talks on the Creed, continuing a cycle begun by his predecessor, Benedict XVI, during the Year of Faith. Pope Francis continued with catechetical series on the Sacraments, the Gifts of the Holy Spirit, the Church, the Family, and the theme of Mercy during the Jubilee Year of Mercy.

Subsequently, he has focused on the topics of Christian Hope, Holy Mass, Baptism, Confirmation, the Ten Commandments, the Our Father, and, most recently, the Acts of the Apostles.

The general audiences also provide an opportunity for the Pope to draw the world’s attention to specific issues, and to launch appeals for various causes.

In the six years of his pontificate, Pope Francis has launched more than 40 appeals for peace in various places around the world. He has appealed for aid to Christians facing persecution, discrimination, and other particular difficulties on more than 20 occasions.

He has made appeals for humanitarian aid following natural disasters, epidemics, and accidents. On about a dozen different occasions, he has specifically appealed for assistance for migrants, workers in difficulty, and the poor of the world; and for efforts to respond to the ongoing environmental crisis.

These encounters, in which the Holy Father is able to meet with people from all over the world, offer Pope Francis an opportunity to carry out a simple, yet profound catechesis on the Christian faith.


I heard this story for the first time in my life in a homily during Mass a few weeks back at St. Patrick’s in Rome – an astronaut who had communion on the moon! I had watched the moon landing all those decades ago on television in New York as I was getting ready the following day to sail to Europe. The 50th anniversary is next month! https://www.history.com/news/buzz-aldrin-communion-apollo-11-nasa

I never did sleep because, in addition to being riveted by the moon-landing story, I had to grade the final test papers of my four French classes at the Academy of the Holy Names and place all the grades and tests in a big envelope to mail the next morning to the academy. I had received special permission to take the tests off of school property given the proximity of the final school day to my sailing date for Europe.

The scary part of that hot July night was never the moon landing. It was when I checked into the hotel and realized the huge folder with all my test papers had been left in the taxi! I think I prayed a novena of thanksgiving for that honest taxi driver who remembered at what hotel he had dropped me off!

FYI: For those hungry for news from the Pontifical Council for Culture (soon to be merged with who knows what other Vatican office to then become a dicastery, according to rumors about the overhaul of the Roman Curia), here you go:

FYI 2: Today’s weekly general Wednesday audience was the last one until early August as July is the month in which Pope Francis has been traditionally reducing his schedule vis a vis private audiences and general audiences. He is, however, scheduled to appear at his study window on Sundays for the noon Angelus in July.

FYI 3: The news about the papal trip to Japan in November has not been confirmed by the Holy See but I’m sure it will be soon. I have been to a number of events recently where the Japanese ambassador to the Holy See was present. At one event, about 4 or 5 weeks ago, when asked about a possible trip, he said he knew only that the Pope wanted to go to Japan but did not know specific dates.


This morning, before going to a sun-splashed and very hot St. Peter’s Square for the weekly general audience, Pope Francis stopped by the Paul VI Hall to greet those pilgrims who were ill and could not be in the square.

“Today,” said Francis, “you came here because it’s too hot outside, too hot … It’s quieter here and you can see the audience well on the (television) screen. There will be two communities: that of the square, together with you. You are definitely attending the audience! Surely they will accommodate you to be able to see the screen well. And now, I give you my blessing, to everyone.”

Later, in the square, the Holy Father began the weekly catechesis on the Acts of the Apostles, noting that, “we now consider the way of life of the first Christian community. Saint Luke presents the Church of Jerusalem, gathered in response to the Apostles’ preaching, as the paradigm of all Christian communities. As brothers and sisters in Christ, the first believers “devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.”

“Luke,” the Pope explained, “portrays a community united in prayer, fraternity, charity and concern for those in need. In every age, the Church is called to be the leaven of a reconciled humanity and the foreshadowing of a world of authentic justice and peace. In this way, she is enabled to live an authentic liturgical life, experiencing the Risen Lord’s presence in prayer and in the Eucharist, in order then to bring that saving love to the world.

Francis concluded by saying, “like the early Church gathered around the Apostles, may our communities increasingly become places of deep prayer, encounter with the Lord and fellowship with our brothers and sisters, doors that open to the communion of the saints and the heavenly Jerusalem!”

In greetings following the English language summary of the papal catechesis, the Pope acknowledged visitors from England, Scotland, Wales, Australia, Japan, Guam and the United States. Archbishops from Australia, the United States and Guam are scheduled to receive the pallium this coming Saturday, feast of Sts. Peter and Paul, Apostles.


Tokyo (AsiaNews / Agencies) – Pope Francis will visit Hiroshima and Nagasaki on November 24, on the occasion of his four-day apostolic trip to Japan. The pontiff will offer prayers for the victims of the atomic attacks on the two cities, which took place in 1945 at the hands of US aviation during the Second World War. The Japanese media reported this, citing sources close to the organization of the trip.

Last January 23, it was Francis himself who announced the trip, on the flight that was taking him to Panama for the celebration of the 34th World Youth Day (WYD). A few days after the announcement of the apostolic journey, Japanese Catholics invited the pope to launch a message against nuclear weapons from Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

According to rumors, the Pope plans to meet the atomic bomb survivors on the second day of his visit, which opens on November 23rd. Francis’ journey will be the second of a pontiff to the Land of the Rising Sun after John Paul II in February 1981. The pontiff will meet Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Emperor Naruhito in Tokyo, and will celebrate Mass at the Tokyo Dome stadium on November 25th.

Government sources report that the Pope sent letters to the mayors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and to the governor of the Hiroshima prefecture last May, promising to offer prayers for their citizens. Officials had extended the invitation to visit the two cities during an audience in the Vatican.

(for more: http://www.asianews.it/news-en/Pope-Francis-in-Hiroshima-and-Nagasaki-on-November-24th-47382.html)


Here’s something interesting from the Pro-Life Action League: “On Friday, June 28, small teams of pro-life volunteers will take up stations on highway overpasses in 50 cities throughout the United States for the second annual National Pro-Life Bridges Day. These volunteers will display banners declaring “Abortion takes a human life” to commuters in both directions of highway traffic during rush hour. Over one million highway commuters are expected to be reached with this pro-life message.”


Thousands of pilgrims flocked to St. Peter’s Square Wednesday morning for the traditional weekly general audience held by Pope Francis. As is also customary at these audiences, people arrived very early to go through the long security lines. The audience today began at 9 am, a half hour earlier than usual, given the very hot temperatures of recent days.

The Holy Father continued his catechesis on the Acts of the Apostles, noting that, “we now turn to the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles gathered in prayer with Mary, the Mother of Jesus, in the Upper Room.”

He said that, “On the day of Pentecost, the Spirit came, in fulfillment of Christ’s promise, accompanied by violent wind and tongues of fire. These signs evoke God’s majestic self-manifestation to Moses in the burning bush and the giving of the Law on Mount Sinai.”

“The Church was thus born from the fire of God’s love and the power of his word,” exclaimed Francis. “Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, immediately inaugurates the Church’s mission of evangelization, proclaiming the Risen Jesus before the crowds and calling them to faith and conversion.”

The Holy Father then described the Holy Spirit as “the creator of communion, the artist of reconciliation who knows how to remove barriers between Jews and Greeks, slaves and freedmen.”

He explained that the Holy Spirit “makes the Church grow by helping it to go beyond human limitations, sins and scandals. Only the Spirit of God has the power to humanize” and to create connections, “beginning with those who receive Him.”

Francis went on to say that, “the outpouring of the Spirit at Pentecost reveals that the heart of the new and eternal Covenant is no longer the written word of the Law, but the living presence of the Spirit, who renews all creation, dwells in our hearts, builds unity from diversity, and everywhere brings about reconciliation and communion.

“May the same Spirit,” he said in conclusion, “lead us to experience a new Pentecost and to become joyful and convincing witnesses to the Risen Christ in our world.”

(Click here to see video of Pope arriving in St. Peter’s Square and to listen to the catechesis: https://www.vaticannews.va/en/pope-francis/papal-audience/2019-06/video-pope-francis-general-audience-19-june-2019.html#play


The Vatican inaugurated a new website today for Vatican City State, the first update since 2012. The graphics, videos, and photos are wonderful but when I looked for other language versions (es for Espanol, fr for Francais, etc) I could find none. However, I did a little test: in the link, I substituted /en for /it and found English. Here’s the original link: http://www.vaticanstate.va/it Here’s English: http://www.vaticanstate.va/en However, you have to go to the top right of the homepage and click on the 3 lines (the index to content) to actually get the English content. I hope that’s clear!

I posted a link this morning on my Facebook page to the Washington Post interview with Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò. The archbishop is clear and very detailed in his answers to the Post’s 40 questions, He did write n/a to several persons questions (such as where he is living) when he deemed it ‘not applicable’ to answer. Here is a link to the full article – an absolutely fascinating read! https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/europe/this-archbishop-called-on-the-pope-to-resign-now-hes-in-an-undisclosed-location/2019/06/09/bb69c346-71b5-11e9-9331-30bc5836f48e_story.html?utm_term=.b1f061c7b277


Pope Francis continued his new Wednesday general audience catechesis on the Acts of the Apostles, telling the faithful in St. Peter’s Square today, “we have seen that the Church’s evangelizing mission begins with the resurrection of Christ. As the disciples, together with Mary, waited in the Upper Room for the fulfilment of Jesus’ promise of the Holy Spirit, they were united in prayer. From the beginning, the Church appears as a communion, a community, the People of God. Christ’s choice of twelve Apostles shows the continuity between the Church and the people of Israel.

“After the defection of Judas,” continued the Pope, “the Apostles were conscious that his place in the Twelve had to be taken by another. Guided by Peter, the community as a whole joined in prayer to discern the Lord’s choice of Matthias. Jesus had told his disciples that they would be known by their love for one another (Jn 13:35).

Francis said, “the visible communion of the Apostles was their first form of witness to the Risen Lord and his saving love. May we too bear witness to the reconciling power of that love by our unity, which triumphs over pride and divisiveness, and creates from diversity the one People of God.”


In greetings to Polish pilgrims attending today’s general audience, Pope Francis said “I know that many of you and thousands of your countrymen took part in the life parades last Sunday, bringing the message that life is sacred because it is a gift from God. We are called to defend it and serve it from conception in the womb to age advanced, when it is marked by infirmity and suffering.

“It is not permissible to destroy life,” stated the Holy Father, “to make it the object of experimentation or false conceptions. I ask you to pray that human life will always be respected, thus witnessing to Gospel values especially in the context of the family. From my heart, I bless you and your loved ones.”


The Vatican Wednesday issued a decree that recognized “the heroic virtues of Servant of God Augustine Tolton, diocesan priest, born in Brush Creek, (USA) April 1, 1854 and died in Chicago July 9, 1897.”

Fr. Tolton (Ave Maria Press)

The decree announcing Fr. Tolton’s heroic virtues was one of eight similar decrees announced Wednesday by the Vatican. The Pope authorized their publication in a meeting yesterday with Cardinal Angelo Becciu, prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints.

Icon of Fr. Tolton

The Missouri-born priest was the first African American ordained as a Catholic priest. Born of slaves, and a former slave himself, Augustus was reared as a Catholic and named Augustine when he was baptized. He studied in Rome where he was ordained at St. John Lateran basilica on Easter Sunday, 1886. Fr. Tolton was assigned to the diocese of Alton, today the diocese of Springfield, and actually worked in his home parish of Quincy, Illinois. He was eventually assigned to Chicago where he helped build St. Monica’s Church which became home to black American Catholics.

A site is dedicated to Fr. Tolton in the diocese: https://tolton.archchicago.org/



In a (finally) sun-splashed St. Peter’s Square, Pope Francis presided at the weekly general audience and began by noting, “Today we conclude our catechesis on the ‘Our Father’.”

He said, “Jesus has revealed to us that Christian prayer begins with the audacity to call God ‘Father’. Indeed, each of the expressions that our Lord himself uses in prayer brings to mind the text of the ‘Our Father’.

“Throughout the New Testament,” continued Francis, “it is clear that the first principle of every prayer is the Holy Spirit, who breathes into the hearts of the disciples. Herein lies the mystery of Christian prayer: that by grace we are drawn into the Holy Trinity’s dialogue of love. On the cross Jesus cries out: ‘My God, my God’, and we see here the fulcrum of his relationship with the Father. This also reflects the heart of our own trust and prayer.

The Holy Father said in conclusion, “At the end of this catechesis, let us repeat this prayer of Jesus: ‘I bless you, Father, Lord of heaven and of earth, for hiding these things from the learned and the clever and revealing them to little children’.”

In the multi-lingual greetings that follow the audience catechesis and summaries in seven languages, Francis, through an English-speaking monsignor from the Secretariat of State, greeted the “English-speaking pilgrims and visitors taking part in today’s audience, especially those from England, Belgium, Tanzania, New Zealand, China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam, Canada and the United States of America. In the joy of the Risen Christ, I invoke upon you and your families the loving mercy of God our Father. May the Lord bless you all!”

In greetings to French pilgrims, Pope Francis spoke of a murdered missionary sister, whose body was found in the Central African Republic on the same day a missionary priest was killed in Mozambique. He called the Spanish missionary “a woman who has given her life for Jesus in the service of the poor.”

Sister Inés Nieves Sancho, 77, was found murdered near her home in the Central African Republic on Monday morning. Her body was found horribly mutilated at her workshop in the village of Nola, which is part of the Diocese of Berberati, according to the Osservatore Romano. At some point during the night between Sunday and Monday, unknown assailants entered Sister Inés’ home and forcibly took her to the workshop where she regularly held sewing lessons for local girls to help improve their lives. There her attackers decapitated her and mutilated her body.

There was a new language in the papal greetings today. Added to French, English, German, Spanish, Portuguese, Arabic, Polish and Italian, Francis greeted pilgrims in Ukrainian: “I cordially greet the Ukrainian pilgrims, especially the group of soldiers who participated in the annual National Military Pilgrimage in Lourdes. I continually pray to the Risen Lord, so that he fills the hearts of the Ukrainians with love and serenity and gives his peace to the whole country. God bless you all!”

After the general audience was over and Catholic prelates and several others lined up to meet the Pope, the Holy Father greeted Dr. Denis Mukwege, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 2018. (source: vaticannews)


At the end of today’s general audience in St. Peter’s Square, Pope Francis, in a reference to the upcoming feast of Our Lady, Help of Christians, expressed his “special closeness and affection to all the Catholics in China who, among daily labors and trials, continue to believe, to hope, and to love.”

Speaking directly to the faithful in China, the Holy Father said, “May our Mother of Heaven help you all to be witnesses of charity and fraternity, always remaining united in the communion of the universal Church.”

Francis then assured the Chinese faithful of his own prayers and his blessing, before leading the pilgrims at the audience in praying the Hail Mary for Chinese Catholics.

An image of Our Lady, Help of Christians, is found in the Shrine dedicated to Our Lady of Sheshan in Shanghai, and is an object of special devotion to the faithful in China.

In May of 2007, in his Letter to Chinese Catholics, Benedict XVI asked that the May 24 feast of Mary, Help of Christians be celebrated as a World Day of Prayer for the Church in China. The following prayer, published in 2008, was composed by Pope Benedict for the occasion:

Virgin Most Holy, Mother of the Incarnate Word and our Mother,
venerated in the Shrine of Sheshan under the title “Help of Christians”,
the entire Church in China looks to you with devout affection.
We come before you today to implore your protection.
Look upon the People of God and, with a mother’s care, guide them
along the paths of truth and love, so that they may always be
a leaven of harmonious coexistence among all citizens.

When you obediently said “yes” in the house of Nazareth,
you allowed God’s eternal Son to take flesh in your virginal womb
and thus to begin in history the work of our redemption.
You willingly and generously cooperated in that work,
allowing the sword of pain to pierce your soul,
until the supreme hour of the Cross, when you kept watch on Calvary,
standing beside your Son, who died that we might live.

From that moment, you became, in a new way,
the Mother of all those who receive your Son Jesus in faith
and choose to follow in his footsteps by taking up his Cross.
Mother of hope, in the darkness of Holy Saturday you journeyed
with unfailing trust towards the dawn of Easter.
Grant that your children may discern at all times,
even those that are darkest, the signs of God’s loving presence.

Our Lady of Sheshan, sustain all those in China,
who, amid their daily trials, continue to believe, to hope, to love.
May they never be afraid to speak of Jesus to the world,
and of the world to Jesus.

In the statue overlooking the Shrine you lift your Son on high,
offering him to the world with open arms in a gesture of love.
Help Catholics always to be credible witnesses to this love,
ever clinging to the rock of Peter on which the Church is built.
Mother of China and all Asia, pray for us, now and for ever. Amen!
(source: vaticannews)


Michael Warsaw, CEO of EWTN, was recently in town for a number of events and he announced to the staff in our meeting with members of EWTN’s board, that an EWTN news agency had been formed for and in Africa – ACI Africa. The story was carried by FIDES, the news arm of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, It featured the words of Archbishop Giampietro Dal Toso, president of the Pontifical Mission Societies, in his homily during Mass for EWTN: http://www.fides.org/en/news/66009-AFRICA_ACI_Africa_agency_is_born_Archbishop_Dal_Toso_A_sign_of_hope_for_the_continent

On another topic: As you will see in the photo below, the weather in Rome did no favors to those attending the weekly general audience in St. Peter’s Square. It is quite chilly here (48 degrees as I write at 3 pm) and coats and heavy jackets, perhaps even layered clothing, are the order of the day! We have been averaging only one entirely sunny day every week – days that verge on being warm but generally offer cloud cover, light showers or torrential downpours. Feels a lot more like October, especially since heat has been turned off in most buildings for over a month, and there are no warm temps to compensate for the chill and humidity in the air.


The Holy Father, making his way to the podium in front of St. Peter’s Basilica before the general audience this morning, asked the popemobile driver to stop to allow eight children to jump aboard for a ride. The 8 children had come from Libya on a boat several different nationalities, including Syria, Nigeria and Congo, and are currently hosted with families in the “Mondo Migliore” (Better World) Center of Rocca di Papa and followed by the “Auxilium” Cooperative. They were all wearing T-shirts that said, “Welcome, protect, promote and integrate” the appeal coined by Pope Francis in his message for the World Day of Migrants and Refugees.

The self-funded “Humanitarian Corridors” project, which Pope Francis has repeatedly upheld, is carried out by the Community of Sant’Egidio in collaboration with the Federation of Evangelical Churches and the Waldensian and Methodist Churches. It aims to avoid migrant journeys on boats in the Mediterranean in which so many – usually trafficked people – have died, and at the same time fight human trafficking. (photo by Daniel Ibanez EWTN-ACI)


Following is the English summary of Pope Francis’ catechesis on the “Our Father.”

Dear Brothers and Sisters: In our continuing catechesis on the “Our Father”, we now consider the final petition: “Deliver us from evil”. This recognizes that life is fraught with difficulties, that evil is present in all of our lives, and so this final cry of the “Our Father” powerfully confronts the complete range of evil. Jesus himself, moreover, has experienced the full impact of evil in his passion: not only death but death on a cross; not just loneliness but scorn; nor merely bad-will but cruelty.

The Holy Father reflected at length on the presence of evil in the world. He said the word used in the original Greek (πονηρός) evokes “the presence of evil that seeks to grab hold and bite at us, and from which we ask God for delivery. … History books are a bleak catalogue of how our existence in this world has often been a failed adventure.”

Francis noted, “There is a mysterious evil which is surely not the work of God, but which silently penetrates the folds of history.”

But, the Pope noted, the person who prays is not blind and sees clearly that evil is in contradiction with the mystery of God.

“The last cry of the Our Father is hurled against this evil,” he said, “which encompasses the most diverse experiences, including mourning, the suffering of innocents, slavery, the exploitation of others, and the cries of innocent children.”

Francis stated that, “the ‘Our Father’ resembles a symphony that seeks to be fulfilled in each one of us, for however much we may be subjected to wickedness, Jesus will come to our aid.”

“Jesus’ prayer on the cross – ‘Father forgive them for they know not what they do’ – bequeaths us the most precious patrimony: the presence of the Son of God who delivers us from evil. Indeed, from here flows the gift of his peace, which is stronger than every evil; and herein lies our hope!” (source: Vaticannnews)



As is traditional after a papal trip, at this week’s general audience in St Peter’s Square, Pope Francis reflected on his just-concluded Apostolic journey to Bulgaria and North Macedonia.

The Pope began by saying how, in Bulgaria, he was “guided by the living memory of Saint John XXIII,” who spent nearly ten years in the country as Apostolic Delegate. The motto chosen for the Bulgaria leg of the trip was the title of Pope John XXIII’s encyclical, “Pacem in Terris.” Inspired by this motto, Pope Francis said he had “invited everyone to walk on the path of brotherhood,” and mentioned his meeting with the patriarch of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church and members of the Holy Synod. “As Christians, our vocation and mission is to be a sign and instrument of unity,” he said.

Bulgaria and Saints Cyril and Methodius
The Pope also mentioned the saintly brothers Cyril and Methodius, evangelizers of Bulgaria. They were of Greek origin, but they used “their culture creatively to transmit the Christian message to the Slav peoples,” said Pope Francis. “Even today there is a need for passionate and creative evangelizers so that the Gospel may reach those who do not yet know it and may irrigate again the lands where ancient Christian roots have dried up.”

North Macedonia and Saint Mother Teresa
The second stop on the Pope’s three-day Apostolic journey was North Macedonia. There he said, “the strong spiritual presence of Mother Teresa of Calcutta” accompanied him. Mother Teresa was born in Skopje, the present-day capital of North Macedonia, in 1910. In this small but strong woman “we see the image of the Church in that country,” said Pope Francis, noting that he had prayed at Mother Teresa’s Memorial, and blessed the first stone of a shrine dedicated to her.

North Macedonia and the young
Pope Francis explained how, with this visit, his intention was to encourage what he called North Macedonia’s “traditional capacity to host different ethnic and religious affiliations,” as well as the country’s “commitment to welcoming and helping a large number of migrants and refugees.”

This is a “young country from an institutional point of view,” said the Pope, adding this is why his meeting with young people was so significant. Pope Francis said he invited them “to dream big and get involved,” just like the future Mother Teresa, “listening to the voice of God,” who speaks to us in prayer, and responding concretely to “our needy brothers and sisters.” (source: Vatican News)


Following is the English language transcript of the papal inflight press conference prepared by CNA as the Pope and entourage returned to Rome last night from North Macedonia:

Alessandro Gisotti:
Good evening Holy Father, thank you after such intense days for being here to share a thought about this journey that was so intense and so beautiful. A short trip, inevitably a short press conference, I will not add words other than these: Holy Father you have already walked in the footsteps of Mother Teresa, a great witness of Christian love, and we have all been struck today, as you know it, by the death of Jean Vanier, another friend, brother of the least of these, another great witness. Here, before the questions I wanted to ask if you wanted to share a thought about Jean Vanier.
Pope Francis:
Yes, I knew of the illness of Jean Vanier. His sister, Geneviève Jeanningros, informed me on a regular basis. One week ago, I called him on the phone, he listened to me, but could hardly speak. I would like to express my gratitude for this testimony. He was a man who knew how to read the Christian existence from the mystery of death on the cross of illness, from the mystery of those who are despised and rejected in the world. He worked, not only for the least of these, but also for those who before birth face the possibility of being sentenced to death. He spent his life like this. I am simply thankful to him and thankful to God for giving us this man with a great witness.
Thank you, Holy Father, the first question will be from Biljana Zherevska of TV Macedonia.
Biljana Zherevska, MRT: [In English] Your Holiness, it is a great pleasure to have you in our country. We feel honored by your visit. What is interesting for us is to hear from you what is your greatest impression from the two countries, what touched you the most? The persons, objects, atmosphere. What will you remember of these two countries when you go [back] to the Holy See?
Pope Francis: They are two totally diverse nations. Bulgaria is a nation of a tradition from centuries ago. Macedonia, on the other hand, has a tradition from centuries, but not as a country: as a people, that ultimately rose to form as a nation… It is a beautiful fight! For us Christians Macedonia is a symbol of the entrance of Christianity in the East. Christianity entered in the East through you all.. those Macedonians that appeared to Paul in a dream: “come to us, come to us.” He was leaving for Asia, it is a mystery that call… And the Macedonian people are proud of this, they do not lose the opportunity to say that Christianity entered Europe through us, through our door, because Paul was called by a Macedonian.

Bulgaria has had to fight so much for its identity as a nation. The mere fact that in the 1800s, I believe 1823, more or less, 200,000 Russian soldiers died to regain independence from the hands of the Turks … we think of what 200,000 means. So much struggle for independence, so much blood, so much mystique to find consolidation of identity.

Macedonia had the identity and now it has come to consolidate it as a people, with small, big problems, like its name, and this we all know. Both have Christian, Orthodox, Catholic and Muslim communities. The percentage of Orthodox is very strong in both with a small amount of Muslims and even fewer Catholics, in Macedonia more so than Bulgaria. A thing I saw in both nations is the good relationship between the different faiths. In Bulgaria we saw it in the prayer for peace. This is a normal and beautiful thing for Bulgarians, because they have a good relationship, each person has the right to express his own religion and has the right to be respected. This touched me. Then the dialogue with Patriarch Neophyte was a beauty… he is a man of God, a great man of God. In Macedonia I was struck by a phrase the president told me: “Here there is not religious tolerance, there is respect.” They have respect. In a world like this respect is missed very much. Respect for human rights, we miss respect for so many things, respect for children, for the elderly, that the mystique of a country would be respect is striking. I do not know if I answered more or less briefly.
Holy Father, the next question will be asked by Peter Nanev from Bulgarian television.
Peter Nanev, BTV: Good evening. Peter Nanev, BTV Bulgaria. [In English] It is more of a personal question, as Your Holiness, you’re like a human being, from where do you find strength in your body, in your spirit in cases when you have to give even more strength for a heavily sick child?
Pope Francis: First of all I would like to tell you that I do not go to the witch… [laughs]. I do not know. I do not know, really. It is a gift from the Lord. When I am in a country, I forget everything, but not because I want to forget it, I forget it, and I am only there. And then this gives me perseverance, I don’t know, but [when] I am on the trip I am not tired! Then I am tired! After! But where do I take the strength from? I believe that the Lord gives it to me, there is no explanation. I ask the Lord to be faithful, to serve him in this work of travels, that the trip will not be tourism. I ask. All is his grace. Nothing else comes to me to say. But then I do not do so much work, huh? Thank you.
He will now address a question. We remain in Eastern Europe, Silvije Tomasevic of Croatian press and television, Vecernij List.
Silvije Tomasevic, Vecernij List: The national Orthodox Churches are not always in agreement among them, for example, they have not recognized the Macedonian Church. But when they have to criticise the Catholic Church they are always in unison, for example the Serbian Church does not want Cardinal Stepinac to be canonized. Your comment on this situation?
Pope Francis: In general, the relationships are good, they are good and there is good will. I can tell you sincerely that I have met men of God among the patriarchs. Neophyte is a man of God, and then him that I carry in my heart, a favorite, Ilia II of Georgia is a man of God, who has been good to me, Bartholomew is a man of God, Kirill is a man of God. They are great patriarchs that give witness. You can tell me. But everyone, we have defects. Everyone. But in the patriarchs I have found brothers and some… I do not want to exaggerate, but I would like to say the word ‘saints’ and this is important.
Then there are historic things between our Churches, some old things, for example today the president was saying to me that the Eastern schism began here in Macedonia.

Now the pope comes for the first time, to mend the schism I do not know, but to say we are brothers, because we cannot adore the Holy Trinity without hands united as brothers. This is not only my conviction, also the patriarchs’, everyone.

Then there is a historic world… you are Croatian? It was seeming to me I sensed the aroma of Croatia. The canonization of Stepinac is a historic case. He is a virtuous man for this Church, which has proclaimed him Blessed, you can pray [through his intercession]. But at a certain moment of the canonization process there are unclear points, historic points, and I should sign the canonization, it is my responsibility, I prayed, I reflected, I asked advice, and I saw that I should ask Irenej, a great patriarch, for help. We made a historic commission together and we worked together, and both Irenej and I are interested in the truth. Who is helped by a declaration of sanctity if the truth is not clear? We know that [Stepinac] was a good man, but to make this step I looked for the help of Irenej and they are studying. First of all the commission was set up and gave its opinion. They are studying other sources, deepening some points so that the truth is clear.

I am not afraid of the truth, I am not afraid. I am afraid of the judgment of God.

Gisotti: There is time for another question. Joshua McElwee.
Josh McElwee, National Catholic Reporter: Thank you so much, Holy Father. In Bulgaria you visited an Orthodox community that has continued a long tradition of ordaining women deacons. In a few days you will meet with the International Union of Superiors General*, that three years ago requested a commission for women deacons. Can you tell us something you have learned from the report of the commission on the ministry of women in the early years of the Church? Have you made some decision?
Pope Francis: I did not hear the first part of your question.
McElwee: [repeats a part of the question.]
Pope Francis: The commission was made, it worked for almost two years. They were all different, all toads from different wells, all thinking differently, but they worked together and were in agreement until a certain point. But each of them then has her own view that does not agree with that of the others. And there they stopped as a commission and each is studying [how] to go forward.
For the female diaconate, there is a way to imagine it with a different view from the male diaconate. For example, the formulas of female deacon ordination found until now, according to the commission, are not the same for the ordination of a male deacon and are more similar to what today would be the abbatial blessing of an abbess. This is the answer of some of them. I’m speaking a little from the ear, from memory.

Others say that it is a female deacon formula, but they argue that it is not clear. There were female deacons, but was it a sacramental ordination or not? And that is discussed, it is not clear. That they helped in liturgy, in Baptisms by immersion, when the woman was baptized the deaconesses helped, also for [unclear] the woman’s body. Then a document came out where deaconesses were called by the bishop when there was a matrimonial argument for the dissolution of the marriage or divorce or separation. When the woman accused her husband of beating her and the bishop called the deaconesses to look at the woman’s body for the bruises and so they testified in the judgment. These are the things I remember.

But fundamentally, there is no certainty that it was an ordination with the same form, in the same purpose as male ordination. Some say there is doubt, let’s go ahead and study. I am not afraid of studying, but up to this moment it does not proceed.

Then it is curious that where there were deaconesses it was almost always a geographic zone, especially in Syria. And then in another part, it does not touch or nothing. All these things I received from the commission. Each one continues to study, and [they have] done a good job, because up to a certain point [they were] in agreement. And this can be an impetus to go ahead and study and give a definitive answer, yes or no, according to the characteristics of that time.

An interesting thing. Some theologians of a few years ago, 30 years ago for example, said that there were no deaconesses because women were in the background in the Church, not only in the Church. Always women… But it is a curious thing: in that period there were so many pagan priestesses, the female priesthood in pagan cults was ordinary in that day. As it is understood as a female priesthood, a pagan priesthood in women, it was not done in Christianity. This is being studied also. They have arrived at a point, now each of the members is studying according to her theory. This is good. Varietas delectat.
Gisotti: Holy Father, thank you for your availability. The press conference finishes here, at this point, because in a little while they will serve the dinner. And so, thank you to you all. Especially during this trip when we woke up at night to move [from place to place].
Pope Francis: I would like to say one thing about the trip: Something I found much consolation in and which has touched me profoundly during the trip. Two extreme experiences. The experience with the poor today here in Macedonia at the Mother Teresa Memorial. There were so many poor people, but to see the meekness of those sisters: they were caring for the poor without paternalism, but as children. But a meekness, the ability to caress the poor, the tenderness of these sisters. Today, we are used to insulting each other. One politician insults the other, one neighbor insults the other, even in families they insult each other. I cannot say that it is a culture of insult, but the insult is a weapon in the hand, even to speak ill of others, slander, defamation, and to see these sisters that care for every person as Jesus. It hit me, a good young man approached and the superior told me, ‘this is a good boy’ and caressed him and she said it with the tenderness of a mom and made me feel the Church a mother. It is one of the most beautiful things to feel the maternity of the Church. Today I felt it there.

I thank Macedonia for having this [inaudible]. Another extreme experience was the First Communion in Bulgaria. I was moved because my memory went back to October 8, 1944, to my First Communion, when they sang [the hymn] ‘O santo altare custodito dagli angeli’ (who here remembers it?), I saw those children that open themselves to life with a sacramental decision. The Church guards the children, they are limited, they have to grow, I am promised, and I lived it very strongly, I felt in that moment those 249 children were the future of the Church, they were the future of Bulgaria. These are two things that I lived with much intensity I wanted to communicate. Thank you very much, pray for me. I do not want to leave without speaking about these days, the centenary of trips. They are roses from Bulgaria, a small thought to mark the 100th trip. They tell us that now there will be whiskey.