Today’s weekly papal general audience took place once again in the Vatican’s San Damaso courtyard on a warm, muggy day that did not discourage hundreds of faithful from climbing the great (and breathtaking!) staircase that brings you from St. Peter’s Square to the courtyard via the Bronze Gate.

There was one person present who was as recognizable as the pontiff dressed in his trademark white and that was Spiderman in his trademark red and blue body suit with grey webbing!   Pope Francis knew who he was and seemed to enjoy their encounter immensely!

It’s a terrific story and CNA’s Hannah Brockhaus tells us why Spiderman was at the general audience: Why was Spider-Man at Pope Francis’ general audience? (

Before starting his catechesis, Francis spent about 45 minutes walking around the San Damaso courtyard, greeting scores of people, blessing babies, men and women religious, the elderly – basically just about anyone leaning against one of the barriers. Hands flew out from all directions to simply touch the pope but many today also had pen and paper (or a book or anything the Pope could write on) and asked for – and received – an autograph!

You could sense the Pope’s joy at this encounter. Covid had snuffed out so many meetings since March of 2020 and these are always occasions that popes look forward to. Thus, being in the presence of the faithful is really a pick-me-up for the Pope.

The Holy Father began a new catechesis this week with reflections on St. Paul’s Letter to the Galatians. The Pope explains who the Galatians were and how they had settled in what is modern day Turkey. I found the catechesis especially interesting as it makes Paul and his travels and the people and nations to whom he brought the Gospel very alive and colorful. And I may have enjoyed it because I’ve travelled in his footsteps!

I went on a pilgrimage to Turkey “in the footsteps of St. Paul” a few years back and it was one of the most remarkable trips I’ve ever taken! I was also in Turkey for Pope Benedict’s trip years to Ankara, Istanbul and Mary’s House in Ephesus – more unforgettable days! My very first trip to Turkey was in June 1996 when I was a member of the Holy See delegation to the United Nations conference on Human Settlements “Habitat” in Istanbul. Several incredible weeks!


Pope Francis began the audience by explaining that, “after the long itinerary dedicated to prayer, today we begin a new cycle of catechesis. I hope that with this itinerary of prayer we have succeeded in praying a little better, praying a little more. Today I would like to reflect on some themes proposed by the Apostle Paul in his Letter to the Galatians. It is a very important Letter, I would even say decisive, not only for getting to know the Apostle better, but above all in considering some topics that he addresses in depth, showing the beauty of the Gospel.” (CNA photo)

“In this Letter,” said the Pope, “Paul makes many biographical references that allow us to understand his conversion and his decision to place his life at the service of Jesus Christ. He also deals with some very important themes for the faith, such as freedom, grace and the Christian way of life, which are extremely topical since they touch on many aspects of the life of the Church today. This letter is very topical. It seems to be written for our times.”

Francis noted that, “the first feature that emerges from this Letter is the great work of evangelisation carried out by the Apostle, who had visited the communities of Galatia at least twice during his missionary journeys. Paul addresses the Christians of that territory. We do not know exactly which geographical area he is referring to, nor can we state with certainty the date on which he wrote this Letter. We do know that the Galatians were an ancient Celtic population who, after many vicissitudes, had settled in the extensive region of Anatolia that had as its capital the city of Ancyra, today Ankara, the capital of Turkey.”

“Paul relates only that, due to illness, he was obliged to stay in that region (cf. Gal 4:13),” said the Holy Father. “Saint Luke, in the Acts of the Apostles, finds instead a more spiritual motivation. He says, ‘they went through the region of Phry’gia and Galatia, having been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the Word in Asia’ (16:6).”

However, explains the Pope, “the two facts are not contradictory: rather, they indicate that the path of evangelisation does not always depend on our will and plans, but requires a willingness to allow ourselves to be shaped and to follow other paths that were not foreseen. (CNA photo)

Francis pointed out that we see “in his indefatigable work of evangelisation, the Apostle succeeded in founding several small communities scattered throughout the region of Galatia. Paul, when he arrived in a city, in a region, did not construct a great cathedral immediately, no. He created small communities that are the leaven of our Christian culture today. He began by making small communities. And these small communities grew, they grew and they went forward. Today, too, this pastoral method is used in every missionary region. I received a letter last week, from a missionary in Papua New Guinea, telling me that he is preaching the Gospel in the forest, to people who do not even know who Jesus Christ was.”

He then highlights Paul’s “pastoral concern,” stating that, “after founding these Churches, he became aware of a great danger to their growth in faith – the pastor is like a father or a mother who immediately aware of dangers to their children. They grow, and dangers present themselves.”

“Indeed, some Christians who had come from Judaism had infiltrated these churches, and began to sow theories contrary to the Apostle’s teaching, even going so far as to denigrate him. They began with doctrine – “No to this, yes to that”, and then they denigrated the Apostle. It is the usual method: undermining the authority of the Apostle.”

“Not only that,” stressed Pope Francis, “those adversaries argued that Paul was not a true apostle and therefore had no authority to preach the Gospel. Let us think about how in some Christian communities or dioceses, first they begin with stories, and then they end by discrediting the priest or the bishop. It is precisely the way of the evil one, of these people who divide, who do not know how to build. And in this Letter to the Galatians we see this process.”

The faithful in Galatia thus “felt lost and uncertain about how to behave: “But who is right? This Paul, or these people who now come teaching other things? Who should I listen to?” In short, there was a lot at stake!!

The Holy Father concluded his first catechesis by noting that, “following the teaching of the Apostle Paul in his Letter to the Galatians will help us to understand which path to follow. The path indicated by the Apostle is the liberating and ever-new path of Jesus, Crucified and Risen; it is the path of proclamation, which is achieved through humility and fraternity – the new preachers do not know what humility is, what fraternity is. It is the path of meek and obedient trust – the new preachers know neither meekness nor obedience. And this meek and obedient way leads forward in the certainty that the Holy Spirit works in the Church in every age. Ultimately, faith in the Holy Spirit present in the Church carries us forward and will save us.”




Today’s general audience took place in a sun-splashed San Damaso courtyard in the Apostolic Palace in then presence of hundreds and hundreds of faithful. Today was Pope Francis’  21st catechesis of the year 2021 and the 362nd of his pontificate.

Francis announced at the start of the catechesis that “today we conclude our series of catecheses on prayer by turning once again to the prayer of Jesus. In the final hours of his life, Jesus’ constant dialogue with the Father becomes all the more intense, as he approaches his saving death and resurrection.”

Calling the Last Supper the “great priestly prayer,” he said “Jesus intercedes for his disciples and for all those who will believe through their word. In the agony in the garden, he offers his anguish to the Father and lovingly embraces his will. At the darkest hour of his suffering on the cross, Jesus continues to pray, using the traditional words of the Psalms, identifying himself with the poor and abandoned of our world.” (vatican media)

The Holy Father underscored that Jesus “was not a philanthropist who took care of human suffering and illness: He was and is much more,” offering us “total salvation, messianic salvation, that gives hope in the definitive victory of life over death.”

In those moments, the crucified Lord takes upon himself the burden of all the sins of the world. For our sake, he experiences the distance separating sinners from God, and becomes the supreme and eternal intercessor for all mankind.

Francis explained that “this is the final catechesis of this cycle on prayer: remember the grace that we do not only pray, but that, so to speak, we have been “prayed for”, we have already been received in Jesus’ dialogue with the Father, in communion with the Holy Spirit. Jesus prays for me: each one of us can take this to heart. We must not forget. Even in the worst moments.”

“We are already welcomed into Jesus’ dialogue with the Father in the communion of the Holy Spirit,” concluded the Pope. “We were willed by Christ Jesus, and even in the hour of His passion, death and resurrection, everything was offered for us. And so, with prayer and with life, there remains only to have courage and hope, and with this courage and hope, to feel the prayer of Jesus strongly and to keep on going: so that our life may be one of giving glory to God in the knowledge that He prays for me to the Father, that Jesus prays for me.”

Click here for video of entire audience: Pope at Audience: On the Cross, Jesus prayed for each of us – Vatican News


In what was could be considered a minor historical day for the Holy Father and Vatican, Pope Francis held his first weekly general audience in the presence of faithful since last March. Because of the coronavorus pandemic, the Pope has presided over these weekly events via live streaming for months, coming to the faithful from the papal library in the Apostolic Palace.

It was obvious from a number of things for those who attended the audience or followed on television, that the Vatican had carefully thought out how to accommodate the faithful without endangering anyone’s health. Two sections were marked off in the courtyard by wooden barriers, each section capable of seating 250 people at the current social distancing requirements.

This is from Tuesday afternoon:

Pilgrims could start going through security at 7:30 for the audience that began at 9:30 am. After security they would have temperatures taken, hands had to be sanitized and then there was the long climb up several huge, deep staircases to reach the San Damaso courtyard. I am sure there were many breathless people at the final step! I did see one baby carriage in the crowd as I watched tv coverage and had to wonder how it got to the courtyard (was elevator use allowed?).

All pilgrims wore facemasks as required but the Holy Father did not as he greeted people, shook a few hands, caressed several young people and did the elbow-to-elbow greeting so popular in Italy. The Secretariat of State monsignori who gave the summaries of the papal catechesis did not wear masks either. Nor was the microphone sanitized after each use has been suggested in such gatherings (as far as I could tell, although it might have been cleaned and simply not shown on tv).

The Holy Father seemed really very happy to be back in the presence of the faithful, as could be seen both before and after the catechesis in his interaction with the faithful. The courtyard is indeed a much more intimate setting for such a gathering than is St. Peter’s Square or even the Paul VI Hall which can seat 7,500 people.


ope Francis, continuing his reflections on the current pandemic, began by noting “we have seen how closely connected we are, dependent on one another precisely because we were created by God and share a common home. We can only emerge stronger from the present crisis if we do so together. The Church’s social doctrine thus speaks of the need for the virtue of solidarity.” (following photos by EWTN’s Daniel Ibanez)

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“The word ‘solidarity’ is a little worn and at times poorly understood,” said the Pope, “but it refers to something more than a few sporadic acts – the odd sporadic act – of generosity. Much more! It presumes the creation of a new mindset; a new mindset that thinks in terms of community and the priority of life of all over the ‘appropriation of goods by a few’. This is what ‘solidarity’ means.”

“Think of the account of the Tower of Babel,” said Francis. “which describes what happens when we try to reach heaven – that is, our destination – ignoring our bond with humanity, creation and the Creator. It is a figure of speech. This happens every time that someone wants to climb up and up, without taking others into consideration. Just myself, no? Think about the tower. We build towers and skyscrapers, but we destroy community. We unify buildings and languages, but we mortify cultural wealth. We want to be masters of the Earth, but we ruin biodiversity and ecological balance.”

Still on the image of the Tower of Babel, Pope Francis said, “I remember a medieval account of this ‘Babel syndrome’ that occurs when there is no solidarity. This medieval account says that, during the building of the tower, when a man fell – they were slaves, weren’t they? – and died, no-one said anything, or at best, ‘Poor thing, he made a mistake and he fell’.

“Instead,” he continued, “if a brick fell, everyone complained. And if someone was to blame, he was punished. Why? Because a brick was costly to make, to prepare, to fire… All of this. It took time to produce a brick, and work. A brick was worth more than a human life. Every one of us, think about what happens today. Unfortunately, something of the type can happen nowadays too. When shares fall in the financial markets, all the agencies report the news – we have seen it in the newspapers in these days. Thousands of people fall due to hunger and poverty, and no-one talks about it. Pentecost is diametrically opposed to Babel.”

“In the midst of crises,” concluded Francis, “a solidarity guided by faith enables us to translate the love of God in our globalised culture, not by building towers or walls – and how many walls are being built today! – that divide, but then collapse, but by interweaving communities and sustaining processes of growth that are truly human and solid. And to do this, solidity helps.



day’s general audience, held in the San Damaso courtyard, was the first since February in the presence of the faithful. Approximately 500 attended this week’s audience.

At the end of the general audience catechesis in Italian and summaries in a number of languages, Pope Francis, in the presence of a priest from Lebanon, made a heartfelt appeal for aid to that “beloved nation.”

Fr. Georges Breidi, 35, of the Congregation of the Maronite Lebanese Missionaries who is studying in Rome at the Gregorian University, presented the Holy Father with a Lebanese flag. As Fr. Breidi stood, holding one end pf the flag, Pope Francis held another as he read his appeal. The priest later said brief words in Italian and both the Pope and priest stood together with the faithful present at the audience to pray in silence for Lebanon. (Vatican media photo)

Dear brothers and sisters, one month after the tragedy that struck the city of Beirut, my thoughts still go to dear Lebanon and its particularly tried population. And this priest who is here has carried the flag of Lebanon to this audience.

As Saint John Paul II said thirty years ago at a crucial moment in the country’s history, I too repeat today: “Faced with the repeated tragedies that each of the inhabitants of this land knows, we become aware of the extreme danger that threatens the very existence of the country. Lebanon cannot be abandoned in its solitude “(Apostolic Letter to all the Bishops of the Catholic Church on the situation in Lebanon, 7 September 1989)

For over a hundred years, Lebanon has been a country of hope. Even during the darkest periods of its history, the Lebanese have kept their faith in God and demonstrated the ability to make their land a place of tolerance, respect and coexistence unique in the region. The affirmation that Lebanon represents something more than a state is profoundly true: Lebanon “is a message of freedom, it is an example of pluralism both for the East and for the West” (ibid.). For the good of the country itself, but also of the world, we cannot allow this patrimony to be lost.

I encourage all Lebanese to continue to hope and to find the strength and energy necessary to start again. I ask politicians and religious leaders to engage with sincerity and transparency in the reconstruction work, dropping partisan interests and looking at the common good and the future of the nation. I also renew my invitation to the international community to support the country to help it emerge from the serious crisis, without being involved in regional tensions.

In particular, I address the inhabitants of Beirut, severely tested by the explosion: take courage, brothers and sisters! May faith and prayer be your strength! Do not abandon your homes and your heritage, do not let the dreams fail of those who have believed in the future of a beautiful and prosperous country.

Dear pastors, bishops, priests, consecrated men and women, lay people, continue to accompany your faithful. I ask you bishops and priests for apostolic zeal; I ask you for poverty, no luxury, poverty with your poor people who are suffering. You must give the example of poverty and humility. Help your faithful and your people to stand up and be protagonists of a new rebirth. May all of you be agents of harmony and renewal in the name of common interest, of a true culture of encounter, of living together in peace, of brotherhood. A word so dear to St. Francis: brotherhood. May this harmony be a renewal in the common interest. On this foundation it will be possible to ensure the continuity of the Christian presence and your invaluable contribution to the country, the Arab world and the whole region, in a spirit of brotherhood among all the religious traditions that exist in Lebanon.

It is for this reason that I would like to invite everyone to live a universal day of prayer and fasting for Lebanon this Friday, September 4. I intend to send my representative that day to Lebanon to accompany the population: the Secretary of State (Cardinal Pietro Parolin) will go in my name to express my closeness and solidarity. We offer our prayers for all of Lebanon and for Beirut. We are also close with the concrete commitment of charity, as on other similar occasions. I also invite the brothers and sisters of other confessions and religious traditions to join this initiative in the ways they deem most appropriate, but all together.

And now I ask you to entrust our anxieties and hopes to Mary, Our Lady of Harissa. May she support those who mourn their loved ones and instill courage in all those who have lost their homes and part of their lives with them. May she intercede with the Lord Jesus so that the Land of Cedars may flourish again and spread the perfume of living together throughout the Middle East Region. And now I invite everyone, as far as possible, to stand up in silence and pray in silence for Lebanon.




In his final general audience to be streamed live from the papal library in the Apostolic Palace because of the coronavirus pandemic, Pope Francis continued his catechesis on healing the world and made the universal destination of goods and the virtue of hope his focus.

He asked the faithful to “welcome the gift of hope that comes from Christ,” especially in times when so many “risk losing hope.” It is Christ, he said, who “helps us to navigate the tumultuous waters of sickness, death and injustice, which do not have the last word over our final destination.”

“Dear Brothers and Sisters,” said the Holy Father, “In our continuing reflections on the effects of the current pandemic, we have seen how our world’s problems are becoming ever more evident and indeed more serious. Among these is social inequality, itself the fruit of an unjust global economy that creates boundless wealth for a relative few and greater impoverishment for the rest of our human family.”

Francis explained that, “In God’s plan, the earth was created as a garden, to be cultivated, not brutally exploited. As stewards of creation, we are called to ensure that its fruits, which are destined for all, are in fact shared by all. The Church reminds us that the principle of the subordination of private property to the universal destination of goods is the first principle of the whole ethical and social order.”

The Pope stated, “When millions of people lack access to primary goods, when inequality and lack of opportunity threaten the very fabric of society, and when greed endangers the very environment in which we live, none of us can stand by idly.”

He stressed that, “Christian hope, which trusts in the transforming grace of the risen Christ, impels us to work for the healing of our world and the building of a more just and equitable social order.

Concluding, Pope Francis invited the faithful to “think about the children”, so many of whom are suffering due to this unjust economic system. Many are dying, hungry, lacking the opportunity to an education. After the crisis, he stressed, we must be better.

In language greetings following the catechesis, Pope Francis had special words for the Polish faithful: “I cordially greet all the Poles. Dear brothers and sisters, today the Church in Poland celebrates the solemnity of the Black Madonna of Czestochowa. Carrying the memory of my visit to that shrine alive in my heart four years ago on the occasion of WYD, today I join the thousands and thousands of pilgrims who gather there, together with the Polish Episcopate, to entrust themselves, their families, all humanity to her maternal protection. Pray to the Blessed Mother, to intercede for all of us, and especially for those who in various ways suffer from the pandemic, and bring them relief. Please pray for me too. God bless you!”


SAINT MOTHER TERESA was born on August 26, 1910 so today is the 110th anniversary of her birth!

CARDINAL ALBINO LUCIANI, PATRIARCH OF VENICE WAS ELECTED TO THE PAPACY 42 years ago today, taking the name John Paul, the first Pope ever to have a double name. He was also the first pope to abandon the coronation ceremony, not wearing the triple tiara. The Eucharistic celebration thus became the first papal inauguration ceremony. He was the last Pope to use the sedia gestatoria, the elevated chair by which Popes were formerly carried into rooms. He was the first Pope born in the 20th century, and the last Pope to die in the 20th century, after a pontificate of only 33 days, dying of a heart attack on September 28. He was not known as John Paul I until Cardinal Wojtyla succeeded him and took the name John Paul II.

I was in Rome when he was elected. Years after his death, a priest friend in the Vatican told me that one day early in his brief pontificate, the Pope was signing a document. A priest assistant was at his side as he wrote, in Latin, Joannes Paulus I – John Paul I – and said “Your Holiness, you would only be John Paul I if there was a John Paul II. Pope Luciani looked up, smiling, and said, “There will be a John Paul II!”

For more:

GENERAL AUDIENCES WITH FAITHFUL TO RESUME SEPTEMBER 2:   The Prefecture of the Pontifical Household announced today that as of Wednesday, September 2, Pope Francis’s general audience will once again take place “with the participation of the faithful.” Following the hygiene directives issued by the competent authorities, the audiences for the month of September will be held in the Apostolic Palace’s San Damaso courtyard. They are open to anyone who wishes to participate and no ticket is necessary. Audiences will start at 9:30 am. Entry will be through the Bronze Gate under the right colonnade of St Peter’s Square starting at 7:30 am.

VATICAN NEWS FEATURED MELANIA TRUMP: “Republican Convention: Melania Trump appeals for racial unity – First Lady Melania Trump appeals for racial harmony and expresses compassion for those affected by the Coronavirus pandemic on the second day of the Republican party convention.” To read more:</a


Definitely today’s good news story from EWTN!


As he has been doing throughout the coronavirus pandemic, Pope Francis held a weekly general audience this morning in the papal library of the Apostolic Palace that was live streamed for the faithful around the world.

“Dear Brothers and Sisters,” he began, “in our reflection on the current global pandemic, we have seen that it has made us sensitive to an even graver virus affecting our world: that of social injustice, lack of equal opportunity and the marginalization of the poor and those in greatest need.”

He underscored that “Christ’s example and teaching show us that a preferential option for the poor is an essential criterion of our authenticity as his followers. Christian charity demands that, beyond social assistance, we listen to their voices and work to overcome all that hinders their material and spiritual development.”

Noting the worldwide desire for life to “return to normal,” Francis explained that, “Our desire for a return to normality should not mean a return to social injustices or to a delay of long overdue reforms. Today we have an opportunity to create something different: an ethically sound economy, centered on persons, especially the poor, in recognition of their innate human dignity.”

“The pandemic is a crisis” he continued, “and we do not emerge from a crisis the same as before: either we come out of it better, or we come out of it worse. We must come out of it better, to counter social injustice and environmental damage. Today we have an opportunity to build something different.”

“How sad,” the Holy Father commented, “it would be if, for example, access to a Covid-19 vaccine were made available only to the rich, and not to others in equal or greater need! It would be sad if this vaccine became the property of such and such a nation, not universal for all. The pandemic has laid bare the difficult situation of the poor and the great inequality that reigns in the world. And the virus, while it makes no exception among people, has found, in its devastating path, great inequalities and discriminations. And it has increased them!”

The Pope concluded by saying he hoped “the Gospel might inspire us to find ever more creative ways to exercise that charity, grounded in faith and anchored in hope, which can heal our wounded world and promote the true welfare of our entire human family.”

 “Starting from this love anchored in hope and founded in faith, a healthier world will be possible.”




Siena has unveiled the extraordinary inlaid marble mosaic floors of its cathedral in as part of an eagerly-awaited annual event. The magnificent marble floor, covered with masonite sheeting for the rest of the year, can be visited from today until 7 October.

Visitors, who will be obliged to follow precautions to contain the spread of covid-19, will be able to admire the inlaid floor whose 56 panels were created between the 14th and 16th centuries. The interlocking “marble carpet” floor was described by Giorgio Vasari as “the most beautiful, largest and most magnificent floor that ever was made”.

For information about how to visit the stunning floor, which contains allegories, virtues, and scenes from the Old Testament, see the Duomo di Siena website.


Rome’s blockbuster dedicated to Raphael on the 500th anniversary of his death has been met with such demand from the public that organisers have taken the unprecedented decision to open the exhibition around the clock. The sell-out show, which had the misfortune to open just days before Italy shut all museums and went into lockdown due to the covid-19 pandemic, reopened on 2 June under strict visiting regulations.

The Scuderie del Quirinale controls the flow of visitors who are obliged to maintain social distancing, however this has not put off the public in the slightest, with the museum struggling to cope with the boom in demand for tickets. As the once-in-a-lifetime exhibition nears its final days, the museum will open to visitors from 08.00 until 01.00 from Monday 24 to Thursday 27 August, before opening 24 hours a day from Friday 28 until midnight on Sunday 30 August.

Billed as the greatest exhibition ever dedicated to Raffaello Sanzio da Urbino, the show features no fewer than 100 paintings by the High Renaissance master, with 40 masterpieces on loan from the Uffizi in Florence.

For full exhibition details see Scuderie del Quirinale website.

Authorities at Rome’s Bioparco are ensuring the zoo’s residents are coping with the summer heat by providing the animals with swimming pools and refreshing frozen fruit. The Bioparco says that during the extreme heat the animals choose whether to go outdoors or stay in their shelters.

For those who venture outside there are new shaded areas as well as swimming pools for elephants, tigers, hippos, wolves and bears. Primates such as ring-tailed lemurs and macaques receive bamboo canes filled with yogurt and frozen fruit which, in addition to cooling them down, sharpens their food-finding skills, according to the zoo.


Local authorities ordered guests not to leave the Santo Stefano resort on Monday after the case was detected at the resort on Sardinia’s La Maddalena island. The region’s crisis unit conducted swab tests on some 470 vacationers and staff on Monday.

“We are waiting for the swabs to be processed, in the meantime we have arranged that no one leaves the resort,” stated regional health councilor Mario Nieddu.

Guests are allowed to move freely around the resort itself, but mustn’t leave, Italian media reports. Two guests reportedly tried to escape shortly after the lockdown was ordered, but were stopped by local police on their way to Olbia airport.



Ryan Brady, a seminarian at Mundelein Our Lady of the Lake Seminary in Chicago will be ordained a transitional deacon this afternoon at 4 pm Chicago time in Mundelein’s chapel. I will be up late here in Rome to watch that beautiful ceremony online ( when Ryan joins 12 other young men in the diaconate. Ten will become deacons for the Archdiocese of Chicago, two for the diocese of Kiyinda-Mityana in Uganda and one for the American Province of the Vincentians.

Say a prayer for all of these wonderful young men. It is my heartfelt intention to be in Chicago in May 2021 for Ryan’s ordination to the priesthood as we have a special bond – the bond of a chalice that was in my family for decades that is now in Ryan’s hands.

Here is the story of that chalice and our friendship:


The second general audience of August took place this morning in the papal library of the Apostolic Palace and was carried online as has been the custom now for many months due to the Covid-19 crisis. When he resumed the weekly general audiences on August 5, after a staycation in the Vatican, Pope Francis announced a new series of catechesis and spoke of that as he introduced today’s audience.

“Dear Brothers and Sisters,” began Francis, “in our continuing catechesis on the effects of the current pandemic in the light of the Church’s social doctrine, we now consider the theme of human dignity.”

He explained that “the pandemic has made us more aware of the spread within our societies of a false, individualistic way of thinking, one that rejects human dignity and relationships, views persons as consumer goods and creates a “throw away” culture. In contrast, faith teaches that we have been created in God’s image and likeness, made for love and for communion of life with him, with one another and with the whole of creation.”

“In the light of faith,” continued the Pope, “we know instead that God looks at a man and a woman in another manner. He created us not as objects but as people loved and capable of loving; He has created us in His image and likeness. In this way He has given us a unique dignity, calling us to live in communion with Him, in communion with our sisters and our brothers, with respect for all creation.”

The Holy Father said that, “Jesus tells us that true discipleship consists in following his example by spending ourselves in service of others. Our God-given dignity and the rights that arise from it are the ultimate foundation of all social life, and have serious social, economic and political implications. In responding to the pandemic we Christians are called to combat all violations of human dignity as contrary to the Gospel, and to work for the well-being of our whole human family and our common home.”

Pope Francis was joined in the papal library by monsignori from the Secretariat of State – seated at safe distances from each other – who read syntheses of the audience catechesis in several languages.

In greetings to Arabic faithful, the Pope, said: I greet the Arabic-speaking faithful. The Bible teaches that every human being was created out of love, made in the image and likeness of God. This statement shows us the immense dignity of every person, who is not just something, but someone. He is capable of knowing himself, of possessing himself, of giving himself freely and of entering into communion with others. The Lord bless you all and always protect you from all evil!

In greetings to faithful from Poland, Francis said:I cordially greet the Polish faithful. In particular, I spiritually accompany the hundreds of pilgrims who walk from Warsaw, Krakow and other cities to the Shrine of the Black Madonna. May this pilgrimage, made with caution because of the pandemic, be a time of reflection, prayer and fraternity in faith and love for all. August 15 marks the centenary of the historic victory of the Polish army, called “Miracle on the Vistula” that your ancestors attributed to Mary’s intervention. Today may the Mother of God help humanity to defeat the coronavirus. To you, your families and the Polish people, I assure you abundant graces. I heartily bless you!”


An interesting article today by Vatican News on the background of weekly papal general audiences. Pope Frances resumed this weekly encounter today at the end of his brief working vacation in the Vatican. As he has done for months because of Covid-19, the catechesis was live-streamed from the papal library in the Apostolic Palace. Following that piece is a summary of Francis’ new weekly catechesis on “Healing the World.”

Come spend several minutes with me as we go to Assisi to celebrate today’s feast of St. Clare of Assisi. We visit the church named for her and venerate her perfectly preserved remains:


By Vatican News

Pope Francis’s summer break is over. As of Wednesday, August 5th, Pope Francis resumed his weekly general audiences, which he suspends annually in July. The last public general audience held in the Paul VI audience hall took place on March 7.

These audiences begin at 9:30 local Rome time and last for about one hour. After public general audiences, Pope Francis customarily greets a number of people.

After the last public audience in March, the Vatican moved the audiences from St. Peter’s Square to the library of the Apostolic Palace in order to comply with measures to stem the spread of the coronavirus pandemic. On March 18, for the first time, Vatican News began offering an English commentary for the general audience.

As Pope Francis again picks up his weekly general audience, it will be his 318th catechesis. The only other time outside of July (vacation) that general audiences are suspended are during the papal trips. As soon as Pope Francis returns from such a trip, he always recaps his journey. Sometimes this happens the day following his return.

During the general audience, the Pope gives a catechesis on the Christian faith. Short summaries of these catecheses are translated into 7 languages: French, English, German, Spanish, Portuguese, Arabic and Polish. Longer summaries of these catecheses are published on Vatican News and full texts can be found on the official Vatican web portal.

The general audiences can be viewed live with playback available on the various language channels of the Vatican Media YouTube channel.

So far, Pope Francis has completed 15 catechesis series. The first series was on the Creed, a theme he took up from his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI. Themes that followed this series were on: the Sacraments, the Gifts of the Holy Spirit, the Church, the family, mercy, Christian hope, the Ten Commandments, the Our Father, the Acts of the Apostles, and the Beatitudes. The last cycle he began is on Christian prayer.

Sometimes, Pope Francis makes appeals at the conclusion of the general audience. Some of these appeals call for peace in areas ravaged by war and terror, others remind us of the plight of persecuted Christians, some appeal for Christian solidarity with victims of natural disasters, or draw attention to tragedies such as migration, unemployment or poverty. In his General Audience prior to the summer break, he prayed for the victims of an earthquake in Mexico. On June 10, he took the opportunity to condemn the tragedy of child labor.

Pope Paul VI held the weekly general audience in St Peter’s Basilica. When the Vatican audience hall was inaugurated on June 30, 1971 Pope Paul VI said: “We inaugurate this beautiful and large hall that We wanted to build above all for two reasons: to free St. Peter’s Basilica from the large and vivacious crowds that had become normal, and to offer Our visitors an even more suitable place for large gatherings.”

In 1963, Pope Paul VI commissioned the building of what would later become known as the Paul VI Hall. It seats 6300 people and is still used for general audiences in extreme cold or when it rains. In 2007, solar panels were installed on its roof.

With Pope John Paul II’s pontificate, attendance at the weekly general audience went beyond the capacity of Paul VI Hall. To deal with the huge crowds who wanted to attend them, the venue was moved St. Peter’s Square. In fact, as Pope John Paul II was entering St. Peter’s Square for the general audience of May 13, 1981 that an attempt was made on his life.

The coronavirus pandemic has now made this impossible. However, through radio, television and digital platforms, the Pope’s general audience is made available to millions of the faithful throughout the world with simultaneous commentary in French, German, English, Spanish and Portuguese.


Live streaming once again from the papal library in the Apostolic Palace, as he has done throughout the coronavirus pandemic, Pope Francis today began a new series of weekly catecheses and announced the themes for coming weeks as well.

“Dear Brothers and Sisters,” began the Holy Father, “In responding to the grave challenges caused by the present pandemic, we Christians are guided by the wisdom and strength born of the virtues of faith, hope and love. As God’s gifts, these virtues heal us and enable us in turn to bring Christ’s healing presence to our world.”

He then noted that these theological virtues, “can inspire in us a new and creative spirit to help us face today’s deeply rooted physical, social and spiritual infirmities and change the unjust and destructive behaviors that threaten the future of our human family.”

Francis said that, “today the Church seeks to continue the Lord’s healing ministry, not only to individuals but also to society as a whole. She does this by proposing a number of principles drawn from the Gospel that include the dignity of the human person, the common good, the preferential option for the poor, the universal destination of goods, solidarity, subsidiarity and the care for our common home.”

Pope Francis concluded his catechesis by noting the themes for future weekly encounters: “In coming weeks, I will reflect on these and other themes of the Church’s social doctrine, confident that they can shed light on today’s acute social problems and contribute to the building of a future of hope for coming generations.”

At the end of language greetings to pilgrims tuning in to the audience, Pope Francis prayed for Lebanon in the aftermath of the explosion in Beirut on Tuesday.

“Yesterday in Beirut, near the port, there were massive explosions causing dozens of deaths, wounding thousands and causing serious destruction. Let us pray for the victims, for their families; and let us pray for Lebanon so that, through the dedication of all its social, political and religious elements, it might face this extremely tragic and painful moment and, with the help of the international community, overcome the grave crisis they are experiencing.”

According to local authorities, the explosion was caused by tons of ammonium nitrate stored in a warehouse in the port of Lebanon’s capital.


Italians today celebrate the feast day of St. John the Baptist, the patron saint of many Italian cities whose name has also been given to countless churches in this country and around the world, including Rome’s cathedral, St. John Lateran. Often Italians celebrate their “onomastico” – their name day – with greater fervor and more gifts and parties than they do birthdays. So if your name is John, Joan or a derivative thereof, then “Buon onomastico” – Happy Name Day!

Covid has muted what are usually great celebrations in Rome on this day, especially the traditional musical festivals in and around St. John Lateran.


At the weekly general audience, Pope Francis reflected on how King David prayed while shepherding God’s people with his poet’s soul.

By Devin Watkins (vaticannews)

Pope Francis focused his catechesis at the Wednesday general audience on the Biblical figure of King David.

“Favored by God even from his youth, he is chosen for a unique mission that would play a central role in the history of the people of God and in our own faith.”

Jesus, said the Pope, is called “son of David” and fulfilled the ancient promises of “a King completely after God’s heart, in perfect obedience to the Father.”

David’s own story, said Pope Francis, begins in Bethlehem, where he shepherds his father’s flock. “He worked in the open air: we can think of him as a friend of the wind, of the sounds of nature, of the sun’s rays.”

The Pope said David is first of all a shepherd. He defends others from danger and provides for their sustenance. In this line, Jesus called Himself “the good shepherd,” who “offers His life on behalf of the sheep. He guides them; He knows each one by name.”

Later in life, when David goes astray by having a man killed in order to take his wife, he immediately understands his sin when the prophet Nathan reproves him. “David understands right away that he had been a bad shepherd,” said the Pope, “that he was no longer a humble servant, but a man who was crazy for power, a poacher who looted and preyed on others.”

Pope Francis went on to reflect on what he called David’s “’poet’s soul’ …He has only one companion to comfort his soul: his harp; and during those long days spent in solitude, he loves to play and to sing to his God.”

David, said the Pope, was not a vulgar man. He often raised hymns to God, whether to express his joy, lamentation, or repentance. “The world that presented itself before his eyes was not a silent scene: as things unraveled before his gaze, he observed a greater mystery.”

Prayer, said Pope Francis, arises from “the conviction that life is not something that takes us by surprise, but a stupefying mystery that inspires poetry, music, gratitude, praise, even lament and supplication in us.”

Biblical tradition, he noted, holds that David was the great artist behind the composition of the Psalms.

David, said the Holy Father, dreamed of being a good shepherd. He was many things: “holy and sinful, persecuted and persecutor, victim and murderer.”

Like him, events in our own lives reveal us in a similar light. “In the drama of life, all people often sin because of inconsistency.”

Pope Francis said that, like David, there is one golden thread that runs through all our lives: prayer.

“David teaches us to let everything enter into dialogue with God: joy as well as guilt, love as well as suffering, friendship as much as sickness,” he said. “Everything can become a word spoken to the ‘You’ who always listens to us.”

David, concluded Pope Francis, knew solitude but “was in reality never alone! This is the power of prayer in all those who make space for it in their lives. Prayer makes us noble: it is capable of securing our relationship with God who is the true Companion on the journey of every man and woman, in the midst of life’s thousand adversities.”


By Vatican News

In his greetings to the Italian-speaking faithful at the weekly general audience, Pope Francis recalled the liturgical solemnity of the day, noting that, “Today is the feast of the Nativity of Saint John the Baptist. Let us learn from the one who was the forerunner of Jesus the ability to bear witness to the Gospel with courage, beyond our own differences, while preserving the harmony and friendship that form the basis of any credible proclamation of the faith.”

The Pope also said, in his address to the Spanish-speaking faithful, that both Saint John the Baptist and King David knew how to draw people’s attention to the true God.  He prayed that their example might be a source of encouragement for the faithful, so that “we may seek God’s friendship through prayer, and our example might help bring God to men and women, and men and women to God.”

Turning his thoughts towards the current temperate season in the Northern Hemisphere, Pope Francis expressed hopes that the summer might be “a time of serenity and a beautiful opportunity to contemplate God in the masterpiece of His creation.”

He prayed that, despite the Covid-19 crisis, the holiday season might be “a peaceful time of rest, enjoyment of the beauty of creation, and strengthening of the ties between us and God.”


Since so many of you – family members, friends and fans – have been in touch with me these many weeks and months with questions about the trip to Italy that you had to postpone from this spring, or a trip you have on your agenda for this fall, I am trying to follow events in both Italy and Europe as much as I can to bring you the latest news and updated information on travel.

When possible I will do so on a daily basis (see below). And, of course, anything can change on a daily basis. A number of airlines, for example, do not yet know when they can resume direct service to Italy.

I really am looking forward to saying WELCOME in coming months, to sharing a cappucino in Pza. Navona or a glass of red wine and a delicious dinner al fresco in one of Rome’s many splendid restaurants!


As has been the case for months now, this week’s general audience took place at 9:30 in the library of the Apostolic Palace, and Pope Francis dedicated his ongoing catecheses series on prayer to the prayer of Moses.

He delivers the principal catechesis in Italian and summaries are then given by multi-lingual staff members of the Secretariat of State, as are language greetings by the Pope.

The Holy Father began by noting, “In our continuing catechesis on prayer, we now consider the prayer of Moses. The book of Exodus portrays Moses – from a human point of view – as a failure. Yet at a certain point in his life, he encounters God in the wilderness.

“From a burning bush,” said Francis, “the Lord calls Moses to return to Egypt in order to lead his people to freedom. But Moses, faced with the majesty of Almighty God and his demands, resists the call, protesting his unsuitability for such a great task.

“Nevertheless,” explained the Pope, “God entrusts him with the responsibility of conveying the divine law to the people of Israel, and Moses becomes their great intercessor, especially when they are tempted or have sinned.”

Stating that we too can become intercessors, Pope Francis concluded: “With hands outstretched to God, Moses makes of himself a kind of bridge between earth and heaven, pleading for the people when they are most in need. In this way he prefigures Jesus, our great intercessor and high priest. We Christians are also called to share in this type of prayer, interceding for those who need God’s help, and for the redemption of the whole world.”


Marking the Day of Conscience, inspired by the witness of Portuguese diplomat Aristides de Sousa Mendes, Pope Francis appeals that freedom of conscience be respected always and everywhere.

By Vatican News

During his general audience on Wednesday, Pope Francis recalled that June 17 marks the “Day of Conscience”.

The day was inspired by the testimony of Portuguese diplomat Aristides de Sousa Mendes, who, eighty years ago, decided to follow his conscience, and in doing so, saved the lives of thousands of Jews and many others who were being persecuted.

In his words on Wednesday, the Pope appealed that “freedom of conscience always and everywhere be respected”.  “May every Christian”, he said, “give an example of the consistency of an upright conscience enlightened by the Word of God.”

Aristides de Sousa Mendes’ act of conscience was deeply embedded in his Catholic faith. It led him to disregard the direct orders of his government to help those in need.

During the Second World War, de Sousa Mendes, despite knowing the consequences he would face for his actions, issued visas to all refugees regardless of nationality, race, religion, or political opinions.

“I could not have acted otherwise”
This sense of humanity and courage led to his ostracization from the world in which he had lived. He was unable to continue his job as a diplomat and was forbidden from earning a living in order to support his family. His children, too, were prevented from finding gainful employment.

He spent the rest of his life trying to clear his name but was ignored by the Portuguese political regime at the time.

Aristides de Sousa Mendes died in poverty on April 3rd, 1954 at the Franciscan Hospital in Lisbon. But even at the end of his life he knew his actions had been justified in saving thousands of innocent lives. As he put it himself“I could not have acted otherwise, and I, therefore, accept all that has befallen me with love.”


There is a very interesting and helpful website put up by the EU, the European Union, that answers all (or most) of your questions about travel to and within the EU. The site is called “Re-open EU” and, as it describes itself, it contains regularly updated information available in 24 languages:

Users may select their preferred language and country of destination on the website, click on “go!” and find an interactive map providing the latest information on key point for travellers, such as: Is travel into the country for tourism purposes possible? Are non-essential (other than medicine and food) shops open? Are there any risk areas under lockdown in this country? And much more!

For example, in Italy (see below), the health situation is qualified as “green” by the EU at this point, which means that there are no areas in the country that are currently under lockdown.

You might be interested to learn that there is now a very interesting app in Italy called “Immuni” that, in the several days since it ended its test period in 4 Italian regions and has gone nationwide, has been uploaded by 2.5 million people in Italy. It is also now available in English. The app sends a notification to people who were in close contact with a user who tested positive for the COVID-19 virus, alerting them of the risk of infection. Thanks to Bluetooth Low Energy technology, this takes place without the app gathering any date on the identity or location of its users:

And here’s a link to all the travel info I posted yesterday on Joan’s Rome (and reposted in my Facebook page: /joan.lewis.10420):