Did you know that….

– Today is the 41st anniversary of St. John Paul’s election to the papacy in 1978 (I was in Cairo, Egypt when he was elected!)

– Mother Giuseppina Vannini, foundress of the Daughters of St. Camillus, is the first Roman to become a saint in over 400 years: St. Francesca Romana was canonized in 1608.

– Cardinal John Henry Newman is the 1st English person born after the 17th century to be canonized.

On another topic….

I found the Holy Father’s words in today’s general audience catechesis to be remarkably similar – if not identical – to words he has used several times in the synod, especially at the October 6 Mass to open the Pan-Amazonian synod about being open to the “creativity” of the Holy Spirit.

At the opening Mass, Francis said: “We cannot spend our days (in the synod) “defending the status quo. Jesus did not come to bring a gentle evening breeze, but to light a fire on the earth, … a fire that is the Holy Spirit. …. Saint Paul tells Timothy: ‘God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power and love and prudence’. Paul places prudence in opposition to timidity … which the Catechism defines as ‘the virtue that disposes practical reason to discern our true good in every circumstance and to choose the right means of achieving it’.”

Those words pronounced October 6 and today’s general audience catechesis sounds like the Pope is gently alerting us to be open to big changes in the Church after – or because of – the synod. Are we being alerted to this possibility – or warned!


At the weekly general audience held in St. Peter’s Square this morning, the Holy Father continued his catechesis on the Acts of the Apostles, and noted how the first Pope, St. Peter opened his mind and heart to the creativity of the Holy Spirit.

“Dear brothers and sisters,” began Francis. “In our catechesis on the Acts of the Apostles, we have seen how the outpouring of the Holy Spirit led the early Church to realize that God’s offer of salvation in Christ is intended for people of every nation.”

He added that, “a critical moment in this process takes place when, in a dream, Saint Peter is told that henceforth no food is unclean in God’s eyes. Almost immediately, a Gentile, the Roman centurion Cornelius, comes to Peter and, while hearing him preach the Gospel, receives, together with his household, the gift of the Holy Spirit and is baptized.”

The Pope explained that, “these events led Peter to open his mind and heart to the “creativity” with which God was extending to all people the blessings promised to Israel. Peter’s discernment of God’s universal saving will was the mark of a true evangelizer, who desires to share the joy of the Gospel with everyone.

Pope Francis concluded by noting that, “Peter’s example also challenges us to examine our own openness to the surprising creativity with which the Holy Spirit is even now drawing all people to salvation in the Risen Lord.”



And it’s only just begun!

Last Sunday Pope Francis celebrated Mass for the World Day of Migrants and Refugees.

On Monday the Vatican announced a papal document by which Pope Francis instituted the Third Sunday in Ordinary Time as Sunday of the Word of God.

On Tuesday, October 1, the Holy Father celebrated Vespers at six in the evening in St. Peter’s to open the extraordinary missionary month of October.

Also Tuesday: Vatican prosecutors seized documents and electronic devices in a raid at the offices of the general affairs section of the Secretariat of State in connection with an investigation following complaints brought in early summer by the Institute for Religious Works (known as the Vatican Bank) and the office of the Auditor General.

Today, Wednesday was the general audience in Saint Peter Square at which Pope Francis continued his catechesis on the Acts of the Apostles, focusing, this week on the episode of the deacon Philip converting the Ethiopian. (see below).

Also Wednesday: It was announced that Pope Francis has named Bishop Mario Grech of Gozo, Malta as pro-secretary general of the Synod of Bishops. He will become secretary general when the mandate of the current secretary general, Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, ends. Bishop Grech will act as apostolic administrator of Gozo until a new bishop is named.

Tomorrow, Thursday 34 young men, seminarians at the Pontifical North American College, will be ordained to the diaconate in a morning Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica

On Friday afternoon in St. Peter’s Basilica, Pope Francis will confer Episcopal ordination on three priests whom he had earlier appointed as apostolic nuncios or ambassadors. They will have the rank of archbishop.

Saturday, the College of Cardinals will receive 13 new members as Pope Francis holds another consistory. Ten of the 13 are under the age of 80 and will be eligible to vote in a conclave until they reach 80.

Sunday, The Holy Father will preside Mass in St. Peter’s Square to open the October 6 to 27 synod on the Amazon.

The above schedule does not include all the press conferences and other events related to the consistory for new cardinals, the synod for the Amazon and the October 13th canonization of Cardinal John Henry Newman, one of 5 to be canonized that day. So yes, what a week!


Continuing his catechesis on the Acts of the Apostles at Wednesday’s General Audience this week, Pope Francis explains on how the Holy Spirit leads the deacon Philip to help the senior official of the Queen of Ethiopia to embrace Christ.
By Robin Gomes (vaticannews)

Pope Francis began his catechesis, explaining how after the persecution of Christians following the martyrdom of Stephen, the spread of the Gospel appeared to suffer a setback. As a result, many Christians dispersed elsewhere.

But persecution that appears to be the hallmark of Christ’s disciples, the Pope explained, “instead of extinguishing the fire of evangelization, feeds it even more”.

The deacon Philip, who was proclaiming the Gospel along with healing and casting out evil spirits in Samaria, is impelled by the Holy Spirit to meet a stranger with a heart open to God. With enthusiasm, he set off on a deserted and dangerous road to meet a senior official of the Queen of Ethiopia, the administrator of her treasures. The Jewish proselyte, a eunuch, was travelling home after worshipping in Jerusalem. In his carriage, he was reading a passage from the Prophet Isaiah on the “servant of the Lord”, but understood nothing.

Humility and Word of God
Philip approached the carriage and asked him if he understood the passage. The Ethiopian said he could not unless someone guided him. The Pope noted that this powerful man recognized the need to be guided in order to understand the Word of God.

“He was the great banker, he was the minister of economy, he had all the power of money,” the Pope noted, “but he knew that without the explanation he could not understand. He was humble.”

Word of God transforms life
Drawing a lesson from this conversation, the Holy Father said, “it is not enough to read Scripture, it is necessary to understand its meaning, to find the “juice” going beyond the “rind”, to draw the Spirit that animates the letter.”

In this regard, he recalled Pope Benedict XVI on exegesis, who said that the true reading of Sacred Scripture is not just a literary phenomenon, it is the movement of one’s existence. Pope Francis explained that entering the Word of God means to be willing to go beyond one’s own limits to encounter God and to conform oneself to Christ who is the living Word of the Father.

In fact, the Holy Father continued, Philip helped the Ethiopian understand that the “meek suffering servant” he was reading about was none other than Christ whom the whole Church was proclaiming. The Ethiopian finally recognized Christ and asked for Baptism and professed his faith in the Lord Jesus.

Holy Spirit – the protagonist of evangelization
Pope Francis said that it is the Holy Spirit who pushed Philip into the desert to meet this man, stressing, “The Holy Spirit is the protagonist of evangelization”. “If there is no Holy Spirit there is no evangelization,” he said, adding without Him it can be proselytism, advertising, anything… In evangelization, the Holy Spirit makes you leave, pushing you to proclaim with testimony, even with martyrdom and words.”



FYI: If you want to get a head start on knowing what will happen in Japan when the Pope makes a trip there in November (he’ll also visit Thailand), the official website has just gone up:


Continuing his catechesis on the Acts of the Apostles, Pope Francis today spoke about the first martyr of the Church, Saint Stephen.

“Dear Brothers and Sisters,” began the Pope, “In our catechesis on the Acts of the Apostles, we continue to follow the spread of the Gospel throughout the world. In the early Christian community some complained that their widows were being neglected in the distribution of bread.

Francis explained that, “the Apostles, aware of their principal calling to preach the Word of God, discerned a solution to maintain the harmony between the service of the Word and service to the poor. They instituted seven men, on whom they imposed hands, to carry out works of charity.

“One of these seven deacons, Stephen, proclaimed Christ’s Paschal Mystery as the key to the whole history of the covenant, but his words met with resistance. Yet, even when condemned to death, Stephen entrusted his life into the Lord’s hands and forgave his adversaries.

Pope Francis noted that, “the actions of this first martyr teach us that our identity as God’s children consists in abandoning ourselves to the Father and forgiving those who offend us. Let us ask the Lord that, by contemplating the martyrs of the past and present, we may live a full life, accepting the martyrdom of daily fidelity to the Gospel and conformity to Christ.”

Following the audience catechesis, Francis said, “I greet the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors taking part in today’s audience, especially the groups from England, Scotland, Denmark, Malta, Norway, Kenya, Australia, Mariana Islands, China, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Sri Lanka and the United States of America. In a particular way my greeting goes to the new seminarians of the Venerable English College as they begin their priestly formation here in Rome. Upon all of you, and your families, I invoke the joy and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ. May God bless you!


Here’s a brief look at the upcoming calendar of events in the Vatican for just one week:

SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 28 – A ticket only event is the Mass to be celebrated this Saturday, September 28 by Cardinal Robert Sarah, prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of Sacraments to mark the 50th anniversary of his ordination to the priesthood. The cardinal will celebrate Mass at the Altar of the Chair in St. Peter’s Basilica and will meet guests afterwards in the Paul VI Hall.

SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 29 – Pope Francis will preside at Mass at 10:30 am in St. Peter’s Square to mark the World Day of Migrants and Refugees.

TUESDAY, OCTOBER 1 – Memory of St. Teresa of the Child Jesus – At 6 pm in St. Peter’s Basilica, Pope Francis will preside at Vespers on the occasion of the start of the month dedicated to the Mission and Missionaries.

THURSDAY, OCTOBER 3 – The Pontifical North American College will celebrate the ordination to the diaconate of 34 young men at Mass at 9:30 am at the Altar of the Chair in St. Peter’s Basilica. Bishop Robert Deeley of Portland in Maine will preside.

SATURDAY, OCTOBER 5 – Pope Francis will hold a consistory to create 13 new cardinals, 10 of whom are under the age of 80 and will be electors in a conclave. He named them at the September 1 Angelus. As of September 4, there were 213 cardinals, 118 of whom are cardinal electors. Electors will increase to 128 on Oct. 5. As of today, there are 86 countries that have cardinals, 63 of which have cardinal electors. Among the cardinal electors, the countries with the greatest percentages are Italy with 22 electors, the United States with 9 and Spain with 5.

SUNDAY, OCTOBER 6 – The Holy Father Pope Francis will preside at Mass in St. Peter’s Square to mark the opening of the October 6 – 27 synod on the Amazon.


Here is a link to the lengthy but very interesting press conference held aboard the papal plane last night as it brought Pope Francis, his entourage and members of the media back to Rome from Africa at the end of the Pope’s three-nation, six-day visit. Many a media summary has been offered of the Pope’s answers to questions on the plane, and a careful reading of this Vatican news report can be helpful in separating the wheat from the chaff.


Barely resting up after his return to Rome last night from a six-day trip to Africa – his fourth to that continent – Pope Francis presided at the weekly general audience in a sun-splashed St. Peter’s Square this morning. As is traditional upon returning from an apostolic voyage, the Pope dedicated the general audience catechesis to a summary of that trip. (photo Vaticannews)

“Dear Brothers and Sisters,” he began, “Last night I returned to Rome from my apostolic journey to Mozambique, Madagascar and Mauritius. I went as a pilgrim of peace and hope to share the message of Christ as the true foundation of fraternity, freedom and justice in our world.”

He noted that, “in Mozambique, I encouraged the authorities to work together for the common good, the young to play their part in building up their country, and bishops, priests and religious to give a generous ‘yes’ to God. In Madagascar, I shared my hope that people there, with their traditional spirit of solidarity, will be able to contribute to a future of development, combined with respect for the environment and social justice. I also encouraged many contemplative nuns, bishops, priests, religious and young people to respond generously to God’s call.”

Then, speaking of his penultimate day in Africa, Francis said, “in Mauritius, a land of diverse cultures, I expressed to all my appreciation for their efforts to foster harmony between different groups. The Gospel at our final Mass reminded us how the Beatitudes – the identity card of Christ’s disciples – are the source of peace and hope. Let us pray that, from the seeds sown during this visit, God will bring forth abundant fruit for the people of Mozambique, Madagascar and Mauritius.”

Interestingly enough, according to a study by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate, since 1980 the Catholic population in Africa has risen by 238%, the largest growth anywhere in the world.


A communiqué this morning from the Israeli Embassy to the Holy See announced that “Israel’s ambassador to the Holy See Oren David was at this morning’s weekly general audience at which he met with Pope Francis and presented a stamp jointly issued by the Israeli philatelic service and the Vatican Post Office to mark the 25th anniversary of diplomatic relations. The stamp depicts the church of Saint Peter and the synagogue of Capernaum in Galilee, an image that well represents the close ties between Judaism and Christianity and between the state of Israel and the Holy See. On this occasion Ambassador David invited Pope Francis to visit Capernaum and the holy places of Galilee.”

(JFL: On June 15, 1994, the Holy See established full diplomatic relations with Israel, setting up an apostolic nunciature in Tel Aviv, and naming Archbishop Andrea Cordero Lanza di Montezemolo as the first apostolic nuncio or ambassador.)


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!

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:


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: