FEAST OF THE VISITATION: One of my favorite places in Vatican City has always been the small, historic, beautiful church of Santo Stefano degli Abissini. I have attended several funeral visitation vigils for cardinals, and have been to Mass there as well, always a bit overcome by the history and simple beauty. And one of my favorite events in the Vatican is the annual procession that is about to start in the Vatican gardens at the church of Santo Stefano to mark the feast of the Visitation. If you are ever in Rome on May 31, try to attend this remarkable annual event.

MATTEO RICCI , JOAN AND CHINA: Today’s general audience catechesis focussed, as it has for weeks, on apostolic zeal with Pope Francis choosing a special “witness to zeal” each week. Today he spoke at length on Jesuit Fr. Matteo Ricci, a singular and amazing missionary who dedicated his life to evangelization in China, a goal his fellow Jesuit, Fr. Francis Xavier, wished to reach but never did, as we learned at the May 17 general audience.

In 1995 I was in Beijing where Fr. Ricci, who died May 11, 1610, is buried. I was a member of the Vatican delegation to the United Nations conference on Women in September 1995. We had extraordinarily little time in the weeks that we were in Beijing to see some of the sights but several delegation members did visit Fr. Ricci’s tomb in Zhalan Cemetery, the oldest Christian cemetery in China.

I was enormously impressed with Italian-born Fr. Ricci’s story and tried to learn all I could about this man – who always dressed as a Chinese scholar – whom the Chinese called “Sage of the West.”

YouWenhui 游文輝, alias Manuel Pereira c. 1610, oil on canvas, 120 × 95 cm. © Society of Jesus, Il Gesù, Rome.

One biographical site noted, “Ricci arrived at the Portuguese settlement of Macau in 1582 where he began his missionary work in China. He became the first European to enter the Forbidden City of Beijing in 1601 when invited by Emperor who sought his services in matters such as court astronomy and calendar science.”

It was Emperor Wanli of the Ming dynasty who donated the land specifically for the burial of Matteo Ricci. It was an unheard of honor for the Chinese to do this but Emperor Wanli did have great respect for the Jesuits in general and Fr. Ricci in particular whose name in China was Li Matou.

I felt very privileged not just to be a member of the Holy See delegation to the Beijing conference but privileged to be in China, whose millennia-old history is one of the most fascinating imaginable. I could write a small volume on what I learned and experienced during those weeks in this vast Asian nation. A few years later I had an equally amazing learning experience when I visited Taiwan for 12 days – another small volume for sure!

One chapter of such a book would be the offer I received to return some day to Taiwan to teach English at the Wenzao Ursuline University of Languages in Kaohsiung, Taiwan! I will have to find my video of that trip!


At 7 this evening, feast of the Visitation, the annual candlelit procession in the Vatican Gardens will take place as the faithful pray the rosary and process from the church of Santo Stefano degli Abissini to the Grotto of Lourdes in Vatican City. Cardinal Mauro Gambetti, archpriest of St. Peter’s Basilica, will deliver remarks at the grotto.

Tradition says this church was built by Pope Lei I (400–461), who named it St. Stephen Major in remembrance of St. Stephen protomartyr. There was already a monastery here at the time of Pope Gregory III (8th century). It was restored by Pope Sixtus IV who assigned it in 1479 to Coptic monks in the city and the name was changed to St. Stephen of the Abyssinians (Ethiopians). Considered the national church of Ethiopia, St. Stephen’s is one of the only standing structures in the Vatican to survive the destruction of the first St. Peter’s basilica in 1506.


Today at the general audience, Pope Francis praised the apostolic zeal of Venerable Matteo Ricci, one of the early Jesuit missionaries to the Far East whose love for the Chinese people remains a model of consistency for Christian witness.

By Deborah Castellano Lubov
Matteo Ricci’s love for the Chinese people remains an enduring source of inspiration.

With this sentiment, Pope Francis described Venerable Matteo Ricci, one of the early Jesuit missionaries to the Far East, at his weekly General Audience on Wednesday in St. Peter’s Square, as he continued his catechesis series on saints who personified apostolic zeal.

“His love for the Chinese people is a model; but what is a very timely one, is his consistency of life, his Christian witness. He brought Christianity to China…”

The Pope praised Ricci’s excellence in various areas, but stressed that his greatness, above all, lies in his being “consistent with his vocation, consistent with that desire to follow Jesus Christ.”

Last week, Pope Francis praised St. Andrew Kim Taegon, the first native priest of Korea and a martyr for the faith, who dreamed of reaching China, but was not able to fulfill that dream. This week, instead, he spoke of Ricci who did.

Reflecting on the saint to the thousands of faithful in the Square, the Pope remembered how originally from Macerata, in Italy’s Marche region, Ricci studied in Jesuit schools and having himself entered the Society of Jesus. Enthused by the reports of missionaries, like many of his young companions, he asked to be sent to the missions in the Far East.

Father Ricci would go to China, and patiently go on to master the difficult Chinese language and immerse himself in the country’s culture.  It would take 18 years, and unshakeable faith, to arrive in Peking, the Pope said, overcoming frequent mistrust and opposition.

Thanks to his writings in Chinese and his knowledge of mathematics and astronomy, the Jesuit Pope observed, Matteo Ricci became known and respected “as a sage and scholar.”

His vast learning and ability to engage in sincere and respectful dialogue, the Holy Father explained, were employed in the service of the Gospel. “This opened many doors to Him,” the Pope said. Ricci, he noted, made the Gospel known not only in his writings, but by his example of religious life, prayer and virtue.

In this way, the Pope suggested, Ricci attracted many of his Chinese disciples and friends to embrace the Catholic faith.

Matteo Ricci died in Peking (modern Beijing) in 1610, at the age of 57, “dedicating his whole life to mission.”  Ricci was the first foreigner permitted by the Emperor to be buried on Chinese soil.

Great Missionaries

The Pope praised the strong prayer life of Ricci which propelled all his work, and that animates the life of missionaries.

Consistency and closeness to Christ, through prayer, the Pope suggested, is one of the greatest characteristics of the great missionaries, before inviting the faithful to ask themselves whether they are consistent in their Christian faith.



I so enjoyed today’s catechesis, not just for the content and wonderful story of a Korean saint and priest, but the way Pope Francis told the story. On Wednesdays, at the general audience, the Pope is a storyteller but some days are more remarkable than others. Today was such a day – a real life story – the kind of story you’d love to tell – and should tell – to children. Tell it – read it – around the dinner table.

True life stories, biographies, are usually fascinating and often just plain riveting. And they always contain some great lesson for life such as determination, self-discipline, honesty, self-denial, humility, and a passion for something be it languages, art, music, teaching or living out a religious vocation.

If you are a parent, grandparent or aunt or uncle, you might want to share this story with the kids (and make sure the adults are listening). I made the same suggestion last week when Pope Francis spoke of the great missionary, St. Francis Xavier. You could use my column below where I offer a great deal of today’s catechesis or go here for the full English text (and great photos): General Audience – Activities of the Holy Father Pope Francis | Vatican.va

You might want to show your listeners where Korea is on a map, and perhaps explain a word from time to time, such as what is a ‘martyr’, what does ‘laity’ mean, etc.

Happy story-telling time!


On May 27, 2007 Pope Benedict XVI wrote a letter to Christians in China, a beautiful, powerful letter, in which he proclaimed May 24, feast of Our Lady Help of Christians as a world day of prayer for the Church in China.

Pope Francis acknowledged this at the general audience, saying, “Today is the World Day of Prayer for the Catholic Church in China. It coincides with the feast of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Help of Christians, venerated and invoked at the Shrine of Our Lady of Sheshan in Shanghai.

“On this occasion, I wish to offer an assurance of my remembrance and express my closeness to our brothers and sisters in China, sharing in their joys and hopes. I turn my thoughts especially to all those who suffer, pastors and faithful, that in the communion and solidarity of the universal Church they may experience consolation and encouragement.

The Holy Father concluded: “I invite everyone to raise their prayers to God that the Good News of Christ crucified and Risen may be proclaimed in its fullness, beauty, and freedom, bearing fruit for the good of the Catholic Church and all of Chinese society.”

Several chaplains who serve the Chinese Catholic community in various parts of Italy were at today’s audience. (Vatican photo).


Under sunny skies, Pope Francis presided at today’s weekly general audience in a jam-packed St. Peter’s Square where he continued his series of catecheses on apostolic zeal. He began by saying, “today we are going to find a great example of a saint of the passion for evangelization in a land far away, namely the Korean Church. Let us look at the Korean martyr and first priest St Andrew Kim Taegon.”

Then, in a kind of off-the-cuff statement, the Pope said, “But, the first Korean priest! You know something? The evangelization of Korea was done by the laity! It was the baptized laity who transmitted the faith, there were no priests, because they had none. Then, later … but the first evangelisation was done by the laity. Would we be capable of something like that?”

The Holy Father explained that, “about 200 years ago, the Korean land was the scene of a very severe persecution: Christians were persecuted and annihilated. At that time, believing in Jesus Christ in Korea meant being ready to bear witness even unto death. Specifically from the example of St Andrew Kim, we can draw out two concrete aspects of his life.

Francis then noted how very careful Andrew Kim had to be when talking to people about the faith, about Christ. Fr. Andrew, as well as the people he was talking to, could very well have been put in prison or even killed just for believing in Christ.

“The first aspect (of his life) was the way he used to meet with the faithful. Given the highly intimidating context, the saint was forced to approach Christians in a discreet manner, and always in the presence of other people, as if they had been talking to each other for a while. Then, to confirm the Christian identity of his interlocutor, St Andrew would implement these devices: first, there was a previously agreed upon sign of recognition: “You will meet with this Christian and he will have this sign on his outfit or in his hand.” “And after that, he would surreptitiously ask the question—but all this under his breath, eh?—“Are you a disciple of Jesus?” Since other people were watching the conversation, the saint had to speak in a low voice, saying only a few words, the most essential ones. So, for Andrew Kim, the expression that summed up the whole identity of the Christian was “disciple of Christ.” “Are you a disciple of Christ?”—but in a soft voice because it was dangerous. It was forbidden to be a Christian there.”

The Pope went on to look at another concrete example: “When he was still a seminarian, St Andrew had to find a way to secretly welcome missionary priests from abroad. This was not an easy task, as the regime of the time strictly forbade all foreigners from entering the territory. That’s why it had been, before this, so difficult to find a priest that could come to do missionary work: the laity undertook the mission.”

“One time,” Francis added, “—think about what St Andrew did—one time, he was walking in the snow, without eating, for so long that he fell to the ground exhausted, risking unconsciousness and freezing. At that point, he suddenly heard a voice, “Get up, walk!” Hearing that voice, Andrew came to his senses, catching a glimpse of something like a shadow of someone guiding him.

The Pope then made an important point: “This experience of the great Korean witness makes us understand a very important aspect of apostolic zeal; namely, the courage to get back up when one falls.

“But do saints fall? Yes! Indeed, from the earliest times. Think of St Peter: he committed a great sin, eh? But he found strength in God’s mercy and got up again. And in St Andrew we see this strength: he had fallen physically but he had the strength to go, go, go to carry the message forward.”

St. Andrew Kim is the patron saint of Korean clergy.

St. Andrew Kim Taegon shrine in Lolomboy Bocaue Bulacan –

The general audience in Vatican photos –

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POPE GETS PHONE CALL DURING GENERAL AUDIENCE: At minute 40 of today’s general audience (see video here: Pope at Audience: Love of Christ drove St. Francis Xavier to furthest frontiers – Vatican News), an assistant handed Pope Francis a cell phone. TV cameras panned to cover the crowd in attendance and silence dominated the airwaves for just over a minute. Naturally we ask: Who has the pope’s private number? We must also ask: If you are important enough to have his number, you should also know not to call the pontiff during the weekly general audience between 9am and 10am on Wednesdays. Interestingly enough, Francis has warned in talks about the overuse of mobile phones.

(EWTN/CNA photo:

APOSTOLIC ZEAL LIVED BY JESUIT MISSIONARY ST. FRANCIS XAVIER: A remarkable catechesis this morning by Pope Francis on a man who has to be one of his favorite saints, Francis Xavier, who, with Ignatius Loyola was one of the founders of the Society of Jesus, the Jesuits, and id patron of Catholic Missions. Francis said, “The 16th century, the age of discovery, called for a great missionary outreach. Francis set out for the East Indies where, starting in Goa, he carried out an intense activity of preaching, baptizing, catechizing and caring for the sick. From India, he passed to the Maluku islands and from there to Japan. Unable to fulfil his dream of entering China, Francis died, at only 46 years of age on the nearby island of Shangchuan. His heroic zeal for evangelization was the fruit of a life of deep prayer and loving union with the person of Jesus Christ. May the example of Saint Francis Xavier inspire our own efforts to advance the Church’s mission, as joyful witnesses to the risen Lord and his saving word.”

Francis used words similar to an American expression usually associated with sports figures – GOAT, Greatest of All Time – when he said, “Today, we choose as an example, Saint Francis Xavier, who some say is considered the greatest missionary of modern times. But it is not possible to say who is the greatest, who is the least. There are so many hidden missionaries who, even today, do much more than Saint Francis Xavier. And Saint Francis Xavier is the patron of missions, like Saint Therese of the Child Jesus.”

The Pope recounted the brief but intense life of Francis Xavier in such a story-telling manner that it made you think that such catecheses could well be read to children, educating them, inspiring them and perhaps making them yearn for more such stories of saints and heroic lives. A great dinner table possibility? (General Audience of 17 May 2023 – Catechesis. The passion for evangelization: the apostolic zeal of the believer. 13. Witnesses: Saint Francis Xavier | Francis (vatican.va))

By the way: St. Francis Xavier’s incorrupt body is in Bom Jesus Basilica, part of the world heritage site of Old Goa in Goa, India. He was buried here over 400 years ago.

ITALY COMMEMORATES BENEDICT XVI WITH STAMP: Italy commemorates the pontificate of Benedict XVI with a new postage stamp (ewtnvatican.com). The Vatican already issued a stamp honoring the late Holy Father: (JFL photo)


Wednesday, May 10, 2023 – Feast Day of St. Damien of Molokai

In the next several hours I have my live radio show with Teresa Tomeo on Catholic Connection, interviews out of the office for my weekend radio show, “Vatican Insider,” and a parish council meeting. I thus sincerely doubt there will be time for a decent blog today, a great moment in the Vatican. So just my translation of the papal remarks (I have translated into English the Italian translation of Tawadros’ words in Arabic but have no time to summarize them) and this link to the Vatican news story with some of Pope Tawadros’ words: Coptic Pope addresses pilgrims at General Audience with Pope Francis – Vatican News   

I have been following the historic general audience today at which there were two popes present, Pope Francis and Coptic Orthodox Pope Tawadros II. They have known each other for 10 years and communicate frequently but this is the first time ever the head of another Church has spoken at a general audience.

Normally the Vatican News website features the video of the entire weekly audience but, as I wrote these words, that is not up yet. You might want to check back occasionally at vaticannews.va


Pope Francis, arriving at the dais after circling St. Peter’s Square in the jeep in the rain, greeted everyone present: “Brothers and sisters!” he began. “It is with great joy today that I greet His Holiness Tawadros II, Pope of Alexandria and Patriarch of the See of San Marco, and the illustrious delegation accompanying him. (Vatican media)

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“His Holiness Tawadros has accepted my invitation to come to Rome to celebrate with me the 50th anniversary of the historic meeting of Pope St. Paul VI and Pope Shenouda III, in 1973. It was the first meeting between a Bishop of Rome and a Patriarch of the Coptic Orthodox Church and culminated in the signing of a memorable common Christological declaration, exactly on May 10th.

“In memory of this event, His Holiness Tawadros came to see me

for the first time on May 10 ten years ago, a few months after his and my election, and he proposed we celebrate every May 10th as “Coptic-Catholic Friendship Day” which we have been celebrating every year since.

“We call each other on the phone, we send each other greetings, and we remain good brothers, we’ve never argued!

“Dear friend and brother Tawadros, Thank you for having accepted my invitation in this double anniversary. I pray that the light of the Holy Spirit illuminate your visit to Rome, the important meetings you will have here, and especially our personal conversations. I sincerely thank you for the His commitment to the growing friendship between the Coptic Orthodox Church and the Catholic Church.

“Your Holiness, dear Bishops and friends, together with you I implore Almighty God for the intercession of the Saints and Martyrs of the Coptic Church, to help us grow in communion, in one and holy bond of faith, hope and Christian love. And speaking of martyrs of the Coptic Church – who are ours too – I want to remember the martyrs on the Libyan beach, who were made martyrs a few years ago.

“I ask all present to pray to God to bless Pope Tawadros’ visit to Rome and protect the entire Coptic Orthodox Church. May this visit bring us quicker to the day blessed when we are one in Christ! Thank you!”



So much news today – the nuncio to Hungary speaks on the Holy Father’s weekend visit to Budapest, the end of the two-day meeting of the new C9 (the Council of Cardinals who are advisers to the Pope), the announcement that lay people and women will be able to vote in the October synod (historical!), the weekly general audience and a speech by Francis to the Chicago-based Catholic Extension Society!

I especially enjoyed the interview with a longtime friend of mine, Abp. Michael Banach, a luminary of Vatican diplomacy whom I’ve known for many years, now the Vatican nuncio to Hungary.

It was also interesting to read the Pope’s remarks to the Catholic Extension Society, an institution I learned about as a child as various relatives dedicated philanthropic resources to this body. Last night, after dinner at Taverna Agape in Pza. San Simeone I was walking on Via dei Coronari to a nearby taxi stand and ran into Cardinal Cupich from Chicago. He said he was in town for today’s meeting with the Holy Father. I’ve also known Extension President, Fr. Jack Wall, for a few years and he has been a dinner guest of mine.

As I always do in IN BRIEF, I’ll give just a few lines about each story and then the link to read the full piece, should it interest you.


HUNGARIANS LOVE POPE FRANCIS’ JOY AND SINCERITY: The Apostolic Nuncio to Hungary, Archbishop Michael Wallace Banach, insists that Hungarians love Pope Francis’ joy and sincerity, and appreciate his maintaining his promise to return to visit them after his brief 12 September 2021 stay in Budapest for the closing Mass of the 52nd International Eucharistic Congress. In an interview granted to Vatican News – Vatican Radio for the occasion of the Holy Father’s Apostolic Journey to the country, the long-serving American diplomat, who has served in several continents, granted his insight into the realities for the faithful in the country and the meaning of the Pope’s return to Hungarian soil, marking his 41st Apostolic Journey abroad. Apostolic Nuncio: Hungarians love Pope Francis’ joy, sincerity – Vatican News

THE VATICAN ANNOUNCED WEDNESDAY THAT THERE WILL BE LAY PEOPLE PARTICIPATING AS VOTING MEMBERS IN THE SYNOD ON SYNODALITY’S OCTOBER ASSEMBLY, a break with past custom, which allowed laypeople to participate without the right to vote. Pope Francis will also approve every member in advance. The general assembly of the Synod on Synodality will take place in two sessions, in October 2023 and October 2024. After the vote on a final document for the assembly, the pope alone decides whether to take any actions based on the recommendations in the final text or whether to adopt it as an official Church document…According to the synod leadership, it is requested that “50% of [the selected people] be women and that the presence of young people also be emphasized.” Vatican announces laypeople, including women, will vote in Synod on Synodality assembly | Catholic News Agency

NEW COUNCIL OF CARDINALS ENDS TWO-DAY MEETING. Vatican news announced today the end of a two-day meeting of the new C9, Council of Cardinals, stating the next meeting will be in June, without specifying a date. (I listed the cardinal members, new and returning, here: POPE PRESIDES OVER THE FIRST MEETING OF THE NEW COUNCIL OF CARDINALS – ARCHBISHOP PAGLIA CLARIFIES STANCE ON ASSISTED SUICIDE | Joan’s Rome (wordpress.com) Past meetings, since the first one in 2013, usually took place over three days, with the Pope always participating, except on Wednesday mornings when he presided over the general audience. Summaries of those meetings, released on the final day, Wednesday, usually went on at some length in describing the topics discussed. Today’s announcement, much briefer, was summarized by Vatican news: Council of Cardinals discusses ongoing wars and need for peace-building – Vatican News

“IN OUR CONTINUING CATECHESIS ON APOSTOLIC ZEAL,” SAID POPE FRANCIS AT THE GENERAL AUDIENCE IN ST. PETER’S SQUARE, “we now turn to the example of the saints of every age, beginning with those who embraced the monastic life. Their witness of following Christ in poverty, chastity and obedience was combined with unceasing intercessory prayer for the spread of the Gospel and the growth of the Church. Today we consider Saint Gregory of Narek, a medieval Armenian monk and Doctor of the Church, whose writings embody the profound Christian tradition of the Armenian people, the first to embrace the Gospel. In the hiddenness of his monastery, Gregory sensed a profound solidarity with the whole Church and her mission of preaching the Good News of Jesus Christ to all nations and peoples. Identifying with sinful humanity, he devoted his entire existence to interceding for sinners, the poor and those in need of the Lord’s healing and forgiveness. The example of Saint Gregory of Narek reminds us of our responsibility to cooperate, by our own intercessory prayer, in the Church’s mission of proclaiming the Gospel message of reconciliation, redemption and peace for the entire human family. General Audience – Activities of the Holy Father Pope Francis | Vatican.va

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“I OFFER A CORDIAL WELCOME TO ALL OF YOU FROM THE CATHOLIC EXTENSION SOCIETY WHO HAVE GATHERED THIS WEEK IN ROME,” said the Holy Father. “Your presence gives me the opportunity to express my heartfelt gratitude for your efforts in providing assistance to missionary Dioceses, particularly in the United States, and in caring for the needs of the poor and most vulnerable. I thank you, too, for your valuable contributions to the rebuilding of the Church and the broader society in Puerto Rico, following the various hurricanes and earthquakes which brought such devastation to the island in recent years….In striving to build up the Body of Christ, the Church, by giving a voice to those who are frequently voiceless, you bear witness to the God-given dignity of every person. …I encourage you as well to continue to express ‘God’s style’ in the work that you do. God’s style is never distant, detached or indifferent. Instead, it is one of closeness, compassion and tender love. This is God’s style: closeness, compassion and tender love. God is like this, this is his style.” To a delegation from the “Catholic Extension Society” – Activities of the Holy Father Pope Francis | Vatican.va



An interesting article has surfaced in a British paper about a gift – small relics of the True Cross – that Pope Francis allegedly gave to King Charles for his coronation. Interesting photos included: Pope gifts two fragments from cross Jesus was crucified on to King Charles for coronation procession | Daily Mail Online

A Vatican source told journalists that “some time ago, the Holy See donated to England two fragments from the reliquary of the True Cross as an ecumenical sign. They were preserved in the Lipsanoteca Room of the Vatican Museums.” Pope Francis was not specifically named in the comment.

lipsanotheca is a reliquary, specifically a small box containing the actual relics inside a reliquary (wiki).


Pope Francis continues his series of catecheses on apostolic zeal and speaks of the Church’s many martyrs, praying especially for those working in Yemen, dominated by war for so many years.

By Francesca Merlo (vatican news)

Addressing the faithful gathered in St Peter’s Square for his weekly general audience, Pope Francis continued his catechesis on apostolic zeal, and again turned to the figure of St Paul, describing him as “a true ‘champion’ of apostolic zeal.”

Referring to the day’s reading, the Pope noted that, “today our gaze turns not to a single figure, but to the host of martyrs, men and women of every age, language and nation who gave their lives for Christ.”

Martyrs, fruits of the Lord’s vineyard

Speaking of martyrs, Pope Francis stressed that they should not be seen as “heroes’” who acted individually, but rather “as mature and excellent fruits of the Lord’s vineyard,” the Church.

Pope Francis added that Christians, in participating in the celebration of the Eucharist, “were led by the Spirit to set their lives on the basis of that mystery of love,” which is that the Lord Jesus had given His life for them, and therefore they too could and should give their lives for Him and for their brothers and sisters.

Martyrs of the Church

The Pope then asked that we “remember all the martyrs who have accompanied the life of the Church.”

He explained that Christian martyrs are more numerous in our time than in the first centuries, and recalled that the Second Vatican Council “reminds us that ‘martyrdom, by which the disciple is made like his master who freely accepts death for the sake of the world, and by which he becomes like Him in the shedding of blood, is esteemed by the Church as a distinguished gift and a supreme proof of charity’.” (vatican media)

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Years of war in Yemen

Bringing his catechesis to an end, Pope Francis shed light on the Christian witnesses present all over the world, and in a particular way brings everyone’s attention to Yemen, “a land that has been wounded for many years by a terrible, forgotten war, which has caused so many deaths and still causes so many people to suffer, especially children.”

A shining example of self-giving by those serving Christ in that suffering nation, continued the Pope, is that of the Missionary Sisters of Charity, who “even today they are still present in Yemen, where they offer assistance to the sick elderly and people with disabilities.”

They, the Pope said, welcome everyone, of whatever religion, “because charity and fraternity have no boundaries. One must never kill in the name of God, because for Him we are all brothers and sisters. But together we can give our lives for others.”

May we never grow weary

Finally, the Pope asked that we pray, “that we will not grow weary in bearing witness to the Gospel even in times of tribulation” and that “all the saints and holy martyrs be seeds of peace and reconciliation between peoples for a more human and fraternal world, while waiting for the Kingdom of Heaven to be fully manifested, when God will be all in all.”




Pope Francis began this week’s general audience catechesis on apostolic zeal, by noting that “we have been reflecting on the example of the Apostle Paul. From his earlier experience as a persecutor of the Church, Paul was well aware of the danger of misguided zeal, or a zeal motivated not by love of Christ but by vanity or self-assertion. Authentic zeal for the Gospel is instead, Paul teaches, completely centred on Christ and the power of his resurrection.

“By virtue of his own experience,” explained the Pope to the faithful in St. Peter’s Square, “Paul is not unaware of the danger of a distorted zeal, oriented in the wrong direction. He himself had fallen into this danger before the providential fall on the road to Damascus. Sometimes we have to deal with a misdirected zeal, doggedly persistent in the observance of purely human and obsolete norms for the Christian community.”

The square was still decorated with the tens of thousands of flowers brought from Holland by Dutch florists for the Easter liturgies.

“We cannot ignore the solicitude with which some devote themselves to the wrong pursuits even within the Christian community itself; one can boast of a false evangelical zeal while actually pursuing vainglory or one’s own convictions or a little bit of love of self.”

The Holy Father underscored how, “In his Letters, Paul uses the imagery of putting on the ‘armour of God’ and exhorts his listeners to have their ‘feet shod’ in readiness to proclaim the Gospel of peace. The image is eloquent, since the feet of an evangelist must be solidly planted yet constantly in movement, ever ready to confront new situations in the effort to proclaim the Good News with creativity and conviction.”

Francis adds, “we find reference to the feet of a herald of good news. Why? Because the one who goes to proclaim must move, must walk! But we also note that Paul, in this text, speaks of footwear as part of a suit of armour, following the analogy of the equipment of a soldier going into battle: in combat it was essential to have stability of footing in order to avoid the pitfalls of the terrain – because the adversary often littered the battlefield with traps – and to have the strength to run and move in the right direction. So the footwear is to run and to avoid all these things of the adversary.”

The Pope insisted on the idea that “there is no proclamation without movement, without walking. One does not proclaim the Gospel standing still, locked in an office, at one’s desk or at one’s computer, arguing like ‘keyboard warriors’ and replacing the creativity of proclamation with copy-and-paste ideas taken from here and there. The Gospel is proclaimed by moving, by walking, by going.”

“May each of us,” said Pope Francis in conclusion, “in the circumstances of our daily lives, prove zealous in discerning when and how best to proclaim the risen Jesus and his promise of the fullness of life and peace.

(For more photos: General Audience – Activities of the Holy Father Pope Francis | Vatican.va)


In yet another Motu proprio, Pope Francis once again is making changes to the penal legislation and judicial system of Vatican City State.

The juridical and very technical motu proprio was sent to journalists this morning. No summary yet on the English Vatican news site. The following are some of the opening paragraphs from the Italian that I translated:

In the light of the “needs that have emerged over the last few years in the Vatican’s sector of the administration of justice, Pope Francis has established some changes to the penal legislation and the judicial system of the Vatican City State, in force from tomorrow, April 13.

Defining them in the new motu Proprio, Francis wrote “Further adjustments” were also made necessary by the “multiplying” of issues that require “a prompt and just definition in the procedural field” and therefore with the “increasing workload” for the judiciary.” A reference is made to the various ongoing judicial proceedings, starting with the one for the management of the Holy See’s funds that began on July 27, 2021 and is still in full swing.

The changes introduced today by the Pope are aimed at simplifying the mechanisms and ensuring that “the functionality of the system” is maintained and, if possible, improved. Among the innovations, a more precise classification of the investigative and prosecutorial functions of the Office of the Promoter of Justice; the possibility of adding a substitute to the college of three magistrates – who must remain the only one – in the event one of the members has to leave; the possibility for the Pope to appoint an additional president of the Vatican Tribunal in the event that the one in office is in the year of his resignation; the repeal of the full-time presence of at least one judge in the judging panel. The latter was a novelty introduced in Law number CCCLI of March 16, 2020, with which the Pope promulgated a new judicial system.


Just a heads-up for the next few days and weekend. Thursday afternoon and all day Friday are days off for EWTN employees to attend Holy Week Liturgies, so this page may be quite, although I may repost some stories on Facebook and Twitter.

I am handicapped by a cold that seems to have taken over my body and life and is not getting better as fast as I’d normally expect. I have a doctor’s appointment Holy Thursday at 6 pm, of all things, but will, as Mom used to teach me, “offer that up for the poor souls in purgatory.” An unexpectedly long  appointment last night kept me from posting.

Today I offer some highlights of Pope Francis’ catechesis at the general audience this morning. I think these would be wonderful points to reflect on in silent prayer or while saying the rosary.

The other news story about China installing a Catholic bishop is both maddening and sad.


At today’s general audience, Pope Francis gave a preview of Holy Week saying “we prepare to celebrate the mystery of Jesus’ passion, death and resurrection,” And he focused on two aspects of Good Friday.

“Firstly,” he said, “let us see Jesus stripped of his clothing. In fact, ‘And when they had crucified him, they divided his garments among them by casting lots. God is stripped – He who has everything allowed Himself to be stripped of everything. But that humiliation is the path of our redemption. This is how God overcomes our appearances. Indeed, we find it difficult to bare ourselves, to be truthful. We always try to cover the truth because we do not like it. We clothe ourselves with outward appearances that we look for and take good care of, masks to disguise ourselves and to appear better than we are.”

“Let us direct our second glance to the Crucifix and we see Jesus who is wounded,” continued the Pope.!. The cross displays the nails that pierce his hands and feet, his open side. But to the wounds in his body are added those of his soul. How much anguish, Jesus is alone, betrayed, handed over and denied by his own – by his friends and even his disciples – condemned by the religious and civil powers, excommunicated, Jesus even feels abandoned by God… In the end, Jesus is wounded in body and in soul. I ask myself: In what way does this help our hope? In this way, what does Jesus, naked, stripped of everything, of everything, say to my hope, how can this help me?

We too are wounded – who isn’t in life? And they are often hidden wounds we hide out of embarrassment. Who does not bear the scars of past choices, of misunderstandings, of sorrows that remain inside and are difficult to overcome? But also of wrongs suffered, sharp words, unmerciful judgements? God does not hide the wounds that pierced his body and soul, from our eyes. He shows them so we can see that a new passage can be opened with Easter: to make holes of lights out of our own wounds.”

“Brothers and sisters, the point is not whether we are wounded a little or a lot in life, the point is what to do with my wounds –the little ones, the big ones, the ones that leave their mark forever on my body, on my soul. What can I do with my wounds? What can you, you, you, do with your wounds? “No, Father, I don’t have any wounds” – “Be careful, think twice before saying this”. And I ask you: what do you do with your wounds, with the ones only you know about? You can allow them to infect you with resentment and sadness, or I can instead unite them to those of Jesus, so that my wounds too might become luminous.”

“Our wounds can become springs of hope when, instead of feeling sorry for ourselves or hiding them, we dry the tears shed by others; when, instead of nourishing resentment for what was robbed of us, we take care of what others are lacking; when, instead of dwelling on ourselves, we bend over those who suffer; when, instead of being thirsty for love, we quench the thirst of those in need of us. For it is only if we stop thinking of ourselves, that we will find ourselves again. But if we continue to think of ourselves, we will not find ourselves anymore. And it is by doing this, the Scriptures say, that our wound is healed quickly (cf. Is 58:8), and hope flourishes anew.”

The Pope leaves us with hope when he says that, “the cross, which first seems a sign of defeat and despair, proves instead to be the tree of life and the source of undying hope.”


The prelate was transferred from the Diocese of Haimen. The director of the Holy See Press Office, Matteo Bruni, has said, “The Holy See was informed a few days ago of the Chinese authorities’ decision. For the moment there is nothing to say about the Holy See’s assessment.”

Vatican News

Bishop Shen Bin, until now Bishop of Haimen, was installed in the Diocese of Shanghai, China, this morning. “The Holy See had been informed a few days ago of the decision of the Chinese authorities” to transfer the Bishop and “learned from the media of the installation this morning”, the director of the Holy See Press Office, Matteo Bruni, reported in a communication to journalists. “For the moment, I have nothing to say about the Holy See’s assessment of the matter.”

I posted this on October 20, 2022: VATICAN TO RE-SIGN CONTROVERSIAL AGREEMENT WITH CHINA OCTOBER 22: Amid increased controversy as a trial against a prominent Chinese cardinal continues to move forward in Hong Kong, the Vatican and China will for the second time renew their provisional agreement on the appointment of bishops. Speaking to Crux, a high-ranking Vatican official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the renewal publicly, said “the agreement with China is scheduled to be renewed on (the) 22nd of October 2022, with no changes to the terms.” The official stressed that this was not an official statement, and that a formal announcement would be made “in due time” by the Holy See Press Office. Though the terms of the agreement have never been made public, the deal, brokered in September 2018, is believed to be modeled after the Holy See’s agreement with Vietnam, allowing the Holy See to pick bishops from a selection of candidates proposed by the government. Vatican-China deal to be renewed, with no changes to terms | Crux (cruxnow.com)

The original 2018 agreement, about which we know nothing, basically allows (we have been told in Vatican interviews) the communist government of China to name bishops for the Catholic Church and the Pope would be able to approve or not. No man can become a bishop without a papal mandate.

As you can see in the Shanghai case, the Chinese government went it alone.

No papal mandate.

What will the Vatican do?



In St. Peter’s Square this morning, Pope Francis began his weekly talk on missionary zeal by noting “we now consider the teaching of Saint Paul VI in his Apostolic Exhoration Evangelii Nuntiandi, on evangelization in the modern world. Pope Paul insisted that evangelization is primarily a personal witness to the Gospel and its saving truth. For this reason, he stressed the importance, in all the baptized, of a living faith in the triune God, manifested in a life of holiness fully consistent with the message we proclaim.”

St. Paul VI “went on to say that the Church not only evangelizes, but is herself evangelized, that is, constantly called to conversion and interior renewal in the Spirit. A Church that evangelizes is entirely turned to God, the source of our salvation, and, at the same time, entirely engaged in a creative dialogue with the world, cooperating with the Lord’s gracious plan for the unity and peace of our human family.

The Holy Father then explained that “Every one of us is required to respond to three fundamental questions, posed in this way by Paul VI: “Do you believe what you are proclaiming? Do you live what you believe? Do you preach what you live?” (cf. ibid.). Is there harmony: do you believe I what you proclaim? Do you live what you believe? Do you proclaim what you live? We cannot be satisfied with easy, pre-packaged answers. We are called upon to accept the risk, albeit destabilized, of the search, trusting fully in the action of the Holy Spirit who works in each one of us, driving us ever further: beyond our boundaries, beyond our barriers, beyond our limits, of any type.

“Read and re-read Evangelii nuntiandi,” urged Francis. “I will tell you the truth, I read it often, because it is Saint Paul VI’s masterpiece, it is the legacy he left to us, to evangelize.”

In a multi-language appeal at the end of the audience catechesis, Pope Francis reminded the faithful that “Saturday will be the Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord, and our thoughts turn to March 25th last year, when, in union with all the bishops of the world, the Church and humanity, especially Russia and Ukraine, were consecrated to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Let us not tire of entrusting the cause of peace to the Queen of Peace. I would therefore like to invite every believer and community, especially prayer groups, to renew every March 25 the act of consecration to Our Lady, so that she, who is Mother, may preserve us all in unity and peace.

And let us not forget, in these days, troubled Ukraine, who is suffering so much.”



I was delighted to learn that a friend, Archbishop Fortunatus Nwachukwu, will return to Rome after an absence of several years as an apostolic nuncio to a number of different countries. Pope Francis today named him the new Secretary of the Dicastery for Evangelization, as part of the Section for First Evangelization and the New Particular Churches.

We first met in late 2007 when he began serving in the Vatican as the Chief of Protocol of the Secretariat of State. In 2012, Benedict XVI had named him nuncio to Nicaragua and in ensuing years he served as nuncio to Trinidad and Tobago, Barbados, Dominica, Jamaica, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Vincent and Grenadines, and Guyana, Saint Lucia, Grenada, Bahamas, Suriname, and Belize.

The Nigerian-born prelate speaks English, Italian, German, French, Spanish, and Arabic. These languages definitely served him well in the protocol office where he met leaders from many nations around the world.


Pope Francis, at today’s general audience, held in St. Peter’s Square for the second week in a row, told the pilgrims in the square, “In our continuing catechesis on missionary zeal, we now consider the apostolic dimension of evangelization. In the Creed, we profess that the Church is ‘apostolic’.”

He explained that, “an ‘apostle’ is literally one who is ‘sent’. In the Scriptures, we read that Jesus chose the twelve Apostles, called them to himself and then sent them forth to proclaim the Gospel. After his resurrection, he appeared to the Twelve and said: ‘As the Father has sent me, so now I send you’, breathing upon them the Holy Spirit for the forgiveness of sins.”

Francis asked, “But are we aware that being apostles concerns every Christian? Are we aware that it concerns each one of us? Indeed, we are required to be apostles – that is, envoys – in a Church that, in the Creed, we profess as apostolic.

“The experience of the Twelve apostles and the testimony of Paul also challenges us today,” continued the Holy Father. “They invite us to verify our attitudes, to verify our choices, our decisions, on the basis of these fixed points: everything depends on a gratuitous call from God; God also chooses us for services that at times seem to exceed our capacities or do not correspond to our expectations; the call received as a gratuitous gift must be answered gratuitously.”

He then explained that the Christian vocation “is a great thing because, although by the will of Christ some are in an important position, perhaps, doctors, ‘pastors and dispensers of mysteries on behalf of others, yet all share a true equality with regard to the dignity and to the activity common to all the faithful for the building up of the Body of Christ’.”

Francis, in concluding remarks, said, “Those who are ordained have received the mission of teaching, governing and sanctifying in Jesus’ name and authority, yet all the members of the faithful, as sharers in the Lord’s priestly, prophetic and regal office, are called to be missionary disciples, ‘apostles in an apostolic Church’. May the recognition of our common dignity and equality inspire us to ever greater unity and cooperation in proclaiming, by word and example, the good news of our salvation in Christ.”