You might want to add an extra Ave Maria for Pope Francis to your prayers tomorrow when he turns 86! And this, just days after celebrating 53 years of priesthood on December 13! Heartfelt best wishes, Holy Father!


December 10th was the feast day of the Holy House of Loreto, my very favorite shrine in Italy that I’ve visited several times, and this seems like the perfect season to tell a special story about Mary’s house, the house in which she grew up.

I will tell you that, according to tradition, this Marian shrine is the home in which Mary lived, in which the Angel Gabriel appeared to her, announcing she would become the Mother of God, and the home she shared with Jesus and Joseph. It was transported to this Italian hill town overlooking the Adriatic on the night of December 10, 1294.

Tune in and you will learn exactly how it was transported to Italy!

As I prepared this Special, I felt myself leaning against the stone walls of this holy house – as I’ve done on every visit – praying to Mary, running my hands over the stones as I imagined she and Jesus and Joseph did countless times! Rarely have I been so induced to pray, so recollected in prayer, so sensing the presence of the Holy Family as I have in this holy home!

I hope you sense the awesomeness of this home as I tell its story!

The following series of photos were taken on a visit a few years back:

Outside –

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Inside – These photos include the marble “screen” designed by Bramante in which we find the Holy Houser – the screen has stunning bas reliefs. There are also photos of some of the side altars of which I speak, donated by various countries. You will also see some chalk drawings on the floor.

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My favorite art work in the basilica!

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Photos of the actual Holy House are not allowed inside but here is one from vaticannews.

IN THE UNITED STATES, you can listen to Vatican Insider (VI) on a Catholic radio station near you (stations listed at or on channel 130 Sirius-XM satellite radio, or on OUTSIDE THE U.S., you can listen to EWTN radio on our website home page by clicking on the right side where you see “LISTEN TO EWTN.” VI airs at 5am and 9pm ET on Saturdays and 6am ET on Sundays. On the GB-IE feed (which is on SKY in the UK and Ireland), VI airs at 5:30am, 12 noon and 10pm CET on Sundays. Both of these feeds are also available on the EWTN app and on ALWAYS CHECK YOUR OWN TIME ZONE! For VI archives: go to and write the name of the guest for whom you are searching in the SEARCH box. Below that, will appear “Vatican Insider” – click on that and the link to that particular episode will appear.



Pope Francis celebrates Palm Sunday Mass in an empty St. Peter’s Basilica due to the coronavirus pandemic, and dedicates his homily to the theme of service and love.



Starting Monday, April 6, every day at noon, Archbishop Fabio Dal Cin will preside over the recitation of the Rosary and the Angelus prayer from the Marian Shrine of Loreto. Archbishop Dal Cin, the Pontifical Delegate for the Shrine, said: “The Holy House of Loreto invites us to invoke Mary, so as not to lose hope in the God of life.” He invited the faithful to join every day at 12 noon throughout Holy Week. Vatican News is providing live streaming of the prayer ( “You can also join us at 9 pm every evening for the recitation of the Rosary and the Supplication to Our Lady of Loreto to free us from evil and from the pandemic.” (vaticannews)


At a moment of worldwide anxiety and uncertainty, nothing matters more than prayer. “Prayer is the best weapon we have,” Padre Pio once said. “It is the key to God’s heart.” With this in mind, the Saint Pio Foundation is privileged to offer an extraordinary opportunity for all of us to join our hearts in prayer during this time of pandemic. From Monday, April 6 to May 1, 2020, the Saint Pio Foundation is launching a dedicated web page that will offer the opportunity to pray the rosary virtually, in the presence of the relics of Padre Pio. The page features the relics and four different video clips, each representing a mystery of the rosary, along with narration announcing the mysteries. This is an unparalleled initiative that the Saint Pio Foundation hopes will encourage devotion and hope during this time of turmoil and draw the world together at a time when so many feel pulled apart. To access: (source: Saint Pio Foundation)


At the Scuderie del Quirinale (Quirinale Stables), an exhibition had been set up to open on March 5, 2020 on the 500th anniversary of the death of Raffaello Sanzio. In the impossibility of visiting the exhibition, the stables presented a “virtual visit” that will accompany the participants on a walk through the halls, custodians of over 200 masterpieces from all over the world. This is a way to allow the public to admire, even from a distance, the splendor of Raphael’s art and the grandeur of the exhibition project, in order to share culture and beauty with as many people as possible.

(JFL: To visit the Quirinale Place, once the summer residence of Popes and now home to Italy’s president, click here:



This week, in what is normally the interview segment of Vatican Insider, I take you to Loreto, a town on the Adriatic coast of Italy for a visit to the magnificent shrine of the Holy House of Loreto. The Holy House of Loreto has, in fact, been one of the world’s premier shrines dedicated to Mary for over seven hundred years.

According to tradition, the home in which Mary lived, in which the Angel Gabriel appeared to her, announcing she would become the Mother of God, and the home she shared with Jesus and Joseph, was transported by angels to this Italian hill town overlooking the Adriatic on the night of December 10, 1294.

I took these photos during a pilgrimage in 2017 with the women of WINE (Women In the New Evangelization).

In this coronavirus era where so many of us are quarantined at home and spending time with families, you might want to gather around together and listen to this great story

Pope Francis declared a Jubilee Year to go from December 8, 2019 to December 10, feast day of the Holy House, 2020. I talk about that Jubilee but also note that, again because of the coronavirus epidemic, many events have had to be cancelled, postponed and moved to other, future dates.

The photo of Pope Francis inside the Holy House is from Vatican Media from his visit last year on March 25.

IN THE UNITED STATES, you can listen to Vatican Insider (VI) on a Catholic radio station near you (stations listed at or on channel 130 Sirius-XM satellite radio, or on OUTSIDE THE U.S., you can listen to EWTN radio on our website home page by clicking on the right side where you see “LISTEN TO EWTN.” VI airs at 5am and 9pm ET on Saturdays and 6am ET on Sundays. On the GB-IE feed (which is on SKY in the UK and Ireland), VI airs at 5:30am, 12 noon and 10pm CET on Sundays. Both of these feeds are also available on the EWTN app and on ALWAYS CHECK YOUR OWN TIME ZONE! For VI archives: (write Vatican Insider where it says Search Shows and Episodes)


I did a spot for At Home with Jim and Joy for today’s show that featured the feast of the Annunciation and a special story of how this is celebrated in the Middle East where the populace is, of course, predominantly Muslim. I’d like to share that with you now.

For Christians, Mary is the Mother of Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. For Muslims, Mary is a much-revered figure as the Mother of the prophet Jesus. In September 1995 I was a member of the Holy See delegation to the UN conference on Women in Beijing. On September 8, a member of the Iran delegation came to our office with a beautiful picture of Mary, saying their delegation wanted to celebrate her birthday that day and this was their gift to us!

Years later, specifically on February 18, 2010, I was in Lebanon on my way to Iraq when the government made March 25 a national Christian-Muslim Day, something that had never occurred before in the history of Christian-Muslim relations. The decision was confirmed two days later during a meeting between Pope Benedict XVI and Prime Minister Hariri in the Apostolic Palace in the Vatican. That day I was in the offices of a Catholic newspaper in Beirut where people were scurrying to get this announcement in the press! The first joint celebration occurred a month later on March 25 as an official national holiday sanctioned by the government of Lebanon. All public buildings, schools, banks and university were closed and the government encouraged private businesses to do the same.

Last year, 2018 in Amman, Jordan, for the first time Christians and Muslims held an inter-religious celebration to mark the Annunciation. Patriarchal vicar Bishop William Shomali said the celebration was part of the “theological, religious, spiritual dialogue” that accompanies everyday life in Jordan. “We want to show the common points between Christians and Muslims on the Annunciation, in which even Muslims believe.”


If ever I could have bilocated, today would have been the day and Loreto, Italy, the place. I am in Chicago for some days for work, appointments and interviews but I would have loved to be next to the Pope, or at least in the crowd of faithful who greeted him today in Loreto at the Shrine of the Holy House. Loreto is one of my absolute favorite shrines in all of Italy.

The last time I was there was on November 14, 2017 with the pilgrimage women of WINE, Women In the New Evangelization. I posted a column a day later. Unfortunately the story appears but the photos do not as wordpress only saves photos for a few days. I don’t have access to them in Chicago as they are on my external hard drive in Rome. Here’s the story of this very special home (if you can add Loreto to your Italian travels, do so!):

Loreto had to be extra special today for another reason. After Pope Francis recited the Angelus, all the church bells in Loreto and throughout the Marche region where Loreto is located rang simultaneously! How glorious that had to have been!


By Devin Watkins (vaticannews)

Pope Francis celebrated Mass in the Sanctuary of the Holy House of Loreto on Monday, to mark the Feast of the Annunciation.

Tradition holds that the Virgin Mary lived within the relocated walls housed in the Sanctuary, and there received the Angel’s message of the Annunciation.

Following Mass, the Holy Father spoke to the 10,000-strong crowd of the faithful gathered in the square in front of the Basilica.

Pope Francis said the Sanctuary is “a privileged place to contemplate the mystery of the Incarnation of the Son of God,” since it is “the house of Mary.”

Many pilgrims, he said, come from around the world to the “oasis of silence and piety” to draw strength and hope, calling the Holy House of Loreto a home for the young, families, and the sick.

Home for the young

Pope Francis said it is a home for young people, because the Virgin Mary “continues to speak to new generations, accompanying each one in the search for his or her vocation.”

It was for that reason, the Pope said, that he had chosen to sign his post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation on young people in Loreto. The document is entitled “Christus vivit – Christ lives”, and is the culmination of the Synod of Bishops on Young People, the Faith, and Vocational Discernment that was held in October 2018.

“In the event of the Annunciation the dynamic of the vocation appears, expressed in the three moments that marked the Synod: 1) listening to the Word-project of God; 2) discernment; 3) decision,” he said.

Home for families
Pope Francis said the House of Mary in Loreto is also a home for the family.

“In the delicate situation of today’s world,” he said, “the family founded on marriage between a man and a woman assumes an essential importance and mission.”

He invited Catholics to rediscover the plan traced out by God for the family and to reaffirm its central role in society.

Within those walls, the Pope said, Mary lived out the many facets that characterize family relationships, “as a daughter, fiancée, and mother,” saying that her experience shows that the Church must care for families and young people in tandem and not separately.

Home for the sick
Finally, Pope Francis said the Holy House of Loreto is a home for the sick.

“Here are welcomed those who suffer in body and spirit, and our Mother brings to all the mercy of the Lord from generation to generation.”

The Holy Father said illness wounds the family, but that the family must welcome the sick person by loving, supporting, encouraging, and caring for them.

And the Pope sent his thoughts and prayers to people around the world who suffer from various illnesses and maladies. “Your suffering can become a decisive collaboration for the coming of the Kingdom of God,” he said.

Pope Francis closed his visit to the Basilica of the Holy House of Loreto with the Angelus prayer, asking all to pray for young people, families, and the sick.


By John Waters (vaticannews)

On the Feast of the Annunciation, Pope Francis signed his Apostolic Exhortation for the Synod on Young People, the Faith, and Vocational Discernment.

“Christus vivit – Christ lives” is a letter to the world’s young people that represents the fruit of the October Synod. The Vatican will release the full text in the near future.

The Basilica of the Holy House in Loreto contains the walls of what tradition holds to be the house in which the Virgin Mary lived when the Angel Gabriel announced that she was to give birth to Jesus.

During his visit to Loreto, Pope Francis spoke about the Exhortation and explained that there are 3 sections to the document, which mirror 3 phases of the Synod process. To explain this further, he outlined this process whilst referencing the story of the Annunciation.

“The first moment, that of listening, is manifested by the words of the angel: ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus.’ It is always God who takes the initiative in calling people to follow Him”, said the Pope.

He went on to explain that young people need to find moments of quiet and stillness to listen to God’s call and that God’s voice will not be heard amongst noise and agitation.

Instead, quiet and stillness will help young people discover that “His plan for our personal and social life is not perceived by remaining on the surface, but by descending to a deeper level, where moral and spiritual forces act. It is there that Mary invites young people to come down and tune in to God’s action.”

Then comes the phase of discernment, which is “expressed in Mary’s words: ‘How will this happen?’ Mary does not doubt; her question is not a lack of faith; on the contrary, she expresses her own desire to discover God’s ‘surprises’. In her there is attention to grasping all the demands of God’s plan for her life, to knowing it in its facets, to make one’s collaboration more responsible and complete.”

Pope Francis said this is the proper attitude with which to follow God’s call in our lives, since this attitude allows people to discover not only what God’s plan is for their lives, but also how God’s grace will help them to develop the skills and abilities needed to live out his call for them.

“Decision is the third step that characterizes every Christian vocation, and it is made explicit by Mary’s response to the angel: ‘Let it be done to me according to your word.’ Her ‘yes’ to God’s plan of salvation, implemented by means of the Incarnation, is the handing over to Him of her whole life. It is the ‘yes’ of full trust and total openness to God’s will,” said the Pope.

He highlighted the Virgin Mary as the model Christian disciple and suggested that today’s young people try to imitate her example as they search for God’s plan for their lives.

The Pope pointed out that Mary had lived a multitude of family relationships.

She was a daughter, a fiancée, a bride and a mother, so all young people, no matter what their role in life and calling from God, can find an example and inspiration in her.



Our WINE pilgrimage group visited the Shrine of the Holy House of Loreto yesterday and, once again, it was a beautiful, almost mystical experience. We arrived just before 10 am from Assisi, a two-hour bus ride, just in time for the 10 am Mass after which we had more than 90 minutes to explore the basilica and the Holy House and have quiet time for further prayer.

We explored in small groups of 3 or 4, admiring the magnificent side chapels and those of the apse but spend much of our time in Mary’s Home. At one point I spotted a basilica volunteer and stopped to ask her where the American chapel was. In wonderful English she replied, “Come, I’ll show you.” When we got to the chapel, Kathy, one of our group was also there, and Sabrina spent the next 15 minutes telling us glorious stories and historic details about the Holy House. We were riveted and felt so privileged by her presence. She also showed us several other chapels, in particular the stunning Spanish Chapel, before we had to meet our group at 12:30. Grazie ancora, Sabrina! Thank you, again!

In the time we had before meeting Sabrina, I know I spent at least 45 minutes in the Holy House, entering on three separate occasions, the last of which was precisely at noon for the Angelus!

I hate to sound trite but truly, it doesn’t get any better than praying the noon Angelus inside the walls of the home where the Annunciation occurred, where the Word was Made Flesh, where the Holy Family lived!

My description of the Holy House and its journey from Nazareth to what is now called Loreto follows – this is the story I wrote after my first visit years ago. I am posting photos I took yesterday at the basilica but visitors are not allowed to take photos of the interior of the Holy House. The two pictures you see I found online – one shows the side walls and the altar with the image of Mary holding Jesus and the second shows the two doors on the side walls, the entryway and exit.

The group is exploring Assisi today but, because of huge connectivity issues and spending hours accomplishing literally nothing but trying to get wifi, etc. I will spend most of the day in my room, writing and posting photos and preparing Vatican Insider for this weekend.  I will join them for lunch in a short while.


Several years ago, as part of a series I was writing on shrines in Italy, I visited the Holy House of Loreto. It was my first trip to the Marché region and to this Marian shrine and it was a never-to-be forgotten weekend. I cannot locate the photos I took during that visit (this was before I had a digital camera where one can preserve photos on a memory card, in a computer and on CDs) but the following is my story.

Pope John Paul once said that “the Holy House of Loreto is not an ‘icon’ of abstract truth, but an event and a mystery: the Incarnation of the Word. It is with deep emotion that, when entering the revered chapel, one reads the words above the altar: ‘hic verbum caro factum est – here the Word was made flesh’.”

The Holy House of Loreto has, in fact, been one of the world’s premier shrines dedicated to Mary for over seven hundred years. According to tradition, the home in which Mary lived, in which the Angel Gabriel appeared to her, announcing she would become the Mother of God, and the home she shared with Jesus and Joseph, was transported by angels to this Italian hill town overlooking the Adriatic on the night of December 10, 1294.

In the third century, Mary’s dwelling in Nazareth was already used as a place of worship. The site of the Incarnation then consisted of a grotto (venerated today in the Basilica of the Annunciation in Nazareth) and an adjacent three-walled house over which a synagogue had been built. By the fifth century a more solid basilica had been constructed, and by the 12th century it was protected by the majestic basilica of the Crusades.

Tradition says that, when the Crusaders, protectors of holy places, were expelled from Palestine in 1291, the safety of the Holy House was in doubt. It was thus transported – and legend says angels had a hand in this – first to Illyria (modern day Croatia) and then in 1294 to Loreto, a laurel-covered hill in what were then the Papal States. The name Loreto comes, in fact, from the Latin “laurus,” meaning laurel. The adjective is “lauretan.”

According to Capuchin Father Giuseppe Santarelli, author of numerous books on this shrine, recent findings show that the so-called “translation” (the move) of the house to Loreto occurred not through angelic ministrations but through human intervention.

A recently discovered document from 1294 in fact testifies that one Niceforo Angelo, ruler of Epiro gave his daughter, as part of her dowry for her marriage to the son of King Charles of Naples, numerous precious possessions, including “the holy stones carried away from the House of Our Lady, the Virgin Mother of God.” Other documents from the same period assert that a 13th century family named Angelo or Di Angeli, saved the stones of the Holy House of Nazareth from destruction by Moslems and had them transported to Loreto in the Papal States for safekeeping.

“Angelo” means angel in Italian and Di Angeli means “of the angels.”

That part of Our Lady’s house which can be seen today – the original three stone walls – is encased in a rectangular, ornately sculpted marble enclosure called a screen which was commissioned by Pope Julius II in the 16th century and built according to a design by Bramante. The western external wall forms the backdrop for the shrine’s main altar.

The house itself is quite small, about 12 by 28 feet. Today there is an altar where the original house opened on to the grotto. Above the altar is a small statue of Our Lady with Child, clothed in the traditional dalmatic. The original 14th century statue, carved from cedar wood from Lebanon and darkened over the centuries by candle smoke, was destroyed by fire in 1921. The current statue was carved from a Lebanese cedar from the Vatican gardens, and was painted to resemble the earlier Madonna, though it is somewhat darker.

The three original stone walls are barely nine feet high: the masonry above them was added at a later date to accommodate a vaulted ceiling to make it more suitable for worship.

Archeological studies have revealed that the house had no foundations and was set high on a public road. Studies have also shown that the stonework is indigenous to Palestine and that the walls bear graffiti – words that are written or etched in stone – similar to writings in Palestine, and especially Nazareth. One, for example, bears an inscription in Greek, with two words that seem Hebrew (‘lamed’ and ‘waw’) that say “Oh Jesus Christ, Son of God.” This same invocation has been found in the Grotto of Conon in Nazareth, alongside the Grotto of the Annunciation.

About sixty graffiti have been found, many of which are considered by experts to be similar to those of the Judeo-Christians in the Holy Land, including Nazareth, of ancient times

The technique used for the outer finish of some of the stones is similar to that employed by the Nabateans and widespread in Palestine at the times of the Romans.

Five crosses made of a red material were found walled up among the stones of the Holy House. It is believed they belonged to crusaders or to knights of a military order that defended holy relics.

Still visible on the north wall, one of the two longer walls, is the wood lintel where the original door used to be. Today, pilgrims enter and exit by two small doors created in the north and south walls.

Entering the Holy House imbues the visitor with an indescribable sensation. When I was there, the silence was deafening. There is a definite feeling of awe – intellectual, physical and spiritual. Some pilgrims (because of limited space, only a few people enter at a time) appear to be in a trance. Yet others, like I did, gently finger the markings on the 2,000-year old walls, or simply lean against them for a time – as if to draw strength, as if to feel the presence of Mary and the Holy Family, as if to draw inspiration for prayer and – perhaps just once in a lifetime – to say the perfect prayer.

These hallowed walls seem like umbilical cords to our past. Walls which, if they could talk, would let us hear Mary at prayer, Joseph telling Mary about his work day, Jesus as he cries, talks or walks for the first time, the Holy Family around a table as they eat their nightly meal, perhaps with a guest. This was a family’s home – and so you wonder: Were there both tears and laughter? Hot, dusty days? Cold, winter nights? Sleepless nights? Did the Holy Family ever wonder where their next meal would come from?

What we know for certain is that this was a home filled with love.

While millions of pilgrims visit Loreto each year, no one knows precisely how many have come since that December night in 1294. Just as the pilgrims are countless, so too are the miracles and conversions linked to Loreto. Over the years many thousands of votive offerings have been left by the faithful “for graces received,” although only a few hundred are actually on display in the magnificently frescoed Treasure Room.

The imposing Basilica of the Holy House was begun in the latter half of the 15th century. Enormous bronze doors, set in the Renaissance-style façade, welcome us to the interior, which is in the form of a Latin cross, with a nave and two aisles. Twelve side altars fill the right and left walls. As we reach the Holy House, the basilica widens to reveal 13 stunning chapels built around the north, east and south sides of the shrine. These chapels were built with the offerings of the faithful including those from France, Croatia, English-speaking American Catholics, Germany, Poland, Spain, and Switzerland.

The art work – frescoes, sculptures, marble work, and stained glass windows – are of such striking, exquisite beauty as to leave the visitor breathless. Make sure you have an excellent guide – or an excellent guidebook.

American, German and Spanish Chapels

The basilica is at the eastern end of the Piazza della Madonna and offers breathtaking views of the surrounding countryside and the Adriatic. It is flanked by an 18th century bell-tower and 16th to 18th century buildings that house a museum, administrative offices and those of the pontifical delegate to the shrine and the Universal Congregation of the Holy House. The latter was founded in 1883 for the purpose of spreading knowledge of and devotion to the Holy House of Loreto.

The feast of the Shrine of the Holy House is December 10th.

Loreto is a pontifical shrine, has a special juridical status and is administered by the Prelature of the Holy House. The prelate and pontifical delegate today is Archbishop Fabio Dal Cin.

Pope John Paul visited Loreto three times (1994, 1995, 2004). Pope Benedict visited Loreto in 2012 for the first time as Pope but he had been there on seven previous occasions between 1985 and 2002. In 1985, as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith he went on pilgrimage with the personnel of the Congregation. In 1988 the cardinal attended a three-day celebration during the Marian year. In 1991, he was in Loreto for a town twinning between Loreto and Altoetting, the shrine in Bavaria visited last year by Pope Benedict. In 1994, the cardinal went on pilgrimage with his personal secretary at the time, Msgr. Josef Clemens, in 1995 he went for an International Mariological Congress and in 1999 he went on a private pilgrimage with his brother, Msgr. Georg Ratzinger. His last visit as cardinal was in November of 2002 when he stopped in Loreto as a guest of the then prelate, Archbishop Angelo Comastri, on his way to give a speech in Ancona.

Here’s one lovely story I found about the Journey of the Holy House of Loreto:

Now, in more detail, here is the story of the first stage in the journey of the Angels who carried the Holy House, high above the mountains and deserts of the Holy Land, across the expansive Mediterranean and Adriatic Seas to Illyria.  On May 10, 1291, it quietly set down in the little hamlet of Tersatto, in Illyria now known as Croatia), far from the battle cries of Palestine.

It was early in the morning, when the local people discovered, to their great surprise, a house resting on the ground.  There was no foundation under it!  Curious to see what it was, they ventured inside.  They found a stone Altar.  On the Altar was a cedar statue of Mother Mary standing with Her Divine Son in Her arms.  The Infant Jesus had the two first fingers of His Right Hand extended in a blessing, and with His Left Hand, He held a golden sphere representing the world.  Both Mary and Jesus were dressed in robes.  Golden crowns were poised on both their heads.

The villagers were awestruck, but confused, until a short time later, Our Lady appeared to the local Priest and said,

“Know that the house which has been brought up of late to your land, is the same in which I was born and brought up.  Here, at the Annunciation of the Archangel Gabriel, I conceived the Creator of all things.  Here the Word of the Eternal Father became Man.  The Altar which was brought with this house was consecrated by Peter, Prince of the Apostles.

“This house has come from Nazareth to your shores by the power of God, of Whom nothing is impossible.  And now, in order that you may bear testimony of all these things, be healed.  Your unexpected and sudden recovery shall confirm the truth of what I have declared to you.”

The Priest, who had suffered for years from an illness, was immediately cured.  He promptly told all the people, and word of this Gift from God, spread throughout the countryside.  Pilgrimages began coming immediately to the Holy House of Nazareth, in Illyria.  God had chosen to bring it to this little village, and the villagers lovingly responded by erecting a modest, quite primitive building over the house, to protect it from the elements.

However, the joy, the Croatians had experienced at having this most precious gift in their midst, was short-lived.  Three years and five months later, on December 10, 1294, the Holy House disappeared overnight from Croatia, never to return.  Saddened by the loss, Nicholas Fangipani, a devout man from Tersatto, built a small church, a replica of the Holy House, on a hill where the original had stood.  He placed an inscription:

“The Holy House of the Blessed Virgin came from Nazareth on the 10th of May, in the year 1291, and left on the 10th of December, 1294.”

The people from Croatia continued venerating Our Lady in their replica church.  So great was their devotion that Pope Urban V sent the people of Tersatto an image of Our Lady in 1367, which was said to have been painted by St. Luke, the Evangelist.

The people from Tersatto, or Fiume, as it was also called, grieved over the loss of the Holy House and the image of Our Lady.  A Franciscan recalled a group coming across to Loreto from Dalmatia as late as the 16th Century.  He wrote: “In one particular group, there were about 500 pilgrims from Tersatto, with their Priests.  They began their procession into the church of the Holy House on their knees, crying and weeping.  As they approached the Holy House, they wailed in their own tongue, `Come back to Fiume (Tersatto) O Mary, come back to Fiume, O Mary O Mary.’ 




(Colossians 2:7)

As I prepare this column on Thanksgiving eve, surely one of the most beautiful days that our nation marks, my heart overflows with the number of things for which I am grateful. I have so many reasons to be thankful that I don’t know where to start so let’s go to the top of a long list – my faith, my family, my friends, my countless friends all over the world who are, in many ways, my second family!!

I thank God countless times during each day for things big and small. I thank Him for my ministry (for that is how I see my work), for filling my life with faith and truth and for giving me the opportunity to share it with so many. I thank the Lord for my radio listeners, TV viewers and all of you who read this column.

I thank God for bringing truly amazing, unique, wonderful, spiritually tall people into my life – that list is SO long it brings tears to my eyes – as well as smiles of remembrance and joy!

As I look over the year since last Thanksgiving, I am especially grateful for a successful eye operation last December and for being well on the road now to recovery from phlebitis. I am again up and about – my first day out in two weeks was Mass on Sunday and the last two days I have been able to run some errands in the neighborhood. Deo gratias!

And now, on the vigil of this beautiful time of the year, I wish you and yours safe travels, a wonderful family gathering, great meals, many hours of laughter and an equal number of hours of story telling, of “do-you-remember-when” moments.

I will be celebrating tomorrow by attending Mass with the American community of the Santa Susanna parish at 10 and then a second Mass at NAC, the North American College, after which there will be an abundant Thanksgiving turkey dinner.

Thanksgiving and Friday are EWTN holidays. If I can post something (probably photos!), I will – if not, you’ll understand! And for that I am thankful!

Psalm 95:2 – Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise!

As I said, I am finally out and about and enjoying being able to run errands and grocery shop for myself, but have been enormously thankful these past two weeks for the help offered by friends, and especially by my neighbors Francesco and Federica.

Today I was coming home from a short errand and had taken a bus that drops me off across the street from my home. At the bus stop is a pizzeria that I’ve gone to a number of times at the end of a long day when I feel like a slice or two of fresh pizza. The gal who works there knocked on the window when she saw me and, as I peeked in the door to say hello, I saw a large group of people. She said they were Americans from Louisiana and wanted me to meet them!

It was just before noon and they had just come from Pope Francis’ weekly audience. As I stepped inside, one of the ladies recognized me, yet another recognized my voice and several started to exclaim, “It’s Joan of Rome!” and then, all of a sudden, I was surrounded by fans!

It was a group from the diocese of Alexandria in Louisiana and we had a great time chatting for about 15 minutes. All knew me from EWTN, several knew me from Catholic Connection with Teresa Tomeo, and several more had heard me on Catholic radio in Baton Rouge with Dan Borné. I met a priest (and only wish I had written down his name) and a deacon and 23 people from several parishes. Some of the pilgrims had been confirmed in recent months whereas several others were preparing for confirmation.  They took a ton of photos and I asked them to send them to me.


Join me on “Vatican Insider” this Thanksgiving weekend – if you are not travelling or out shopping for Christmas – for a wonderful pilgrimage to one of the premier Marian shrines in the world, to Loreto, on Italy’s Adriatic coast, for a visit to the shrine of the Holy House of Loreto. This Holy House, the house where the Bessed Virgin grew up, where the Angel Gabriel announced to Mary that she would be the Mother of God, where Mary and St. Joseph and Jesus lived and laughed and prayed and shared meals and stories and life’s daily adventures.

The photos are from the shrine’s website:

Join me on this pilgrimage by listening to Vatican Insider: As you know, in the United States, you can listen on a Catholic radio station near you (there is a list of U.S. stations at or on Sirius-XM satellite radio. If you live outside the U.S., you can listen to EWTN radio on our website home page by clicking on the right side where you see “LISTEN TO EWTN.” Vatican Insider airs Saturday mornings at 9:30 am (Eastern time) and re-airs Sundays at 4:30 pm (ET). Check for your time zone. Past shows are found in Vatican Insider archives:


On a gray, drizzly morning, Pope Francis greeted the faithful at the general audience in St. Peter’s Square, by noting that, “the weather s not so great, but you are courageous, let us pray together today in presenting the Church to the people of our time. He underscored the theme of his catechesis, namely, “the fundamental truth that we must never forget: the Church is not a static reality, an end in itself, but that she is continually journeying through history to the kingdom of heaven, of which the Church on earth is the seed and beginning.

Looking to the horizon of heaven, of life after death, the Pope said: “Some questions arise spontaneously in us: when will this final passage take place? What will the new dimension of the Church be like? What then will happen to humanity? And to the Creation that surrounds us? These questions are nothing new, the disciples at the time of Christ asked the same questions.  They are ancient, human questions.”

He further explained that, “We do not know the time for the consummation of the earth and of mankind, nor do we know how all things will be transformed. As deformed by sin, the shape of this world will pass away, but we are taught that God is preparing a new dwelling place and a new earth where justice will abide, and whose blessedness will answer and surpass all the longings for peace which spring up in the human heart.”

Francis said, “This is the goal toward which the Church projects itself: it  is the ‘new Jerusalem’, ‘Paradise.’ More than a place, it is a ‘state of being’ in which our deepest expectations will be fulfilled in abundance and our being as creatures and as children of God, will reach full maturity. We will finally be covered with the joy, peace and love of God in a complete way, without any limitations, and we will be face to face with Him! It’s lovely to think of this, to think we will all find ourselves up there! All of us in heaven.  It’s good, it gives strength to our soul.”

“In this perspective,” concluded the Pope, “it is nice to hear that there is a continuity and a communion between the Church in heaven and the Church still journeying on earth. Those who already live in the sight of God can indeed support us and intercede for us, pray for us from heaven. On the other hand, we are always invited to offer good deeds, prayer and the Eucharist itself to alleviate the suffering of souls who are still waiting for the bliss without end.”


At the end of the weekly catechesis, as is customary the Holy Father has greetings in several languages for the pilgrims present in St. Peter’s Square. He speaks in Italian and Spanish whereas monsignori from the Secretariat of State address the faithful in French, German, Portuguese, English, Polish and Arabic. Today Pope Francis had special words for the Arab-speaking faithful, in particular those from Iraq and the Middle East: “The violence, suffering and the seriousness of the sins committed must lead us to leave all to the justice of God, who will judge each one according to his works. Be strong and cling to the Church and to your faith, so as to purify the world with your confidence; transform with your hope and heal with your forgiveness, with the love and patience of your witness. May the Lord protect and support you.”

Speaking Italian, the Pope noted that he will leave Friday on his three-day apostolic trip to Turkey and, in a reference to his meeting in Istanbul with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, he invited those present to pray that “Peter’s visit to his brother Andrew may bring fruits of peace, sincere dialogue between religions and harmony in the Turkish nation.” November 30 marks the feast of St. Andrew, patron of the Orthodox Church.


(VIS) – During his return journey Tuesday from Strasbourg, France, where he addressed both the European Parliament and the Council of Europe, Pope Francis answered questions posed by the journalists who accompanied him on the flight. The questions and the Holy Father’s answers are published below. Each journalist asking a question represented a language group (a French journalist for the French media, etc.) although the last journalist represented several European languages.

Q: “Your Holiness addressed the European Parliament with pastoral words that may also be regarded as political words, and which may be linked, in my opinion, to a social-democratic stance – for example, when you say that we must ensure that the true expressive force of populations is not removed by multinational powers. Could we say that you are a social-democrat Pope?”

Pope Francis: “This would be reductive. It makes me feel as if I am part of a collection of insects: ‘This is a social-democratic insect …’. No, I would say not. I don’t know if I am a social-democrat Pope or not. I would not dare to define myself as belonging to one side or another. I dare say that this comes from the Gospel: this is the message of the Gospel, taken up by the social doctrine of the Church. In reality, in this and in other things – social and political – that I have said, I have not detached myself from the social doctrine of the Church. The social doctrine of the Church comes from the Gospel and from Christian tradition. What I said – the identity of the people – is a Gospel value, is it not? In this sense, I say it. But you have made me laugh, thank you!”

Q: “There was almost no-one on the streets of Strasbourg this morning. The people say they are disappointed. Do you regret not visiting the cathedral of Strasbourg that celebrates its millennium this year? When will you make your first trip to France, and where? Lisieux, perhaps?”

Pope Francis: “No, it is not yet planned, but one should certainly go to Paris. Then, there is a proposal to go to Lourdes. I have asked to visit a city where no Pope has yet been, to greet the citizens. But the plan has not yet been made. As for Strasbourg, a visit to the cathedral was considered but it would have meant already making a visit to France, and this was the problem.”

Q: During your address to the Council of Europe I was struck by the concept of transversality, especially with reference to your meetings with young politicians in various countries, and indeed you spoke of the need for a sort of pact between generations, an intergenerational agreement at the margins of this transversality. Also, if I may ask, is it true that you are devoted to St. Joseph, and have a statue of him in your room?”

Pope Francis: “Yes, it is true. Whenever I have asked something of St. Joseph, he has granted it to me. The fact of ‘transversality’ is important. I have seen in dialogue with young politicians in the Vatican, from different parties and nations, that they speak with a different music, that tends towards transversality, and this is valuable. They are not afraid of coming out of their own territory, without denying it, but coming out in order to engage in dialogue. They are courageous! I believe that we must imitate this, along with intergenerational dialogue. This tendency to come out to find people of other origins and to engage in dialogue: Europe needs this today”.

Q: “In your second speech, the one to the Council of Europe, you spoke about the sins of the sons of the Church. I would like to know if you have received the news on the events in Granada, Spain [alleged sexual abuse of minors by priests in the archdiocese, Ed.], that in a certain sense you brought to light…”

Pope Francis: “I received the news – it was sent to me, I read it, I called the person and I said, ‘Tomorrow you must go to the bishop’, and I wrote to the bishop asking him to begin work, to start the investigation and go ahead. How did I receive the news? With great pain, with very great sadness. But the truth is the truth, and we cannot hide it”.

Q: “In your addresses in Strasbourg, you spoke frequently of both the threat of terrorism and the threat of slavery: these are attitudes that are also typical of the Islamic State, which threatens much of the Mediterranean, which threatens Rome and also threatens you personally. Do you think it is possible to engage in dialogue with these extremists, or do you think this is a lost cause?”

Pope Francis: “I never give something up as a lost cause: never. Perhaps dialogue is not possible, but never close the door. It is difficult, one might say almost impossible, but the door is always open. You have used the word ‘threaten’ twice: it is true, terrorism is a threat. … But slavery is a real situation embedded in the today’s social fabric, and has been for some time. Slave labour, human trafficking, the trade in children … it is a crisis! We must not close our eyes to this. Slavery, today, is a reality, the exploitation of people … And then there is the threat of these terrorists. But there is another threat, and it is State terrorism. When the situation becomes critical, and each State believes it has the right to massacre the terrorists, many who are innocent fall prey alongside the terrorists. This is a form of high-level anarchy that is very dangerous. It is necessary to fight terrorism, but I repeat what I said during my previous trip: when it is necessary to stop an unjust aggressor, it must be done with international consensus.”

Q: “In your heart, when you travel to Strasbourg, do you travel as Peter’s Successor, as the bishop of Rome, or as the archbishop of Buenos Aires?”

Pope Francis: “As all three, I think. My memory is that of the archbishop of Buenos Aires, but I am no longer in this role. Now I am the bishop of Rome and Peter’s Successor, and I think that I travel with this memory but with these realities; I travel with all these things. Europe worries me at the moment; it is good for me to go ahead in order to help, as the bishop of Rome and Peter’s Successor; in this respect I am Roman”.