I know it came as a surprise to many that I am in the United States given the coronavirus situation, both here and in Italy. However, I had a very important event on my agenda and wanted to keep my travel plans even though that event was reduced to one day instead of ten. Following is the letter I sent to family and friends about that event:

“On March 12, there will be an event at the United Nations in NYC to mark the 25 years since the UN conference on Women was held in Beijing, China. You may or may not remember but I was working for the Vatican at the time and I was named as a member of the Holy See delegation to that conference.

”Because I was on that delegation, I am one of three women scheduled to speak at the UN event on March 12! You cannot imagine how honored I am, how privileged I feel as well as a tad nervous!

”The Holy See Mission to the United Nations invited us and they will be giving out more details in coming days. They want me there on the 10th so I will fly in that day and probably spend a night or two after the conference. There will be meetings before the conference, luncheons, etc. Each of us will be tasked with a specific focus for our 12 to 15-minute talk and I will work on that in coming days.

”The event will be held in a 600-person capacity room and we can invite friends or family. There is a link to register if friends want to come.

”Say a prayer that I will be inspired as I prepare my remarks. Speaking at the UN is no small matter, even if I am not addressing the General Assembly!”

An estimated 10,000 people were expected to be in NYC for the 10-day event. I was excited beyond telling at this unique occasion but totally understood when the UN decided to cancel the anniversary celebration and have a one-day event. However the Mission told me they would be happy if I came to NY and that is what I decided to do, checking with airlines to see if flights had changed, etc. as things evolved with the virus.

I had lunch with the staff of the Mission today and I will be addressing them tomorrow afternoon – basically the remarks I would have made tomorrow at the UN.

It is a wonderful occasion as I know three of the principals here well: Archbishop Gabriele Caccia, the nuncio or permanent observer to the United Nations, Fr. Roger Landry and Msgr. Hilary Franco whom I first met in Rome in the 70s when he was working with Cardinal John Wright, prefect at the Congregation for Clergy. We should write a book together!

Keep up your prayers, the one “vaccine” we know will work! Give Italy and its people a special place in your hearts and prayers.


March 10 United flight 41 from Rome to Newark…

A quick summary of my travel experience.

Rome’s Fiumicino airport, as you might imagine, was not overflowing with huge crowds yesterday as I checked in for my flight about 7 am. Check-in was fast with fewer passengers. We were given a form to fill out and turn in at the gate – name, flight number, seat number, personal info, phone, etc.

Security went smoothly and only few lanes were open. As I walked through the airport duty free area after security, I saw some but not all airline and store employees wearing masks. Of the few passengers in airport wearing masks, most seemed to be Asians… my impression only…seemed to be the same in Rome. (I have seen two people thus far in NY with masks and both were Asian)However, almost all personnel at the boarding gates were wearing masks.

Health ministry officials at the gates were numerous. We had our temps measured just before boarding by officials using a temp machine on a tripod. We stood about 10 feet away, it took seconds and they gave the thumbs up to board. I have no idea if anyone on our flight was denied boarding. I had upgraded to business class and was among the first to board. Business, by the way, was about 2/3 full but economy had very few passengers.

As we stood in line to board, before they took our temps, we were asked to stay a meter apart. One meter seemed to be the norm on board where possible. In business two people were together if they were a couple or friends, otherwise we were alternating seats and rows.

Arrival in Newark was normal. Because the airport had nowhere near the normal number of passengers in the arrivals area or in the halls waiting to leave, things went smoothly. Passport inspection was totally normal and no one measured temps or asked questions. If desired, hand sanitizer was available at each passport agent’s window.


The Holy See Permanent Observer to the United Nations, Archbishop Bernadito Auza spoke twice this week at the UN about peace-building and peace-keeping. Here’s a link to the great website of the Holy See Permanent Observer Mission to the United Nations: Take a trip there some day if you want to understand the Holy See mission and what the Catholic Church’s position is on a myriad of issues.

I expect that soon this Holy See office in New York and/or the press office here in Rome will be making a statement on today’s breakthrough meeting between the two leaders of North and South Korea at the demilitarized zone. This is the meeting for which Pope Francis, at last Wednesday’s general audience, asked for prayers

As I write this column – 4:35 pm local time – there is no Vatican statement on the meeting in Korea.


Join me this weekend on “Vatican Insider” for Part II of my conversation with Paulist Father Jim Lloyd. We had a great visit over the Easter holidays at the Paulist Motherhouse in NY where I was a guest for a few days. He had just turned 97 and on May 1st he will celebrate his 70th anniversary as a priest!!

The Paulists, of course, have been in Rome since 1922 when they were asked to care for the Catholic American community in the Eternal City. Our home now is St. Patrick’s Church on Via Boncompagni in central Rome.

Fr. Jim began our conversation by telling me about his amazing parents – his Jewish father and Irish Catholic mother, both of whom starred for years in Vaudeville! We cover his multi-faceted and very rich priestly life and ministries and this week talk about his NBC TV show “Inquiry” – and so much more! You will be riveted by every facet of his life! Not a dull second in our conversation!

As I said last week, I only wish that Vatican Insider was TV instead of radio so you could see Father Jim’s sparkling blue eyes and feel his enthusiasm and joy when he talks about the amazing, different periods in his life as a priest. One thing you will hear him says several times is that, no matter what he was doing, he always wore his Roman collar so people would know he was a priest.

In the United States, you can listen to Vatican Insider (VI) on a Catholic radio station near you (there is a list of U.S. stations at or on channel 130 Sirius-XM satellite radio. 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 9:00am (ET). On the SKY satellite feed to the UK and parts of Europe, VI airs on audio channel 0147 at 11:30 am CET on Saturdays, and 5:30am and 10pm CET on Sundays. It’s also available on demand on the EWTN app and on the website. CHECK YOUR TIME ZONE. Here’s a link to download VI to your iTunes library: For VI archives:


The Holy See Permanent Observer to the United Nations spoke at two high level UN meetings in New York calling on them to increase peace-building efforts and to seek peace in Syria.

By Sr Bernadette Mary Reis, fsp

The Holy See Permanent Observer to the United Nations, Archbishop Bernardito Auza, addressed participants in the High-Level Meeting on Peace-building and Sustaining Peace at the United Nations headquarters in New York, which took place on April 24-25, 2018. Archbishop Auza presented five priorities on behalf of the Holy See. (photo vaticanmedia)

Increase peace-building efforts

The Archbishop stated that the United Nations “can and should recommit itself to, and scale up, its peace-building efforts.” Unified and broad action, effective transitional strategies, analysis, better and more coherent synergy, and constant adjustment were among his recommendations.

Preventive diplomacy

Identifying beforehand the presence of factors, such as corruption, that destabilize nations would lead toward preventive diplomacy. Where potential conflicts are foreseen, “the international community should focus on institutional and capacity building,” the archbishop said.

Address arms trafficking

Archbishop Auza called the end of both the trafficking of arms and the illicit funding behind it to be “essential elements to sustaining peace.” He added that former combatants can be invited to “become a part of a peaceful solution” through “demobilization and reintegration” strategies.

Involving all sectors of society

Lasting peace can only be attained when all sectors of society are involved. The Holy See representative specifically mentioned women, saying they “must play an active role” along the entire spectrum of conflict prevention and resolution.

Justice and accountability

Unless justice and accountability are “seriously addressed,” successful transition from conflict to peace is not attainable. “Justice and legal accountability are essential vectors of reconciliation, not its opposite,” Archbishop Auza said. In the absence of prosecution and punishment at the local level, he said that, “the International Criminal Court must play its full role.”

Conflicts in the Middle East

In a separate address to the Security Council Open Debate on the situation in the Middle East on April 26, Archbishop Auza addressed the ongoing conflicts in that region.

Archbishop Auza reiterated Pope Francis’ appeal to negotiation in Syria as the only way “that can bring about peace and not death and destruction.” It is the UN Security Council, he said, that is the “key actor” ensuring that all efforts to end the conflict in Syria are guided by international law.

He concurred with the Secretary General’s definition of the war in Yemen as a “stupid war,” calling it the world’s largest humanitarian, entirely man-made catastrophe. He called on the international community to “give much greater attention to this conflict, where civilians are paying a huge price in a senseless war that has been overshadowed by other conflicts in the region.”

Israel and Palestine
Calling for “a renewed commitment” for completely violence-free peace talks leading toward a Two-State solution, the archbishop reiterated the Holy See’s position. He stated that it is the only “viable way of fulfilling the aspirations for peaceful co-existence among Israelis and Palestinians alike.” Regarding Jerusalem, he stated that the Holy See sees it as an “obligation of all Nations to respect the historical status quo of the Holy City.”



(Vatican Radio) The Vatican on Friday issued an urgent appeal to Venezuela’s leaders to suspend the new Constituent Assembly which, it says, is threatening the future of the South American nation.

The strongly worded communique, issued by the Vatican’s Secretariat of State, says Pope Francis is following closely the situation in Venezuela, where President Nicolas Maduro is headed towards a showdown with the opposition, as he pushes ahead with the inauguration of his new Assembly.

The statement comes as the body’s 545 delegates were expected to be installed at the legislative palace in the capital, Caracas, close to the chamber where the opposition-controlled National Assembly meets.

Erosion of democracy

The new Constituent Assembly has been tasked with rewriting the country’s constitution and holds powers that override all other government branches.

Opposition leaders have denounced the erosion of democracy and vowed they will only be removed by force. Over a hundred and twenty-five people have already been killed in over three months of violent anti-government protests.

Respect rights enshrined in Constitution

The Vatican statement expresses “profound concern for the radicalisation and worsening of the crisis”, including the increase in deaths, injuries and arrests of protesters. It calls on all the country’s politicians, in  particular, the government, to guarantee “full respect for human rights and basic freedoms, as well as for the existing Constitution”.

Suspend Constituent Assembly

It says initiatives such as the new Constituent Assembly should be “avoided or suspended” since they “foment a climate of tension and conflict” which “mortgages the future” of the country, rather than fostering reconciliation and peace.

The statement calls for a negotiated solution, along the lines already indicated in a previous letter from the Secretary of State on December 1st 2016. These solutions must take into account “the serious suffering of the people”, due to a lack of security, as well as the shortages of food and medicine.

Pray for Venezuela

Finally the statement calls on all members of Venezuelan society, in particular the security forces, to avoid violence or an excessive use of force. It says the pope assures all Venezuelans of his prayers and invites people across the globe to pray intensely for the country at this moment of crisis.


Following is my translation of the communique from the Secretariat of State that was released in Spanish and Italian:

The Holy See once again expresses its profound concern for the radicalization and worsening of the crisis in the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, with an increase in deaths, wounded people and detainees. The Holy Father, directly and through the Secretariat of State, is closely following the situation and its humanitarian, social, political economic – and even spiritual – implications, and assures his constant prayer for the Nation and all Venezuelans, while he invites the faithful of the entire world to pray intensely for this intention.

At the same tine, the Holy See asks all political players, in particular the government, to assure full respect for human rights and basic freedoms, as well as the current constitution; to avoid or suspend initiatives underway such as the new Constituent Assembly that, instead of favoring reconciliation and peace, foments a climate of tension and clashes and mortgages the future; to create conditions for a negotiated solution in line with the indications expressed in the letter from the Secretariat of State of December 1, 2016, bearing in mind the grave sufferings of the people given the difficulties in procuring food and medicine, and for the lack of security.

And lastly, the Holy See issues a heartfelt appeal to the entire society so that every form of violence be averted, and invites, in particular, the security forces to abstain from excessive and disproportionate use of force.


On June 21, Archbishop Bernardito Auza, Holy See Permanent Observer to the United Nations, reiterated that the crisis in Venezuela must be answered with serious and sincere negotiations between the parties concerned.

In a statement to the General Assembly of the Organization of American States taking place in Cancun, Mexico,  the archbishop said since the beginning of the crisis, the Pope, the Vatican Secretary of State and the Venezuelan Bishops’ Conference have on several occasions called upon institutions and political forces, to listen to the voice of the people and defend the common good.

Referring to a letter by Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin from December 1, 2016, the nuncio observed that the path to seeking a peaceful solution can be promoted through negotiation in a number of areas, such as a path that leads to free and transparent elections, and measures to provide humanitarian aid. In the 2016 letter, the archbishop added, the Secretary of State also urges measures to be taken involving the release of political prisoners.

Archbishop Auza notes that the recent government’s decision to convene a Constituent Assembly, instead of helping to solve problems, can complicate the situation and jeopardize the democratic future of the country. He concludes that, it is, however, appreciated that a group of countries in the region or, possibly, other continents chosen by both the government and the opposition, may negotiate as guarantors.