Yesterday, I wrote about the courtesy visits that take place after a consistory in which new cardinals are created, visits at which the new red hats, as they are often called, receive family and friends. It is a chance for all those who are visiting one cardinal in particular to walk around and meet other cardinals, if they so wish. This can be fun, especially if one speaks several languages!

Before I even entered the Paul VI Hall for these visits, I was drawn by the immense numbers of Nigerians in town for Cardinal Peter Ebere Okpaleke of Ekwulobia, in the courtyard and in the atrium. There must have been a square acre of the red fabric you see here because every man, woman and child from Nigeria wore the same clothing!

As I mentioned yesterday, I first met the new U.S. prelate, Cardinal Robert McElroy of San Diego in the atrium of the Paul VI Hall. Sunday he celebrated Mass at my Rome parish, St. Patrick’s. There was a sizeable delegation of Californians at that Mass – might have rivalled the Nigerians in number.

As I met each new cardinal, I introduced myself, mentioned how long I had lived in Rome, added I had worked many years at the Vatican and was now with the EWTN Rome bureau. I also gave them my card. In such visits there is very little time for a conversation because of the numbers of people wanting to visit each cardinal, but such moments are nonetheless memorable and potentially important.

In the atrium, I also met Cardinal Filipe Neri Antonio Sebastiao do Rosario Ferrao of Goa and Damao, India. I was told by an assistant that he had the longest name of all the new cardinals (probably of the entire College of Cardinals – I will check).

We spoke about the honor given to his native land in this consistory as India is home to a very small number of Catholics but received a second red hat in Cardinal Anthony Poola of Hyderabad. The 20 million Catholics in India are about 1.5 percent of the total population. The Catholic Church is the largest Christian church in India.

Cardinal Poola, 60, is the first Dalit to become a cardinal. Dalit is Sanskrit and is another name for those in India known as “untouchables,” a people said to belong to the lowest level of castes in India. By the time I got around the Paul VI Hall, he had left so we did not meet.

I next met Cardinal William Goh of Singapore, He asked if I had ever travelled there and I said I had not but a few years ago had welcomed 6 Singapore Patrons of the Vatican Museums to my home for dinner, part of the 28-member delegation in Rome. He said he knew of the Patrons group.

I then met Cardinal Virgilio do Carmo da Silva of Dili, East Timor who, as soon as he heard I was with EWTN, smiled broadly and told me he is a huge fan! “I watch so many of your programs, and enjoy them all.” I said I had read that Catholics were the majority religion, and he said, “a big majority.” (in fact, 97% of the 1.3 million population is Catholic). The cardinal said I should come and visit the “wonderful” Church in East Timor. Who knows!

Across the room was Italian-born Consolata missionary, Cardinal Giorgio Marengo who, at 48, is the youngest member of the College of Cardinals. He is the apostolic prefect of Ulaanbataar, Mongolia, a missionary jurisdiction that includes the entire country. He brought a number of his staff with him to Rome, as you see in these photos.

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When I told Cardinal Marengo I had been in Rome for 42 years, we both had a laugh as I pointed out that he would have been 6 years old when I came to Italy.

The last cardinal I met Saturday was Cardinal Jorge Carvajal, emeritus of Cartagena, Colombia. I congratulated him, we chatted briefly in English and Spanish, and when he saw my card, he told me, with a broad smile, that he once met Mother Angelica in Birmingham!


A brief note from the Holy See Press Office this afternoon stated that the two-day meeting of the College of Cardinals with the Pope to discuss the new Apostolic Constitution on the Roman curia, Praedicate Evangelium,, has ended.  The meeting was described as “having taken place in a fraternal atmosphere, (and) attended by just under 200 cardinals, Eastern patriarchs and superiors of the Secretariat of State. The work in linguistic groups and the discussions in the Hall gave way to freely discuss many aspects relating to the document and the life of the Church. The final afternoon session was dedicated to the 2025 Jubilee on Hope.”  The note said that Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica with Pope Francis and all the cardinals officially concludes the private consistory, after which each participant will return to their own diocese.


The following statement was released today by the Holy See Press Office:

In the context of the war in Ukraine, there have been numerous interventions by the Holy Father Francis and his collaborators in this regard. They have the main purpose of inviting Pastors and faithful to prayer, and all people of good will to solidarity and efforts to rebuild peace. On more than one occasion, as well as in recent days, public discussions have arisen on the political significance to be attributed to such interventions. In this regard, it is reiterated that the words of the Holy Father on this dramatic question must be read as a voice raised in defense of human life and the values ​​connected to it, and not as political positions. As for the large-scale war in Ukraine, initiated by the Russian Federation, the interventions of the Holy Father Francis are clear and unambiguous in condemning it as morally unjust, unacceptable, barbaric, senseless, repugnant and sacrilegious.

In the event you have not been following the news stories of reaction to Pope Francis’ words last week on Ukraine at the August 24 general audience, he referred to a bomb that went off near Moscow killing a young woman: “I think of that poor girl blown up by a bomb under her car seat in Moscow. The innocent pay for war, the innocent! Let us think about this reality and say to each other: war is madness,”

In reality, the women was the daughter of a politician close to Putin, both of whom approved of the Ukraine invasion. Her father was to have been in the car that was bombed but they had switched cars. To understand why the Vatican felt it necessary to issue this statement: here is more background: Vatican: Pope Francis’ Ukraine War comments not a ‘political stance’ | Catholic News Agency



Following is the statement released this afternoon by the Holy See Press Office, part in Italian and part in French:

With regard to the statements reported in the press in recent days and concerning the Most Eminent Cardinal Marc Ouellet, P.S.S., the director of the Holy See Press Office, Matteo Bruni, declares that: “The preliminary investigation entrusted by the Pope to Fr. Jacques Servais, S.J., whose conclusion was that there are no elements to initiate a trial against Cardinal Ouellet for sexual assault, having consulted Fr. Servais again and having received confirmation that ‘there are no grounds to open an investigation into the sexual assault of person F. by Card. Ouellet. Neither in his written report sent to the Holy Father, nor in the testimony via Zoom that I subsequently collected in the presence of a member of the ad hoc diocesan committee, did this person make an accusation that would provide material for such an investigation’. Following further pertinent consultations, Pope Francis declares that there are insufficient elements to open a canonical investigation for sexual assault by Cardinal Ouellet against person F.”



Tuesday, in mid-afternoon, answering journalists who asked if the Pope had received a letter from the mayor of Kyiv asking Francis to come to Kyiv, Holy See Press Office director Matteo Bruni said:

“The Holy Father received the letter from the mayor of the Ukrainian capital and is close to the sufferings of the city, to its people, to those who had to flee from it and to those called to administer it. Pray the Lord that they will be protected from violence. For them and for all, he reiterates the appeal he made last Sunday at the Angelus Prayer: “In the face of the barbarism of the killing of children, innocent and defenseless civilians, there are no strategic reasons that hold: it is only necessary to cease the unacceptable armed aggression, before it reduces cities to cemeteries ”

Here is the mayor’s translated letter. It does not explain who “we” refers to. It starts by saying “on behalf of the mayor” but then is signed by Mayor Klitschko, so there may be an issue of translation.

To His Holiness, Pope Francis I

Kyiv, 8 March 2022

On behalf of the Mayor of Kyiv, Vitaliy Klitschko we would like to invite His Holiness, Pope Francis I, to visit Kyiv.

We believe that the world religious leaders’ presence in person in Kyiv is key for saving lives and paving the path to peace in our city, country and beyond.

We offer our help on whatever might be needed by His Holiness. If a journey to Kyiv is not possible, we kindly ask for a joint video conference, to be recorded or broadcast live. Efforts will be made to include President Zelenskyi in this call.

We appeal to you, as a spiritual leader, to show your compassion, to stand with the Ukrainian people by jointly spreading the call for peace.

Sincerely Yours,

Vitaliy Klitschko



No news becomes the news story of the day when you have news but cannot publish it. Sunday, as always happens before a papal speech or homily, the Holy See Press Office emailed an embargoed copy of the papal remarks to the media accredited to the press office. Embargo means we cannot publish or even hint at the content until the moment the Pope actually speaks the words in the text.

What happens when our embargoed text contains words the Pope does not say?

That happened last Sunday.

The original Italian-language text arrived at 11:15. Shortly before the Pope spoke at the Angelus the media was informed that a certain part of the text regarding Hong Kong would not be read by the Pope, and the eventual daily bulletin, in fact, did not have that part of the text, nor did the English and Spanish translations.

A non-text or deleted text, especially if somewhat sensitive, provokes many questions. The questions about the Sunday text are still being asked and explored and parsed today.

The embargo was broken and once that happened, other media felt free to go with the story, citing not the original Vatican text but the story as reported by the one who broke the embargo. I could not and did not say a thing until I knew that I would be working within EWTN’s standards, as well as those of the press office. I got clarification last night. Rather than re-tell Sunday’s story, here’s a link to John Allen’s piece in Crux as he tells the story and aftermath very well.

If we had been able to publish the original text Sunday, I’d have written a very long column. Pazienza! Maybe some day…..!


ROME (July 7) – Reporters covering the Vatican find ourselves in a frustrating bind right now, because we’ve got news we can’t fully report — in part because we’re bound by journalistic ethics, and in part because we don’t know ourselves what happened. That vacuum hasn’t stopped the left v. right ideological sausage grinders from swinging into action anyway, running the risk of making it less likely we’ll ever get the full story.

I realize that sounds terribly cryptic, so let me try to break it down.

On Sunday, Pope Francis was set to deliver his usual noontime Angelus address, which often features a brief comment or two on the international situation. As it always does, the Vatican circulated a draft of the address in advance to help reporters prepare, which comes with a strict embargo: We can’t refer to its contents before it’s delivered, and only what the pope actually says is considered official. Anything he skips, therefore, is regarded as having never existed.

Normally popes don’t veer terribly far from the prepared text, sometimes injecting a word or two here or there, skipping a random line for one reason or another, and so on.

However, it’s now a matter of public record that yesterday, Pope Francis omitted a sizeable chunk of text on Hong Kong. I can’t report what the text contained, because I’m bound to honor the conditions under which I received the information. I can report, however, that several Italian news sites have published the text or commented on why it was omitted, and there’s certainly no embargo on their content.

In a nutshell, commentators and news outlets known to be critical of Pope Francis are styling the omission as the latest chapter in what they see as the Vatican’s appeasement of China and its Communist leadership, generally linking it to a deal signed two years ago and shortly up for review that afforded Chinese authorities a role in the nomination of Catholic bishops.




In the face of the United States’ recent statement backing Israel’s building of settlements in the occupied West Bank, the Holy See today issued the following communique:

“In the context of recent decisions that risk undermining further the Israeli-Palestinian peace process and the already fragile regional stability, the Holy See reiterates its position of a two-state solution for two peoples as the only way to reach a complete solution to this age-old conflict.

“The Holy See supports the right of the State of Israel to live in peace and security within the borders recognized by the international community and supports the same right that belongs to the Palestinian people, which must be recognized, respected and implemented.

“The Holy See wishes that the two Parties, negotiating directly with each other, with the support of the international community and in compliance with United Nations resolutions, may find a fair compromise, which takes into account the legitimate aspirations of the two peoples.”



Pope Francis has named Cristiane Murray as the new deputy director of the Holy See Press Office.

Born in Rio de Janeiro in 1962, she is married and has two children. Murray graduated in Business Administration and Marketing from the Pontifical Catholic University of Rio. She joined Vatican Radio in 1995 and since then has been part of the Brazilian team that broadcasts daily programs throughout the country. She has also been in charge of the Vatican News portal in Portuguese, as well as the Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Youtube accounts.

Over the last 10 years, Cristiane Murray has devoted particular attention to the commitment of the Church in the Amazon. She participated as a correspondent in several papal trips and in April 2018 began to collaborate with the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops in the preparation of the upcoming synodal assembly for the Pan-Amazonian Region (October 6-27, 2019). She is Portuguese-Italian bilingual, and fluent in English, Spanish and French.

In a statement issued this morning, Murray said: “I accept this appointment with emotion. For journalists and colleagues in the communication department it is a great recognition of our daily work in bringing to the world the Gospel, the message of the Pope and the Church. I first and foremost want to express thanks to the Holy Father – mine and that of all of us, especially women – for having chosen me for this important task. I thank the Prefect, Paolo Ruffini, the Editorial Director, Andrea Tornielli, and the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops led by Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, with whom I have worked for over a year for the preparation of the synodal assembly for the Amazon. I guarantee my commitment and my enthusiasm to the press office Director, Matteo Bruni, and to everyone in the press office at the service of the Holy See.”

Holy See Press Office Director Matteo Bruni said: “The press office gratefully welcomes the appointment by the Holy Father of Cristiane Murray as deputy director of the Holy See Press Office. I am sure that her professionalism and the experience gained over the years of service to the Church and the Holy See will be extremely valuable in this new position. On behalf of the press office staff, I extend a warm welcome and best wishes for good work.”

Paolo Ruffini, prefect of the Dicastery for Communication, also released a statement: “With the Holy Father’s appointment of Cristiane Murray as deputy director of the Holy See Press Office, the fundamental structure of the communication department is completed. The choice of a woman with roots in Brazil and an open view to the world testifies to the desire to build a team that can speak the language of those who listen to us. I am sure that Cristiane, who has been working in the Vatican media for so many years, and whose professionalism and humanity have always been appreciated, will make a fundamental contribution of intelligence, sensitivity, memory and project in the service we all try to offer to the Church.”

An additional statement was released this morning by Andrea Tornielli, editorial director of the Dicastery for Communication: “I am grateful to the Holy Father for having chosen the Brazilian colleague Cristiane Murray as vice director of the Holy See Press Office. To date, Cristiane has been an important resource for Radio Vaticana-Vatican News and is alsopreciated by the Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops where she served for over a year collaborating in the preparation of the synodal assembly for the Pan-Amazonian Region. Once again, professionalism is recognized within the Vatican media and I am certain that Cristiane’s competency will be invaluable for the work of the Holy See Press Office.” (source:


A statement this morning from Matteo Bruni notes this is his first day as the new director of the Holy See Press Office: “Today I begin my appointment as director of the Holy See Press Office after serving there for ten years in a spirit of service to the Pope and the Holy See with the experience and strength at my disposal. I thank my colleague and friend Alessandro Gisotti for having generously and expertly led the press office in recent months. I am aware of the delicate and decisive task of information and I am sure I will find support in my colleagues, whose value and professionalism in these intense years of work for the Holy See I have come to know. I thank the Holy Father for his confidence and the prefect of the Communication Department, Paolo Ruffini, for the support of the dicastery, which I know will not be lacking.


Statement by Holy See Press Office Director Matteo Bruni on Monday, July 22: “This morning in Damascus, Cardinal Peter Kodwo Appiah Turkson, prefect of the Dicastery for Integral Human Development, accompanied by Cardinal Mario Zenari, Apostolic Nuncio in Syria, and by the undersecretary of the aforementioned Dicastery, Fr. Nicola Riccardi, met with President Bashar Hafez al-Assad. During the meeting, the Cardinal prefect presented to the head of State a letter addressed to him by the Holy Father, which expresses the profound concern of His Holiness Pope Francis for the humanitarian situation in Syria, with particular reference to the dramatic conditions of the civil population in Idlib.”


Acts of war and bombardments against defenseless civilians continue to occur in Syria. With dozens of health facilities destroyed or closed in Idlib Province, Pope Francis asks Cardinal Turkson to deliver a letter to the Syrian President.
By Andrea Tornielli

Protection of civilian life, an end to the humanitarian catastrophe in Idlib Province, concrete initiatives for a safe return of displaced persons, the release of detainees and access for families to information regarding their loved ones, and humane conditions for political prisoners. All this and a renewed appeal for a resumption of dialogue and negotiations with the involvement of the international community.

These are the concerns and concrete requests contained in a letter that Pope Francis addressed to Syrian President Bashar Hafez al-Assad. The Pope’s letter, dated 28 June 2019, was delivered only hours ago by Cardinal Peter Kodwo Appiah Turkson, Prefect of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development.

The Cardinal, bearing the missive written in English, was accompanied by Fr. Nicola Riccardi, O.F.M., Undersecretary of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, and by Cardinal Mario Zenari, the Apostolic Nuncio to Syria.

Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin, the Pope’s primary collaborator, spoke to Vatican News about the content and purpose of the letter.

Q: Your Eminence, why did the Pope decide to write to President Assad?
Cardinal Parolin: “At the heart of this new initiative lies Pope Francis’ and the Holy See’s concern for the emergency humanitarian situation in Syria, in particular in Idlib Province. More than 3 million people live in the area, of which 1.3 million are internally displaced, forced by the long conflict in Syria to find refuge in the area, which last year was declared demilitarized. The recent military offensive has added to the already extreme living conditions they had to endure in the camps, forcing many of them to flee. The Pope follows with apprehension and great sorrow the tragic fate of the civilian population, children in particular, caught up in the bloody fighting. Unfortunately, the war grinds on – it has not ended: the bombings continue, various health facilities have been destroyed in that area, while many others have had to suspend their activities, either completely or partially.”

Q: What is the Pope asking of President Assad in the letter that was delivered?
A: “Pope Francis renews his appeal for the protection of civilian life and the preservation of the main infrastructures, such as schools, hospitals, and health facilities. What is happening is intolerable and inhuman. The Holy Father asks the President to do everything possible to put an end to this humanitarian catastrophe, in order to protect the defenseless population, especially those who are most vulnerable, in respect for international humanitarian law”.

Q: From what you have said, it seems that the intent of the papal initiative is not “political”. Is that true?
A: “Yes, it is. As I have already explained, the concern is humanitarian-based. The Pope continues to pray that Syria may regain a climate of fraternity after these long years of war, and that reconciliation may prevail over division and hatred. In his letter, the Holy Father uses the word ‘reconciliation’ three times: this is his objective, for the good of that country and its defenseless population. The Pope encourages President Bashar al-Assad to carry out significant gestures in this urgent process of reconciliation, and he offers concrete examples. He cites, for example, creating the conditions needed for the safe return of exiles and internally displaced persons, and for all those who wish to return to the country after having been forced to leave. He also mentions the release of prisoners and the access of families to information about their loved ones.”

Q: Another dramatic issue is that of political prisoners. Does the Pope mention this topic?
A: “Yes, Pope Francis is particularly concerned about the situation of political prisoners, to whom – he affirms –humane conditions cannot be denied. In March 2018, the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic published a report on this issue, saying there are tens of thousands of people who have been arbitrarily detained. At times – in unofficial prisons and in unknown places – they are allegedly subjected to various forms of torture without any legal assistance or contact with their families. The report notes that, unfortunately, many of them die in prison, while others are summarily executed.”

Q: What then is the purpose of this new initiative by Francis?
A: “The Holy See has always insisted on the need to seek an appropriate political solution to end the conflict, overcoming partisan interests. And this must be done using the instruments of diplomacy, dialogue, and negotiation, along with the assistance of the international community. We have had to learn once again that war generates war and violence incites violence – as the Pope has said many times, and as he repeats also in this letter. Unfortunately, we are concerned about the stalemate in the negotiation process – especially that seen in Geneva – for a political solution to the crisis. That is why, in the letter sent to President Assad, the Holy Father encourages him to show good will and to work towards finding viable solutions, putting an end to a conflict which has lasted far too long and which has led to the loss of numerous innocent lives”.


Pope Francis Sunday at the Angelus recalled the first time a person set foot on the moon, expressing hope that achieving this goal might inspire work toward even greater ones.

By Francesca Merlo (vaticannews)

“Fifty years ago, yesterday”, Pope Francis said on Sunday, “Man set foot on the moon, achieving an extraordinary dream.”

Addressing the crowd gathered in St Peter’s Square, the Pope expressed his hope that the memory of “that great step for humanity” might spark the desire to reach even “greater goals – more dignity for the weak, more justice among peoples, and more future for our common home.”

Pope St. Paul VI, who expressed much interest in space travel and spent lots of time at the Vatican Observatory, was Pope on July 20, 1969. On that night, along with millions worldwide he watched Neil Armstrong become the first man to set foot on the moon.

Fifty years later, Pope Francis has dedicated much of his pontificate to the fight for the rights of those who are most vulnerable in today’s society as well as for the care of our common home.

Francis has expressed, on numerous occasions, in both words and actions, his desire to help those in need: migrants, the poor, the ill, the elderly and our planet – our common home.

To commemorate the 50th anniversary of the historic moon landing, therefore, Pope Francis shared his hopes for the future and that people worldwide might be inspired by this historic achievement to pursue these fights, and to reach, as mankind did 50 years ago, other extraordinary dreams.


Two statements were sent out on Saturday, July 20, by Alessandro Gisotti, interim director of the Holy See Press Office regarding the recent discovery of bones in the Teutonic College, adjacent to the Teutonic cemetery in Vatican City:

Gisotti began: “At 9am this morning, operations began regularly at the Teutonic cemetery as part of the investigative tasks of the Orlandi case. As indicated in the decree of the Promoter of Justice of Vatican City State, the operations concern two ossuaries identified in an area adjacent to the tombs of Princess Sophie von Hohenlohe and Princess Carlotta Federica of Mecklenburg.

“The remains were analyzed and studied on site in these hours by Prof. Giovanni Arcudi and his staff in the presence of the trusted expert appointed by the Orlandi family – according to internationally recognized protocols.

“It is not possible to predict, at the moment, the duration of the work to complete the morphological analysis of the remains found in the ossuaries.

“Today, in addition to Prof. Arcudi and his staff, the staff of the Fabbrica di San Pietro are working in the Teutonic Campo Santo for the opening and closing of the ossuaries and the staff of the COS, the Vatican Gendarme Security Operations Center. Present the Promoter of Justice of the Court of the State of the Vatican City, Prof. Gian Piero Milano, and his Deputy Prof. Alessandro Diddi, the lawyer of the Orlandi Family and the Officer in charge of the services of the judicial police of the Corps of the Gendarmerie.

“With this new forensic activity – after the operations of July 11 – the availability of the Holy See to the Orlandi Family is highlighted once again. An availability shown from the outset to accepting the (family) requests for verification (of possible remains) in the Teutonic cemetery, even on the basis of a mere anonymous report.

The second statement this afternoon noted that, “At 3 pm, work in the Teutonic cemetery was concluded as part of the investigative tasks of the Orlandi case. Prof. Giovanni Arcudi and his staff – in the presence of the trusted expert appointed by the Orlandi Family – brought to light the remains present in the ossuaries, which were subjected to an initial evaluation.
“According to the Office of the Promoter of Justice of the Vatican City State Court, the expert operations will continue on Saturday July 27, at 9 am, with an in-depth morphological analysis of the remains contained in the ossuaries.”



I normally announce my weekend Vatican Insider guest on my Friday blog but am trying today to get a bit ahead of myself as I’ll be on the road tomorrow afternoon and you never know what snafus there might be with travel plans. I’ll be going to a piece of heaven that Italians call the Amalfi Coast to join a niece and her beautiful family on Part Two of their Italian vacation. Hope to post some amazing photos just so you can get a glimpse of heaven here on earth.

I urge you to stay tuned after the news segment of Vatican Insider for my conversation with Msgr. Richard Soseman of the diocese of Peoria in Illinois. He is the vice postulator for the cause for canonization of Venerable Servant of God Abp. Fulton Sheen. You won’t want to miss this!

At EWTN studios in Rome:

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Pope Francis today made some important appointments in the Vatican’s communications field, naming Matteo Bruni as director of the Holy See Press Office. He also appointed Alessandro Gisotti, interim director for the past 6 plus months, and Sergio Centofanti as deputy directors of the Editorial Directorate at the Dicastery for Communication.

British-born Matteo Bruni becomes the new spokesperson of the Holy See on July 22. He graduated in modern and contemporary foreign languages and literature from Rome’s La Sapienza University. He has been working since July 2009 at the Holy See Press Office, where he has been overseeing the accreditation of journalists and operational communications as coordinator of the accreditation section. In this role, he organized reporters accompanying the Holy Father on papal trips outside Italy. Bruni speaks Italian, English, Spanish and French.

Alessandro Gisotti, interim director until July 22, is a graduate of political science from Rome’s La Sapienza University and a professional journalist. After a stint at the United Nations Office of Information in Rome, he began working at Vatican Radio in 2000. From 2011 to 2016 he was deputy editor-in-chief at the Pope’s radio. In 2017 he became the coordinator of social media of the Vatican Dicastery for Communication.

He has taught journalism at the Jesuit Maximus Institute in Rome and theories and techniques of journalism at the Pontifical Lateran University. (photo of Gisotti in press office from Angela Ambrogetti of ACI Stampa/EWTN)

Thank you, Alessandro! Tante grazie!

Born in Naples, Sergio Centofanti, 59, graduated in literature from Rome’s La Sapienza University in 1986. Starting his career as a journalist in the early ‘80s, he joined Vatican Radio in 1986, working for the first 10 years with the morning edition world news in Italian. He has covered Popes John Paul II, Benedict XVI and Francis on various Italian and international trips. In 2017 he was called to be part of the Multimedia Editorial Center in charge of coordinating the activities of the various language units of Vatican Radio-Vatican News.



Pope Francis, following the Angelus on Sunday, spoke of the “Protection of Minors in the Church” meeting that starts this week – February 21 – in the Vatican. The presidents of the world’s Episcopal Conferences will attend, in addition to many other invitees for a total of 190 participants.

The four-day meeting will include plenary sessions, working groups, moments of common prayer, listening to testimonies, a penitential liturgy, and a final Eucharistic celebration. Francis invited the faithful in St. Peter’s Square to pray for the meeting, saying he wanted it “as an act of strong pastoral responsibility in the face of an urgent challenge of our time,” clerical sex abuse.

This morning there was a press conference to present the meeting on protecting minors. Participants included Cardinal Blase Cupich, archbishop of Chicago, member of the Organizing Committee; Archbishop Charles Scicluna of Malta, adjunct secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, member of the Organizing Committee; Jesuit Fr. Federico Lombardi, moderator of the meeting; and Jesuit Fr. Hans Zollner, president of the Center for the Protection of Minors of the Pontifical Gregorian University, member of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors; Also present was American Pauline Sr. Bernadette Reis, assistant to the press office director.

Interim press office director Alessandro Gisotti moderated.

The press conference opened with brief statements by all of the participants for a total of 45 minutes. Cardinal Cupich said, “we at the conference must give a voice to the voiceless, to the minors, to the victims of abuse.” He announced that people who wanted to follow the meeting could refer to a website that would be launched right after today’s press conference.

That website is:

Archbishop Scicluna, quoting Pope Francis on the trip back from Panama for World Youth Day, said “we all need to be more aware of this problem, we know it’s important that we know what we need to do.” Scicluna added, “It is important that we pray. We must remember the flock is not our own, it is the flock of Jesus Christ. We all need it to be on the same page and just coming together is a big step.” (Scicliuna on left)

The Maltese archbishop thanked the media for the investigative work that has brought this topic where it belongs by bringing stories to light, and encouraged them to continue to collaborate.

Fr. Federico Lombardi outlined the three days of work sessions, as well as the penitential liturgy on Saturday afternoon and the closing Mass with the Pope on Sunday. Those last two events will be in the Sala Regia of the Apostolic Palace, whereas the other meetings are in the new Synod Hall. (Lombardi on right, next to Gisotti)

There will be a specific theme for each of the three days of work: responsibility accountability and transparency. Fr. Lombardi outlined the specifics of each day’s morning and afternoon sessions, including speaker

Fr. Hans Zollner noted that a questionnaire was sent to all participants with five questions. There was an astonishing 89% response. Some of the questions included how would you describe sex abuse by clerics in your country? What is the level of awareness among the public? What are the greatest risk factors in your country/ cultures?

Fr. Zollner said this survey will help to create a synodal church and will help even more so in the follow up to this week’s meeting. He then announced the website whereby everyone can follow this meeting: PBC stands for Presidents Bishops Conference. The site will be continually updated and will eventually serve to tailor the responses for bishops as they do a follow-up in their home countries.

In the question and answer session, which lasted over an hour, Cardinal Cupich was asked when what message he will bring to Chicagoans when he returns. He responded that he wants to make it clear that bishops have to take responsibility on sex abuse issues, that loopholes have to be closed, and that concrete steps – especially for bishops – will be in place. Cupich said he hopes that people see this as a turning point, and that they know that the three themes – responsibility accountability and transparency – will keep children safe. He emphasized that bishops will be held accountable.

In response to a journalist who noted that Archbishop Scicluna was the first to have the courage to use the word “omerta”, a mafia word for silence, vis a vis the Church, Scicluna replied by saying silence can never exist in clerical sex abuse cases. He said, “denial is a natural but a primitive response” adding, there is great need to break any and all codes of silence.

The organizers were asked if they will be addressing “the question of abuse of vulnerable adults, of seminarians,” to which Scicluna immediately responded “other types of misconduct will be addressed.”

Cardinal Cupich, addressing that question, said “it is our intention at this meeting to focus on those who do not have a voice, that is to say and minors.”

A journalist asked Archbishop Scicluna how we felt Pope Francis had evolved on this issue.

In fact, Scicluna was asked last year to be a point man for the Pope in events in Chile after the Pope had he denied the veracity of earlier reports of victims and later, admitted he, Francis, was part of the problem.

The archbishop said “we have to look at Francis where he is now. He no longer hides from reality. The Pope says we need to make things right and the 190 people here for the meeting all want to do that. We are also going to start follow-up procedures immediately after the meeting.” He added he was greatly impressed by Pope Francis’ humility. He added, “If something goes wrong, we need to make it right.”

Another question was asked about accountability. If the Church is asking Episcopal conferences to be accountable for clerical sex abuse cases in their jurisdiction, why is the Vatican not being held accountable to the same standard?

Cardinal Cupich said, “yes, that has to be looked at.” He noted there are reports that say homosexuality is not a cause of abuse of minors, and reports, like CARA, that say reports of cases have declined greatly in the United States since measures were taken to look at how seminaries screen young men.

Another journalist asked how seminarians get ordained, much less move up the ladder to becoming a bishop or beyond. Where are the protocols for selecting a bishop based on behavior, past activity or inclinations, psychological evaluation, etc.

Archbishop Scicluna said the Congregation for Bishops is working on guidelines similar to those in seminaries for evaluating a person nomination for the Episcopal office.

Another journalist asked if there should not be in more input from women, noting that there are only about 10 at this weeks meeting.

Cardinal Cupich agreed and said that, in his 20 years as a bishop the voices and input from women have been very valuable and had helped him very much.

The question was asked: why did the Pope try recently to lower expectations for this conference! Archbishop Scicluna said, “the higher the expectations, the higher the frustrations will be. The Pope has said let’s start with reasonable expectations. It will actually be the follow up everywhere that will be the most watched.

Cardinal Cupich was asked about the alleged Vatican interference in the November meeting of bishops in the US. He said the Holy See actually did us a favor in November by asking us to wait. This is part of the synodality the Pope wants, working together with others.”

Members of the organizing committee have been asked by the Pope to stay in Rome for a few days after the event ends Sunday.




The following was released early this afternoon by the Holy See Press Office:

“In response to the questions raised by a few journalists on the matter pertaining to Bishop Zanchetta, the ad interim director of the Holy See Press Office, Alessandro Gisotti, has affirmed:

“In reference to the articles published recently by several news sources, as well as to some misleading reconstructions, I resolutely repeat what was stated this past 4 January. In addition, I emphasize that the case is being studied and when this process is over, information will be forthcoming regarding the results.”

Here is Gisotti’s full January 4 statement about the case of Argentinean Bishop Gustavo Zanchetta:

“Bishop Zanchetta was not removed from the diocese of Oran (Argentina). It was he who resigned. The reason for his resignation is linked to his difficulty in managing relations with the diocesan clergy and very tense relations with the priests of the diocese. At the time of his resignation there had been accusations of authoritarianism against him, but there had been no accusation of sexual abuse. The problem that emerged then was linked to his inability to govern the clergy.

“After his resignation he spent a period of time in Spain. After the period in Spain, in consideration of his capability for management, he was appointed councilor of APSA [Administration of the Patrimony of the Holy See].

“No charges of sexual abuse had arisen at the time of appointment as advisor. The accusations of sexual abuse date back to this fall (2018). On the basis of these accusations and the news recently reported by the media, the bishop of Oran has already assembled some testimonies that are yet to come to the Congregation for Bishops. If the elements to proceed are confirmed, the case will be referred to the special commission of the bishops. During the investigation, Msgr. Zanchetta will abstain from work.”

This January 21 CNA/EWTN report from Buenos Aires in the National Catholic Register challenges the time line in the above press office statement:

“In an exclusive report from The Associated Press, the former vicar to Argentine Bishop Gustavo Oscar Zanchetta said that the Vatican had had information about sexual-abuse allegations against Bishop Zanchetta for several years.

“This contradicts a Vatican statement made just weeks ago in which it was said that the Holy See had only gained knowledge of sexual-abuse allegations against Bishop Zanchetta a few months ago.

“Bishop Zanchetta resigned as bishop of Orán, Argentina, on Aug. 1, 2017, slightly more than four years after his appointment there. At the time, he cited health problems and “difficulty in managing relations with the diocesan clergy and in very tense relations with the priests of the diocese” and “an incapacity to govern the clergy.”

“About four months after his resignation, Bishop Zanchetta was appointed by Francis to the Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See (APSA) in December 2017. The APSA manages the Holy See’s assets and real estate holdings.

“On January 4, 2019, the Vatican announced that it had first received accusations of alleged sexual misconduct against Bishop Zanchetta only a few months ago, in the fall of 2018.

“Alessandro Gisotti, interim Holy See press officer, said Jan. 4 that, ‘at the time of his resignation, there had been against (Bishop Zanchetta) accusations of authoritarianism, but there had been against him no accusation of sexual abuse. … The accusations of sexual abuse date to this autumn (2018)’.

“But Father Juan Jose Manzano, Zanchetta’s former vicar, told the AP that the Vatican received complaints against Bishop Zanchetta in both 2015 and 2017 for alleged “obscene behavior,” misconduct and sexual harassment of adult seminarians and naked selfies found on his phone.

“Father Manzano, who now is a parish priest in Argentina, told the AP that he and several other diocesan officials alerted the Vatican in 2015 of Bishop Zanchetta’s concerning behavior. He said he sent the Vatican the naked selfies and other compromising images that had been found on the bishop’s phones.

“’In 2015, we just sent a ‘digital support,’ with selfie photos of the previous bishop in obscene or out-of-place behavior that seemed inappropriate and dangerous’,” he told the AP. The 2015 complaint against Bishop Zanchetta was not issued as an official canonical complaint, Father Manzano noted.

“It was an alarm that we made to the Holy See via some friendly bishops. The nunciature didn’t intervene directly, but the Holy Father summoned Zanchetta, and he justified himself saying that his cell phone had been hacked and that there were people who were out to damage the image of the Pope.”

“Father Manzano said that, for a time after being summoned to the Vatican, Bishop Zanchetta’s behavior seemed to improve. But then it worsened, and he would allegedly visit the seminary “at all hours,” get drunk with seminarians, and travel with them alone, often without the permission of the rector of the seminary.

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