Pope Francis sent the following telegram to Archbishop Leo Cushley upon the death of Cardinal O’Brien:

The Most Reverend Leo W. Cushley, Archbishop of Saint Andrews and Edinburgh

I was saddened to learn of the death of His Eminence Cardinal Keith Patrick O’Brien, and I offer heartfelt condolences to you, his family and all who mourn his passing. Commending his soul to the merciful love of God our Father, and with the assurance of my prayers for the Archdiocese of Saint Andrews and Edinburgh, I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing as a pledge of peace and consolation in our Lord Jesus Christ.


The Holy See Press Office announced today that, on March 29, Holy Thursday, at 4 in the afternoon, Pope Francis will go to Regina Coeli (Queen of Heaven) prison to celebrate the Mass of the Lord’s Supper. He will meet with sick prisoners in the infirmary and then celebrate Mass during which he will wash the feet of 12 prisoners from Section VIII.


A new production combines innovation and tradition to lead younger generations to a new appreciation of one of the greatest works of art of all time – the Sistine Chapel.

The famous Last Judgment by Michelangelo is the centrepiece of a new, fully-immersive “live show” at the Conciliazione Auditorium in Rome.

Entitled “Universal Judgment: Michelangelo and the secrets of the Sistine Chapel,” the immersive spectacle features live-performances, 4k projections, and brilliant special effects. The four-part show was produced by Marco Balich, a director and producer famed for organizing ceremonies at the Olympic games.

“Universal Judgment” is the first production of Balich’s “Artainment” company, combining art and entertainment “to educate and amuse, in order to realize the full and harmonious development of the human person,” according to Monsignor Dario Edoardo Viganò, prefect of the Vatican’s Secretariat for Communication.

The show features a theme song composed by pop star Sting, as well as dancers and acrobats, and an impressive sound system. “We want to imbue the fruition of a work of art with a strong emotional impact,” said Balich, “using the codes that relate to the younger generations that have grown up with Play Station, that go to the movies in 3D, watch Netflix, but are on the other hand almost distracted with respect to this wonderful artistic patrimony.”

The Vatican Museums offered their expertise to ensure the accuracy of the presentation. Experts from the Vatican helped recreate the frescoes of the Sistine Chapel, and offered critical perspective on the relationships between Michelangelo and Popes Julius II and Clement VII; as well as explaining the process of papal conclaves.

The €9 million production opened March 15 at the Conciliazione Auditorium, with two shows per day for at least a year. However, it is hoped that the show will become a permanent fixture in Rome. (vaticannews,va)


As I start this column, I have no idea if I will have Internet or not when I am ready to post. My home phone landline and Internet have been down for most of three days and that is why I was unable to post a column on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Obviously if the line goes down again, you will not be able to read this explanation!

My cell phone was my vehicle of communication for emails and for posting on Facebook. I was able to go to and, for those stories I wanted to post, I simply hit “share” and it went to both Facebook and Twitter. I could access my blog but not that section that allows me to write, post photos, etc.

Unless I have previously stated a reason for not posting a column and you see a blank page in the future, it means Internet and phone lines are down. Many of us in this neighborhood who use Telecom for phone and Internet service suffered the same fate. What has been really strange is that everything worked in the morning but went down at the same time for 3 days running – between 2:30 and 2:35 pm!

Here are a few interesting stories for your edification. As you recall, when the Vatican published the Pope’s Holy Week schedule, I noted that nothing had been indicated for the Holy Thursday Mass of the Lord’s Supper. Well, today we got that news…..

Pope Francis issued an invitation at morning Mass at the Santa Marta residence:

“I invite you today to take five minutes, ten minutes, sitting, no radio, no TV; sit and think about your own story: the blessings and troubles, everything. Both grace and sin… I am sure that, in the midst of the things that may be bad – we all have them, many bad things in life – if today we do this, we will discover the beauty of God’s love, the beauty of His mercy, the beauty of hope. And I’m sure we all will be filled with joy.”


(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis will wash the feet of inmates at Paliano prison, south of Rome, during the Mass of Our Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday.

The Vatican announced on Thursday that the pope will travel to the penitentiary on the afternoon of April 13th for a private visit and the celebration of Mass marking Jesus’ Last Supper with his disciples on the day before his Crucifixion.

Pope Francis began the tradition of travelling to a prison for the traditional Last Supper Mass in March 2013, just a few days after the inauguration of his pontificate. On that occasion he travelled to Rome’s Casal del Marmo youth detention center where he included, for the first time, women and Muslims among the inmates whose feet he washed.

The following year, he celebrated the Last Supper Mass at Rome’s Don Gnocchi center for the disabled, again including women among those who had their feet washed in memory of Jesus’ gesture of humility and service.

In 2015 Pope Francis travelled to Rome’s Rebibbia prison for the Holy Thursday celebration, while last year he washed the feet of refugees, including Muslims, Hindus and Coptic Orthodox men and women at a center for asylum seekers in Castelnuovo di Porto, just north of Rome.


Apr 5, 2017 / 12:10 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis’ envoy to Medjugorje said Wednesday that the site seems to be bearing numerous expressions of faith and vocations. However, he added, the final determination of the apparition’s authenticity remains to be seen.

Archbishop Henryk Hoser was sent by the Pope to evaluate the pastoral situation for residents and pilgrims in Medjugorje. He clarified that he was not tasked with anything beyond this scope.

“The same as you, I expect a final decision from the commission, and of course the Holy Father Pope Francis,” Archbishop Hoser said at an April 5 press conference in Medjugorje. “I do not know what the Holy Father thinks, he never told me,” he said. “The Holy Father also needs to see what are the conclusions of the commission.”

The apparitions are under investigation by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which is to submit its final document to the Pope for a final decision. Read more here:


(Vatican Radio)  Pope Francis has sent a letter to the Cardinal Archbishop of Chicago, Blasé J. Cupich, in support of local efforts to promote nonviolence.

The Chicago Archdiocese launched a campaign on nonviolence on 4 April to coincide with the 49th anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

The event culminates with a march for peace on Good Friday.

In his letter, Pope Francis assured the people of Chicago of his support for the initiative and of his prayers for those who “have lost loved ones to violence”. He wrote that he will remember the city in prayer as he leads the Way of the Cross in Rome that same day.


I’d like to wish the readers of “Joan’s Rome” and my Facebook page a very blessed, beautiful and Happy Easter. EWTN staff has this afternoon and all of tomorrow, Good Friday, off so as to participate in the Easter Triduum liturgies and Easter Sunday of the Resurrection. I will probably not post anything until Monday after Easter, but who knows? Stay tuned!

I do have a little note about tonight’s papal Mass of the Lord’s Supper that you might enjoy. And if you intend to follow the Way of the Cross with the Holy Father at the Colosseum tomorrow night on television, here is a link to the booklet that pilgrims will receive in Rome:


In lieu of an interview segment on “Vatican Insider” this Easter weekend is a Special I have prepared on the Shroud of Turin. This week and next I ask the question – and attempt to answer – Who is the Man of the Shrou





As you know, in the United States, you can listen to Vatican Insider 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:


Archbishop Rino Fisichella, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization explained the special Holy Thursday Mass of the Lord’s Supper as it will be celebrated by Pope Francis this year on the official Jubilee website-

On Holy Thursday, Pope Francis will spend time in Castelnuovo di Porto with young refugees who are hosted by the Reception Centre for Asylum Seekers, known as the Centro di Accoglienza per Richiedenti Asilo, or CARA. The simple but eloquent visit will include the celebration of the Rite of the Washing of Feet. The Pope will stoop to wash the feet of 12 refugees as a sign of service and attention to their situation.

During the Jubilee Audience held on Saturday, 12 March, in speaking about the act of the washing of feet, Pope Francis stated: “By washing the feet of the Apostles, Jesus wished to reveal God’s mode of action in regard to us, and to give an example of his ‘new commandment’ (Jn 13:34) to love one another as He has loved us, that is, laying down his life for us.”

Delving deeper, he added that love “is the practical service that we offer to others. Love is not a word, it is a deed, a service, humble service, hidden and silent.” Indeed, “it is expressed in the sharing of material goods, so that no one be left in need.” It is, moreover, “the lifestyle that God suggests, even to non-Christians, as the authentic path of humanity.”

In light of these considerations we can understand the symbolic value intended by Pope Francis’ visit to the CARA in Castelnuovo di Porto and his bending down to wash the feet of refugees. His actions mean to tell us that it is important to pay due attention to the weakest in this historic moment; that we are all called to restore their dignity without resorting to subterfuge. We are urged to look forward to Easter with the eyes of those who make of their faith a life lived in service to those whose faces bear signs of suffering and violence.

Many of these young people are not Catholic. Therefore this gesture by Pope Francis takes on even more eloquence. It points to respect as the royal road to peace. Respect means being aware that there is another person beside me. A person who walks with me, suffers with me, rejoices with me. A person whom, one day, I may one day lean on for support. By washing the feet of refugees, Pope Francis implores respect for each one of them.




Vatican City, March 22, 2016 – Welcoming refugees, as a work of mercy, is for Christians a tangible form of living the Jubilee of Mercy, writes Archbishop Rino Fisichella, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting New Evangelisation, in an article in which he explains the meaning of Pope Francis’ decision to celebrate Holy Thursday with refugees in a reception centre for asylum seekers.

“Millions of refugees are showing the world the real features of a new exodus in which we see the movement masses of destitute people, who now have neither home nor homeland,” he writes. “They reluctantly flee under the pressure of gratuitous violence, pointless war and hunger, towards destinations that are often a figment of the imagination rather than reality. Nonetheless the wealthy countries of the west in particular remain indifferent in the face of a drama that is troubling on account of both its duration and the number of people involved.”

“In his appeal on September 6 last year, during the Sunday Angelus shortly before the beginning of the Jubilee of Mercy, the Pope asked that every parish, religious community, monastery and shrine to open its doors to a family, starting with the diocese of Rome. A small but concrete gesture to promote awareness of the international drama. It set in motion a movement that led to the expression of great solidarity amid the silence. However time passes and the initial provocation, unfortunately, seems to have diminished while the problems remain and become increasingly acute. In the first months of the Holy Year of Mercy a significant influx of people from around the world has been registered, a clear sign that Christians experience this moment as an opportunity offered to them to feel God’s closeness, tenderness and forgiveness.”

“Among the seven works of corporal mercy, there is, with its current relevance, that of hospitality,” remarks Archbishop Fisichella. “Welcoming refugees thus becomes for Christians a tangible expression for living the Jubilee of Mercy. In this year, one Friday each month Pope Francis usually gives concrete witness of these works. In the month of December he opened the Holy Door of the ‘Don Luigi di Liegro’ hostel that offers shelter to the homeless and distributes meals every day. In January he visited many elderly people and patients in a vegetative state to demonstrate that the ‘throwaway culture’ has little to do with the Christian vision of life. In February he visited a rehabilitation community for young drug users to offer them hope for the future.

“This coming Holy Thursday Pope Francis will go to Castelnuovo di Porto to spend time with the young refugees sheltered in the Reception Centre for asylum seekers. … The visit will be accompanied by the rite of the washing of the feet. The Pope will bow before twelve refugees and wash their feet as a sign of service and attention to their condition.


“In last Saturday’s Jubilee audience, commenting on the gesture of washing the feet, the Pope said, ‘Washing the feet of the apostles, Jesus wanted to reveal God’s way of acting towards us, and to give the example of His new commandment of loving each other as He loved us, that is, giving His life for us’. Even more specifically, he added, ‘Love is the concrete service that we render to each other. Love is not words, it is works and service’.

“In the light of these considerations, it is possible to understand the symbolic value that Pope Francis intends to bestow upon his visit to the Centre at Castelnuovo di Porto, and his bowing down to wash the feet of the refugees. He wishes to say to us that it is necessary to give due attention to the weakest at this historical moment; that we are all called upon to restore their dignity, without recourse to subterfuge,” emphasises the prelate. “This drives us to look towards Easter with the eyes of those who transform their faith into a life lived in the service of those whose faces bear the traces of suffering and violence.

“Many of these young people are not Catholics. The sign Pope Francis offers therefore becomes even more eloquent. He indicates the path of respect as the high way towards peace. Respect, in its semantic value, means recognising there is another person beside me. A person who walks with me, suffers with me, rejoices with me. A person who, one day, will be able to lean on me for support. Washing the feet of the refugees, Pope Francis demands respect for each one of them”.



This morning, in keeping with the tradition for the January 21 liturgical memory of St. Agnes, two lambs, blessed earlier in the morning in the Roman basilica named for this saint, were presented to Pope Francis. The lambs are raised by the Trappist Fathers of the Abbey of the Three Fountains. When their wool is shorn, the Sisters of St. Cecelia weave it into the palliums that, on the June 29th feast of Sts. Peter and Paul, Apostles, are given to new metropolitan archbishops as signs of their office.


The pallium is a white woolen circular band embroidered with six black crosses which is worn over the shoulders and has two hanging pieces, one in front and another in back. Worn by the Pope and by metropolitan archbishops, it symbolizes authority and expresses the special bond between the bishops and the Roman Pontiff. In a 1978 document, “Inter Eximina Episcopalis,” Pope Paul VI restricted its use to the Pope and metropolitan archbishops. Six years later, Pope John Paul decreed that it would be conferred on the metropolitans by the Pope on the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul.

Usually in attendance at the January 21 ceremony in the Apostolic Palace are 21 people, including two Trappist fathers, several nuns, two canons of the Chapter of St. John, the dean of the Roman Rota, and two officials from the Office of the Liturgical Celebrations of the Supreme Pontiff, and a number of other invited guests.

The baby lambs, under one year of age, are normally tucked into wicker baskets, and both lambs and baskets are adorned with red and white ribbons and flowers, white to symbolize purity and red to signify the blood of a martyr. In 2004 St. John Paul II blessed the lambs during a general audience in the Paul VI Hall as both the audience and St. Agnes’ feast day occurred on a Wednesday.


Agnes died about 305 and is buried in the basilica named for her on Rome’s Via Nomentana. Historical accounts vary about the birth, life and manner of death of Agnes but generally it isrecounted that, in order to preserve her virginity, she was martyred at a very young age, probably 12. She is usually depicted with a lamb because the Latin word so similar to her name, agnus, means “lamb.” The name Agnes is actually derived from the feminine Greek adjective hagné meaning “chaste, pure.”

A couple of years ago I was intrigued by the January 21 press office communiqué about this event. It had been slightly altered since the announcement the previous day that the Pope would bless “two live baby lambs.” Naturally it was the word “live” that intrigued me – as if he might bless lambs that were no longer alive. That word did not appear the day of the blessings!

In 2011, L’Osservatore Romano, the Vatican paper, carried an interview with Sr. Hanna Pomniaowska, one of the Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth who prepares the lambs every year for their Vatican visit. This order of nuns has been preparing the baby lambs for over 130 years and it was their founder, Blessed Frances Siedliska, who started this custom in 1884. Up to that date another order of nuns had prepared the lambs but it became difficult when the nuns began to age. At that time the Sisters of the Holy Family took over the duties.

Two lambs are brought to the sisters on January 20 by the Trappist Fathers of Tre Fontane (Three Fountains). The nuns then bring the lambs to the top floor of their residence where there is a terrace with a laundry room where the lambs are washed with delicate soap usually used for children until their wool is white as the driven snow and they are dried with a hair dryer that, in recent years, has replaced the towels they once used.

The nuns are careful to completely dry the lambs so that, at their tender age, they do not fall sick. The room is well heated. After the lambs are dried they are placed in a tub that is covered with straw and closed with canvas so they don’t catch cold. A meal of straw is fed to the lambs who then spend the night in the laundry.

The morning of January 21, the nuns place two small capes on the lambs, one is red to indicate St. Agnes’ martyrdom and the other is white to indicate her virginity. There are also three letters on each mantle: S.A.V. (St. Agnes Virgin) and S.A.M. (St. Agnes Martyr). The sisters weave crowns of interlocking red and white flowers, place them on the baby lambs’ heads, and then put the lambs in a decorated basket. The lambs are tied so they don’t escape. In fact, one of them did escape a few years back, jumping up and running from the altar at St. Agnes basilica.

In the morning the lambs are brought to St. Agnes Basilica where they are placed on the altar and blessed. Following this ceremony, two papal sediari or chair bearers bring the lambs in a van to the Vatican where they are presented to the Holy Father. It is usually the sisters who are celebrating a jubilee of religious vows who are present in the papal residence.


(VIS) – The Holy Father has written a letter, dated 20 December and published today, to Cardinal Robert Sarah, prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, in which he decrees that from now on, the people chosen for the washing of the feet in the liturgy of Holy Thursday may be selected from all the People of God, and not only men and boys.

The Pope wrote that he has for some time reflected on the “rite of the washing of the feet contained in the Liturgy of the Mass in Coena Domini, with the intention of improving the way in which it is performed so that it might express more fully the meaning of Jesus’ gesture in the Cenacle, His giving of Himself unto the end for the salvation of the world, His limitless charity”.

“After careful consideration”, he continues, “I have decided to make a change to the Roman Missal. I therefore decree that the section according to which those persons chosen for the Washing of the feet must be men or boys, so that from now on the Pastors of the Church may choose the participants in the rite from among all the members of the People of God. I also recommend that an adequate explanation of the rite itself be provided to those who are chosen”.

The Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments has today published a decree on the aforementioned rite, dated 6 January 2016, the full text of which is published below:

“The reform of the Holy Week, by the decree Maxima Redemptionis nostrae mysteria of November 1955, provides the faculty, where counselled by pastoral motives, to perform the washing of the feet of twelve men during the Mass of the Lord’s Supper, after the reading of the Gospel according to John, as if almost to represent Christ’s humility and love for His disciples.

In the Roman liturgy this rite was handed down with the name of the Mandatum of the Lord on brotherly charity in accordance with Jesus’ words, sung in the Antiphon during the celebration.

In performing this rite, bishops and priests are invited to conform intimately to Christ who ‘came not to be served but to serve’ and, driven by a love ‘to the end’, to give His life for the salvation of all humankind.

To manifest the full meaning of the rite to those who participate in it, the Holy Father Francis has seen fit to change the rule by in the Roman Missal (p.300, No. 11) according to which the chosen men are accompanied by the ministers, which must therefore be modified as follows: ‘Those chosen from among the People of God are accompanied by the ministers’ (and consequently in the Caeremoniale Episcoporum No. 301 and No. 299 b referring to the seats for the chosen men, so that pastors may choose a group of faithful representing the variety and unity of every part of the People of God. This group may consist of men and women, and ideally of the young and the old, healthy and sick, clerics, consecrated persons and laypeople.

This Congregation for Divine Worship and the Disipline of the Sacraments, by means of the faculties granted by the Supreme Pontiff, introduces this innovation in the liturgical books of the Roman Rite, recalling pastors of their duty to instruct adequately both the chosen faithful and others, so that they may participate in the rite consciously, actively and fruitfully”.