Today’s papal tweet: May the Holy Spirit help us to be patient when enduring, and to be humble and simple when advising.

From 5 to 6 pm today, Pope Francis will meet with President Trần Đại Quang of Vietnam, president of this Asian nation since April 2, 2016. The press office will be open until 7 this evening as journalists await a Vatican statement on the late afternoon meeting.


Pope Francis held the weekly general audience in the Paul VI Hall and continued his recent series of catecheses on the corporal and spiritual works of mercy. He told the faithful, “among the spiritual works of mercy, we now consider those of counselling the doubtful and instructing the ignorant.  These two works are related and both can be practised daily in our families and communities.

On counselling the doubtful, Francis said, “It is a true work of mercy to counsel those troubled by doubts about the meaning of life or shaken in their faith.  Let us be grateful to all who devote themselves to this work through catechesis and religious education.  All of us are called to support one another by our witness of living faith and generous concern, for these are eloquent signs of the love of God which gives meaning and direction to our lives.

He noted that, “Some might ask me: ‘Father, I have many doubts about my faith, what should I do? Don’t you ever have doubts?’ I have so many, so many… Everyone has doubts every once in a while! Doubts which concern the faith, in a positive sense, are a sign that we want to deepen our knowledge of God, Jesus, and the mystery of His love for us.”

“We should not make faith an abstract theory where doubts are multiplied,” added the Pope. “ Let’s make faith our life. Let’s seek to practice it in service to our brothers, especially those who are most in need. All these doubts disappear, because we feel God’s presence and the truth of the Gospel in the love that lives in us and we share with others.”

On education, the Holy Father explained that, “the Church’s mission of evangelization has always been accompanied by teaching and the founding of schools, since education promotes the dignity of the person and provides for the full development of his or her God-given gifts.  Illiteracy and lack of access to education are in fact a form of poverty and injustice.  Education develops our ability to think critically about ourselves and the world around us.  By raising questions it also helps us to find satisfying answers.”

Continuing on this topic, he said, “It is a condition of great injustice which stains the dignity of people. Without education, one easily becomes vulnerable to abuse and exploitation. It is unthinkable that, in a world where scientific and technological progress has reached such heights, there are still illiterate children. It is an injustice.”


(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis met in the Vatican on Wednesday with participants at a colloquium organized by the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue and the Islamic Culture and Relations Organization from Teheran.

In brief words of greeting to the group, the Pope said he greatly appreciated the presence of those who had travelled from Iran to attend the meeting. He recalled with joy his meeting last January with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, as well as an encounter he had with the country’s vice president for women and family affairs, Shahindokht Mowlaverdi, who visited the Vatican with a group of female professors in February 2015. That visit, he said left him with a very positive impression of Iranian culture.

The Pope also underlined the importance of this 10th round of interfaith dialogue and fraternal encounter. He asked his guests to remember to pray for him and asked God to bless all members of the group.

During the two-day meeting, which concludes Wednesday, the Muslim and Christian scholars have been sharing perspectives on “Extremism and violence in the name of religion: the reasons of the supporters and perpetrators,” “Rational approach to religion: the sign of hope for wounded humanity”, and “Humanity and its common home; the contribution of religion for having a better world”.

The 9th round of this dialogue between the Pontifical Council and the Islamic Culture and Relations Organization was held in December 2014 in Tehran on the theme “Constructive Dialogue between Muslims and Christians for the Good of Society”





As I neared St. Peter’s Square this morning at the start of various appointments in the Vatican, I saw first hand the massive security that was in place for the late morning meeting between Pope Francis and Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani. Adding to the president’s own motorcade of several dozen vehicle and limousines were the dozens of police motorcycles, cars, and vans and several Italian army jeeps with machine-gun toting officers, dressed in camouflage, ringing Vatican City.

Tourists and visitors were kept away from the left hand colonnade, although pilgrims were still allowed to enter the special area of the right hand colonnade to go through security in order to enter St. Peter’s Holy Door.

I well remember the last visit of an Iranian President – 1999 – when Mohammad Khatami came on an official visit to Rome and the Vatican. Traffic problems in the city then, 17 years ago, were massive (and that is an understatement) as many main streets were closed for hours, and some were even closed for the duration of the president’s stay at a Rome hotel. St. Peter’s Square was completely closed to tourists and visitors, and I remember helicopters circling overhead for the duration of the Vatican visit.

For days, news reports have highlighted the importance of Rouhani’s four-day trip to Europe – to Italy, the Vatican and France – especially because Europe was Iran’s largest trading partner before the sanctions, and a range of business and trade deals is expected. On his Italian agenda for his first day, Monday, Rouhani first met with Italian President Sergio Matterella, later meeting with Italian Prime Minister Matteo. Rouhani will be received in France by President Francois Hollande.

The Vatican released the following communique after the 40-minute private visit (with translators) between the Pope and President Rouhani (photos: news.va):


“Today, in the Vatican Apostolic Palace, the Holy Father Francis received in audience His Excellency Hassan Rouhani, President of the Islamic Republic of Iran, who subsequently met with His Eminence Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin, accompanied by His Excellency Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher, secretary for Relations with States. During the cordial discussions, common spiritual values emerged and reference was made to the good state of relations between the Holy See and the Islamic Republic of Iran, the life of the Church in the country and the action of the Holy See to favour the promotion of the dignity of the human person and religious freedom. Attention then turned to the conclusion and application of the Nuclear Accord and the important role that Iran is called upon to fulfil, along with other countries in the Region, to promote suitable political solutions to the problems afflicting the Middle East, to counter the spread of terrorism and arms trafficking. In this respect, the Parties highlighted the importance of interreligious dialogue and the responsibility of religious communities in promoting reconciliation, tolerance and peace.”

The newsworthy part of that communique undoubtedly concerns “…the important role that Iran is called upon to fulfill, along with other countries in the Region, to promote suitable political solutions to the problems afflicting the Middle East, to counter the spread of terrorism and arms trafficking. In this respect, the Parties highlighted the importance of interreligious dialogue and the responsibility of religious communities in promoting reconciliation, tolerance and peace.”

Iran, in essence, was being asked to take a leadership role in the region in the quest for peace and the fight against terrorism.

One report said that Pope Francis brought up the issue of human rights in Iran. That report noted that Amnesty International lists Iran right after China for abuses.

Ten days ago, January 16, Iran freed four U.S. prisoners as part of a prisoner swap, including Washington Post journalist Jason Rezaian and Christian pastor Saeed Abedini. Abedini, in his first media appearance since then, spoke on a FoxNews program last night about his imprisonment in Iran. He was first detained in the summer of 2012. Abedini, a Muslim who converted to Christianity, has dual Iranian-American citizenship.

After their private talk, Pope Francis and President Rouhani exchanged gifts. AP reported that, “The pope’s gift had a spiritual spin. Francis bestowed a medal depicting St. Martin giving his cloak to a shivering man, saying the gesture represents a sign of brotherhood. President Hassan Rouhani brought the pope a red-toned carpet, about 80 cms (32 inches) by 1.2 meters (4 feet) and explained that the rug was hand-made in the Holy City of Qhom. Francis seemed curious as Hassan leafed through a book illustrating Iranian artworks, another gift.”


”I ask you to pray for me,” Rouhani is said to have told Francis: Francis thanked Rouhani for the visit and added: “I hope for peace.”