Pope Francis’ September Prayer intention: For Abolition of the Death Penalty Pope’s September prayer intention: For abolition of the death penalty – Vatican News

The Vatican paper today dedicated a portion of the front page to a large photo of former Russian leader Mikhail Gorbaciov who has died at the age of 91. Calling him “a humanistic visionary,” L’Osservatore Romano reflected on his role in the history of Russia that led to the fall of the Iron Curtain and the Berlin Wall in November 1989 and to the two meetings that Pope John Paul had with Gorbaciov in 1989 and 1990.

I had only been working at the Vatican for several months in November 1990 but I was invited to be part of a small group of people to be present when John Paul and Gorbaciov met. We were in a hall near the papal study and I can remember today what I felt when a door opened and, not 8 feet from where I was standing, stood Pope John Paul and Gorbaciov! I knew I was living an extraordinary moment of history and was thrilled to be in the presence of two men who had brought about that moment, the events that truly changed so much of the world.

I was not a photojournalist so did not always have a camera at my beck and call like we do today. No cell phones in those days, so no personal photos – just my mind’s eye image of that moment in time.


Pope Francis began the weekly general audience by explaining that, “today we begin a new series of catecheses dealing with discernment, the process of making sound decisions about the meaning and direction of our lives.”

“In the Gospels,” he said, “Jesus uses everyday discernment practised by fishermen and merchants to teach the importance of wisely choosing to live a life in accordance with God’s will.” Jesus highlights how fishermen know how to choose – to discern – the better fish and how a merchant will know how to select – to discern – the better pearl.

“Authentic discernment,” stated the Holy Father, “calls for knowledge, insight and experience but also the wisdom of the heart, firm commitment and unremitting effort. … One chooses food, clothing, a course of study, a job, a relationship. In all of these, a life project is realized, and so is our relationship with God.”

“Discernment involves hard work. According to the Bible, we do not find set before us the life we are to live. God invites us to evaluate and choose. He created us free and wants us to exercise our freedom. Therefore, discerning is demanding.”

“As an exercise of our God-given freedom, spiritual discernment seeks to know our place in the Creator’s plan for ourselves and for our world. For our decisions, good or evil, can make the earth either, as God intends, a magnificent garden or a lifeless desert.”

The Pope noted how, “true discernment, born of our loving relationship with God and our human freedom, brings with it a deep spiritual joy and fulfilment. Let us ask the Holy Spirit to enlighten and guide us in our daily efforts to live lives of holiness, wisdom and fidelity to the saving truth of the Gospel.

He added that making the best choice between a set of options also involves our emotions, since a well-made choice can bring us great joy.


In the various language greetings that always follow the weekly audience catechesis, Pope Francis spoke off the cuff to Polish pilgrims today, saying, “Tomorrow you will remember the anniversary of the outbreak of the Second World War, which so painfully marked the Polish nation. And today we are experiencing the Third. May the memory of past experiences push you to cultivate peace in yourselves, in families, in social and international life.” “May Mary support you,” he added, “in your daily choice of goodness, justice and solidarity with the needy, generating hope, joy and interior freedom in your hearts. I bless you with all my heart.” And he invited them to pray in a special way for Ukraine.

Many times in the past, speaking of wars and outbreaks of violence in different part of the world, Pope Francis has used the expression “World War III,” saying this is happening in “bits and pieces.”

Also Remembering Iraq

At the end of the general audience catechesis, the Holy Father said, “I am following with concern the violent events in Baghdad in recent days. Let us ask God in prayer to give peace to the Iraqi people. Last year I had the joy of visiting, and I felt at first hand the great desire for normality and peaceful coexistence among the different religious communities that make it up. Dialogue and fraternity are the way to face the current difficulties and reach this goal.”



I wrote a Ukrainian friend of mine two days ago, a journalist I met when we were covering Pope Benedict’s trip to Lebanon in 2012, to assure him of my prayers for his people and country. He no longer lives in Ukraine but does have family and friends there and he wrote: “Thank you very much for your support. Everything you see on TV is true. We are on the edge of a humanitarian catastrophe and really hope that the world community will react ASAP and help us to stop this war. Please, stay with Ukraine!!!”

I am hearing wonderful stories of how the Polish people are welcoming the hundreds of thousands of Ukrainian refugees arriving in their country, mostly women and young children older males as able-bodied men aged 18 to 60 must remain in Ukraine.

One Polish journalist who covers the Vatican posted this today: “I am in Poland, where there is a great mobilization. Without divisions: political, ideological, historical. The Poles help everyone who arrives at the border (pretty (much) women and children). Everyone who has a little space, a bed in the house, even in the small apartment where he lives, invites a family, a refugee. There are many priests who, during Sunday masses in small and large parishes, invited them to give this help. For these faithful it would be very encouraging to hear a fraze (sic) of appreciation from the Vatican. Even if they are sometimes believers and sometimes non-believers. Here is the Fraternity, not only in faith but in humanism “


Meeting a delegation of Iraqi Church religious leaders on Monday, Pope Francis encouraged the local Christian communities to continue promoting dialogue so as to build fraternity and counteract extremism and fundamentalism. They were visiting Rome on the occasion of the first anniversary of his Apostolic Journey to the country in March 2021.

By Lisa Zengarini (vaticannews)

Courageous witnesses of the Gospel

In his address to the delegatio , the Holy Father recalled that Iraq is the cradle of civilization and of Christianity, remarking that it has also been a land of exiles since biblical times. Referring to the tragic events of these recent years, he expressed his deep gratitude to the Christian communities of Iraq for their “courageous witnesses of fidelity to the Gospel” amid persecution.

“I bow before the suffering and martyrdom of those who have preserved the faith, even at the cost of their lives. Just as the blood of Christ, shed out of love, brought reconciliation and made the Church flourish, may the blood of these many martyrs of our time, belonging to different traditions but united in the same sacrifice, be a seed of unity among Christians and a sign of a new springtime of faith.” Pope Francis receives representatives of Iraqi Churches – Vatican News


The Cardinal Secretary of State speaks with Italian journalists: “To widen the conflict would be a gigantic catastrophe.”

By Vatican News

Cardinal Pietro Parolin warned that the spread of the Ukrainian conflict into the rest of Europe would be a “gigantic catastrophe,” whose prospect makes one shudder. The Vatican Secretary of State made the remarks in an interview with four Italian newspapers (Il Corriere della Sera, La Repubblica, La Stampa and Il Messaggero).

He called for the avoidance of any military escalation, an end to the violence, and the opening of peace talks, insisting, “it is never too late” for negotiation. He said the Holy See is “ready to facilitate negotiations between Russia and Ukraine.”

The cardinal addressed the possibility of the conflict spreading to other European countries in view of the decision by western nations to send weapons to Ukraine. “I don’t even dare think about it,” he said. “It would be a catastrophe of gigantic proportions, even if, unfortunately, it is not an outcome that can be completely excluded.” He took note of statements “in recent days that have evoked the incidents that preceded and provoked the Second World War,” saying, “These references make one shudder.” Parolin calls for escalation to end and negotiations to begin – Vatican News


In the wake of the Russian invasion, many Ukrainians feel abandoned. But as the war continues, there has also been an eruption of solidarity with the Ukrainian people, from Europe and around the world. The Pope has called for a day dedicated to closeness with the suffering of the Ukrainian people: “God is with the peacemakers, not with those who use violence!”

By Sergio Centofanti

Many Ukrainians have felt abandoned in these dramatic days. They do not want to hear about the “price of gas,” because they feel they’ve been sold out. They know that an external intervention could trigger a much bigger conflict, devastating for the world. Belarusian President Lukashenko has even said that sanctions could push Putin towards nuclear war – a scenario we would not even want to think about.

But in the face of the Russian attack and nightmarish threats, solidarity is growing. The invasion of a free country has united Europe as never before. Europe, so divided on so many issues, has never been as united as it is today: it stands by the Ukrainian people. Neighbouring countries have opened their borders to the refugees: Poland, Hungary, Romania, and Slovakia have opened their arms. Other countries are ready to host those forced to flee. Demonstrations and initiatives for peace and solidarity with Ukraine are taking place in Europe and on other continents. We will not abandon the Ukrainian people – Vatican News



Pope Francis sends a message of solidarity to Iraqi Prime Minister, Mustafa Al-Kadhimi in the wake of an attack on his residence in Baghdad, Iraq’s capital

By Vatican News staff writer

Pope Francis has expressed his closeness to Iraqi Prime Minister, Mustafa Al-Kadhimi, after a recent attack on his residence, from which Al-Kadhimi came out unscathed.

The Prime Minister’s residence in Baghdad’s high-security Green Zone was attacked by an explosive-laden drone on Sunday. The drone struck the building injuring seven of the Prime Minister’s bodyguards and drawing condemnation from several quarters.

News sources say that three drones were used in the attack, but two were shot down.

“Following the attack on your residence in Baghdad, His holiness, Pope Francis wishes me to convey his prayerful closeness to you and your family, and to those injured,” read the telegram signed by Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin.

Pope Francis expressed hope that in condemning this “vile act of terrorism,” he is confident that with God’s blessing, the Iraqi people “will be confirmed in wisdom and strength in pursuing the path of peace through dialogue and fraternal solidarity.”

The Holy Father visited the Middle Eastern country from March 5 to 8 this year, making stops at Baghdad, Mosul, Qaraqosh and Erbil. The Prime Minister was part of the delegation that greeted the Holy Father upon his arrival at the Baghdad International Airport.

In July, Pope Francis received Al-Kadhimi in a private audience in the Vatican.

The Holy Father’s message joins the many voices condemning the Sunday attack on the Iraqi Prime Minister.

In an interview, Cardinal Louis Raphael Sako, Patriarch of Babylon of the Chaldeans, denounced the attack, describing it as an attempt to destabilize the state that is based on law, citizenship, order and justice. Cardinal Sako encouraged Iraqi Christians not to get carried away by opposing tensions but to pray for the good of the country.


The Vatican has released the program for Pope Francis’ one-day, private visit to Assisi to meet the poor on November 12.

By Vatican News

Pope Francis will travel to the Italian town of Assisi on Friday, November 12, on the occasion of the World Day of the Poor. The meeting in Assisi, St. Francis’ hometown, will be a private one, during which Pope Francis will share moments of listening and prayer with about 500 people from all over Europe.

Arrival of the Holy Father in Assisi at 9:00 a.m.

In addition to the authorities, who will greet him in the courtyard of the Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi, the Pope will be welcomed by the poor, who will form a symbolic “embrace” to welcome him. Some of the poor will also symbolically hand over to Pope Francis the pilgrim’s cloak and staff, indicating that all have come as pilgrims to the places of St Francis, to listen to his word.

In the Basilica

Testimony of six poor people (two French, one Polish, one Spanish, two Italians). Response of the Holy Father

10:30 a.m. Moment of pause to offer refreshments to the poor

11:00 a.m. Return to the Basilica. Moment of prayer with the Holy Father, Distribution of the Holy Father’s gift to the poor

Concluding greetings

The Pope returns to the Vatican by helicopter while the poor will be hosted for lunch by the Bishop of Assisi, Domenico Sorrentino.


(franciscanmedia.org) – Most Catholics think of St. Peter’s as the pope’s main church, but they are wrong. St. John Lateran is the pope’s church, the cathedral of the Diocese of Rome where the Bishop of Rome presides.

The first basilica on the site was built in the fourth century when Constantine donated land he had received from the wealthy Lateran family. That structure and its successors suffered fire, earthquake, and the ravages of war, but the Lateran remained the church where popes were consecrated. In the 14th century when the papacy returned to Rome from Avignon, the church and the adjoining palace were found to be in ruins.

Pope Innocent X commissioned the present structure in 1646. One of Rome’s most imposing churches, the Lateran’s towering facade is crowned with 15 colossal statues of Christ, John the Baptist, John the Evangelist, and 12 doctors of the Church. Beneath its high altar rest the remains of the small wooden table on which tradition holds Saint Peter himself celebrated Mass. (JFL photos)

Reflection: Unlike the commemorations of other Roman churches, this anniversary is a feast. The dedication of a church is a feast for all its parishioners. In a sense, St. John Lateran is the parish church of all Catholics, because it is the pope’s cathedral. This church is the spiritual home of the people who are the Church.



As you will see below, the Vatican today published the itinerary of Pope Francis’ September 12 to 15 trip to Budapest, Hungary and to Slovakia. It seems to be a jam-packed few days and hopes are high that the Holy Father will be returned to full health by departure day. I counted about 25 events, including plane trips, meetings, and various liturgies in three and a half days! (I have left the upper case references in the original report).


The following telegram was sent Tuesday afternoon in Pope Francis’ name by Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin to the Apostolic Nuncio in Iraq, Archbishop Mitja Leskovar:

“His Holiness Pope Francis was deeply saddened to learn of the loss of life in the explosion at the al-Wuhailat market in Baghdad and he sends condolences to the families and friends of those who have died. Entrusting their souls to the mercy of Almighty God, His Holiness renews his fervent prayers that no act of violence will diminish the efforts of those who strive to promote reconciliation and peace in Iraq.” (AFP photo on Vatican media)


Following is the itinerary for the Apostolic Journey of Pope Francis to Budapest on the occasion of the concluding Holy Mass of the 52nd International Eucharistic Congress, and to Slovakia, (12-15 September 2021):

Sunday 12 September 2021 ROME – BUDAPEST – BRATISLAVA

06:00 Departure by airplane from Rome/Fiumicino International Airport for Budapest 07:45 Arrival at Budapest International Airport

07:45 OFFICIAL WELCOME at Budapest International Airport


09:15 MEETING WITH THE BISHOPS at the Museum of Fine Arts in Budapest Address of the Holy Father

10:00 MEETING WITH THE REPRESENTATIVES OF THE ECUMENICAL COUNCIL OF CHURCHES AND SOME JEWISH COMMUNITIES IN HUNGARY at the Museum of Fine Arts in Budapest Address of the Holy Father 11:30 HOLY MASS at Heroes’ Square in Budapest Homily of the Holy Father Angelus

14:30 FAREWELL CEREMONY at Budapest International Airport 14:40 Departure by airplane for Bratislava

15:30 Arrival at Bratislava International Airport

15:30 OFFICIAL WELCOME at Bratislava International Airport

16:30 ECUMENICAL MEETING at the Apostolic Nunciature in Bratislava Address of the Holy Father

17:30 PRIVATE MEETING WITH THE MEMBERS OF THE SOCIETY OF JESUS at the Apostolic Nunciature in Bratislava

Monday 13 September 2021 BRATISLAVA

09:15 WELCOME CEREMONY at the Presidential Palace in Bratislava

09:30 COURTESY VISIT TO THE PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC in the “Golden Hall” of the Presidential Palace in Bratislava

10:00 MEETING WITH AUTHORITIES, CIVIL SOCIETY AND THE DIPLOMATIC CORPS in the garden of the Presidential Palace in Bratislava Address of the Holy Father



16:45 MEETING WITH THE JEWISH COMMUNITY at Rybné námestie Square in Bratislava Address of the Holy Father

18:00 VISIT OF THE PRESIDENT OF THE PARLIAMENT at the Apostolic Nunciature in Bratislava

18:15 VISIT OF THE PRIME MINISTER at the Apostolic Nunciature in Bratislava


08:10 Departure by airplane for Košice

09:00 Arrival at Košice Airport

10:30 BYZANTINE DIVINE LITURGY OF SAINT JOHN CHRYSOSTOM PRESIDED BY THE HOLY FATHER in the square of the Mestská športová hala in Prešov Homily of the Holy Father

16:00 MEETING WITH THE ROMA COMMUNITY at Luník IX district in Košice Greeting of the Holy Father

17:00 MEETING WITH YOUNG PEOPLE at Lokomotiva Stadium in Košice Address of the Holy Father

18:30 Departure by airplane for Bratislava 19:30 Arrival at Bratislava International Airport

Wednesday 15 September 2021 BRATISLAVA – ŠAŠTIN – BRATISLAVA – ROME

09:10 MOMENT OF PRAYER WITH THE BISHOPS at the National Shrine in Šaštin

10:00 HOLY MASS on the esplanade of the National Shrine in Šaštin Homily of the Holy Father

13:30 FAREWELL CEREMONY at Bratislava International Airport

13:45 Departure by airplane for Rome

15:30 Arrival at Rome/Ciampino International Airport



Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of State, sent a telegram of condolences in Pope Francis’ name to Archbishop Mitja Leskovar, the apostolic nuncio in Iraq, for the victims of a fire that occurred yesterday in the Imam Hussein Hospital in Nassiriya, Iraq.

“His Holiness Pope Francis sends the assurance of his spiritual closeness to all affected by the tragic fire at the Covid isolation ward of the al-Hussein hospital in Nassiriya. Deeply saddened, he prays especially for those who have died and for the comfort of their families and friends who mourn their loss. Upon the patients, staff and caregivers he invokes God’s blessings of consolation, strength and peace.”

Reuters reported at 4:45 this afternoon (European time) that the death toll has reached 92, with more than 100 injured. The coronavirus ward was gutted after an oxygen tank exploded. A hospital medic said this was a tragedy waiting to happen. A similar fire in Baghdad in April killed 82.


In a telegram of condolences for the death of Cardinal Monsengwo Pasinya, archbishop emeritus of Kinshasa, Pope Francis describes him as “a man of justice, peace and unity” with a preferential option for the poor.

By Vatican News staff writer

In the telegram addressed to Congolese Cardinal Fridolin Ambongo Besengu, Pope Francis recalled the service of the archbishop emeritus of Kinshasa, who died Sunday in a French hospital. (vatican media photo)

Expressing his sadness for the death of Cardinal Laurent Monsengwo Pasinya, the Pope said he sends his deepest condolences to the Church and the faithful in the Democratic Republic of Congo and to the Cardinal’s family.

Asking the Father of all mercy to welcome him into His peace and light, he described Cardinal Monsengwo as a “man of science, great spiritual man and Pastor intensely devoted to the service of the Church, wherever he was called.”

The cardinal was attentive to the needs of the faithful, filled with courage and determination. “He dedicated his life as a priest and bishop to the inculturation of the faith and to the preferential option for the poor. In this way, he embodied the prophetic mission of the Church. A man of justice, peace and unity, he has been deeply involved in integral human development in the Democratic Republic of Congo.”

Cardinal Monsengwo, Pope Francis continued, “was a great and respected figure in the ecclesial, social and political life of the nation and was always committed to dialogue and reconciliation of his people. His contribution has been significant for the progress of the country. A faithful and close collaborator in recent years, he has not ceased to make his contribution to the life of the universal Church.”

The Pope concluded the telegram by imparting his Apostolic Blessing upon the archbishop of Kinshasa, the auxiliary bishops, priests, consecrated persons, the family of the deceased Cardinal and his relatives, the diocesan faithful and all those who will take part in the celebration of the funeral.



I want to wish all of my fellow Americans, but especially my family and friends, a wonderful, happy, healthy, fun-filled, celebratory Fourth of July! May July 4th be whatever you want it to be – laid back and restful or filled with family and fun and games galore.

Most of all, may July 4th be a moment to remember the faith and the values of our nation’s founding fathers and the reasons for which the United States of America was formed those many years ago! Perhaps you can make time to read the Declaration of Independence – and if you have children, read it to them!


Welcome back to Part II of my conversation with Fr. Ryan Brady, a good friend and newly ordained priest for the archdiocese of Chicago. I was at Holy Name Cathedral for his ordination on that beautiful day, May 15, 2021. Ryan tells us his story – how he felt called to be a priest, the difference that having a vocation call later in life can make a difference, the importance of the family in a vocation, and some of the experiences and ministries that are part and parcel of training for the priesthood.

He also tells us about the Rome Experience, a program that brought him to the Eternal City for a month with 20 seminarians and several other priests. Ryan is on his flight home to Chicago and his new parish (parishes!) of St. Linus and Our Lady of the Ridge as I write.

Both of us ask that you pray every day for priests and for vocations to the priesthood.

Ryan is next to me at my birthday celebrations two days ago. And we’ve also shared some meals at Homebaked!

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


Pope Francis today received in audience Mustafa Al Kadhimi, prime minister of the Republic of Iraq, who subsequently met with Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin and Archbishop Paul Gallagher, secretary for Relations with States. (vatican media photo)

The Holy See Press office issued a communiqué on the meeting, noting that “during the cordial talks, Pope Francis’ historic visit to Iraq and the moments of unity experienced by the Iraqi people were evoked, and the importance of promoting a culture of national dialogue to foster stability and the process of reconstruction of the country was discussed.”

It said, “the parties went on to highlight the importance of protecting the historical presence of Christians in the country with adequate legal measures, and the significant contribution they can make to the common good, highlighting the need to guarantee them the same rights and duties as other citizens.”!

As they completed their talks, “attention turned to the regional situation, noting the efforts made by the country, with the support of the international community, to re-establish a climate of trust and peaceful coexistence.”

Pope Francis visited Iraq from March 5 to 8.


This is my English translation of a tweet yesterday from the Vatican newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano:

“Dear Reader, As of July 1, reading L’Osservatore Romano in all its editions will be reserved for subscribers only. Subscribing to the digital version by 30 September you can take advantage of the promotional price of € 20 per year. For information: Abbonamenti – L’Osservatore Romano” (By the way, the price doubles on October 1)

The paper edition of L’Osservatore Romano, which yesterday turned 160, costs €450 annually for subscribers living in the Vatican or Italy. All other countries must contact the Vatican at info.or@spc.va.

And here is the link I post every Friday to the week’s L’Osservatore Romano in English: ING_2021_027_0207.pdf (osservatoreromano.va)

The following message accompanied today’s email digital copy of the newspaper:

Dear Reader,

Beginning this 1 July, all editions of L’Osservatore Romano will be available for reading by subscription only.

Subscribe by 30 September to receive the promotional yearly price of €20.

click here to subscribe

We inform you that until July the 15th, access will be available to All

Kind Regards,
Editor-in-Chief of L’Osservatore Romano

Andrea Monda


The Paul VI Hall has seen millions of visitors received by five different Popes over the last 50 years. Here is a photo gallery, recalling some of the events with some of those Popes. 50 years ago: the inauguration of the Paul VI Hall in the Vatican – Vatican News

Vatican News

Wednesday, June 30, 1971, with the first general audience in the Vatican’s new hall, Pope Paul VI inaugurated the so-called “Aula Nervi” designed and built by architect Pier Luigi Nervi.

In his speech, which became at times a lively conversation with the faithful who packed the new hall, Paul VI explained the reasons for having commissioned it by saying it is “now part of the mission of the Roman Pontificate” as he highlighted the importance of the Wednesday appointment with the faithful from all over the world.

Over the last 50 years, the Paul VI Hall has seen five different Popes and welcomed millions of pilgrims. It has been used for many different events, becoming a dining room where Rome’s homeless have shared meals with the Pope on special occasions and the venue for the Synod of Bishops. Through the years it has provided the perfect space for thousands of Wednesday General Audiences in the winter months, and most recently, the Hall has even become a Covid-19 vaccination centre for Vatican employees and for those in need.



As is usual on Sundays and religious holy days, the Pope appears at his study window at noon to recite the Angelus with the faithful gathered below in St. Peter’s Square. Pope Francis recited the Angelus on Sunday, January 5, noting that there is a “terrible air of tension” in many parts of the world, obviously referring to the escalating crisis between the United States and Iran.

He recited the Marian prayer again today, Monday, January 6, feast of the Epiphany, after presiding at Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica.


Amid an escalating crisis between the United States and Iran, Pope Francis urges nations to exercise self-control and dialogue.
By Devin Watkins (vaticannews)

“War brings only death and destruction.”

Pope Francis spoke those words of warning on Sunday, following the Angelus prayer.

Without referring to any specific countries, the Pope said there is a “terrible air of tension” in many parts of the world. “I call upon all parties to fan the flame of dialogue and self-control, and to banish the shadow of enmity,” he said.
The Pope then invited everyone to pray in silence for a moment for this intention.

US – Iran tensions
Pope Francis’ appeal comes on the heels of heightened tensions between the United States and Iran, after a US airstrike killed a top Iranian general in Iraq. General Qassem Soleimani was the commander of the Quds Force, the wing of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps responsible for military activities outside Iran. His death on Friday in Baghdad raised the threat of direct confrontation between the US and Iran.

Iraqi concern
The Patriarch of the Chaldean Catholic Church, Cardinal Louis Raphaël Sako, on Saturday expressed the Iraqi people’s shock at the event. “It is deplorable that our country should be transformed into a place where scores are settled, rather than being a sovereign nation, capable of protecting its own land, its own wealth, its own citizens.” He also called on all nations to exercise moderation, act reasonably, and sit down to seek understanding.


Pope Francis during the January 6 Angelus spoke of the Magi whose lives were changed after encountering the baby Jesus. He also greeted the Eastern Churches, Catholic and Orthodox, many of whom celebrate the Lord’s Christmas on the 7th January.

By Vatican News
Following Mass for the Solemnity of the Epiphany, Pope Francis during his Angelus, addressed a special thought “to the brethren of the Eastern Churches, Catholic and Orthodox, many of whom celebrate the Lord’s Christmas tomorrow. We wish them and their communities, he said, “the light and peace of Christ the Saviour.”

During his Angelus address, the Pope drew from the Gospel of the day that spoke of the three wise men.

The Magi on seeing Jesus
The Pontiff described how after encountering the baby Jesus, their lives were changed. “They saw a different king, a king “who is not of this world”, meek and humble, yet indicated in agreement by the stars and the Holy Scriptures.”

The Pope went on to explain that “the encounter with Jesus does not hold back the Magi, on the contrary, it gives them a new impetus to return to their country, to tell what they saw and the joy they felt.”

The experience of knowing God, remarked Pope Francis, “does not block us, but frees us; it does not imprison us, but it puts us back on the road…”

The Gospel passage, he emphasized, “contains a detail which prompts our reflection. At the end of the story, it is said that the Magi were “warned in a dream not to return to Herod, and by another route they returned to their country.”

Every experience of meeting Jesus, noted the Pope, “leads us to take different paths, because from Him comes a good force that heals the heart and detaches us from evil.”

“This is the difference between the true God and traitorous idols, such as money, power, success…; between God and those who promise to give you these idols, such as magicians, fortune tellers, sorcerers,” he said.

The true God does not hold us back
“The true God does not hold us back, nor does He let Himself be held back by us: He opens to us ways of novelty and freedom.”

Following the recitation of the Marian prayer, Pope Francis had a special greeting for those involved in the historical-folkloristic procession on Via della Conciliazione that is inspired by the traditions of the Epiphany. The Pope also extended his greeting to the procession of the Magi in numerous cities and villages in Poland.


If you attended this morning’s weekly general audience, you heard Pope Francis deliver a catechesis on the Acts of the Apostles and St. Paul’s travels and appeal to Iraqis to pursue dialogue in the face of violence in their country and saw him bless two statues of Our Lady of Lujan, one for the UK, a second for Argentina.


Pope Francis during his weekly General Audience says the Holy Spirit is the protagonist of the Church’s mission.

By Lydia O’Kane (vaticannews)

Despite pilgrims and tourists having their umbrellas to the ready for Wednesday’s general audience, the brief drizzle that descended on St Peter’s Square eventually turned into a clear sky as Pope Francis reflected on his continuing catechesis on the Acts of the Apostles.

He told those gathered that in this book, one can see how “the Holy Spirit is the protagonist of the Church’s mission: it is He who guides the journey of the evangelizers showing them the path to follow.”

St Paul’s missionary journey
The Pope said this can be clearly seen when the Apostle Paul, having come to Troad, receives a vision begging him to come to Macedonia and help the people there. The Apostle, said Pope Francis, has no hesitation; he leaves for Macedonia, sure that it is God Himself who sends him, and arrives in Philippi.

The conversion of Lydia
The Pontiff explained to those present that the power of the Gospel is directed above all to the women of Philippi, in particular to Lydia, a merchant dealing in purple dye, and a believer in God to whom the Lord opens her heart “to adhere to the words of Paul”.

Lydia, continued Pope Francis in fact, “welcomes Christ by receiving Baptism together with her family and welcomes those who belong to Christ, hosting Paul and Silas in her house. … Here we have the witness of the arrival of Christianity in Europe: the beginning of a process of inculturation that still lasts today.” he said.

The Pope went on to describe how, after having received hospitality at Lydia’s house, Paul and Silas then find themselves having to deal with the harshness of prison. He remarked that they go from the consolation of this conversion of Lydia and her family, to the desolation of prison where the key is thrown away for having healed a slave girl in the name of Jesus.

Speaking off the cuff, the Pope said that this slave’s masters made much money out of getting her to tell people’s fortunes.

Even today, Pope Francis commented, “there are people who pay for this” recalling that in his former diocese, in a very large park, there were more than 60 tables where fortune tellers read palms and people believed and paid.

Prison and a jailer’s baptism
By praying fervently to the Lord, said the Pope, “Paul and Silas are freed of their chains by a sudden earthquake. This prompts their jailer to ask how he too can be saved, and after hearing the word of the Lord, he receives baptism together with his family.”

Concluding his catechesis, the Pope underlined how “in these events we see the working of the Holy Spirit and the unchained power of the Gospel.”


Pope Francis appeals to all citizens of Iraq to pursue the path of dialogue and reconciliation in search of solutions, after nearly a week of renewed anti-government protests that have left hundreds of people dead.
By Devin Watkins (vatcannews)

At least 250 people have died throughout Iraq in connection with massive anti-government protests during the month of October.

On Monday, masked gunmen murdered 18 protesters and wounded over 800 others in the Shiite holy city of Karbala. Protesters said they were unsure if the gunmen were special forces, riot police, or militias backed by Iran.

Dialogue and reconciliation

Pope Francis sent his thoughts to all Iraqis on Wednesday and appealed for both the government and protesters to pursue the path of dialogue. He was speaking at the end of the weekly general audience.

“As I express my condolences for the victims and my closeness to their families and the wounded, I invite the authorities to listen to the cry of the people who are asking for a dignified and peaceful life,” said the Pope. “I urge all Iraqis, with the support of the international community, to pursue the path of dialogue and reconciliation and to seek the right solutions to the challenges and problems of the country.”

Pope Francis also assured the nation’s people of his constant prayer that they “may find peace and stability after so many years of war and violence, in which they have suffered so much.”

“Where are Iraq’s riches?”
Bishop Shelmon Warduni, the president of Caritas Iraq, voiced his appreciation for the Pope’s appeal, in an interview with Vatican Radio.

The emeritus auxiliary bishop of Baghdad called on Iraq’s leaders to stop protecting their own interests and “their own pockets” but rather to think about their citizens who are poorly treated.

He urged the international community to pay attention to those poor people “who studied hard but can’t find work.” Bishop Warduni said Iraqis are protesting to demand that their rights be respected by “a government that exploits its own people. … How is it possible for Iraq to be so rich – so rich – but the people are still forced to cry out for work?”

Corruption breeding discontent
Widespread discontent over economic hardship and corruption sparked the first wave of protests earlier in October in which 149 people were killed. A second wave of anti-government demonstrations began on Friday. At least 73 people have died since then.

The unrest is centered in Shiite-majority areas, and most of the anger seems directed at Shiite political parties and militias, which are often supported by neighboring Iran.


During the general audience on Wednesday, Pope Francis met bishops of the Armed Forces – the military ordinariate – from both the UK and Argentina where they exchanged a replica of the statue of Our Lady of Luján, which was brought to the UK by British troops during the Falkland War in 1982.

During the ceremony in St Peter’s Square, two copies were blessed by Pope Francis.

The statue of the Virgin Mary, Patroness of Argentina, will be returned to its native country. A replica will be presented to the Catholic Military Cathedral of St. Michael and St. George in Aldershot, England.

After his installation as bishop of the Armed Forces, Bishop Mason was contacted by Bishop Olivera, who asked if the statue could be returned.

The offer of a replica for the Aldershot Cathedral was also made, which Bishop Paul was more than happy to accept.

The story goes that when Argentinian troops invaded the Falkland Islands in April 1982, they brought with them the statue, a copy of the 1630 original, which is located in the Basilica of Lujan in Argentina.

St. John Paul II visited the original statue in Luján in 1982.

The statue which was left behind in a Church in Port Stanley was then packed up on a military transport to the UK and ended up at the Catholic Military Cathedral of St Michael and St George in Aldershot.

It has stayed there since as a focus for prayer offered for the fallen of both sides of the Falklands conflict.



It was quite a joyful weekend in Rome! Tens of thousands of visitors and pilgrims for the Pentecost celebrations at the Vatican, including two papal MASSES, one on Saturday evening, the vigil of Pentecost and another Sunday morning. In addition to the huge crowds for those events – 50,000 at the vigil and 25,000 on Pentecost Sunday, hundreds more came to the Eternal City to mark the inauguration of CHARIS – Catholic Charismatic Renewal International Service.

Under the Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life – and willed by Pope Francis – this new service will “promote communion among the world’s Catholic charismatic communities and “highlight the importance of promoting the grace of baptism in the Spirit, activities for the unity of Christians, service to the needy and participation in the evangelizing mission of the Church.”

The result of a retreat weekend with students and theology professors at Duquesne University in 1967, Catholic Charismatic Renewal movement over the years grew, expanded and flourished and is now in 138 countries in the world, having touched millions of Catholic loves. The new organization, CHARIS, by the way, is not a governing organization but one in service to the renewal movement.

Also over the weekend was the traditional Pentecost shower of red rose petals from the “oculus” of the Pantheon, an extraordinary event that I have attended several times in recent years.

If you have ever been to the Pantheon, you know that its dome has a single, circular opening at the apex called the “oculus.” On Pentecost Sunday, after the 10:30 am Mass, tens of thousands of red rose petals are released into the church from the oculus by Roman firemen who have scaled the famous dome. Red, of course, is the color for Pentecost, and the petals bring us back to the first Pentecost when tongues of fire – the Holy Spirit – descended upon the Apostles.

Monday was a big news day at the Vatican: Pope Francis expressed his desire to travel to Iraq: he convened a 4-day meeting of papal representatives (ambassadors), and the Congregation for Catholic Education released its document “Male And Female He Created Them ” – Towards A Path Of Dialogue On The Question Of Gender Theory In Education.”

Here is a link to the Vaticannews story on this document. It contains a summary of the 57 points presented in 33 pages: https://www.vaticannews.va/en/vatican-city/news/2019-06/vatican-document-on-gender-yes-to-dialogue-no-to-ideology.html

Dated Vatican City, February 2, 2019, Feast of the Presentation of the Lord, it was signed by Cardinal Giuseppe Versaldi, prefect, and Archbishop Angelo Vincenzo Zani, secretary. As I write there is no direct link to the entire document on the Vatican news page. If one is not given eventually, I will study the feasibility of publishing part of the document each day.


Receiving members of the 92nd Plenary Session of ROACO, the Reunion of Aid Agencies that provides aid to the Oriental Catholic Churches, Pope Francis reveals it is his wish to travel to Iraq in the coming year.
By Linda Bordoni (vaticannews)

Pope Francis said on Monday he “thinks constantly of Iraq,” where he wishes to travel in the coming year.

He was addressing representatives of ROACO, the Reunion of Aid Agencies for the Oriental Churches.

As he listed countries that fall within the Reunion’s reach and where the faithful continue to suffer – including Syria, Ukraine and the Holy Land – the Pope focused on Iraq.

He said he hopes it is able to build a peaceful future based on the “shared pursuit of the common good on the part of all elements of society, including the religious,” without falling back into “hostilities sparked by the simmering conflicts of the regional powers.”

Iraq’s small Christian population of several hundred thousand suffered persecution and hardship when so-called Islamic State took control of large swathes of the country, but have recovered freedoms since the jihadists were pushed out. The country is home to many different eastern rite churches, both Catholic and Orthodox. It would be a first ever apostolic visit to the nation.

Thanking the members of the ROACO committee, which unites funding agencies from various countries around the world for the sake of providing assistance in different areas of life to the clergy and to the faithful of the Oriental Churches, the Pope said ROACO “attends to the pleas of all those, who in these years have been robbed of hope.”

Iraq, Syria, Ukraine, Holy Land
Reflecting briefly on the particular situations in some of the countries and regions ROACO reaches, the Pope expressed sorrow for “the dramatic situation in Syria and the dark clouds that seem to be gathering above it in some yet unstable areas, where the risk of an even greater humanitarian crisis remains high.”

“Nor,” he said, “do I forget Ukraine, in the hope that its people can know peace.”

Then he expressed his trust in a Holy Land initiative in which, he said, “the Christian communities of the status quo are working side-by-side” with the cooperation of local and international actors.

Migrants and refugees
Pope Francis also highlighted the plight of migrants and refugees saying, “We hear the plea of persons in flight, crowded on boats in search of hope, not knowing which ports will welcome them, in a Europe that opens its ports to ships that will load sophisticated and costly weapons capable of producing forms of destruction that do not spare even children.”

Hope and consolation
The Pope did not neglect to underscore voices of hope and consolation that he said “are the echoes of that tireless charitable outreach that has been made possible also thanks to each of you and the agencies that you represent.”

He said that by nourishing hope for the coming generations, we help young people “to grow in humanity, freed of forms of ideological colonization and with open hearts and minds.” He noted that this year, the young people of Ethiopia and Eritrea – following the greatly desired peace between the two countries – abandoned their weapons and are living in harmony.

The Pope concluded by asking those present to help him spread the message of fraternity contained in the Abu Dhabi Document and to continue to preserve those realities that, he said, have been practicing its message for many years now.


I posted news yesterday on Facebook about the canonization ceremony for seven news saints during Mass in St. Peter’s Square, including St. Pope Paul VI and murdered Salvadoran Archbishop St. Oscar Romero.

If you tune it tonight to EWTN’s “At Home with Jim and Joy,” you will hear me share two interesting stories about the first Pope I ever spoke to, the new saint, Paul VI. John XXIII was the first Pope I ever saw in a general audience but no words were exchanged.

It was a very busy morning today for Pope Francis as he addressed thousands of pilgrims who had come to Rome for St. Romero’s canonization, welcomed the president of Poland and later, in the Secretariat of State, presented the new Substitute for General Affairs, 58-year old Venezuelan Archbishop Edgar Peña Parra. Appointed by Pope Francis on 15 August, he succeeds Cardinal Angelo Becciu, who was recently named Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints.

The Romero pilgrims –

Read on for synod news: I am puzzled by some words, a bad translation probably, in one part of the press briefing, as you can see here:  Fr Marco Tasca, O.F.M., the Franciscan General, said that he has been reflecting on St Francis of Assisi who had to make a radical choice to follow a different lifestyle. He said that this is what the Church offers today. Listening, he said, has been key. He told a story that he heard about a bishop who visited a family. A young person in the house told the bishop that he is fake. He said that the bishops responded by asking the young person to help him not to be fake.


Iraqi auditor, Mr Safa al Abbia, speaks about his experience of the Synod and the response to his presentation to the Synod assembly.
(vaticannews – Russell Pollitt, SJ)

Mr Safa al Abbia is a 26-year-old Chaldean Catholic dentist from Iraq. He was invited to the Synod of Bishops on Young People, Faith and Vocational Discernment currently underway in Rome.

His plea to the Bishops is that the universal Church helps young people in Iraq who are being persecuted for their faith. He explained that the main challenge for youth in Iraq is “peace and stability and their right to live in dignity.”

In his intervention at the Synod, which ended with rapturous applause, he told the Bishops that young people were struggling to remain as faithful witnesses to Jesus and hold onto their traditions, values and liturgy. He said that many of them have watched their brothers and sisters being martyred and their churches bombed.
He also related a painful experience. He said that he will never forget the face of his friends who, after Mass, said, “See you next week”. He never saw them again because they were “burned under the fire of the bombed car” near their church.

He told Pope Francis that he had a message for him from the young people of Iraq: “They hope one day to see you in Iraq.”

He said that he had two important experiences at the Synod: First, that he was able to tell the world what was happening in Iraq because it was important that others knew the inside story. He said he felt supported by many who were at the Synod who heard his story. Second, he discovered that many young people across the world are suffering for different reasons. He mentioned sexuality, social media and the breakdown of family life. He said that it was important because knowing what happens in other places means that young people can support each other in all sorts of ways – including through prayer and by helping people rebuild what has been destroyed.

Mr Al Abbia said that he believes that he was really heard at the Synod. He said that after the applause he received in the general assembly, many people came to him and asked how they could help the people of Iraq.

He hopes that the Synod will, in the end, result in an accurate account of reality. He does not want the Synod to be “saying a speech and clapping and support [for] the talk” but a real “positive feedback” of reality on the ground, the lived experiences of many young people.

He says that he had more than one opportunity to speak to Pope Francis. Smiling broadly he says that the first time he met the Holy Father he could not speak because he was so stunned to be standing in front of the Pope. He tells of how, in Brazil, at World Youth Day, they only saw the Pope in the distance. Now he stood before him!

The second time he met Pope Francis he says he asked him to pray for his country in general but also for all the Christians of Iraq and for him and his family.

The third time he met the Pope he made a video, asking the Holy Father to give a message to the young people of Iraq which he intends playing to them next week when the young people of Iraq will gather to pray for the Synod currently underway.

He said that Pope Francis is a wonderful person.

The Holy Father responded telling him that he would pray for the people of Iraq. Mr Al Abbia explains how, when talking about Iraq, he sees a real sadness in the Pope’s eyes.

At the end of his speech he told the Pope that the Iraqi people, especially young people, hope he will visit the country. He says that the Holy Father laughed when he heard that.

Mr Al Abbia said that his message to the world is to ask for prayer for Iraq. He also says “do not forget us.” He said that he realises that there is a lot of suffering in the world and maybe the attention of the world has shifted to places like Syria. Although the situation in Iraq is a bit better, he says that nothing is guaranteed. “Don’t forget us because we have a wonderful group of young people that are steadfast in their faith, salt to the earth as Jesus said.”

He says that he is afraid that young people in Iraq will lose their faith and become hopeless. This he believes leads to two possibilities: young people leave the Church or immigrate from Iraq. He said that in 2003 there were 1.5 million Christians in Iraq, now there are only 400 thousand. This is a “miserable thing!” He reminds the world that Christianity was in Iraq from the first century.

“It is not possible to say, one day, oh there were Christians in Iraq, no, the Christians have to still be in Iraq. This is the message, we need the world to support us and at the same time we support all the young people around the world and we pray for them and their countries and their families.”

He says that the biggest challenge of this Synod will be that young people are waiting for results, they want “fast results.” He says that young people are tired and bored and they want something that reflects reality.

Mr Al Abbia said that in an email he was told that the Synod was a waste of money, that the Vatican brought people from all over the world and that this could have be done through electronic means, like Skype. He said that it was important that people came together in Rome, to share their stories like he shared his. He said that being able to share his story helped him tell the world, for example, about what is really happening in Iraq.

He said that it was important that the Church listened to young people and then responded. He adds, “but we need a fast response.”

Mr Al Abbia had to return to Iraq soon after doing this interview. His mother is unwell and he needed to be with her. He told Vatican News that he could not come back to the Synod of Bishops on Young people because his visa only allowed him one entry into the EU.


Three General Superiors and an auditor from Chile were present at the daily press briefing on the Synod of Bishops on Youth, Faith and Vocational Discernment
By Russell Pollitt, SJ (vatiannews)

The message of young people to bishops

Ms Silvia Teresa Retamales Morales said that it was a great privilege and responsibility for her to be at the Synod. She said that she was here to express the voices of all those young people who wanted to come to Rome and talk to the bishops. She says that when the young heard she was coming to the Synod they reached out to her, many of whom were non-Catholic. They told her that they wanted her to bring this message: they want a multi-cultural Church that is open to all, not a Church this is judgmental. They want a Church that makes everyone feel at home, a Church that reflects the message of Jesus Christ. She also said that young people say that the Church should not discriminate against minorities – especially people of different sexual orientations and the poor.

Addressing, specifically, homosexuality, she said that young people believe that gay people have the same rights as everyone else and that they too want to live their faith in the Church. She says that she sees discrimination, people who are not open to gays. She said that the Church’s first mandate is love. Gay people must be fully recognised as brothers and sisters that need to be accompanied by us. She said that this had been discussed in the Synod assembly.

Ms Morales said that young people also want women to be given a bigger role and responsibility in the Church. In Chile, she said, women are becoming more empowered in both society and in the Church, they must be given more responsibility.

Opportunity for a renewed mission

Fr Arturo Sosa, S.J., said that many challenges, like secularisation and the digital world, are an opportunity to renew the mission of the Church to proclaim the Gospel. He said that the challenge of how to educate young people in an unpredictable world needs consideration.

Fr Sosa also said that a sign of our times is migration and the way that migrants are treated in every country. Migrants, he said, are people who are looking for a better life. He said that the reaction to migrants and refugees shows us just how inhumane we are becoming. He said we need to understand why people leave their countries and also why there is massive internal movement. He says this necessitates that we ask questions like why democracy seems to be weakening and nationalism is on the rise and how this is linked to migration.

The Jesuit Superior General said that people are helped in emergency situations but that he was also shocked to see how much time refugees spend in camps, some most of their lives. Can you imagine what happens to young men and women who spend their lives in refugee camps, he asked. He explained that the Jesuits are trying to use technology, the digital world, to provide education in the camps.

Listening must move to action

Dominican General, Fr Bruno Cadoré, said that Church, through the Synod, wants to pass from listening to conversation. He says that the preparation for the Synod was accurate and detailed and that young people were listened to inside and outside of the Church.

Fr Marco Tasca, O.F.M., the Franciscan General, said that he has been reflecting on St Francis of Assisi who had to make a radical choice to follow a different lifestyle. He said that this is what the Church offers today. Listening, he said, has been key. He told a story that he heard about a bishop who visited a family. A young person in the house told the bishop that he is fake. He said that the bishops responded by asking the young person to help him not to be fake. Fr Tasca said that this is the meaning of the word listening: being open to what young people say, their style. He said that the Synod was taking place to build the Church, together. He said that the Synod must move from listening to conversation so that the Church can find its way. He said that sometimes it is “difficult to find dawn in twilight.”

Fr Sosa said that he personally believed that Vatican II introduced an ecclesiological model that has not become a reality. He said that we made some progress and then took steps back. He said that at the heart of that model is that the people of God are in the centre. This model, he said, needs to be embodied in history.

Fr Cadoré said that a hallmark of the Church is that it is open to change, orientated towards the future.

At the briefing Dr Paolo Ruffini, the Prefect of the Vatican Dicastery for Communications, clarified that on Saturday 27 Oct. 2018 the Synod Father’s will vote paragraph by paragraph on the final document. Each paragraph needs a two-third majority to be part of the final text.

The question of women auditors being allowed to vote was asked again. The Superiors present reminded journalists that this was a Synod of Bishops and the Church is marked by its culture. Fr Sosa said that Pope Francis wants a deeply synodal Church so changes might be forthcoming. He said that the discomfort with this is important as it means something is not right and it needs to be addressed.