What a fun and interesting story this is! I’ve been interested in the Vatican Observatory for years, as you will see, especially when you get to the part entitled “A Serendipitous Encounter.”

It’s been a quiet week for papal and curial news – no general audience today – because the Holy Father and ranking members of the Roman Curia are on retreat until late Friday morning but that doesn’t mean there’s not a great news story out there!


The Vatican Observatory announced that three astronomers at the Vatican’s astronomical observatory and a Pope with connections to the observatory, now have asteroids named after them.

On February 7, 2023 the Working Group for Small Bodies Nomenclature of the International Astronomical Union (IAU) published their latest batch of named asteroids that includes:

562971 Johannhagen — honoring Fr. Johann Hagen (1847-1930) of the Society of Jesus (S.J.) and Director of the Vatican Observatory from 1906-1930.

551878 Stoeger — honoring Fr. Bill Stoeger, S.J. (1943- 2014), a cosmologist and theologian at the Vatican Observatory.

565184 Janusz — honoring Fr. Robert Janusz, S.J. (b. 1964), currently on the staff of the observatory.

560974 Ugoboncompagni — honoring Ugo Boncompagni (1502-1585), Pope Gregory XIII, who directed the reform of the calendar and began the tradition of papal astronomers and observatories. He commissioned the astronomer Fr. Christopher Clavius, S.J. (who also has an asteroid named for him — 20237 Clavius) to work on the calendar project, who then wrote the book on the operation of what is now called the “Gregorian” calendar, used worldwide today.

The observatory statement notes that, “the four asteroids, or “minor planets”, all have connections to the Society of Jesus — the “Jesuits”. Over thirty asteroids now bear the names of Jesuits. Some are Jesuits from the centuries ago, such as Clavius, or Fr. Giovanni Battista Riccioli (1598–1671), who developed the system of lunar nomenclature that is still used today. For example, when the Apollo 11 mission landed in the lunar “Sea of Tranquility,” that name “Tranquility” came from Riccioli. Some, such as Janusz, are Jesuits still working today.

Photos from a media visit several years ago to Castelgandolfo and the two sites of the Vatican Observatory – the Apostolic Palace and a second observatory site on the papal premises.

I have put these into two slide shows where you will see the Apostolic Palace, the views on Lake Albano, the observatory offices, a bit of the town of Castelgandolfo, Fr. Paul Mueller, SJ, observatory vice director who was our guide and teacher, telling us about the Tucson observatory, Popes who have visited the observatory, and other images.

The entire observatory in Castelgandolfo used to be housed on the top floors of the papal palace where the telescopes are. The new headquarters are on the papal premises in a building that use to house an order of nuns.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


The new asteroids join those already named for Vatican Observatory astronomers, including 302849 Richardboyle, 119248 Corbally, 14429 Coyne, 4597 Consolmagno, 23443 Kikwaya, and 11266 Macke. Br. Guy Consolmagno is the current director of the Vatican observatory or specola and has been my guest several times on “Vatican Insider”

I also interviewed another Jesuit astronomer in a truly serendipitous moment.

In August 2017 I was in Honolulu on vacation. Because of an exceptional meeting on my flight from Los Angeles where I was seated next to David Ciardi, an astronomer from Caltech University, I learned that the International Astronomical Union was holding its 29th General assembly in Honolulu, a two-week long meeting that brings together over 2500 astronomers from an estimated 75 countries around the world including Vatican City state.  The Vatican has been famous for centuries for its telescopes and is well-known for VATT, the Vatican Advanced Telescope Technology.

The Vatican sent three of the Vatican Observatory Jesuits to Honolulu for this conference and I was privileged to interview Fr. Chris Corbally, for whom an asteroid has been named, as you just read! A wonderful meeting at Honolulu’s Convention Center which I appreciate even more because of my visits to the specola and interviews with observatory staffers, as well as being a “part time student” in a summer course!

Here is a link to the specola homepage: Vatican Observatory – Home

And if you are an aspiring astronomer and a college student or doing post-graduate work in astronomy, you might be interested in coming to Rome for VOSS – Vatican Observatory Summer School. I attended these on several occasions as a journalist. It was just for the day but was a fascinating, enlightening experience. Vatican Observatory – VOSS 2023





Following the confirmed but devastating story of celebrated Jesuit artist Fr. Mark Rupnik’s physical and psychological abuse of nuns in his native Slovenia, his eventual excommunication for having absolved one of his victims in confession, the eventual lifting of the excommunication but other sanctions imposed by the Jesuits, the religious order has set up an email “hotline” for the reporting of abuse cases by Fr. Rupnik or other Jesuits.

In November 2019, Jesuit superior general Arturo Sosa named Father Johan Verschueren, S.J. as General Counsellor and his delegate for the Interprovincial Houses and Works of the Society of Jesus in Rome (DIR).

Sunday, on the website Home (, Fr. Verschueren wrote that the Rupnik case was behind the decision to set up a structure to handle complaints and he invited anyone who has suffered abuse to contact them.

He said, “for some months now we have created a team of people, women and men, from various disciplines and with different skills to deal with these situations. They are available, and have been, to listen, support and help. The contact email is:

There is a separate email address in the UK from the website: Email:


Each year Becket Law (Religious Liberty for All) reflects on the most absurd affronts to the Christmas and Hanukah season, producing a list of outrageous offenders and handing the most scandalous holiday season transgressor a present worse than coal itself: The Ebenezer Award.

The 2022 Ebenezer Award Winner is KING COUNTY, WASHINGTON!

Why? It’s a kind of Ripley’s Believe It or Not story! Ebenezer Award – Becket (



I am much more aware of the need for warm clothing (see first story) because our building has been without heat for 3 days! Our doorman Carlo hinted that it might be back on tonight and I think a lot of us are saying a few ‘Aves’ that this does indeed happen, sooner rather than later. It seems I can’t wear enough layers of clothing, in addition to the blanket I put over my legs as I sit for hours and write. My AC unit does not provide heat as it is supposed to. I have a small electric heater that I place outside the bathroom door in the morning but do not run it throughout the day as electricity costs and arm and a leg here (and that, before the recent big rise in utility bills this year).

As Mom always told us whenever there was a difficult moment or a disappointment in life: Offer it up for the poor souls in purgatory!

And so I am!

I’ll also get a thermal t-shirt to help some Ukrainians who are far worse off than we are! The following is from the website: Elemosineria Apostolica | Città del Vaticano. Polish Cardinal Krajewski heads the newly-named Dicastery for Charity.


The Ukrainian people are experiencing an emergency linked, in addition to the war, also to the lack of electricity, gas and the very harsh cold of winter. We could help them, this Christmas, with the gift of thermal shirts, suitable for maintaining body temperature, for men, women, or children (the ones you use to go skiing).

The Elemosineria Apostolica is already being replenished, anyone who wants, can join this initiative by purchasing and bringing/shipping the shirts directly to this Dicastery within a month, in order to send them as soon as possible, by truck, to Kiev.

Please ship or deliver to:  Elemosineria Apostolica,  Cortile Sant’Egidio  00120 Città del Vaticano ,cardKonrad Krajewski

A bench in the courtyard of the papal charity office:

Furthermore, if you want to make this a truly Christian Christmas, you can make a donation on a crowd-funding platform where the Apostolic Almsgiving has launched a fundraising campaign called: “The Warmth of Solidarity – Thermal T-Shirts for Ukraine”


I had read last week of the excommunication of Fr. Rupnik, SJ, on three websites that I did not know and I sought but did not get confirmation. One even reported that it was Pope Francis who lifted the excommunication. Therefore, I did not write of it or talk of it (excommunication) last week on Catholic Connection with Teresa Tomeo because the Jesuit communique that had just come out and that we were talking about, did not mention excommunication or confirm the reports.

But now we know: Fr. Marko Rupnik was indeed excommunicated, he repented and it was lifted.

CNA: The Jesuit Superior General, Father Arturo Sosa, has confirmed that Jesuit artist Father Marko Rupnik incurred an automatic excommunication in 2019 for absolving a woman he had sex with, a fact his religious order was aware of but did not disclose until now.

According to a report by the Associated Press, Sosa disclosed this new information Wednesday in a briefing with journalists in Rome.

Abusing the sacrament of confession in this manner is one of the most serious crimes in the Catholic Church.

The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith “said it happened, there was absolution of an accomplice,” Sosa said. “So he was excommunicated. How do you lift an excommunication? The person has to recognize it and has to repent, which he did.”

Sosa also contradicted the Jesuits’ earlier statement and said the restrictions on Rupnik’s ministry, which remain in effect, dated from this earlier conviction and not the 2021 allegations that the Vatican’s sex crimes office decided to shelve because they were deemed too old to prosecute, the AP reported.

Rupnik, 68, is alleged to have sexually abused members of a women’s institute of religious life in Ljubljana, Slovenia, while serving as the chaplain there in the early 1990s, according to the Italian news outlet One of the women allegedly attempted suicide because of the abuse, reported. A source told ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news outlet partner, that at least nine women were allegedly abused.

Those sex abuse allegations were forwarded to the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (now the Dicastery of the Doctrine of the Faith) in 2021. The dicastery closed the case in October after concluding that a 30-year statute of limitations on allegations of abuse between adults had run out.

That decision, which came to light through Italian media reports earlier this month, has generated a host of questions about why the Vatican office chose not to waive the statute of limitations as it has done in other cases. The office is headed by a Jesuit, has a Jesuit sex crimes prosecutor, and had as its No. 2 at the time someone who lived in Rupnik’s Jesuit community in Rome, the AP reported.



(CNA – December 5, 2022 – Hannah Brockhaus)

A prominent Jesuit priest and artist had his ministry restricted, reportedly after an investigation by his religious order into allegations of abuse against religious sisters in Slovenia.

The Jesuits said in a statement dated Dec. 2 that the order has barred 68-year-old Father Marko Ivan Rupnik, SJ, from hearing confessions or conducting spiritual direction since the Vatican received a complaint against him in 2021.

The Vatican declined in October to carry out a canonical process due to the statute of limitations, the order said. The complaint did not include minors.

The Jesuit order said the restrictions on Rupnik’s ministry were still in effect and included a ban on leading the Ignatian Spiritual Exercises. The priest is also prohibited from engaging in public activities without the permission of his superior.

Rupnik, the director of the Centro Aletti in Rome, was the creator of the official image of the 2022 World Meeting of Families, and for over 30 years has designed mosaic artworks for chapels, churches, and shrines around the world.

The Jesuit is best known for overseeing the renovation of the Redemptoris Mater Chapel in the Vatican’s Apostolic Palace, which reopened in 1999 after three years of work.

Rupnik also designed the Redemptor Hominis Church at the St. John Paul II National Shrine in Washington, D.C., as well as other projects in the U.S.

Despite the restrictions on his public ministry, on Nov. 30, Rupnik received an honorary doctorate from the Pontifical Catholic University of Paraná in Brazil.

The Centro Aletti has also continued to publish a video on YouTube every Sunday of Rupnik commenting on the Sunday Gospel. The Diocese of Rome posted a video of Rupnik speaking about eucharistic adoration in February.

According to the Jesuits, the Vatican’s Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith (DDF) asked the order to conduct a preliminary investigation into the Slovenian priest, who has been incardinated in the Diocese of Rome since the early 1990s.

Father Marko Rupnik, SJ, in an interview with EWTN in 2020. | EWTN:

A final report was submitted to the DDF, and in early October, the Vatican “found that the facts in question” fell outside the statute of limitations, the Jesuits said.

A source in the Diocese of Rome confirmed Dec. 5 to ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish partner agency, that the provincial of the Jesuits had informed the diocese of the precautionary measures against Rupnik and suggested that his pastoral activities in the diocese be limited.

The Diocese of Rome did not perform its own investigation into the allegations against Rupnik, the source said, since the accusations concerned alleged abuse in Slovenia, not in Rome.

The source also confirmed that Rome auxiliary Bishop Daniele Libanori had conducted a separate inquiry, unrelated to Rupnik, into the Loyola Community, which was founded in Slovenia.

During the canonical visitation, which is still ongoing, Libanori received accusations from at least nine women against Rupnik, the source said. Rupnik was reportedly the community’s confessor and spiritual director for a number of years.

Run by law and religion scholars, the Italian website “Silere non possum,” Latin for “I cannot keep quiet,” published a story with reports that Rupnik had abused consecrated women in the Loyola Community.



There was a very interesting one-sentence announcement from the Vatican press office today: “The Holy Father has named Massimiliano Strapetti, nurse coordinator of the Vatican’s Health and Hygiene Department (direzione) as his personal health assistant.”

No further explanation or clarification was provided by the press office or any other source.

What can this mean?

The Vatican – Vatican City – has a health and hygiene center and a remarkable and well-stocked pharmacy with a sizeable staff of pharmacists. To become a pharmacist in Italy requires 5 years of intense studies and then passing a very demanding, rigorous exam.

The Vatican health center is for current employees of Vatican City State and the Roman Curia, as well as for retirees. There is a main administrative office and the center is staffed by dozens of physicians of all specialities, as well as the generic “family doctor.” Doctors usually work here two half days a week, in either morning or afternoon sessions. However, all have their own private studios or offices and many are on full time staff at some of Rome’s hospitals.

There are facilities for x-rays and for Doppler and other exams, though the center is not equipped like a full-fledged hospital. There is no “pronto soccorso” or emergency service, such as would be needed for victims of a serious accident, although it was here that Pope John Paul II was brought immediately after being shot on May 13, 1981, attested to by a floor plaque in the main building entrance.

There is, however, a “guardia medica” on duty from 7am to 8pm. This is a kind of emergency medical office, staffed by 3 or 4 doctors, for issues that are usually minor or for patients who have health questions. If a diagnosis is serious and a person needs to be hospitalized, there is a specific office for that at the health center.

Medical personnel is always available for events in the Paul VI Hall, Vatican Museums, the basilica and St. Peter’s Square.

This may be more information than you need but I want to point out that medical care at the Vatican is quite comprehensive.

Although I do not know for certain, I would hazard a guess that even at 3am, for example, a doctor is on call somewhere.

Certainly for the Holy Father, should such a need arise. And/or for cardinals residing in Vatican City.

Popes have always had their own personal physicians. We probably knew more about Pope John Paul’s doctors than any other pontiff in history. Many of us who have covered the Vatican for years can remember, without looking them up, the names of the doctors who took care of him in 1981.

A physician has always accompanied the popes on apostolic journeys, be they short or long.

Years ago, a friend who was a flight attendant told me a fascinating story when we met for dinner on her overnight stay.

Suzanne was shopping on Rome’s celebrated Via Condotti and wanted to buy an upscale purse. A flight attendant colleague had recommended a leather shop near Via Condotti, so she went to the address provided, walked up for the second floor and found what she called “the most fascinating and beautiful leather shop” in Italy!

The owner became a professor of leather as he showed Suzanne around and explained how purses, suitcases, jewelry boxes, etc. were made. During their conversation he showed her a beautiful piece of workmanship, explaining that it had been ordered by the Vatican for the doctor who travelled with popes! He had just finished it and was about to deliver it.

Suzanne told me it had numerous compartments for whatever a physician might need to put inside. She said every aspect of the physician’s bag was beyond perfect craftsmanship, adding, “it will probably last 100 years.”

I return to the original question: What does it mean that the pope chose a “personal health assistant”?

It is clear from the announcement that Strappeti is a nurse. He will obviously now be working more closely with the papal doctor, Roberto Bernabei.

By the way, Pope Francis has said of Strappeti “he saved my life” as it was Strappeti who, last summer, persuaded the Pope to have colon surgery.

Why did the Pope deem it necessary to have a personal health assistant? Is Strappeti needed for the daily therapy that Pope Francis is undergoing for his ongoing knee issue? Tomorrow, August 5, marks 3 months that we have seen the pope use a wheel chair.

Or is there an underlying health issue with the Holy Father that we know nothing about that Strappetti is to oversee?

I do not like speculation but we know nothing more than what we were told today.

Pope Francis often ends encounters with individuals or groups the same way he ends the Angelus on Sundays, asking people to pray for him.

And that we will do, Holy Father!


On Thursday, the Jesuit review La Civilta Cattolica published the exchange between the Jesuit Pope and his fellow Jesuits that took place in the archbishop’s residence in Québec City on the last day of his penitential pilgrimage to Canada. Francis touches on synodality, concern for Haiti, the Church’s love for families, and liturgy as ‘the people of God’s public praise!’

The full text of the conversation, written and published by Fr. Antonio Spadaro, the Editor-in-Chief of La Civiltà Cattolica, can be read here. (vaticannews)




Last Sunday, July 24, the Church marked the Second World Day of Grandparents and the Elderly. This weekend, in the interview segment of “Vatican Insider, I replay, in Part II, my conversation of last July with Catherine Wiley, grandmother and founder of Catholic Grandparents Association (CGA) and Marilyn Henry who coordinates CGA in the United States. Both women are grandmothers and both have exceptional lives and stories.

Catherine was truly the catalyst for this now annual World Day. For years, she had an idea, a dream that, after meetings with Vatican officials and Pope Francis, culminated in last year’s First World Day of Grandparents and the Elderly. A great story of love and determination! And teamwork with Marilyn at her side!

IN THE UNITED STATES, you can listen to Vatican Insider (VI) on a Catholic radio station near you (stations listed at or on channel 130 Sirius-XM satellite radio, or on 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 ALWAYS CHECK YOUR OWN TIME ZONE! For VI archives: go to and write the name of the guest for whom you are searching in the SEARCH box. Below that, will appear “Vatican Insider” – click on that and the link to that particular episode will appear.


Today, July 29, is the longest day of the papal trip for Francis, a day in which he has several morning encounter in Quebec, departs for Iqaluit for further meetings with indigenous and then takes leave of Canada for Rome.

As I write, the Pope has started his day that included private mass and a meeting with Canadian Jesuits (Pope meets with Canada’s Jesuits – Vatican News).

He just concluded his 25-minute meeting and talk with indigenous populations at the archbishop’s house in Quebec, telling them he “leaves Canada greatly enriched by indigenous peoples.” (Pope: ‘I leave Canada greatly enriched by indigenous peoples’ – Vatican News) 

Francis then greeted and thanked the personnel of the archbishop’s residence, and is on his way to the Quebec airport for the three-hour flight to Iqaluit.

Home to about 7,500 people, half of whom are Inuit who have fished here for thousands of years, Iqaluit – “the place of many fish” – is the capital of the Canadian territory of Nunavut and the northernmost city in Canada.

In Iqaluit, at the La Nakasuk Elementary School, he will meet privately with a group of alumni of the residential schools. Nakasuk was an Inuk born in the Northwest Territories, now Nunavut, at the beginning of the twentieth century, who is considered the founder of Iqaluit.

The school building is one of the four elementary schools in the city and is distinguished by its unique, hermetic shape due to the scarcity of windows, a two story fibreglass ice block inspired by the traditional igloo.

After his meeting, Francis will go to an adjacent square to meet with young people and the elderly where traditional songs, dances and music will be performed, and the Pope will deliver his final speech of this trip.

The papal plane departs for Rome at 6:45 pm local time and is scheduled to land on Saturday, July 30 at 7:50 am Rome time.