As you will read below in my preview of “Vatican Insider,” I leave tomorrow for Houston to attend a very important event in the life of the Church as well as of one of her priests. I’ll be writing about this and posting photos when I’m in Houston, and I’ll do my best to be timely and offer good insight but the agenda is quite full so I will have to work hard to find time!


If you listen to Vatican Insider when it airs on Saturday, I will be on a plane heading for Houston, Texas. If you listen to the Sunday re-air, I will be in Houston and preparing for a marvelous event on February 2, the episcopal ordination of a good friend, Bishop-elect Steven Lopes, as the first bishop of the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of Peter. The Personal Ordinariate is a structure in the Church created by Pope Benedict in 2009 to answer requests by Anglicans who wanted to enter into full communion with Rome. The first ordinariate to be created was Our Lady of Walsingham in the UK in January 2011. Msgr. Keith Newton, a former Anglican bishop was appointed by Benedict XVI as the first ordinary.


A second Ordinariate was created a year later on January 1, 2012. in the U.S. and is known as the Personal Ordinariate of the See of Peter. As its website says: The Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter is equivalent to a diocese for Roman Catholics who were nurtured in the Anglican tradition. Members of the Ordinariate are fully Roman Catholic, while retaining elements of Anglican heritage in their celebration of liturgy and in the hospitality and ministries of their Catholic communities. Based in Houston, Texas, the Ordinariate has more than 40 Roman Catholic parishes and communities across the United States and Canada.

This weekend and next on Vatican Insider, we will re-air my two-part interview with Msgr. Newton, helping you to better understand the ordinariate.

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 and Msgr. Graham Bell, under secretary of the same dicastery, presided at a press conference this morning in the Holy See Press Office to explain the event for the Missionaries of Mercy and also the temporary transfer to Rome of the mortal remains of Sts. Pio of Pietrelcina and Leopold Mandic.

The multi-lingual Archbishop Fisichella spoke in Italian but offered an English translation of his talk:


It is has been almost two months now since Pope Francis opened the Holy Door of St. Peter’s. Since that moment, the Doors of Mercy have been opened all around the world. The incredible number of people who have registered for these events allows us to acknowledge how this insight of Pope Francis, his idea of having this Extraordinary Jubilee, has answered a true need of the people of God who are receiving this event of grace with great joy and enthusiasm. We can conclude from this participation that the Jubilee is being intensely lived in all the world and in every local Church, where this time of grace is being organized as a genuine form of renewal for the Church and as a particular moment of the new evangelization.

Every day we receive thousands of pictures and documents from around the world attesting to the commitment and the faith of believers. Yet all of this activity has not stopped a substantial number of pilgrims from arriving in Rome during this period. According to the data available to us on a daily basis, as of today 1,392,000 people have participated in Jubilee events. An interesting detail is that 40% of those who have attended come from abroad, speaking largely Spanish and French. We have registered pilgrims from Bangladesh, Hong Kong, Korea, Kenya, Mozambique, El Salvador, New Zealand, Argentina, Mexico, the Fiji Islands, Russia, Belarus, the Seychelles, the Ivory Coast, Chad, Kuwait, the U.S.A., Albania and from many other countries. I would like to reiterate that this is not the criteria by which to judge the actual outcome of the Jubilee. A Holy Year of Mercy goes well beyond numbers, for it is intended to touch the hearts and the minds of people in order to  assist  them  in  coming to  understand  the  ways  in  which  God’s  great  love manifests itself in their daily lives. It is a time during which to assess our lives of faith and to understand how we are capable of conversion and renewal, both of which come from recognizing the importance of remaining focused upon what is essential. In any case, a general evaluation of the Jubilee cannot be made after only two months but must be done at its conclusion. All of the other considerations at the moment are incomplete and temporary and, thus, do not merit particular attention.

During this period, Pope Francis has carried out two particular signs of his concrete witness of mercy. On Friday, December 18, he opened the Door of Charity in the homeless shelter, “Don Luigi di Liegro”, where he celebrated Holy Mass in the refectory. On January 15, he visited the nursing home for the aged, “Bruno Buozzi” in Torrespaccata, after which he went to Casa Iride where he spent time with those in vegetative states who are being assisted by their families. These signs possess a symbolic value before all of the many needs that are present in society today. They are, however, intended to stir in all of us a greater awareness of the many situations of need in our cities and to offer a small response of caring and aid.

There  are  two  particular events  that  now  merit  our attention.  The  first  pertains  to  the presence in Rome of the urns containing the relics of Saint Leopold Mandić and Saint Padre Pio of Pietrelcina. Such an occasion is of great significance for it is an unprecedented event, given the stories of these two saints who spent their lives in the service of the mercy of God. Padre Leopold (1866-1942) was canonized by John Paul II on December 16, 1983 and is less well known than Padre Pio. Yet, his hunger for holiness spread beyond the Church of Padua, where he lived the major part of his life and where his memory and his relics remain. Originally from Croatia, this Capuchin father dedicated all of his life to the confessional. For almost thirty years, he spent from ten to fifteen hours a day in the secrecy of his cell, the very place which became a confessional for thousands of people who found in their relationships with him the privileged witness of forgiveness and of mercy. Some of his brothers noted that he was “ignorant and too lenient in forgiving everyone without discernment.” Yet, his simple and humble response to this charge leaves one speechless: “Should the Crucified blame me for being lenient, I would answer Him: Lord, you gave me this bad example. I have not yet reached the folly of your having died for souls.” Padre Pio (1887-1968), who was canonized in 2002 and also by John Paul II, does not require lengthy presentations. This simple Capuchin friar spent his entire life at San Giovanni Rotondo without ever leaving that town. Certainly, during his life, some in Rome caused him to suffer, but his holiness always prevailed.  In the silence of obedience, he also became a privileged witness of mercy, dedicating all of his life to the celebration of the Sacrament of Reconciliation. We are grateful to the Capuchin  Fathers  and  to  the  Bishops  of  the  Dioceses  of  Padoa  and  Manfredonia-Vieste-San Giovanni Rotondo for having responded so graciously to the wish of the Pope that the relics of these two saints remain in Rome for a period of time during the Jubilee.

The program is quite simple. The urns containing the relics will arrive in Rome on February 3 where they will be placed in the Church of San Lorenzo Fuori le Mura. The church will be open to the faithful starting at 15:00 with a celebration of reception. The relics will remain in San Lorenzo until 20:30 the following day, during which time there will be a number of celebrations reserved for the vast extended Franciscan Family. An all-night vigil is being organized in the Jubilee Church of San Salvatore in Lauro, which will begin at 22:00 on February 4. The prayer will continue until the following day, February 5, with various celebrations and will conclude with Holy Mass at 14:00 presided by His Excellency Michele Castoro, the Archbishop of Manfredonia-Vieste-San Giovanni Rotondo. At 16:00, a procession with the two urns containing the relics will begin from San Salvatore in Lauro and then proceed the entire length of Via della Conciliazione in order to arrive at the sagrato of St. Peter’s Basilica. There on the sagrato, His Eminence Angelo Cardinal Comastri, the Archpriest of St. Peter’s Basilica, will receive the relics and after a moment of prayer, will then accompany the relics into the Basilica where they will be placed in the central nave before the  Altar  of  the  Confession  for  people  to  venerate.  The  relics  will  remain  in  St.  Peter’s  for veneration until the morning of February 11 when, after the Holy Mass of thanksgiving at 7:30 am at the Altar of the Chair, they will be returned to their original homes. It is opportune to note that on February 10, Ash Wednesday, the Basilica will remain closed in the morning for the General Audience and then, in the afternoon, Holy Mass will be celebrated in the Basilica to mark the beginning of Lent. Thus, those who wish to venerate the relics are kindly asked to choose to do so on one of the previous days and to follow along the Jubilee reserved walkway in order to enter through the security check point as rapidly as possible.

As previously noted, the second event pertains to the celebration that will take place on Ash Wednesday when the Holy Father will give the mandate to the Missionaries of Mercy. As attested to in the Bull of Indiction, Misericordiae vultus, the Missionaries are to be a “sign of the Church’s maternal solicitude for the People of God, enabling them to enter the profound richness of this mystery so fundamental to the faith. There will be priests to whom I will grant the authority to pardon even those sins reserved to the Holy See, so that the breadth of their mandate as confessors will be even clearer. They will be, above all, living signs of the Father’s readiness to welcome those in search of his pardon. They will be missionaries of mercy because they will be facilitators of a truly human encounter, a source of liberation, rich with responsibility for overcoming obstacles and taking up the new life of Baptism again. They will be led in their mission by the words of the Apostle: ‘For God has consigned all men to disobedience, that he may have mercy upon all’” (Rom11:32).

Thus, the Missionaries of Mercy are a select number of priests who have received from the Pope the charge to be privileged witnesses in their respective Churches of the extraordinariness of this Jubilee event. It is only the Pope who nominates these Missionaries, not the Bishops, and it is he who entrusts them with the mandate to announce the beauty of the mercy of God while being humble and wise confessors who possess a great capacity to forgive those who approach the confessional. The Missionaries, who come from every continent, number over 1,000. I am delighted to announce that there are Missionaries coming from many distant countries and, among these, some of which have a uniquely significant importance such as: Burma, Lebanon, China, South Korea, Tanzania, United Arab Emirates, Israel, Burundi, Vietnam, Zimbabwe, Latvia, East Timor, Indonesia, Thailand, and Egypt. There will also be Oriental Rite priests.

We have received a great response for participation but must place a limit on the large number of requests in order to ensure that the specific sign value, one which expresses how truly special the initiative is, be maintained. All of the Missionaries have received the permission of their respective diocesan Bishops or Religious Superiors and will make themselves available to those requesting their services throughout the entirety of the Jubilee but, most especially, during the Lenten Season.

There will be 700 Missionaries arriving in Rome. Pope Francis will meet with them on February 9 in order to express his feelings regarding this initiative which will certainly be one of the most touching and significant of the Jubilee of Mercy. On the following day, only the Missionaries of Mercy will concelebrate  with  the  Holy  Father,  during  which  time they will receive the “mandate”, as well as the faculty to absolve those sins reserved to the Holy See. An interesting story may help to capture the pastoral interest that this initiative has garnered around the world. Father Richard from Australia will visit 27 communities in his rural Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle where there is only one church and no priests in residence. Traveling in a camper, he will journey from community to community as a “Missionary of Mercy on Wheels”! This is but an example of the way in which the Jubilee is meant to reach all, allowing everyone to touch the closeness and the tenderness of God.

Finally, regarding other Jubilee events, the first Jubilee Audience will be held in St. Peter’s Square on Saturday, January 30. Pope Francis has responded generously to the many requests he has received from pilgrims who wish to meet him. Consequently, one Saturday a month has been added to the official calendar for a special audience, one which will be in addition to the regular Wednesday Audiences. This first audience already has 20,000 people registered. Another event of particular interest is the Jubilee for the Curia, the Governorate, and Institutions connected to the Holy See to be held on February 22. This celebration will begin with a reflection given by Father Marco Rupnik at 8:30 am in the Paul VI Hall. After this meditation, there will be a procession through  St.  Peter’s  Square  which  will  pass  through  the  Holy  Door.  Holy Mass  will  then  be celebrated by Pope Francis at 10:00.

The Jubilee continues to following its course and we are certain that, in accord with the desires of Pope Francis, it will be an important occasion “to live out in our daily lives the mercy which the Father constantly extends to all of us.”


Today I offer three stories – the good news of the general audience, the great news from China and the bad news story about fraudulent Jubilee souvenir vendors in Rome.

Here is the logo from the official website of the Jubilee of Mercy that will be on all OFFICIAL merchandise:


Some background for the second story: I discovered many years ago that I harbored great affection for Catholics wherever they were persecuted and suffering. For many decades I followed the situation of Catholics in what used to be called Eastern Europe, the communist bloc countries of Hungary, Poland, Czechoslovakia, the USSR, etc.

My attention also turned to China in the 1990s when I was working for the Vatican and, in 1995, was part of the Holy See delegation to the 1995 U.N. Conference on Women in Beijing. We had daily Mass in our delegation suite (and the Chinese authorities who were placed in the hallway outside our rooms and this suite knew it!), always leaving the door a bit ajar on purpose. A Catholic Mass in a Chinese hotel would have been unthinkable before the U.N. conference or afterwards, even though freedom of religion was stated in a pamphlet about the Chinese constitution that was in every room.

There is the underground Church in China and the government-allowed Church – as you will see in the AsiaNews story.

I also have been following Church-State relations in Vietnam. I wrote about several of my experiences during my June 2013 trip to Vietnam – to DaNang and Hochiminhville (Saigon).

I was thus overjoyed when I read the AsiaNews story and why I called it great news. I could dedicate an entire book to all of the places I have mentioned. I have also been to Taiwan and there is flourishing freedom of religion there.


Pope Francis, at today’s weekly general audience, told pilgrims that he wanted the Jubilee to be an experience shared by all people. He said, “the Jubilee of Mercy was inaugurated this past week by the opening of the Holy Door, not only here in Rome but in dioceses worldwide, as a visible expression of our communion in the universal Church.”

He told his guests that he personally opened the first Holy Door in Bangui, the heart of Africa, when he visited the Central African Republic in November, noting that Rome is “the visible symbol of that mystery of communion between the Universal and each local Church.”

The Pope explained that, “Fifty years ago, the Second Vatican Council reminded us that the Church is called to be, in Christ, the visible sign of God’s merciful love for the entire human family. Each of us, by practicing charity, mercy and forgiveness, can be a sign of the power of God’s love to transform hearts and to bring reconciliation and peace.”

Mercy and forgiveness are not just nice words, said Francis, but rather visible signs that faith has transformed our hearts. “In our daily lives, we must never grow tired of loving and forgiving others as God loves and forgives us.”

“By going through the Door of Mercy during this Holy Year,” said the Holy Father, “we show our desire to enter more deeply into the mystery of Christ’s redemptive love. Jesus tells us that He Himself is the door to eternal life (cf. Jn 10:9), and he asks us, through genuine conversion, to open the doors of our hearts to a more sincere love of God and neighbor. … As we go through, we must also remember to keep the door of our hearts wide open.”

He then spoke extemporaneously and asked the faithful to “make sure that no one asks you to pay for going through that door! You don’t pay for salvation – Jesus is for free!”

Pope Francis said, “a special sign of grace in this Jubilee of Mercy is the sacrament of Penance, in which Christ invites us to acknowledge our sinfulness, to experience his mercy, and to receive the grace which can make us ever more effective signs of his reconciling love at work in our world.”


A “miracle” at the Holy Door in Zhengding: 10,000 underground Catholics celebrate the Jubilee without arrests (Gallery)

Rome (AsiaNews) – “It’s a miracle! It is protection from Heaven!” said some Catholics from the underground community in Zhengding (Hebei) after what happened on Sunday, December 13.

About 10,000 faithful from Zhengding, Lingshou, Beijing, and Baoding had gathered outside the cathedral (pictured) to celebrate the beginning of the Jubilee and the opening of the Holy Door.

The “miracle” is that police, always present in front of the church, did nothing to prevent the event and did not arrest anyone. (Perhaps) an even greater miracle was the fact that the underground bishop led the liturgy, which lasted from 8:30 am to 12:30 pm.

MSgr Julius Jia Zhiguo, who is not recognized by the government, has been under house arrest for years for refusing to join the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association (CPCA), and for remaining loyal to the pope.

The CPCA is a Communist Party agency whose aim is to establish a Catholic Church independent from the pope.

Msgr. Jia Zhiguo lives near Zhengding cathedral and is monitored day and night. He is often taken away for a week or two of “holiday” – i.e. classes of indoctrination and brainwashing – to convince him to join the CPCA.

Despite this, “it is amazing,” said a nun, “that so many people could gather for so long and no one was arrested. It is likely that there were plainclothes police mingled with the crowd, but nothing happened.”

A procession followed by a series of readings from Misericordiae Vultus, Pope Francis’ Bull of Indiction of the Jubilee of Mercy, preceded the solemn opening of the Holy Door in Zhengding. A single Eucharistic ceremony followed the door opening.

For years, the Chinese government has been trying to eliminate unregistered underground communities, whose “crime” is that of engaging in unsupervised religious activities. For this reason, priests involved in underground services are often imprisoned.

In recent months, many underground priests and bishops have come under strong pressure to join the CPCA, through enticements and offers of money.

Despite the constant monitoring to which he is subjected, Msgr. Jia Zhiguo is well liked by the police as well as the population.

For a long time, he hosted at his residence about 200 abandoned children and disabled people, taking care of them along with some nuns and faithful


(ANSA) Both pilgrims and counterfeiters have geared up for the Jubilee. Not only are fake rosaries, images and key rings flooding the religious-items market, there are also counterfeit personalized apostolic blessings on pontifical parchment with Holy See seals and photos of Pope Francis. Italian finance police confiscated 3,500 on Monday, a day when Interior Minister Angelino Alfano and Finance Police Chief Saverio Capolupo presented the first results of the Jubilaeum action plan against fraud and counterfeiting during the Holy Year.

“We knew that the Jubilee would have been hit by illicit business and fraudsters, and we thus prepared to fight against it,” the minister said. “A million counterfeit products have been confiscated this first week. The Jubilaeum plan aims to help pilgrims, increase perceived security and the fight against illegal trade, accommodation and counterfeit products. Every day as many as 32 finance police patrols are carried out in Rome to step up surveillance.”

A shop near St. Peter’s Basilica has been found to have housed the illegal printing press for the fraudulent apostolic blessings offered to unwitting pilgrims. The parchments had already had Pope Francis’s image and the papal and Vatican State emblems stamped on them. They also had – in Italian, Spanish, Portuguese and English – the words ‘blessing of the pilgrim’ on them and were personalized with names provided by the buyers.

The shopkeeper, who did not possess the necessary authorization from the Holy See, has been reported to the police for production and trade in counterfeit goods.

The parchments confiscated are worth over 70,000 euros, and the amount taken over during the first few days on sale is being calculated.

Interior Minister Alfano spoke about the lower number of visitors than expected during the beginning of this Holy Year, saying that it had nothing to do with the concerns raised by the recent attack in Paris. He noted that ”the number of pilgrims for the Jubilee are those expected and do not directly depend in any way on post-Paris anxiety. “Pope Francis’s strategy has been to open several Holy Doors and give value to other places of worship across the nation, such as Loreto and S.Giovanni Rotondo. “So it is not necessary to come to Rome to take part in the ceremony.”

On the issue of security, the interior minister said that ”on (the opening day) December 8, some 200,000 people took part in events in Rome and there was only one person reported to the police, for possession of a knife. This is proof that the (security) plan worked.”



Apologies for the blank pages these last few days but I have been very much under the weather with the worst cold I ever recall suffering. Sitting at a desk and writing a column was the last thing on my mind. I am writing today simply because I am trying to reacquire some energy.

I did do the TV commentary Tuesday afternoon for EWTN for the papal visit to the statue of the Immaculata at Pza. di Spagna in Rome, and also my live radio show with Teresa Tomeo yesterday, albeit in slightly reduced form.

Below are two articles from – I especially love the one about the children’s hospital patients designing their own Holy Door! I am corresponding, in fact, with a religion teacher who students have been doing the same thing, and I am willing to think that is happening in many schools.

And here is a carousel of photos from the Fiat Lux – Let there be light – sound and light show Tuesday at the Vatican. It might take a few seconds to load.


(Vatican Radio) Reflecting on the meaning of the Jubilee of Mercy, Pope Francis on Wednesday said that “especially in our times, in which forgiveness is a rare guest in the areas of human life, the call to mercy becomes more urgent”.

The Pope was addressing the crowds gathered in St. Peter’s Square for the weekly General Audience.

He said that mercy can contribute much in building a more human world and has a fundamental role to play everywhere: “in society, institutions, at work and even in the family”.

Recalling the fact that on Tuesday, December 8th, he opened the Holy Door of the Jubilee of Mercy in St. Peter’s Basilica after having already done so in the Cathedral of Bangui in Central Africa, Pope Francis said, “today I would like to reflect with you on the meaning of this Holy Year, and answer the question: why a Jubilee of Mercy?”

He explained that in our age of profound changes, the Church needs the extraordinary moment offered by a Holy Year in which to offer her special contribution and make visible signs of the presence and closeness of God.

He said that the Jubilee is a favorable time to do so because by turning our eyes to God, the merciful Father, and to our brothers in need, it helps us focus attention on the essential content of the Gospel: “Jesus Christ, Mercy made flesh”.

“To celebrate a Jubilee of Mercy, he said, is equivalent to putting our Christian faith’s distinctive features back at the center of our personal lives and of our communities”.

“Dear brothers and sisters, Pope Francis continued, the Jubilee will be a ‘favorable time’ for the Church if we learn to choose ‘what God likes most’ without bowing to the temptation of thinking that there is something else that is more important”.

“Nothing is more important than choosing ‘what pleases God most,’ his mercy!” he said.

Pope Francis also remarked on the necessary work of renewal happening in the institutions and structures of the Church and described it as a life-giving experience which can guarantee that the Church continue to be “a city set on a mountain that cannot be hidden” (cf. Mt 5:14).

He said that the Jubilee Year will strengthen our certainty that “mercy can really contribute to building a more human world. Especially in our times, in which forgiveness is a rare guest in the areas of human life, the call to merciful, he continued,  becomes more urgent, and this everywhere: in society, institutions, at work and even in the family”.

In today’s world, Pope Francis said, mercy and forgiveness often appear overwhelmed by self-interest, hedonism and corruptness, while in the Christian life they can be stifled by hypocrisy and worldliness.   Forgetfulness of God’s mercy blinds us even to seeing sin for what it is.  That is why, he explained, this Holy Year of Mercy is so important.

The Pope concluded with the prayer that each of us may become ever more aware of God’s mercy at work in our lives and ever more effective in testifying to its transforming power in our world.


(Vatican Radio) The Vatican-owned Bambino Gesù Hospital in Rome is allowing patients to create their own Holy Door for the Jubilee. The hospital is on the Janiculum Hill, that overlooks St. Peter’s Basilica, but many of the children are not well enough to make the journey. Bambino Gesu means Child Jesus.

Therefore, children from the oncohematology and other departments have been busy designing and creating their own version of the Holy Door of St. Peter’s Basilica, drawing from scenes in the Old and New Testaments.

The project allows the children to use their senses, imagination, and artistic skills, as well as discover things about biblical history and spirituality.

The chaplain of the Bambino Gesù Hospital said the goal is to give to young patients and their families the feeling of being part of a community of love and mercy, and allow them to take part in the Extraordinary Jubilee.

“There is a deep connection between conversion and the suffering we experience in particular situations,” said Father Luigi.

“Suffering is not only physical pain, but also the inner suffering from lack of meaning,” he continued.

“The more the spirit of God pervades our lives, the less we suffer, because we feel less alone,” Father Luigi said.

The chaplain said the Holy Spirit is “strength and light,” and that “unity with God” helps people deal with suffering.

“ If this it is true for everyone, it is even more so in this place,” Father Luigi said. “The value of this [Holy Door], even if symbolic, is important because it invites us to be united with the Lord, especially in suffering.”

The Bambino Gesù Hospital’s Holy Door project is ongoing, and will involve various activities looking at traditional pilgrimage sites around the Hospital.

Meanwhile, the Bambino Gesù Hospital’s facility in Palidoro, located in the Suburbicarian Diocese of Porto-Santa Rufina, will become the site of one the Diocese’s official Holy Doors for the Jubilee.

On December 17, the Door of Mercy will officially be opened in the Hospital’s chapel by Bishop Gino Reale, thus becoming one of the four Holy Doors of the Diocese, which is situated in the northern part of the Province of Rome.



It is so exciting here in Rome as we are just hours away from the start of the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy, an event announced on March 13, 2015, the second anniverary of Pope Francis’ election. You should see St. Peter’s Square: the chairs are up for tomorrow’s papal Mass, pilgrims are viewing the Christmas Tree and Nativity scene and security is all over the place – visible and invisible.

Tomorrow, the feast of the Immaculate Conception, is a holiday in Italy and countless  numbers of people are taking four days off to celebrate, including the two-day weekend plus yesterday and tomorrow’s feast day. Many, including entire families with little children, have come to Rome for the Holy Year events.

Tomorrow’s agenda starts at 9:30 am with the papal Mass to open the Holy Year of Mercy, including the opening of St. Peter’s Holy Door, and continues in the afternoon with the traditional visit by the Holy Father to Pza. di Spagna where he will offer a floral homage to the statue of Mary Immaculate and say a prayer. EWTN will be carrying this ceremony and, of course the morning Jubilee Mass.

Tune in today (2pm ET) to At Home with Jim and Joy when I will bring you some updates on Jubilee preparations.

I am not sure what this page will offer you tomorrow. It is a holiday for Italy but not for the media. I will be busy in St. Peter’s Square and the Holy See Press Office and in the afternoon will do the TV commentary for Pope Francis’ visit to Pza. di Spagna. Tomorrow evening at 6, Rome time, there will be the recitation of the rosary in St. Peter’s Square at the statue of St. Peter: this will take place every night at that hour during the Holy Year.

If you are in the Eternal City tomorrow, come to St. Peter’s Square between 7 and 8 pm, Rome time, when there will be a light show on the facade and dome of St. Peter’s Basilica.


(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Sunday evening lit – remotely from the Vatican – the Christmas tree and nativity scene in the lower piazza of the Basilica of St.Francis in Assisi.

The nativity scene has been built into a seven-meter boat used by migrants to travel from Tunisia to the Italian island of Lampedusa in 2014. The ceremony was attended by 31 refugees from Afghanistan, Cameroon, Nigeria and Syria being hosted by Caritas Assisi. Also present was an Italian naval officer who had helped in some of the many rescues of migrants off the coast of Sicily. In this photo, you see the refugees next to some of the people from Assisi: (photo AP)


The Italian State Railway and Italian Navy also distributed toys to families in need.

Here is Pope Francis’ message during the illumination:

“Watching that boat … Jesus is always with us, even in difficult times. How many brothers and sisters have drowned at sea! They are with the Lord now. But He came to give us hope, and we must take this hope. He came to tell us that He is stronger than death, that He is greater than any evil. He came to tell us he is merciful, all mercy; and this Christmas I invite you to open your hearts to mercy and forgiveness. But it is not easy to forgive these massacres. It’s not easy.

“I would like to thank [members of the] Coast Guard: the good men and women. I thank you, for you were the instrument of hope that brings us Jesus. You, among us, you have been sowers of hope, the hope of Jesus. Thank you, Antonio, you and all your teammates and all that this land of Italy has so generously received: the South of Italy is an example of solidarity for the whole world! For everyone who looks at the crib, they can say to Jesus: ‘But, I also have lent a hand because you are a sign of hope’.

“And to all refugees, I say a word, that of the prophet: Raise your head, the Lord is near. And with him is strength, salvation, hope. The heart, perhaps, [is] sorrowful, but the head [is] high in the hope of the Lord.”


Vatican City, 7 December 2015 (VIS) – The Holy See Press Office today issued the following communique: “This morning at 9.30, in the Vatican City State Tribunal, a further hearing was held in the criminal trial for the dissemination of confidential news and documents.

“The defendants were all present, accompanied by their respective lawyers (all five of whom are currently recognised as ‘private’ lawyers: E. Bellardini for Msgr. L.A. Vallejo Balda, L. Sgrò for F. I. Chaouqui, R.C. Baffioni for N. Maio, L. Musso for E. Fittipaldi and R. Palombi for G. Nuzzi).

“The College of Judges (President Prof. Giuseppe Dalla Torre, and the members Prof. Piero Antonio Bonnet, Prof. Paolo Papanti-Pellettier and Prof. Venerando Marano) heard the oral presentation from the defence, along with the objections and demands already submitted in writing prior to the established deadline (Saturday 5 December).

“With regard to each objection and demand submitted, the opinion of the Promoter of Justice represented by Prof. Milano and Prof. Zannotti was heard.

“The College therefore retired to the Counsel Chamber shortly before 10.30 for around one hour. Finally, it communicated its decisions, providing the proper detailed motivations. The hearing concluded before midday.

“The objection presented by Chaouqui’s defence regarded the presumed lack of jurisdiction of the Tribunal given that the events took place in Italy and were carried out by a person declared a ‘political refugee’ in Italy. The objection was rejected, and the College clarified that the current law attributes without doubt the jurisdiction of the Vatican City State Tribunal, and observed that Chaouqui, by appearing before the investigators and the Tribunal, had in practice recognised such jurisdiction.

“The demand presented by the Msgr. Vallejo Balda’s counsel for the defence for a psychological evaluation of the defendant was rejected. The Promoter of Justice explained that the Vatican legal system admits requests for a ‘psychiatric evaluation’ but not for a ‘psychological evaluation’, and that aspects of the personality and behaviour of the defendant can emerge adequately during the proceedings.

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The following note by Fr. Federico Lombardi, head of the Holy See Press Office, was published today. He addresses the question of the judges and lawyers at Vatican City State Tribunal, Vatican law and the trial of 5 people in the so-called Vatileaks 2 scandal:

In recent weeks, since the opening of the trial for the dissemination of reserved documents commonly known as “Vatileaks 2”, many observations and evaluations have been written regarding the judicial system of Vatican City State and in particular on the Tribunal where this trial and its related procedures are taking place. Since many of these observations are inappropriate, or at times entirely unjustified, it would appear opportune to offer some considerations enabling a clearer view and a more just evaluation of this fundamental aspect of the situation.

Firstly, although this should be self-evident, it is necessary to recall that Vatican City State has its own legal order, entirely autonomous and separate from the Italian legal system, and has its own judicial bodies for the various levels of judgement and the necessary legislation in terms of criminal matters and procedure.

Within this latter there exist all the procedural guarantees characteristic of the most advanced contemporary legal systems. Indeed, all the fundamental principles are established and fully implemented: an independent and impartial tribunal constituted by law, the presumption of innocence, the right to a technical defence (by private or ex officio legal representation), and the freedom of the judicial college to form an opinion on the basis of evidence in public hearing and in debate between the prosecution and the defence, leading to the issuance of a sentence able to be substantiated and with the possibility of being contested by appeal and ultimately annulled.

All those engaged in judicial roles, both investigators and judges, are selected via cooptation; they may not be recruited by way of a public selection procedure open to the citizens of the State, as normally occurs in other States. They are selected from among professionals of the highest level, with consolidated experience and a recognised reputation (as may be seen in their curricula vitae, which can be consulted via internet). Indeed, they are all professors in Italian universities.

With regard to the lawyers, a violation of the right to a defence has been hypothesised. In this respect it is necessary to avoid a basic mistake: the current Vatican legislation, applied by the legal authorities, is perfectly in line with procedural law in the majority of jurisdictions throughout the world, where a specific qualification is required for admission to practice in the courts; this is issued subject to certain prerequisites and the possession of specified qualifications. It is therefore unsurprising that a lawyer able to practice in Italy may not be able to do so in Vatican City State, just as he or she would not be able to practice in Germany or France. Arguments to the contrary would imply that a foreign defendant would be able to claim to be represented in Italy by a foreign private lawyer, which is not permitted. Such conditions do not constitute a limit imposed by the Vatican legal order, but rather a further confirmation of its autonomy and completeness. All lawyers are enrolled on an easily consulted professional register of lawyers with right of audience before the Vatican City State Tribunal. Ex officio or private lawyers may be selected from the professionals on this register.

These are lawyers qualified not only at the Tribunals of the Church and the Holy See, but also in the Italian courts, as they are all registered in the respective councils of the Order of Italian lawyers. In addition, they also possess a second degree in canon law and a further diploma conferred following a three-year specialist course at the Roman Rota. Therefore, they are professionals who, aside from being in authorised to practise in Italy, are also in possession of further knowledge rendering them eligible for practice in a jurisdiction in which a knowledge of canon law is necessary.

These are prerequisites necessary to guarantee the professionalism and competence of those who are entrusted with ensuring the proper conduct of a trial which, for various reasons, attracts broad attention.



It has been quite a day, for a variety of reasons, but one of the main ones for me was the very interesting press conference this morning about the Jubilee of Mercy that will open on Tuesday, December 8. Archbishop Rino Fisichella, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization – the council in charge of organizing the upcoming Holy Year – gave a very comprehensive talk with a ton of logistical and other information for pilgrims coming to Rome for the Jubilee. You will find that talk below.

As I listened to Abp. Fisichella explain all the Jubilee preparations in a very precise, concise manner, and as I have been walking around Vatican City and the nearby neighborhoods and have seen the preparations and watched workers build the Nativity scene and put up and decorate the beautiful Christmas tree, I only have this to say to people who wonder if they should still come, given the world we live in today: YES, do come to Rome!

The Jubilee, I want to remind you, will be celebrated in each and every diocese of the world and be absolutely sure to participate in whatever events your diocese has organized for the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy. A Holy Door will be opened on each of the world’s cathedrals in the world so try to attend that locally, if you can.

But if you are wondering whether or not you should come to Rome, don’t hesitate to make plans! This is a beautiful, historic, magical city, a city known for art, opera, millennia of history, hundreds of churches, ancient ruins, and fantastic cuisine.

And there is the other city – Vatican City, the beating, pulsating, historic heart – one of two lungs, along with the Hoy Land – of the Catholic Church and home to the Successor of Peter, Pope Francis. As Catholics, as Christians, it is our home. And indeed, Pope Francis wants the Jubilee to be a welcoming event for people of all religions – and none!

The archbishop this morning gave us serious assurances of the depth and breadth of the security that Italy has planned, especially for the Jubilee. Add to that mix the extremely competent Swiss Guards (FAR more than just fancy uniforms!) and the Vatican gendarmerie!

One word about the organization of this Holy Year. For those who might remember the Jubilee Year 2000, there were three years of planning, by both the city of Rome and the Vatican, to get that massive adventure off the ground. Archbishop Fisichella and his remarkable team have had only nine months! When you see and hear what they have produced – and a Holy Year is a massive undertaking, you will be amazed.

So dust off your passport, pack your rosaries and start planning your spiritual pilgrimage! We await your arrival!


My guest this week in the interview segment is Dr. John Lydon of St. Mary’s University in Twickenham, London. He was recently in Rome to address the World Congress organized by the Congregation for Catholic Education to commemorate two Vatican Documents on Education.  Dr Lydon is the University’s Program Director for Catholic School Leadership and also the Director of the Catholic Certificate in Religious Studies Program.


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:


The press office issued a statement today about Pope Francis’ participation in the meeting of the Council for the Economy Thursday afternoon. The Holy Father explained that the reason for his visit was to personally thank and encourage Council members for the important role they fulfill in the vigilance of the financial and administrative structures of the Holy See. He further confirmed the central role of the Council in this work of reform to which the Holy Father is committed.

On behalf of the Council, Cardinal Reinhard Marx, the coordinator of the Council, warmly thanked the Holy Father for his presence at the meeting and reconfirmed its full commitment to the financial and administrative reforms initiated by Pope Francis. Since its institution the Council has dedicated significant time and energy to the consideration and eventual implementation of measures aimed at transparency and a more effective management of the resources of the Holy See.


The following are the remarks made by Archbishop Rino Fisichella this morning at a press briefing on the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy that opens December 8:

Pope Francis, in the Bull of Indiction for the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy, Misericordiae vultus, wrote that, “Mercy is the very foundation of the Church’s life. All of her pastoral activity should be caught up in the tenderness she makes present to believers; nothing in her preaching and in her witness to the world can be lacking in mercy” (n. 10). It is with these sentiments in mind that we begin to live the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy, which will commence on December 8th with the simple but richly significant ceremony for the opening of the Holy Door.


A first note of information pertains to a few of the immediately important aspects of the organization of the Jubilee. There is a Pilgrimage Information Center at Via della Conciliazione, 7 that opened on December 1st. This is a place to find information about the schedule of events for the Jubilee; to register for the reserved walkway to the Holy Door; to pick up the requested free access tickets for the various celebrations that are required for pilgrims; and to pick up the testimonium (a personalized certificate) of participation in the Jubilee. It is important for me to stress that only the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization, through the Information Center, has been given the responsibility of certifying a pilgrim’s presence at the Jubilee, as well as the journey made on foot. Any other attestation issued by other organizations should not be considered authentic. The Information Center will be open every day from 7:30 to 18:30, including Saturdays and Sundays.


An important role will be played by the Volunteers who will be of service in welcoming and assisting all pilgrims, in particular at Via della Conciliazione and Saint Peter’s Square, in the other Basilicas, and at the Jubilee Churches. In the past months, many have responded to our invitation, and although we are still waiting for further registrations, we now have approximately 100 volunteers every day in service for the Holy Year. This number, obviously, is intended to reach 800-1000 for the Major Events.

The series of Pastoral Resources prepared by the Pontifical Council is already complete. These publications will be of assistance in living the Jubilee Year in a profound way. We have been pleased to see that the series has already reach top sales rankings, a concrete sign of the attention being given to the event, but also of a sincere willingness to live it in a most spiritual way. The series of Pastoral Resources is presently available in 10 languages; of these the publications in Ucrainian and Korean are forthcoming. (JFL: These are available in 3 languages in Rome).


With that, we arrive at the celebration of the opening of the Holy Door in Saint Peter’s Basilica. The celebration will take place in Saint Peter’s Square beginning at 9:30 a.m. It will be introduced by readings taken from the four Conciliar Constitutions (Dei Verbum, Lumen gentium, Sacrosanctum concilium e Gaudium et spes), along with two passages taken from, Unitatis redintegratio on ecumenism and Dignitatis humanae on religious liberty. As is well known, this day will mark the 50th anniversary of the conclusion of the Second Vatican Council. The reading of these passages is intended to recall the profound teaching that came forth from that event, and its continued significant importance for the life of the Church. It was an event that we cannot forget and was reflected upon and achieved over the course of three intense years, in the light of mercy, as Pope Francis himself reminded us in the Bull, citing Saint John XXIII and Blessed Paul VI.

In the procession for the Eucharistic celebration will be carried the Book of the Gospels prepared specifically for the Jubilee by P. Rupnik and published by San Paolo editions. It is a work of art on whose cover is a mosaic reproduction of the Jubilee logo. This Book of the Gospels will be set on the same podium that stood by the altar of Saint Peter’s Basilica during all the sessions of the Council to make evident to everyone the primacy of the Word of God.


Regarding the opening of the Holy Door: the ceremony, which is very simple, will be broadcast on television worldwide. The Holy Father will request the opening of the Door, and he will then pass through it. After him, the Cardinals, Bishops, and representatives of priests, religious men and women, and laity will cross its threshold, and will continue in procession to the tomb of the Apostle Peter, where the concluding rite of the Holy Mass will take place. The Pope will then lead the Angelus as usual from the window of the Apostolic Palace.

The evening of December 8th will conclude in Saint Peter’s Square with a meaningful and unique presentation entitled “Fiat lux: Illuminating Our Common Home”. It will be a projection of photographs onto the façade and cupola of Saint Peter’s Basilica, taken from a repertoire of some of the world’s great photographers. These illuminations will present images inspired of Mercy, of humanity, of the natural world, and of climate changes. The show is sponsored by the World Bank Group (Connect4Climate), by Paul G. Allen’s Vulcan Productions, by the Li Ka-shing Foundation and by Okeanos. This event, inspired by the most recent encyclical of Pope Francis, Laudato si’, is intended to present the beauty of creation, especially on the occasion of the Twenty-first United Nations Climate Change Conference (Cop 21), which began in Paris last Monday, November 30, and ends on December 11. The show will begin at 19:00. I can assure everyone that it is a unique event for its genre and for the fact that it is being displayed for the first time on such a significant backdrop.

On Sunday, December 13, for the first time in the history of the Jubilee Years, there will be Holy Doors opened in all the cathedrals of the world. Pope Francis has desired that the Jubilee of Mercy unfold above all in the Particular Churches, and it is precisely for this reason that he wanted to open the Holy Door in the Cathedral of Bangui in the Central African Republic last Sunday, November 29, making it become a world capital of peace and an instrument of mercy. It is a highly significant gesture that makes one understand how much value the Extraordinary Jubilee will have for the life of the Church when it is lived within the context of the daily events of our communities.

Pope Francis will open the Holy Door of his Cathedral of Rome, Saint John Lateran, with the liturgy beginning at 9:30 a.m. It is worth noting the enthusiasm with which the churches throughout the world are preparing for this event. We have received hundreds of communications about this, but would like to make special mention of the Cathedrals of the Holy Spirit in Istanbul; of Saints Peter and Paul in Ratnapura, Sri Lanka; of Christ the King in Mushasha in Gitega, Burundi; of Saint Joseph in Dunedin, New Zealand; of Our Lady of the Presentation in Natal, Brasil; of Myeogdong in Seoul, South Korea; and of Saint George in the Maronite Archdiocese of Beirut.

The following Friday, December 18, the Holy Father will perform a symbolic gesture as he opens the Door of Mercy at the Hostel ostel Ho“Don Luigi Di Liegro,” run by Caritas of Rome, located on Via Marsala. For 25 years, persons in grave need, who require our help, have been received at this hostel. With this first gesture the Holy Father will begin a series of symbolic actions that will take place on one Friday of the month, and which he intends as concrete expressions of the works of mercy. It is important to be mindful that these gestures will have the character of private visits from the Holy Father, in order to maintain, as much as possible, a personal rapport of closeness and solidarity with the persons or institutions visited. They will be a testimony through which Pope Francis intends to highlight the major forms of need, marginalization, and poverty that are present in society, although these forms of poverty are nevertheless united with a strong solidarity on the part of many people who dedicate their time and energy to consoling and giving daily support to those in need.

Beginning on the day of the opening of the Holy Door and throughout the entire Jubilee, the Rosary will be recited daily in Saint Peter’s Square in front of the statue of Saint Peter. Various parishes in Rome dedicated to the Virgin Mary, and Religious Institutes present in Rome with a particular consecration to the Mother of God, along with various Institutes of formation, will take turns leading this Rosary.

I would also like to mention the healthcare services available for pilgrims. In each of the four Papal Basilicas there will be a First Aid Station (Pronto Soccorso). Through the generosity of the Onlus Foundation “Giorgio Castelli”, every center will be furnished with a defibrillator. Medical and nursing services are being provided by the Order of Malta, which has the competency and expertise for the management of the First Aid services. It is important to remember that the healthcare structures of the Region of Lazio will also be involved. The Region has organized a structural plan for the entire city, and guarantees, among other services, the permanent placement of a P.M.A. (Posto Medico Avanzato/Advance Medical Post) at Castel Sant’Angelo, along with the new Emergency Room at Santo Spirito Hospital, which will be inaugurated in the coming weeks.

In this context, I am also pleased to remind you that we have planned multiple means of communication for the deaf and blind. In particular, for the former, there will be video-tutorials with Italian and International Sign Language (LIS); while for the latter, there will be audio files that can be downloaded from the Jubilee website that describe the paths, pilgrimages to the Holy Door, and much else. In addition, in Saint Peter’s Basilica and in other Churches, confessionals have been set up without structural barriers, and with other considerations that will facilitate confessions for the deaf. Furthermore, there is also a touch book planned in A3 format that will permit the blind to be guided through the Pilgrimage to the Holy Door of Saint Peter’s Basilica. Finally, the internet site has also been equipped with a facilitated navigation.

The Holy Year of Mercy will in fact be the first in the era of internet and of social media. In this regards, I would like to draw your attention to the importance of the official website of the Jubilee ( This site, translated into seven languages, will permit those who cannot be physically present to follow the Major Jubilee events that will take place in Rome. To register for the passage through the Holy Door, and likewise to become a volunteer, it is necessary to enroll on the indicated sections of the site.

In addition, I believe it opportune here to say a few words about the Portal “vatimecum”, endorsed by the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization, by means of which pilgrims may obtain services relating to room and board in Rome at controlled prices, along with a great deal of other information about living the Jubilee. (

A Holy Year to place mercy at the center. The initiatives already planned within the Church are many, but there are also others who are seeking to reflect on this theme, unfortunately too-often forgotten. Among these, I would like to point out that of CENSIS, “Mercy 2016, The Peripheries at the Center”, which will be concerned with promoting an organized program on the theme of Mercy, seeking to understand today, in society, in the economy and in the reception of the other, what it means to be merciful, to take on oneself the difficulties of others, bringing back to the center that which the contemporary world marginalizes and pushes to the peripheries.

The initiative of the “Missionaries of Mercy” merits a final consideration. We have closed registration for the Missionaries because the number of priests has already reached more than 800 requests. The Missionaries are priests who come from various parts of the world, and who were proposed by their own bishops to carry out this special service. Beginning on Ash Wednesday, they will receive the mandate from the Holy Father to be preachers of mercy and confessors full of mercy. They will receive from the Holy Father the faculty to forgive sins reserved to the Holy See, and will be the sign of the closeness and pardon of God for all. It is important for me to underscore that the Missionaries of Mercy are appointed exclusively by the Holy Father, and that the faculty of forgiving reserved sins will be given to each one of them personally. No bishop in his own diocese may appoint these Missionaries, nor may he confer faculties that he does not possess. Anyone wishing to invite the Missionaries for a liturgy, a retreat, or a special event can do so by accessing the list that will be made available to bishops.

The Jubilee is already at hand. We are certain that it will be lived intensely by pilgrims who, whether it be in their own Particular Churches or in Rome, will cross through the Holy Door. For this occasion the Holy Father has granted all the Bishops of the world the power to give the Papal Blessing at the Holy Mass for the opening of the Holy Door, and for the closure of the door at the end of the Holy Year. This Jubilee will be an experience of mercy for each person to feel more intimately the love of God, who like a Father welcomes everyone and excludes no one. It will be a significant time for all the Church to remember that mercy is the essence of her proclamation to the world, and to render every believer a tangible instrument of the tenderness of God. As Pope Francis wrote: “In our parishes, communities, associations and movements, in a word, wherever there are Christians, everyone should find an oasis of mercy” (n. 12).


ANSA – Around 900 municipal police officers will be deployed on the streets of Rome for the start of the Jubilee, the commander of the force said Friday. For the Holy Year eve on December 7, 300 officers will be deployed, Police Commander Raffaele Clemente and Rome Subcommissioner Iolanda Rolli said in a statement. Some 600 will be called into action on December 8, the opening day. Officers for the opening two days of the Holy Year will be recruited on a voluntary basis and will be paid overtime. They will be responsible for directing the flow of pilgrims around St Peter’s as well as a crackdown on illegal vendors.

ANSA – Rome Commissioner Francesco Paolo Tronca signed an ordinance Friday banning all commercial activity for one year in public areas around St. Peter’s Basilica, and during large events in the surrounding areas, to begin December 7 on the eve of the Jubilee Holy Year of Mercy.  The ban will affect traveling souvenir vendors and snack vans for a total of 47 businesses in all, of which 14 will be affected for the entire year.


ANSA – Pope Francis is the “media phenomenon of the year” according to research institute Censis, which on Friday said 77.9% of Catholics in Rome called the pope’s charisma one of Catholicism’s strengths.   Censis also cited data from American fact tank Pew Research Center, showing that Pope Francis outranked both U.S. presidential candidate Hilary Clinton and Russian President Vladimir Putin in U.S. media coverage.



(VIS) – The Italian magazine “Credere” today published an interview with Pope Francis ahead of the imminent opening of the Jubilee Year of Mercy, in which the Holy Father explains the motives and expectations of this convocation. “Credere” – Believing – is a popular magazine in Italy about faith and the official magazine of the Jubilee of Mercy.


Following are extensive extracts from the interview:

“The theme of mercy has been strongly accentuated in the life of the Church, starting with Pope Paul VI. John Paul II underlined it firmly with Dives in Misericordia, the canonization of St. Faustina and the institution of the feast of Divine Mercy on the Octave of Easter. In line with this, I felt that it was as if it was the Lord’s wish to show His mercy to humanity. It was not something that came to my mind, but rather the relatively recent renewal of a tradition that has however always existed. … It is obvious that today’s world is in need of mercy and compassion, or rather of the capacity for empathy. We are accustomed to bad news, cruel news and the worst atrocities that offend the name and the life of God. The world needs to discover that God is the Father, that there is mercy, that cruelty is not the way, that condemnation is not the way, because it is the Church herself who at times takes a hard line, and falls into the temptation to follow a hard line and to underline moral rules only; many people are excluded. The image of the Church as a field hospital after a battle comes to mind here: it is the truth, so many people are injured and destroyed! … I believe that this is the time for mercy. We are all sinners, all of us carry inner burdens. I felt that Jesus wanted to open the door to His heart, that the Father wants to show us His innate mercy, and for this reason He sends us the Spirit. … It is the year of reconciliation. On the one hand we see the weapons trade … the murder of innocent people in the cruellest ways possible, the exploitation of people, of children. There is currently a form of sacrilege against humanity, because man is sacred, he is the image of the living God. And the Father says, ‘stop and come to me’”.

In response to the second question on the importance of divine mercy in his life, Pope Francis, who has repeatedly affirmed his awareness of being a sinner, says:

“I am a sinner … I am sure of this. I am a sinner whom the Lord looked upon with mercy. I am, as I said to detainees in Bolivia, a forgiven man. … I still make mistakes and commit sins, and I confess every fifteen or twenty days. And if I confess it is because I need to feel that God’s mercy is still upon me.” Francis recalled that he felt this sensation in a particular way on 21 September 1953, when he felt the need to enter a church and confess to a priest he did not know, and from then his life was changed; he decided to become a priest and his confessor, who was suffering from leukaemia, accompanied him for a year. “He died the following year,” said the Pope. “After the funeral I cried bitterly, I felt totally lost, as if with the fear that God had abandoned me. This was the moment in which I came across God’s mercy, and it is closely linked to my episcopal motto: 21 September is the feast day of St. Matthew, and the Venerable Bede, when speaking of the conversion of St. Matthew, says that Jesus looked at him ‘miserando atque eligendo’. … The literal translation would be ‘pitying and choosing’”.

The third question: “Can the Jubilee of Mercy be an opportunity to rediscover God’s ‘maternity’? Is there an almost ‘feminine’ aspect of the Church that must be valued?”

“Yes”, the Holy Father replies. “God Himself affirms this when He says in the Book of Isaiah that a mother could perhaps forget her child, even a mother can forget, but ‘I will never forsake you’. Here we see the maternal dimension of God. Not everyone understands when we speak about God’s maternity, it is not part of ‘popular’ language – in the good sense of the word – and may seem rather elitist; for this reason I prefer to speak about the tenderness, typical of a mother, God’s tenderness that comes from his innate paternity. God is both father and mother”.

In response to a question on whether the discovery of a more merciful and emotional God, Who is moved to tenderness for mankind, should lead to a change of attitude towards others, Francis says: “Discovering this leads us to have a more tolerant, more patient, more tender attitude. In 1994 during the Synod, in a group meeting, I said that it was necessary to begin a revolution of tenderness … and I continue to say that today the revolution is that of tenderness, because justice derives from this. … The revolution of tenderness is what we must cultivate today as the fruit of this year of mercy: God’s tenderness towards each one of us. Each one of us must say, ‘I am a wretch, but God loves me as I am; so, I must love others in the same way’”.

The writer recalls St. John XXIII’s famous “Sermon to the moon”, in which greeting the faithful one night, he told them to give a caress to their children. “This image became an image of the Church’s tenderness. In what way does the theme of mercy help our Christian communities to convert and renew themselves?”

“When I see the sick, the elderly, a caress comes to me spontaneously. … A caress is a gesture that can be interpreted ambiguously, but it is the first gesture that a mother and father offer a newborn child, this gesture that says ‘I love you, I wish well to you’”.

Finally: “Is there a gesture you intend to make during the Jubilee to show God’s mercy?”

“There will be many gestures, but one Friday each month I will make a different gesture”, the Holy Father concludes.


(Vatican Radio) The opening Mass for the Jubilee of Mercy and the opening of the Holy Door at St. Peter’s Basilica on December 8 will be seen around the world in greater clarity than any other papal event in history. The Centro Televisivo Vaticano (CTV) just announced a major overhaul of the equipment used for its live footage capture, and the opening event of the Jubilee will be broadcast for the first time in ULTRA HD and 4K.

CTV’s OB-8 OB truck has been fully equipped with 4K technology and will feature eight Sony HDC-4300 cameras, a 4K PWS-4400 server and a 4K MVS-7000X switcher.

This will create an “immersion experience” that attempts to capture, deliver and display images in a way that is as close to the performance of the human eye as possible.

The technology was explained at a press conference Tuesday presided over by Msgr. Dario Viganò, prefect of the Secretariat for Communications and long-time head of CTV.

“CTV’s mission is to document all of the activities of the Pope and the Holy See and then offer a service that draws television broadcasters from all over the world,” Msgr. Viganò said.

“This requires the highest attention to quality and the need to keep up to date with the latest and most advanced technologies. HDR’s ability to capture reality just as our eyes see it has certainly provided followers and viewers from around the world with a great opportunity to be part of the events of the Holy Father in an even more immersive and engaging way.”




Amidst noticeably increased security measures, Pope Francis Wednesday presided at the general audience under overcast skies in a chilly St. Peter’s Square, dedicating the weekly catechesis to the upcoming Holy Year of Mercy. As this Jubilee approaches, he said of the December 8 opening, “today we consider the great open door of God’s mercy, symbolized by the Holy Doors which will open in Churches throughout the world” at the start of this Holy Year.

Francis explained that, “the recent Synod of Bishops on the Family encouraged families in a particular way to enter this door of mercy and to open the doors of their hearts to others.  Jesus tells us that He stands knocking at our door, asking that we open it to Him.  How important it is,” stressed the Pope, “for us to be good doorkeepers, capable of opening our doors and making our homes places of encounter and welcome, especially to our brothers and sisters in need!

And, said the Holy Father repeatedly, departing often from his prepared text, “Jesus also tells us that He Himself is the door that leads to salvation; if we pass through Him, we will find lasting security and freedom.”


In one such departure, he said, “If the door of God’s mercy is always open, even so must be the doors of our churches, the love of our communities, our parishes, our institutions, our dioceses, for when they are, we can all go out to bring this mercy of God [to those who most need it]. The Jubilee Year recalls the great door of God’s mercy, but also the small doors of our churches – open to let the Lord in – or to let the Lord out, who is often the prisoner of our structures, our selfishness, and of so many things.”


He referred several times to “porte blindate,” to armoured doors, saying there are too many of these reinforced doors today. “Please,” he said, “no reinforced doors at churches, everything open. The Church is the doorkeeper of the Lord’s home, the doorkeeper, not the owner of the Lord’s home.” This generated great applause.


Francis also had “words of gratitude to all doorkeepers – in our apartment buildings, in our civic institutions, in our churches. Thank you very much,” he said extemporaneously, “for you always welcome people with a smile, so that people feel welcome and happy in that house, in that church…”The Pope added, “We have to learn from these men and women who are the keepers of places of encounter and welcome in the city of man.”

At the end of the audience, as is customary, the Pope saluted several groups, including pilgrims belonging to Poland’s historic Solidarity movement, the Italian association of people affected by thalidomide, and pilgrims from across the Arabic-speaking world, especially from Lebanon and Syria.

“During the Jubilee of Mercy,” he said, “let Christian families make of the thresholds of their houses a sign of the mercy and welcome of God; let every Church be witness to the Mercy of the Heavenly Father, Who never closes the door of His pardon in the face of those who are repentant, and never treats us according to our deserts, but according to the immensity of His Mercy and Love.”

Greeting Arabic-speaking pilgrims, Francis said, “May the Lord bless you and protect you from evil.”


(VIS) – The Vatican today published the calendar of liturgical celebrations at which the Holy Father will preside in  December 2015 and January 2016 (through the 10th). Here are the celebrations given  by the Office of Liturgical Celebrations of the Supreme Pontiff:


Tuesday 8: Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary. At 9.30 a.m. in St. Peter’s Basilica, Holy Mass and opening of the Holy Door.

Tuesday 8: Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary. At 4 p.m. in Piazza di Spagna, veneration of the image of Mary Immaculate.

Saturday 12: Feast of Blessed Virgin Mary of Guadalupe. At 6 p.m. in the Vatican Basilica, Holy Mass.

Sunday 13: “Gaudete Sunday” Third Sunday of Advent. At 9.30 a.m. in the Basilica of St. John Lateran, Holy Mass and opening of the Holy Door.

Thursday 24: Vigil of the Solemnity of the Nativity of the Lord. At 9.30 p.m. in the Vatican Basilica, Holy Mass (Midnight Mass).

Friday 25: Solemnity of the Nativity of the Lord. Central loggia of the Vatican Basilica, at 12 noon, “Urbi et Orbi” blessing.

Sunday 27: Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph. At 10 a.m. in the Vatican Basilica, Holy Mass for Families.

Thursday 31: Vigil of Solemnity of Mary Most Holy, Mother of God. At 5 p.m. in the Vatican Basilica, First Vespers and Te Deum, in Thanksgiving for the past year.


Friday 1: Solemnity of Mary Most Holy, Mother of God. 49th World Peace Day. At 10 a.m. in the Vatican Basilica, Holy Mass.

Friday 1: Solemnity of Mary Most Holy, Mother of God. At 5 p.m. in the Basilica of St. Mary Major, Holy Mass and opening of the Holy Door.

Wednesday 6: Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord. At 10 a.m. in the Vatican Basilica, Holy Mass.

Sunday 10: Sunday after the Epiphany: Feast of the Baptism of the Lord. At 9.30 a.m. in the Sistine Chapel. Holy Mass and baptism of babies.


A day after the Holy Door at St. John Lateran cathedral was readied for the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy, workers on Tuesday unbricked the inside wall of the Holy Door of St. Peter’s basilica that Pope Francis will open December 8.

The Recognitio ceremony took place on Tuesday evening and was led by the Basilica’s Cardinal Archpriest Angelo Comastri.

View of the Holy Door from inside the basilica (JFL photo)


After a procession and short prayer service led by Cardinal Comastri, workers began to carefully remove the wall, extracting a small, metal box which conserved mementos from the Great Jubilee of the year 2000.


The zinc box contained several documents certifying the closure of the Holy Door at the end of the last Holy Year. Also included were the keys that will allow Pope Francis to open the Holy Door, as well as the parchment deed, some bricks, and several commemorative medals.

Also present for the event were the Master of Ceremonies of St. Peter’s Basilica, Mons. Guido Marini, who received the documents and objects of the Recognitio ceremony, and Archbishop Rino Fisichella, President of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelisation.

The outside of St. Peter’s Holy Door (JFL photo was taken the day the Bull of Indiction for the Jubilee was read):

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Holy Doors of the four papal basilicas of Rome will be opened at the start of the Holy Year: St. John Lateran, St. Mary Major, and St. Paul’s Outside the Walls.

For the Jubilee Year of Mercy, Pope Francis has also asked for Holy Doors to be established at Rome’s Shrine of Our Lady of Divine Love, and the diocesan Caritas Hostel on Via Marsala. (Vatican Radio)