In his catechesis today at the general audience, Pope Francis summarized his weekend trip to Malta and, in talking about the geopolitical situations of today, he spoke of Ukraine and said, “we are witnessing the impotence of the International Organizations.” In fact, the headline on the front page of today’s Vatican newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, was “The impotence of the United Nations Organization in the current war in Ukraine.”

On a lighter note, today is World Carbonara Day. So here’s a link to everything Italian chefs want you to know about making the perfect carbonara: Ask an Italian: What are the unbreakable rules for making real pasta carbonara? (thelocal.it)


As many of you may already know, having attended or watched on television or online, a weekly general papal audience opens with monsignori from the Secretariat of State introducing a Bible verse with the theme of the day, and then later reciting a summary of the papal catechesis, always delivered in Italian, in seven different languages.

In recent weeks there have been a number of laymen and women in these roles, and today five women opened the general audience presentations.

The papal catechesis was, as it usually is after an apostolic voyage, a summary of his weekend trip to Malta.

Pope Francis began his talk by noting that, “in the Acts of the Apostles, we read that Paul, after his shipwreck off the island of Malta, was received there with ‘unusual kindness’ (28:2). This spirit of welcome and charitable concern shown by the Maltese to the Apostle and his companions should inspire our own response to the complex issue of migration today, which is not simply an emergency but a sign of our times.”

The Holy Father explained that “Malta is at the forefront of these efforts, as I saw at the “John XXIII Peace Lab” Centre. There we were reminded that migrants bring with them unique stories and have a wealth of gifts to offer. At the Grotto of Saint Paul, I prayed for a renewal of the missionary spirit that has always distinguished the Church in Malta.”

Francis emphasized how “Our prayer meeting at the National Marian Shrine of Ta’ Pinu in Gozo reflected the strong devotion of the Maltese people to Our Lady, who always brings us back to what is essential: to Christ crucified and risen and to the joy of the Gospel with its saving message of God’s merciful love for our human family. May God bless Malta and its people with prosperity and peace.

In his remarks, the Pope again expressed his “thanks to the president and civil authorities, to the Bishops and faithful, and to the many volunteers for their generous welcome.”


At the end of the catechesis, Pope Francis said, “The recent news of the war in Ukraine, rather than bringing relief and hope, attests instead of new atrocities, like the massacre in Bucha: ever more horrendous cruelty done even against defenseless civilians, women and children. They are victims whose innocent blood cries to Heaven and implores: put an end to this war! Silence the weapons! Stop sowing death and destruction! Let us pray together for this…

“And yesterday, precisely from Bucha, they brought me this flag. This flag comes from the war, precisely from that war-torn city, Bucha. There are also some Ukrainian children who are here with us. Let us greet them and pray together with them. (Vatican photo)

“These children had to escape and come to a foreign land: this is one of the fruits of war. Let us not forget them, and let us not forget the Ukrainian people. It is hard to be uprooted from your own land due to war.”

Pope Francis pointed to the small group of children, from a baby to one about 10 years old, and asked them to come up on the stage. They did so willingly and stood around the Pope, one young man holding a drawing he had made. Huge wrapped chocolate Easter eggs were given to each child. (Vatican photo)


In his Italian language catechesis about his just-concluded trip to Malta, the Pope highlighted its geographic “position in the center of the sea between Europe and Africa that also bathes Asia. Malta is a sort of ‘wind rose’,** where peoples and cultures meet. It is a perfect place to observe the Mediterranean area from a 360º degree perspective.”

“Today we often hear about ‘geopolitics’. But unfortunately, the dominant logic are the strategies of the most powerful countries to affirm their own interests, extending their area of economic, ideological and military influence. In this scheme, Malta represents the rights and power of the ‘small’ nations, small but rich in history and civilization that should lead toward another logic – that of respect and freedom, of the coexistence of differences, opposed to the colonization of the most powerful.”

The Holy Father exclaimed, “After World War II, the attempt was made to lay the foundations of a new era of peace. But, unfortunately, the old story of competition between the greater powers went on. And, in the current war in Ukraine, we are witnessing the impotence of the International Organizations.”

** Before the use of magnetic compasses, a ‘wind rose’ was a guide on mariners’ charts to show the directions of the eight principal winds.


Michel Aoun, the president of Lebanon said in a tweet yesterday that Pope Francis would be visiting his country in June, although he did not mention a specific date.

A statement from the president’s office also said that, “Apostolic Envoy Joseph Spiteri informed President Michel Aoun that Pope Francis will visit Lebanon next June.”

The Vatican has not confirmed that information but papal spokesman Matteo Bruni said yesterday, “it is one of the things we are studying.”

In March. Pope Francis received Lebanon’s President Aoun and last November he welcomed Muslim Prime Minister Najib Mikati. There is a Muslim majority in Lebanon but also a great number of Christians. The Lebanese constitution dictates that the president must be a Christian and prime minister a Sunni Muslim.

Ever since the explosion that rocked the port of Beirut in August 2020, that killed 200 people and brought down numerous buildings in the capital, the country has faced enormous financial problems. The Pope has spoken out many times since that explosion, asking the country’s leaders and international organizations to help Lebanon return to better times, and has received numerous religious and civil leaders from the country. He has mentioned many times wanting to visit the country.



After his summer pause of a month that included colon surgery exactly a month ago, Pope Francis today resumed the weekly general audiences and continued a catechesis he had started on St. Paul’s Letter to the Galatians. The audience was held in the air conditioned Paul VI Hall and, though the hall was not filled to capacity, there did not always seem to be social distancing among the enthusiastic pilgrims.

When the Pope entered the hall to great applause, he was wearing a mask but that came off rather quickly. He did not put it back on when he met some of the bishops in attendance at the audience. (photos Daniel Ibanez EWTN)

He began the catechesis by stating, “we now consider Paul’s insistence on complete fidelity to the Gospel. For Paul, the proclamation of the Christian message was his very life. What he preached to the Galatians was in fact the apostolic kerygma, which summarized the fulfilment of all God’s promises in Jesus Christ, who died for our sins, was buried, rose on the third day, and appeared to Peter.”

Kerygma come from an ancient Greek word and means “proclamation,” the proclaiming of the Gospel. It is used in the New Testament.

“When it comes to the Gospel and to the mission to evangelize, Paul is enthusiastic! Everything in him is dedicated to this proclamation, and has no interest other than the Gospel.”

Francis said, “This explains why, at the beginning of the Letter, Paul urges the Galatians so forcefully not to turn away from the freedom brought by the Gospel. For that Gospel, entrusted to the apostles, offers to all – ourselves included – the assurance of new life and freedom flowing from the cross of Christ and the gift of his Holy Spirit.”


At the end of the audience catechesis in eight languages, the Holy Father had greetings for various groups, as well as a heartfelt appeal for Lebanon:

“In these days, I think especially of the beloved country of Lebanon a year after the terrible port explosion in its capital, Beirut, with its toll of death and destruction. I think above all of the victims and their families, the many injured, and those who lost their homes and livelihoods. So many people have lost the desire to go on.

“During the Day of Prayer and Reflection for Lebanon last July 1st, together with Christian religious leaders, all of us listened to the hopes and aspirations, the frustrations and weariness of the Lebanese people, and we prayed for God’s gift of hope to overcome this difficult crisis.

“Today I would also appeal to the international community to offer Lebanon concrete assistance, not only with words but with concrete actions in undertaking a journey of ‘resurrection’. It is my hope that the current International Conference hosted by France with the support of the United Nations will prove productive in this regard.

“Dear Lebanese friends, I greatly desire to visit you and I continue to pray for you, so that Lebanon will once more be a message of peace and fraternity for the entire Middle East.”



Christian leaders of Lebanon gathered around Pope Francis in the Vatican on Thursday for a Day of Prayer and Reflection for Lebanon.

By Robin Gomes (Vatican news)

Some 10 senior leaders of the various Christian Churches and communities of Lebanon, along with their delegations, have arrived in the Vatican for a day of prayer and reflection with Pope Francis, on the current situation of the troubled Middle Eastern nation and its future, and to implore for the gift of peace and stability.   The initiative is not to seek a political solution but to pray and read the signs of the time and respond to the cry of their people and alleviate their suffering.

Lebanon’s woes

The country is going through one of the world’s most severe economic crises in modern times, which is having serious social repercussions.  The crisis, which began in late 2019, is rooted in decades of corruption and mismanagement by a post-civil war political class that has accumulated debt and done little to encourage local industries, forcing the country to rely on imports for almost everything.

A series of nationwide mass demonstrations in 2019 protested against a stagnant economy, unemployment, endemic corruption in the public sector, legislation that appeared to shield the ruling class from accountability and failures from the government to provide basic services such as electricity, water and sanitation.  The country was thrown into a political crisis, with Prime Minister Saad Hariri resigning following the protesters’ demand for a government of independent specialists.

To add to its woes, a massive explosion on August 4, 2020 at a fertilizer storage facility in Beirut port tore through the city and reopened the country’s old wounds. The blast killed at least 190 people, injured over 6,000, caused over US$10 billion in property damage, and left some 300,000 people homeless.

Hariri was designated as Prime Minister in October 2020 but he has been at loggerheads with President Michel Aoun over cabinet positions and has failed to form a government so far.

Meanwhile, Lebanon continues to sink. Today, the Lebanese pound has lost more than 90% of its value against the US dollar since 2019 and inflation has skyrocketed, wiping out people’s wages and causing food prices to triple. With the Lebanese pound losing 95% of its purchase power, half of the population is believed to be living below the poverty line. Tight restrictions have also been placed on bank accounts, leaving people unable to withdraw their savings or transfer money abroad.

According to the latest World Bank report, Lebanon’s economic and financial crisis is likely to rank in the top 10, possibly top 3, most severe crises episodes globally since the mid-nineteenth century. In the face of colossal challenges, continuous policy inaction and the absence of a fully functioning government threaten the already dire socio-economic conditions and a fragile social peace with no clear turning point on the horizon.

To revive hope and peace

The July 1 Day of Prayer and Reflection for Lebanon, called by Pope Francis, is to help revive hope and peace in the country.

According to Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, prefect of the Vatican Congregation for Oriental Churches, who has organized the initiative, the purpose of the day is to “walk together.”  The Church leaders will question themselves, reflect and pray together.  They have brought to Rome the cry of their people.  The theme of the day is, “The Lord God has plans for peace. Together for Lebanon.”

In St. Peter’s Basilica

Starting off the Day of Prayer and Reflection for Lebanon, the nation’s Christian Church leaders gathered in the morning at Casa Santa Marta inside Vatican City where the Pope resides.  The Holy Father greeted each one of them and members of their delegations, after which he walked to the nearby St. Peter’s Basilica with the Church leaders flanking him.

Inside, standing in front of the papal altar, which stands just above the tomb of St. Peter, the Pope intoned the Our Father prayer, which others joined in Arabic.  After a moment of silent prayer, the Pope went down the steps to the tomb of St. Peter in the crypt below the papal altar where he placed a lighted candle.  The others followed him placing their candles, with 10 candles in all.  After a moment of silent prayer, the Pope led them out of the basilica through the crypt.

Click here for brief video: Lebanon’s Christian leaders around the Pope in prayer for the nation – Vatican News

Currently, they are holding the first of their 3 closed-door meetings of the day in Clementine Hall of the Apostolic Palace.  The day will be brought to a close with a speech by Pope Francis at 6 pm.

Lebanon, a Mediterranean nation of 5 million, has the largest percentage of Christians in the Middle East and is the only Arab country with a Christian head of state, President Aoun. Christians make up a third of the population.

Pope Francis called on all men and women of goodwill to join the Day of Prayer and Reflection for Lebanon during his Sunday ‘Angelus” prayer on May 30, explaining the aim was to “pray together for the gift of peace and stability”. He urged for prayers so that Lebanon may have “a more serene future.”

Below is the list of members of the Ecumenical Council of Eastern Churches of Lebanon invited to participate in the Day of Prayer and Reflection:

  1. His Beatitude Cardinal Béchara Boutros, Maronite Patriarch of Antioch and All the East
  2. His Beatitude Youhanna X, Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Antiochia
  3. His Holiness Ignatius Aphrem II, Syrian Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch and All the East
  4. His Beatitude Youssef Absi, Patriarch of Antiochia of the Greek-Melkites
  5. His Holiness Aram I, Catholicos of Cilicia of the Armenians (could not be present)
  6. His Beatitude Mor Ignatius Youssef III, Syriac Catholic Patriarch of Antioch
  7. Reverend Joseph Kassab, President of the Supreme Council of the Evangelical Community in Syria and Lebanon
  8. His Excellency Michel Kassarji, Bishop of Beirut of Chaldeans
  9. His Excellency César Essayan, Apostolic Vicar of Beirut of Latins
  10. Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, prefect of the Congregation for Eastern Churches
  11. Archbishop Joseph Spiteri, Apostolic Nuncio to Lebanon


Link to weekly edition of L’Osservatore Romano in English:


Today is the day of prayer and fasting that Pope Francis urged us to make for the Country of Lebanon and the city of Beirut that, as you know, still suffers enormously from an explosion that occurred at the seaport a month ago. Francis sent Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin to Beirut to show his love and closeness and support of the Lebanese people, especially those killed or wounded. Below is a Vatican report of that visit.

This is a city I know and love very much and where I have friends and I’ve accompanied the cardinal in my thoughts and prayers.

Today also marks the 4th anniversary of the canonization of Saint Teresa of Calcutta – Mother Teresa. Vatican news interviewed the postulator of her cause and you can follow that story here: https://www.vaticannews.va/en/church/news/2020-09/saint-mother-teresa-kolkata-annivesary-canonization.html


This week on Vatican Insider, after an overview of the news stories this week in the Vatican and a Q&A on cremation and burial, I look at some topics that have surface in emails I’ve received over time. I answer questions about the patron saint of television (who and why?), the statue of St. Peter in the basilica named for him, why Popes wear white (who started that?), Rome’s most visited nativity scene and look at which is larger, the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica or that of the Capitol in Washington, D.C.

IN THE UNITED STATES, you can listen to Vatican Insider (VI) on a Catholic radio station near you (stations listed at www.ewtn.com) or on channel 130 Sirius-XM satellite radio, or on http://www.ewtn.com. OUTSIDE THE U.S., you can listen to EWTN radio on our website home page by clicking on the right side where you see “LISTEN TO EWTN.” VI airs at 5am and 9pm ET on Saturdays and 6am ET on Sundays. On the GB-IE feed (which is on SKY in the UK and Ireland), VI airs at 5:30am, 12 noon and 10pm CET on Sundays. Both of these feeds are also available on the EWTN app and on www.ewtnradio.net ALWAYS CHECK YOUR OWN TIME ZONE! For VI archives: http://www.ewtn.com/multimedia/audio-library/index.asp (write Vatican Insider where it says Search Shows and Episodes)


Following the Pope’s invitation for a universal day of prayer and fasting for Lebanon on Friday, Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, expresses the Church’s closeness and solidarity with the nation, amid its economic and political crisis exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic and the recent explosion in Beirut.

By Vatican News

Pope Francis, during the Wednesday General Audience, called for a universal day of prayer and fasting on Friday for Lebanon, in the aftermath of the deadly 4 August explosion at the Beirut port, as well as the ongoing economic and political crisis in the country.

The Pope also announced he would send Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin to Lebanon as his representative “to be present with its people” and to express his “solidarity and spiritual closeness.”

Ahead of the day of prayer, Cardinal Parolin met Thursday with the Lebanese Bishops, representatives of different religious communities, and humanitarian organizations at the St. George Maronite Cathedral in Beirut.

Solidarity with Lebanon
Addressing the religious leaders during the meeting, Cardinal Parolin explained that his visit was “to express the nearness of the Catholic Church throughout the world.”

He pointed out that the Pope’s appeal for a day of prayer generated immediate responses from all over the world. “You are not alone!” he said, assuring Lebanon’s leaders.

He also called on the nation’s political leaders, urging them to “foster the talents of young people and their aspirations for peace and a better future,” adding that only together can we “defeat all forms of authoritarianism by promoting inclusive citizenship based on the respect of fundamental rights and duties.”

“Our suffering can help us purify our intentions and strengthen our resolve to live together in peace and dignity, to strive for a better governance that favors responsibility, transparency and accountability,” he said.

Pointing out the unique value of Lebanon – a part of the Holy Land that was visited by Jesus, His Apostles, and Our Lady – Cardinal Parolin reminded the religious leaders that they have a “primary mission to give hope to an afflicted population, to honor and serve our brothers and sisters in humanity, starting with the most vulnerable.”

He concluded by encouraging the many “beautiful” examples of solidarity already happening all over Beirut, and appealed to the international community to not leave Lebanon alone, as the world “also needs the unique ongoing experiment of pluralism, living together in solidarity and freedom that is Lebanon.”

Find strength to set out again

At a Mass celebrated at the Shrine of Our Lady of Lebanon in Harissa, on the same day, Cardinal Parolin encouraged all Lebanese “to continue to hope and to find the strength and energy to set out again”, despite the economic, social and political crisis which has only been made worse by the Covid-19 pandemic and the explosion in August.

Our Lady of Harissa –

The Vatican Secretary of State appealed that the reconstruction of the country should be done not only at the material level, but also in a way that fosters a new approach to the management of public affairs based on laws, transparency, collective responsibility and the common good.

Cardinal Parolin concluded his homily with Pope Francis’s words during the General Audience on Wednesday: “And now I ask you to entrust to Mary, Our Lady of Harissa, our anxieties and our hopes. May she support all those who mourn their loved ones and may she give courage to all those who have lost their homes and, with them, part of their lives! May she intercede before the Lord Jesus so that the Land of Cedars may blossom again and spread the fragrance of living together throughout the Middle East.”



day’s general audience, held in the San Damaso courtyard, was the first since February in the presence of the faithful. Approximately 500 attended this week’s audience.

At the end of the general audience catechesis in Italian and summaries in a number of languages, Pope Francis, in the presence of a priest from Lebanon, made a heartfelt appeal for aid to that “beloved nation.”

Fr. Georges Breidi, 35, of the Congregation of the Maronite Lebanese Missionaries who is studying in Rome at the Gregorian University, presented the Holy Father with a Lebanese flag. As Fr. Breidi stood, holding one end pf the flag, Pope Francis held another as he read his appeal. The priest later said brief words in Italian and both the Pope and priest stood together with the faithful present at the audience to pray in silence for Lebanon. (Vatican media photo)

Dear brothers and sisters, one month after the tragedy that struck the city of Beirut, my thoughts still go to dear Lebanon and its particularly tried population. And this priest who is here has carried the flag of Lebanon to this audience.

As Saint John Paul II said thirty years ago at a crucial moment in the country’s history, I too repeat today: “Faced with the repeated tragedies that each of the inhabitants of this land knows, we become aware of the extreme danger that threatens the very existence of the country. Lebanon cannot be abandoned in its solitude “(Apostolic Letter to all the Bishops of the Catholic Church on the situation in Lebanon, 7 September 1989)

For over a hundred years, Lebanon has been a country of hope. Even during the darkest periods of its history, the Lebanese have kept their faith in God and demonstrated the ability to make their land a place of tolerance, respect and coexistence unique in the region. The affirmation that Lebanon represents something more than a state is profoundly true: Lebanon “is a message of freedom, it is an example of pluralism both for the East and for the West” (ibid.). For the good of the country itself, but also of the world, we cannot allow this patrimony to be lost.

I encourage all Lebanese to continue to hope and to find the strength and energy necessary to start again. I ask politicians and religious leaders to engage with sincerity and transparency in the reconstruction work, dropping partisan interests and looking at the common good and the future of the nation. I also renew my invitation to the international community to support the country to help it emerge from the serious crisis, without being involved in regional tensions.

In particular, I address the inhabitants of Beirut, severely tested by the explosion: take courage, brothers and sisters! May faith and prayer be your strength! Do not abandon your homes and your heritage, do not let the dreams fail of those who have believed in the future of a beautiful and prosperous country.

Dear pastors, bishops, priests, consecrated men and women, lay people, continue to accompany your faithful. I ask you bishops and priests for apostolic zeal; I ask you for poverty, no luxury, poverty with your poor people who are suffering. You must give the example of poverty and humility. Help your faithful and your people to stand up and be protagonists of a new rebirth. May all of you be agents of harmony and renewal in the name of common interest, of a true culture of encounter, of living together in peace, of brotherhood. A word so dear to St. Francis: brotherhood. May this harmony be a renewal in the common interest. On this foundation it will be possible to ensure the continuity of the Christian presence and your invaluable contribution to the country, the Arab world and the whole region, in a spirit of brotherhood among all the religious traditions that exist in Lebanon.

It is for this reason that I would like to invite everyone to live a universal day of prayer and fasting for Lebanon this Friday, September 4. I intend to send my representative that day to Lebanon to accompany the population: the Secretary of State (Cardinal Pietro Parolin) will go in my name to express my closeness and solidarity. We offer our prayers for all of Lebanon and for Beirut. We are also close with the concrete commitment of charity, as on other similar occasions. I also invite the brothers and sisters of other confessions and religious traditions to join this initiative in the ways they deem most appropriate, but all together.

And now I ask you to entrust our anxieties and hopes to Mary, Our Lady of Harissa. May she support those who mourn their loved ones and instill courage in all those who have lost their homes and part of their lives with them. May she intercede with the Lord Jesus so that the Land of Cedars may flourish again and spread the perfume of living together throughout the Middle East Region. And now I invite everyone, as far as possible, to stand up in silence and pray in silence for Lebanon.



An interesting article today by Vatican News on the background of weekly papal general audiences. Pope Frances resumed this weekly encounter today at the end of his brief working vacation in the Vatican. As he has done for months because of Covid-19, the catechesis was live-streamed from the papal library in the Apostolic Palace. Following that piece is a summary of Francis’ new weekly catechesis on “Healing the World.”

Come spend several minutes with me as we go to Assisi to celebrate today’s feast of St. Clare of Assisi. We visit the church named for her and venerate her perfectly preserved remains: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fZkyGvWcJrE


By Vatican News

Pope Francis’s summer break is over. As of Wednesday, August 5th, Pope Francis resumed his weekly general audiences, which he suspends annually in July. The last public general audience held in the Paul VI audience hall took place on March 7.

These audiences begin at 9:30 local Rome time and last for about one hour. After public general audiences, Pope Francis customarily greets a number of people.

After the last public audience in March, the Vatican moved the audiences from St. Peter’s Square to the library of the Apostolic Palace in order to comply with measures to stem the spread of the coronavirus pandemic. On March 18, for the first time, Vatican News began offering an English commentary for the general audience.

As Pope Francis again picks up his weekly general audience, it will be his 318th catechesis. The only other time outside of July (vacation) that general audiences are suspended are during the papal trips. As soon as Pope Francis returns from such a trip, he always recaps his journey. Sometimes this happens the day following his return.

During the general audience, the Pope gives a catechesis on the Christian faith. Short summaries of these catecheses are translated into 7 languages: French, English, German, Spanish, Portuguese, Arabic and Polish. Longer summaries of these catecheses are published on Vatican News and full texts can be found on the official Vatican web portal.

The general audiences can be viewed live with playback available on the various language channels of the Vatican Media YouTube channel.

So far, Pope Francis has completed 15 catechesis series. The first series was on the Creed, a theme he took up from his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI. Themes that followed this series were on: the Sacraments, the Gifts of the Holy Spirit, the Church, the family, mercy, Christian hope, the Ten Commandments, the Our Father, the Acts of the Apostles, and the Beatitudes. The last cycle he began is on Christian prayer.

Sometimes, Pope Francis makes appeals at the conclusion of the general audience. Some of these appeals call for peace in areas ravaged by war and terror, others remind us of the plight of persecuted Christians, some appeal for Christian solidarity with victims of natural disasters, or draw attention to tragedies such as migration, unemployment or poverty. In his General Audience prior to the summer break, he prayed for the victims of an earthquake in Mexico. On June 10, he took the opportunity to condemn the tragedy of child labor.

Pope Paul VI held the weekly general audience in St Peter’s Basilica. When the Vatican audience hall was inaugurated on June 30, 1971 Pope Paul VI said: “We inaugurate this beautiful and large hall that We wanted to build above all for two reasons: to free St. Peter’s Basilica from the large and vivacious crowds that had become normal, and to offer Our visitors an even more suitable place for large gatherings.”

In 1963, Pope Paul VI commissioned the building of what would later become known as the Paul VI Hall. It seats 6300 people and is still used for general audiences in extreme cold or when it rains. In 2007, solar panels were installed on its roof.

With Pope John Paul II’s pontificate, attendance at the weekly general audience went beyond the capacity of Paul VI Hall. To deal with the huge crowds who wanted to attend them, the venue was moved St. Peter’s Square. In fact, as Pope John Paul II was entering St. Peter’s Square for the general audience of May 13, 1981 that an attempt was made on his life.

The coronavirus pandemic has now made this impossible. However, through radio, television and digital platforms, the Pope’s general audience is made available to millions of the faithful throughout the world with simultaneous commentary in French, German, English, Spanish and Portuguese.


Live streaming once again from the papal library in the Apostolic Palace, as he has done throughout the coronavirus pandemic, Pope Francis today began a new series of weekly catecheses and announced the themes for coming weeks as well.

“Dear Brothers and Sisters,” began the Holy Father, “In responding to the grave challenges caused by the present pandemic, we Christians are guided by the wisdom and strength born of the virtues of faith, hope and love. As God’s gifts, these virtues heal us and enable us in turn to bring Christ’s healing presence to our world.”

He then noted that these theological virtues, “can inspire in us a new and creative spirit to help us face today’s deeply rooted physical, social and spiritual infirmities and change the unjust and destructive behaviors that threaten the future of our human family.”

Francis said that, “today the Church seeks to continue the Lord’s healing ministry, not only to individuals but also to society as a whole. She does this by proposing a number of principles drawn from the Gospel that include the dignity of the human person, the common good, the preferential option for the poor, the universal destination of goods, solidarity, subsidiarity and the care for our common home.”

Pope Francis concluded his catechesis by noting the themes for future weekly encounters: “In coming weeks, I will reflect on these and other themes of the Church’s social doctrine, confident that they can shed light on today’s acute social problems and contribute to the building of a future of hope for coming generations.”

At the end of language greetings to pilgrims tuning in to the audience, Pope Francis prayed for Lebanon in the aftermath of the explosion in Beirut on Tuesday.

“Yesterday in Beirut, near the port, there were massive explosions causing dozens of deaths, wounding thousands and causing serious destruction. Let us pray for the victims, for their families; and let us pray for Lebanon so that, through the dedication of all its social, political and religious elements, it might face this extremely tragic and painful moment and, with the help of the international community, overcome the grave crisis they are experiencing.”

According to local authorities, the explosion was caused by tons of ammonium nitrate stored in a warehouse in the port of Lebanon’s capital.


Click here for English edition of weekly L’Osservatore Romano: https://www.osservatoreromano.va/en/pdfreader.html/ing/2020/07/ING_2020_030_2407.pdf.html?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=NewsletterOR-EN


Wherever you are as you listen to Vatican Insider this weekend, if you’ve decided to spend a brief moment with me, I think I have a fun offering for you in what is normally the interview segment.

I’ve called this Special “Inquiring Minds Want To Know” because I’m going to bring you some trivia – some little known, and often unusual facts about the Vatican, Popes or the Church. Join me for Part II as I look at who is the patron saint of television, the story of the statue of St. Peter in the basilica named for him and why Popes wear white. I’ll also look at who made one of the most visited nativity scenes in Rome and lastly, will tell you which has the biggest dome – St. Peter’s Basilica or the U.S. capitol?

Remember these stories might be a bit of trivia but they are not trivial!


There could be an interesting twist in Turkey’s July 10 decision to turn the once Christian basilica-then mosque-then museum of Hagia Sophia back into a mosque. In 1934, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founding father of the Republic of Turkey, turned Hagia Sophia into a museum, which later became a UNESCO world heritage site. It was Turkey’s current president Erdogan who announce the recent change on July 10. Reaction against the change poured in, not only from many Turks but from around the world and one of the strongest voices was that of UNECSO.

Two things in particular struck me and I have contacted UNESCO but do not have an answer as I write:

1. “This decision announced today raises the issue of the impact of this change of status on the property’s universal value. States have an obligation to ensure that modifications do not affect the Outstanding Universal Value of inscribed sites on their territories.”

2. “UNESCO calls upon the Turkish authorities to initiate dialogue without delay, in order to prevent any detrimental effect on the universal value of this exceptional heritage, the state of conservation of which will be examined by the World Heritage Committee at its next session.”

Both of these imply some possible change in the monetary aspect of being a World Heritage site, such as monies earmarked for restoration, etc.

Hagia Sophia re-opened today for Muslim prayer. Today’s date was important as July 24, 1923 marks the date that Allied powers and Turkey signed the Treaty of Lausanne that ended the Ottoman Empire and signaled the start of the Republic of Turkey. An estimated 7,000 police closed off and policed a large portion of Istanbul adjacent to Hagia Sophia. Those who could not get inside brought their own prayer rugs and prayed outside in the adjacent garden area. An estimated 1,000 faithful prayed inside, including President Erdogan.

Following is the complete statement from the UNESCO website:

Hagia Sophia: UNESCO deeply regrets the decision of the Turkish authorities, made without prior discussion, and calls for the universal value of World Heritage to be preserved.

Paris, Friday 10 July – The Director-General of UNESCO deeply regrets the decision of the Turkish authorities, made without prior discussion, to change the status of Hagia Sophia. This evening, she shared her serious concerns with the Ambassador of Turkey to UNESCO.

Hagia Sophia is part of the Historic Areas of Istanbul, a property inscribed on UNESCO’s World Heritage List. “Hagia Sophia is an architectural masterpiece and a unique testimony to interactions between Europe and Asia over the centuries. Its status as a museum reflects the universal nature of its heritage, and makes it a powerful symbol for dialogue,” said Director-General Audrey Azoulay.

This decision announced today raises the issue of the impact of this change of status on the property’s universal value. States have an obligation to ensure that modifications do not affect the Outstanding Universal Value of inscribed sites on their territories. UNESCO must be given prior notice of any such modifications, which, if necessary, are then examined by the World Heritage Committee.

UNESCO also recalls that the effective, inclusive and equitable participation of communities and other stakeholders concerned by the property is necessary to preserve this heritage and highlight its uniqueness and significance. The purpose of this requirement is to protect and transmit the Outstanding Universal Value of heritage, and it is inherent to the spirit of the World Heritage Convention.

These concerns were shared with the Republic of Turkey in several letters, and again yesterday evening with the representative of the Turkish Delegation to UNESCO. It is regrettable that the Turkish decision was made without any form of dialogue or prior notice. UNESCO calls upon the Turkish authorities to initiate dialogue without delay, in order to prevent any detrimental effect on the universal value of this exceptional heritage, the state of conservation of which will be examined by the World Heritage Committee at its next session.

“It is important to avoid any implementing measure, without prior discussion with UNESCO, that would affect physical access to the site, the structure of the buildings, the site’s moveable property, or the site’s management,” stressed Ernesto Ottone, UNESCO’s Assistant Director-General for Culture. Such measures could constitute breaches of the rules derived from the 1972 World Heritage Convention. (https://en.unesco.org/news/unesco-statement-hagia-sophia-istanbul)


On one of my visits to Lebanon, a very good friend took me to Saint Maroun Monastery in Annaya, the shrine of St. Charbel, perhaps the most beloved of Lebanon’s saints, beloved by both Christians and Muslims. We spent an afternoon and early evening exploring the Monastery of St. Maroun, the hermitage and small museum and also attended Mass in a church built in 1840. Our final moments were at the tomb of the saint that, since 1952, has been in a cave-like structure.

Thousands and thousands of medically-verified miraculous healings have been attributed to St. Charbel’s intercession. For the past 70 years, since the healings have been recorded, more than 29,00 such cases have been archived.

Charbel, a Catholic Maronite monk and priest renown for his holiness, lived from May 8, 1828 to December 24, 1898. for several decades after his death, his body was incorrupt. Though his body is no longer incorrupt, his tomb is one of several in the world that has oil exuding from it, said to have miraculous healing as attested to by many witnesses.

I have a small bottle of that oil – still unopened – from that visit.

Here are some photos I took on that afternoon visit. The shrine is well above sea level and it was cold as we were on our mini pilgrimage.


I don’t know when it began and why I have not noticed it before today but the Vatican news portal now is asking for donations to support its work. There is a ribbon/banner to this effect at the end of every article. I suppose the Vatican had to come to this. Perhaps you saw the story I posted yesterday about Vatican finances.

Relative to the papal news about Lebanon: Following are some photos I took on a visit to Lebanon and to the shrine of Our Lady of Harissa. You will see Our Lady atop a huge structure, some photos I took of the Lebanese photo from near the top of that structure and of a young Lebanese man, Eifad, and his mother. Harissa is a shrine very dear to Muslims as well as Christians. As I was climbing the steps to get to the statue, I leaned over to take one particular photo (you can guess which one! ) and I think the young man thought I was about to go over the railing because he leaned over to help me. We struck up a conversation and I learned that his mother had tried for years to have a child. She visited the shrine and within a month found she was pregnant. I have always loved that story and love this photo whenever I see it.

One of the photos shows the apostolic nunciature and its gardens as seen from the shrine. In fact, I had just come to the shrine from the nunciature where I visited a good friend. Abp. Gabriele Caccia who was nuncio at the time – he is now the Holy See envoy to the United Nations.


An extraordinary intervention by Pope Francis intends to support the education of young people in Lebanon, which has been hit by “a serious crisis that is causing suffering and poverty” and risks robbing future generations of hope.

By Vatican News

On Thursday, the Holy See Press Office announced that Pope Francis has sent a donation of $200,000 to support 400 scholarships in Lebanon.

The donation was made “in the hope of achieving a gesture of solidarity and with the desire that all involved at national and international levels will responsibly pursue the search for the common good, overcoming every division and partisan issue”.

In a communiqué announcing the gift, the Press Office notes that,“Pope Francis with fatherly concern has continued to follow in recent months the situation of beloved Lebanon… that has always been an example of the coexistence and fraternity that the Document on Human Fraternity wished to offer to the whole world”.

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the foundation of the State of Greater Lebanon, the predecessor of the modern nation. Yet, the communique notes, “the Land of the Cedars … is experiencing a severe crisis that is causing suffering and poverty, and that risks ‘robbing of hope’ especially younger generations who see their present as arduous and their future as uncertain”.

The ongoing crisis has made it difficult to ensure that young people in the country have access to education, which in many places, and especially smaller areas, has been provided by ecclesiastical institutions. The Holy Father’s gift is intended to help meet that need.

According the Press Office, the donation was made through the Secretariat of State and the Congregation for the Eastern Churches. “The intervention is in addition to the contribution that the Emergency Fund of the CEC (Congregation for the Eastern Churches) has made in recent days to deal with the emergency linked to the Covid-19 pandemic”, the communiqué states.

The Pope’s donation is accompanied by the prayer that Our Lady of Lebanon, “the Mother of God who watches over Lebanon from Harissa Mountain” together with all the saints of Lebanon, “might protect the Lebanese people”.



What a beautiful day this is – March 25, feast of the Annunciation!

Pope Francis’ brief message today (which I posted earlier on Facebook) and his praying the Our Father with Christians from around the world, all united to Rome at the same time, was a very moving experience. I had been looking forward to this since Sunday when he announced it and was just sitting down in front of TV when my doorbell rang! To say I was astonished is an understatement! No one is out and about and we are all in quarantine these days so who would ring my doorbell!

It was our doorman Carlo to tell me that the building’s satellite system, which had been down since Friday the 13th (yes!), hours after I got back from the US, was back up and the technicians wanted to know if I had satellite back. I checked my TV and all I saw was “no signal from the antenna.” And this was happening precisely at 12 noon when I wanted to see the Pope and pray with him!

Carlo and three technicians came to my place – masks and all – and with a few manoeuvers managed to get my satellite back up and running. I had opened the door for them before they arrived and was in the living room as they worked – we were all the required distance of separation if not more!

How are we living these days? I sanitized the door handle and everything else they had touched – just in case! Better safe than sorry, as the expression goes!

In any case, I prayed the Our Father ten minutes late but then did it several times today!

I have one amazing memory that I think about every year on this day, the feast of the Annunciation. It happened ten years ago…..

On February 18, 2010, I was in Lebanon on my way to Iraq when the government announced that it had made March 25 a national Christian-Muslim Day, something that had never occurred before in the history of Christian-Muslim relations. The decision was confirmed two days later during a meeting between Pope Benedict XVI and Prime Minister Hariri in the Apostolic Palace in the Vatican.

On February 18, I was in the offices of a Catholic newspaper in Beirut where people were scurrying to get this announcement in the press! The first joint celebration occurred a month later on March 25 as an official national holiday sanctioned by the government of Lebanon. All public buildings, schools, banks and university were closed and the government encouraged private businesses to do the same.

For Christians, Mary is the Mother of Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. For Muslims, Mary is a much-revered figure as the Mother of the prophet Jesus. In September 1995 I was a member of the Holy See delegation to the UN conference on Women in Beijing. On September 8, a member of the Iran delegation came to our office with a beautiful picture of Mary, saying their delegation wanted to celebrate her birthday that day and this was their gift to us!

Fra Angelico’s Annunciation:

Two years ago, again in the Middle East, in Amman, Jordan for the first time Christians and Muslims held an inter-religious celebration to mark the Annunciation. Patriarchal vicar Bishop William Shomali said the celebration was part of the “theological, religious, and spiritual dialogue” that accompanies everyday life in Jordan. “We want to show the common points between Christians and Muslims on the Annunciation, in which even Muslims believe.”


Earlier today I posted two decrees from two different Vatican congregations regarding how Easter liturgies are to be celebrated worldwide in the Church during the coronavirus epidemic. You will probably get news in this regard from your own bishops but now you know the rules and understand what he will say we can do – and not do – and why.

Two more decrees came down from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith – one is a Note for the presentation of the Decree Cum sanctissima on the liturgical celebration in honor of Saints in the forma extraordinaria of the Roman Rite, and the second is a Note for the presentation of the Decree Quo magis approving seven Eucharistic Prefaces for the forma extraordinaria of the Roman Rite.

Each is fairly lengthy and I do not have time now to summarize those now. However, if Vatican News posts a summary before I can get to that, I’ll put the link up here, on Facebook and on Twitter.


Papal tweet for March 16: The Church wishes to be close to each person with the love, compassion and consolation that come from Christ.


(Vatican Radio)  Pope Francis held a private audience on Thursday with Mr. Michel Aoun, President of the Republic of Lebanon, and his wife, Nadia.

A communique from the Holy See Press Office said their discussions were “cordial.”

“The Parties focused on the good bilateral relations between the Holy See and Lebanon, underlining the historic and institutional role of the Church in the life of the country. Satisfaction was then expressed for the efforts on the part of all the various political parties in putting an end to the presidential vacancy, emphasising the hope for an increasingly fruitful future collaboration between the members of diverse ethnic and religious communities in favour of the common good and the development of the nation,” the communique read.

Turning to current events on the international stage, the Pope thanked President Aoun for his country’s welcome of Syrian refugees.

“The discussion then turned to Syria, with special attention to international efforts to find a political solution to the conflict. Furthermore, appreciation was expressed at the welcome that Lebanon has extended to many Syrian refugees. Finally, there was a broader exchange of views on the regional context, referring also to other ongoing conflicts and the situation of Christians in the Middle East.”

President Michel Aoun subsequently met with Cardinal Secretary of State, Pietro Parolin, accompanied by Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher, Secretary for Relations with States.


(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis will preside over a penitential service at the Vatican in anticipation of the  ’24 Hours for the Lord’ initiative.

The service will take place on Friday March 17, one week before all churches around the world are asked to offer the sacrament of Confession, a request made by the Pontifical Council for the Promoting of the New Evangelization.

The theme of the initiative this year comes from the Gospel according to Saint Matthew: ‘I desire Mercy’ (Mt 9:13).

On Friday March 24, the churches of Santa Maria in Trastevere and Le Stimmate di San Francesco will remain open from 8pm for Confession and Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. On Saturday March 25, a service of thanksgiving will take place at 5pm in the church of Santo Spirito in Sassia. Monsignor Rino Fisichella, president of the Pontifical Council for the Promoting of the New Evangelization, will preside over First Vespers of the Fourth Sunday of Lent.

People around the world can show their support for the initiative by using the #24hoursfortheLord hashtag.

Here’s a link to the booklet if you watch this on EWTN: http://www.vatican.va/news_services/liturgy/libretti/2017/20170317-libretto-liturgia-penitenziale.pdf


(churchpop.com) Catholics are not supposed to eat meat on Fridays during Lent. Everyone knows that. (Catholics are also supposed to do penance on Fridays all year round; read more here.)

But sometimes there are exceptions! This Friday, March 17th 2017, might be one of those exceptions for you, depending on where you live.

It just so happens that this Friday is St. Patrick’s Day. That by itself doesn’t mean you can eat meat, but you can if at least one of these other conditions is met:

First, if St. Patrick is the patron of your diocese (e.g. the Archdiocese of New York), his feast is a solemnity for you and fasting is not required. This is true for all solemnities, such as the feast of St. Joseph (March 20th), which sometimes falls on a Friday during Lent.

Second, a bishop can grant a dispensation to everyone in his diocese from the normal fasting requirement. Dubbed the “Corned Beef Indult” (since corned beef is a customary food for St. Patrick’s Day), Rocco Palmo says the bishops of at least 112 dioceses in the United States have granted permission to their faithful to forego the normal abstinence from meat this Friday to allow for better celebration of St. Patrick’s Day.

For complete list, click here: https://churchpop.com/2017/03/15/you-can-eat-meat-in-these-u-s-dioceses-this-friday-st-patricks-day/