I took these photos of the front page of today’s online edition of L’Osservatore Romano, the Vatican newspaper. I had a huge intake of breath and my eyes filled with tears when I saw the photo of these three beautiful little children under the caption “Small gestures of solidarity”! How many tears have we shed these days!

The article highlighted how international organizations that once worked on the ground in Afghanistan can no longer do so. It spoke to how dioceses and other institutions and organizations in Italy are getting ready to step in and offer to receive Afghani refugees and offer assistance in their stead.

How much can any one country do in the face of such a colossal tragedy? No matter how overwhelming the demand will seem or the numbers of people seeking asylum, countries, dioceses, churches, religious and civil and humanitarian organizations – must at least try to help.

How many more children are there whom we will never see in photos? How many will be successful in getting out of their native country?   How many will be forced to stay and to perhaps live unspeakably horrible lives, if they are allowed to live!

Where are these three siblings today? Where will they be tomorrow?

I so wanted to reach out and hug them, to hold them, to say something that would bring an expression of hope to their faces. But I feel bereft, unable to do anything in the face of such tragedy, such anguish.





Two big stories in the Vatican today: one involves the new editorial board of the Vatican newspaper’s monthly magazine “Donna Chiesa Mondo” (Women Church World), and the other involves the move of the newspaper itself, L’Osservatore Romano, outside of Vatican City State, after 90 years inside the mini state.

The first issue of L’Osservatore Romano* was published on July 1, 1861 in Rome, only months after the Kingdom of Italy was proclaimed in March 17 of that year. It is has 9 language editions (Italian is daily and weekly, 6 other languages are weekly and Polish is monthly. (http://www.osservatoreromano.va/en)

There will be lots of moving vans in coming months around Vatican City and Palazzo Pio XI, the building that has housed Vatican Radio for decades and will welcome the staff of the Vatican paper. The move, one of a number of moves of Vatican communications offices and staff in coming months, is expected to take about a year.

Palazzo Pio is named for Pope Pius XI who inaugurated Vatican Radio on February 12, 1931.

The prefect of communication Paolo Ruffini and interim Holy See Press Office director, Alessandro Gisotti told journalists this is all “part of the reform” of Vatican communications. “We are trying to optimize the spaces (we have) and this is a project that will take several months, from now until the summer of 2020.”

Basically the staff members of the Vatican’s newspaper, radio, television and web offices will all be housed in Palazzo Pio XI. Only technical staff, such as those who work for Vatican television, will work inside Vatican City.

Lots more on this topic – especially reaction to the announced move – so stay tuned!

* I have a copy of the newspaper that announced the election of Pope John Paul I (not called John Paul I until John Paul II was elected), Papa Luciani, that might have a certain value. There was a misprint in Latin on the front page (a misprint noted by the then editor’s 15-year old son who had just begin to study Latin) and they had to stop the presses and re-do that page. I have one of the rare editions of the paper with the misprint!


L’Osservatore Romano, the Vatican newspaper, announced today that the monthly magazine, “Donna Chiesa Mondo” (Women Church World) will be regularly published in the month of May. The announcement also revealed the membership of the new editorial board of the magazine, including the name of the new coordinator, Rita Pinci who, in turn, released a statement.

On March 26 there was the stunning news of the mass resignation of the editorial board and Lucetta Scaraffia, the founder of the Vatican’s monthly magazine on and for women – “Donna Chiesa Mondo” – that is published by the Vatican paper “L’Osservatore Romano.

On April 1, the board published an editorial in which members complained of feeling “surrounded by a climate of distrust and progressive de-legitimization.” They said the Vatican was “returning to the practice of selecting women [writers] who ensure obedience,” to a “clerical self-reference.””

In her statement, Rita Pinci said she was “pleased about this appointment. It is something I was not expecting and at first I was surprised by the proposal of L’Osservatore Romano’s editor-in-chief, Andrea Monda … because he thought of me, and for the complete freedom that he has assured to me and the Editorial Board. I have followed “Donne Chiesa Mondo” since it began, and I think the Church needs the gaze and voice of women who represent more than half of the faithful.”

Pinci added, “I am not a theologian, a Church historian, an expert on Vatican issues. I am a journalist. I am a believer. I was asked to make my expertise available to a community and a newspaper that I have always read with interest, and I believe that it is a great human – before professional – opportunity for me, to be able to take part in this project.

“My contribution will be mainly that of coordinating the Editorial Board in its work which will be carried out in a collegial manner and in the spirit of sharing the diverse talents and skills of the women who will participate in it and with whom I am proud to share this stretch of the road in a pursuit that for me began even before the professional one, in the first years of university, when I began to share certain fundamental themes of the women’s movement.”


This is a “Good News” column today, focusing on two fascinating pieces in the Vatican daily, L’Osservatore Romano.

The first is the Vatican reaction to the film, “Spotlight,” which won an Oscar Sunday night for best film and the second is about the just-opened health center for homeless men and women near the new showers installed months ago just off the right hand colonnade of St. Peter’s Square.

On the film “Spotlight”: Seems that a number of pundits gleefully predicted Vatican outrage and anger over the Oscar being awarded to a film that highlighted the Boston Globe’s probe into clerical sex abuse cases in the archdiocese and then elsewhere. The Vatican, instead, saw the film in a a positive light because, says the editorial at the outstart, “it manages to voice the shock and profound pain of the faithful confronting the discovery of these horrendous realities.”

A very worthwhile article. The question that remained in my mind, following the Oscar awards ceremony, is when will the same producers and directors (or even the media) delve into abuse cases in families, in schools, in sports venues,etc., in other words, some place other than the Catholic Church?

And then the piece about the new mini health center for the homeless at the Vatican: Another brilliant gesture by Pope Francis and his superactive Almoner, Abp. Konrad Krajewski, to help restore a sense of dignity to so many people who feel they have nothing left in life, including dignity.


Spotlight, the Oscar-winning film, has a compelling plot. The film is not anti-Catholic, as has been written, because it manages to voice the shock and profound pain of the faithful confronting the discovery of these horrendous realities.


Of course, the narrative does not delve into the long and tenacious battle that Joseph Ratzinger, as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and as Pope, undertook against pedophilia in the Church. But one film cannot tell all, and the difficulties that Ratzinger met with do not but confirm the film’s theme, which is that too often ecclesiastical institutions have not known how to react with the necessary determination in the face of these crimes.

Of course, and we all know it, children are vulnerable beings, and therefore privileged victims of abuse even in families, sport circles, and secular schools. Not all monsters wear cassocks. Pedophilia does not necessarily arise from the vow of chastity. However, it has become clear that in the Church some are more preoccupied with the image of the institution than of the seriousness of the act.

All this cannot justify the extremely grave fault of those who, while seen as God’s representatives, use this authority and prestige to exploit the innocent. The film is adept at recounting this detail, giving space to the inner devastation that these acts generate in the victims, who no longer have a God to plead with, to ask for help.

The fact that a call arose from the Oscar ceremony — that Pope Francis fight this scourge — should be seen as a positive sign: there is still trust in the institution, there is trust in a Pope who is continuing the cleaning begun by his predecessor, then still a cardinal. There is still trust in a faith that has at its heart the defence of victims, the protection of the innocent.

Lucetta Scaraffia


A sign which reads “medical-health care clinic” is posted on a wooden door situated in the colonnade of St Peter’s Square. It is Pope Francis’ latest gift – by way of the Office of Papal Charities – to the homeless of Rome. The clinic, which stands alongside the showers and barber shop which were previously made available to Rome’s needy, opened on Monday, 29 February. Archbishop Konrad Krajewski, the Papal Almoner, explained that the Italian Association of Podiatrists will also provide a free-of-charge service because, he added, “feet are the most affected part in people living in the street”.


The decision to open on a Monday is no accident. The first day of the week is when approximately 150 people use the showers and barber shop. This service – which opened last year – allows them to change into clean clothes, leaving their dirty ones to be laundered at the shelter which recently opened on Via dei Penitenzieri. “It seemed right”, Archbishop Krajewski explained, “to also provide free medical visits. For now, we will begin like this but soon the podiatrists will visit twice per week, and then eventually this service could become daily”. “We are equipped”, said Archbishop Krajewski, “to help all those who come knocking on our door. It is Pope Francis who wants this and those of us who are close to him in this venture are honoured and highly motivated to make this possible”.

Medical specialists and healthcare personnel of the Holy See, of the University of Rome – Tor Vergata and of the volunteer association Medicina Solidale see patients, prescribe tests and treatments, and recommend hospitalization, if necessary. It is “an indispensable service”, the Papal Almoner continued, “to the health of the poor who live among us”. “In taking care of these people, we cannot overlook medical visits, preventive care and continous outpatient care”, of which the homeless “are especially in need. That is why the Holy Father wished that, under the colonnade of St Peter’s Basilica, a medical center be built for those who ask to be cared for”.




The Vatican daily, L’Osservatore Romano, in its September 29th edition published some of the comments made by the international media at the end of Pope Francis’ September 19 to 27 trip to Cuba and the United States:

Pope Francis showed his “deft touch” in navigating the divisions in the U.S. The assessment was published in the 29 September edition of the “International New York Times”, which reveals that, despite the gruelling schedule on U.S. soil, the Pontiff took on the various commitments with remarkable ease.

-S.S. Francesco - Viaggio Apostolico negli Stati Uniti - Santa Messa  a conclusione dell'VIII Incontro  mondiale delle famiglie  27-09-2015  - (Copyright L'OSSERVATORE ROMANO - Servizio Fotografico - photo@ossrom.va)

-S.S. Francesco – Viaggio Apostolico negli Stati Uniti – Santa Messa a conclusione dell’VIII Incontro mondiale delle famiglie 27-09-2015
– (Copyright L’OSSERVATORE ROMANO – Servizio Fotografico – photo@ossrom.va)

The article by Jim Yardley and Laurie Goodstein at the end of his visit, points out that he “seemed to have had fun”. The daily newspaper states that Francis had landed for the first time in “a country that he did not know and that did not know him”, but now the situation has changed. The United States now truly knows who the Pope is, and its people know what lessons to assimilate after his visit. The U.S. landscape is “a minefield of political and religious divisions”, yet the Pontiff “demonstrated a nuanced political dexterity”, with a message based on dialogue and constructive debate: and the nation, at this moment, needs exactly this.

The visit, Yardley and Goodstein indicate, was a gift for the United States which, on many levels, is in a delicate phase of transition, and needed the presence in its own home of someone who truly embodies moral leadership. The visit was likewise a success for the Pope who, after winning the nation’s heart, has returned to the Vatican bolstered by the manner in which he managed to defend the Church’s position on particularly delicate issues.

Also on Tuesday, 29 September, “The Wall Street Journal” highlighted the Pope’s defence of religious freedom, which was a common theme at various stops during the pilgrimage on American soil. In this regard, the edition referred to Francis’ words to President Obama at the White House ceremony, “that Americans should be ‘vigilant’ to ‘preserve and defend [religious] freedom from everything that would threaten or compromise it’”. The words used by the Pope during his U.S. visit were “masterful”, said Paul Vallely in “The Guardian”, again in an article on Tuesday, 29. Even his actions are worthy of high praise, for they were always wisely balanced. The Pope, the British daily continues, was able to move adroitly whether on “the grand stage” such as the White House, Congress, and the U.N. Yet at the same time he embraced the poor, immigrants, detainees: all with his characteristic simplicity and humility. “The Guardian” also noted the Pope’s call that bishops be less severe and divisive. In this regard, Paul Vallely pointed out the Pontiff’s agility in telling the bishops that he had not come to judge them nor to lecture them, however, the journalist writes, he did just that. Thus his softer style, seeking to encourage greater tolerance and more inclusivity, was even more effective, Vallely concludes.

In the 29 September issue of “USA Today”, Rick Hampson writes that Pope Francis is unique in his ability to be “plainspoken, pointed and provocative ”. And these traits find fertile ground in today’s world, where key words are immigration, economic disparity and environmental protection. Indeed, these extremely important, complex and delicate topics need to be dealt with without mincing words and without evasive language. It is in this precise landscape that Francis stands out and with him his style which make immediacy and transparency his tool of choice to get to the heart of every issue. Then, Hampson adds, with Francis every journalist feels particularly at ease: his addresses are so practical and direct that one never has trouble finding a title or the lead. Instead, it can be difficult to choose just one.

“Before concluding his six-day visit in the United States with an open-air Mass” — writes Stéphanie Le Bars in “Le Monde” on 29 September — “Pope Francis addressed the hundreds of bishops from around the world gathered in Philadelphia for the World Meeting of Families, giving them some instructions as to how help the Catholic Church live in a world that has become ‘a large supermarket’”. Running “the risk” — the journalist continues — “of clashing with the most conservative trends of the Church, Francis has above all recalled that Christians are not immune to the changes of their time”. Placing himself far away, Le Bars writes, from party positions in the United States, for a cultural war between the Church and the contemporary world, the Pope urges the bishops to invest their energy in the young, inviting them to be brave and willing to choose family and marriage. There is indeed an obvious link, the French daily states, between the conclusion of the historic overseas journey and the imminent Synod on the Family, which opens on 5 October.

In his blog on the web site of the daily “la Croix”, Dominique Greiner takes stock of the days in the States. On the occasion of the speeches to the U.S. Congress on 24 September and to the UN General Assembly the following day, “Francis’ message lost absolutely none of its force”. On these occasions in particular, the Pontiff outlined a sort of portrait of good government, whether national or international: it must follow the path of law and legislation to contain and regulate human presumptions; politicians must always remember that before them are men and women of flesh and blood, who live and fight and suffer, and thus they need practical concrete, effective and practical decisions in order to face the needs of the times; political action must be guided by courage and by intelligence, avoiding simplistic and reductive readings of the social and political landscape. Only thus does the common good truly follow.

In an editorial in “Avvenire” on 29 September, Mimmo Muolo underscores that “the Latin American Pope has managed to build bridges where until recently stood barriers of hatred and a lack of communication. Thus reconciliation among states, governments and peoples, in the first place. And this visit, he adds, “will stand in history also because Francis was able to extend the appeal to reconciliation beyond the area of international relations. In Cuba he preached reconciliation among the needs of governments and those of the governed. In Washington he joined liberty — the trademark of the United States — with justice, especially social”.


Today was a very busy day for Pope Francis, including a meeting with the bishops of Mali, in Rome on their “ad limina” visit, an audience for members of the joint committee of the Conference of European Churches (CEC), and a welcome in the Paul VI Hall for 7,000 players, managers, members, and supporters of the Sporting Association of Lazio (Societa Sportiva Lazio), one of the Italian capital city’s two football teams.

The Holy Father also tweeted: When we cannot earn our own bread, we lose our dignity. This is a tragedy today, especially for the young.

And today was a very busy day for yours truly, albeit in a vastly different way. I had a number of appointments, on a much smaller scale, of course, that kept me out of the office for a lengthy period. The day is getting late but I do want to being you two items of interest. The first is an article that appeared in the May 4-5 edition of the Vatican paper, L’Osservatore Romano, about the Mohammed cartoon drawing exhibit in Garland, Texas, that ended with violence. The second is the important talk the Pope gave today to the Conference of European Churches about ecumenism, Christian unity, religious freedom and migrants.

And I retweeted the papal tweet!


L’Osservatore Romano, the Vatican daily, in a front-page article in its May 4-5 edition entitled “Gasoline on the Fire,” likened the Garland, Texas exhibit of drawings of Islam’s prophet Mohammed to “pouring gasoline on fire.” The following is my translation of that brief piece.

The article began: “Garland, near Dallas, is certainly not Paris and the (May 4th) appointment in this Texas city – an exhibit of cartoons depicting the prophet Mohammed at which was foreseen the participation of several ultra-conservative European politicians – reminds us at a distance of the initiatives of ‘Charlie Hebdo’.  The Texas exhibit can only be compared to the French weekly by its provocative intent, almost wanting to throw gasoline on the fire, while respect will always be the necessary behavior to bring one close to another’s religious experience. But in Garland, as in Paris, it was not this way. Even in the United States we see the extreme and bloodthirsty reaction of armed men who, in any case, experienced an outcome different from the French one.

“According to early reconstruction, two men in a car reached the site of the exhibit and, from the parking lot next to the building, they opened fire, wounding a security officer. The police replied, killing both attackers. A team of explosive experts was called to inspect the car for fear it contained explosives.

“What remains to be verified is the reliability of the claim (for this attack) Via Twitter by the self-styled Islamic State.”


This morning Pope Francis received members of the joint committee of the Conference of European Churches (CEC), whose main focus is to facilitate ecumenism throughout the continent. He noted that the situation today is quite different from the past, adding that, thanks to ecumenical dialogue, ecclesiastic communities have taken great steps on the path to reconciliation and peace. (photo: news.va)


The Holy Father said the ecumenical journey, even with all its difficulties, is already an integral part of the process of reconciliation and communion, pointing to the conciliar decree “Unitatis Redintegratio” that affirms that the division between Christians “damages the holy cause of preaching the Gospel to every creature. This is evident when, for example, the European Churches and ecclesiastic communities have different points of view on important anthropological or ethical questions. Nevertheless, I hope that opportunities for common reflection in light of Sacred Scripture and shared tradition will not be lacking and that they will be fruitful … and that we might find common answers to the questions that contemporary society asks of Christians. The closer we are to Christ, the closer we are united among ourselves.”

Pope Francis then underscored how “today European Churches and ecclesiastic communities face new and decisive challenges” saying they “can only be effectively answered by speaking with one voice.”

“I am thinking, for example,” said Francis, “of the challenges of legislation that, in the name of a misunderstood principle of tolerance, wind up blocking citizens from freely expressing and practicing their religious convictions peacefully and legitimately.”

“Moreover,” he stated, “faced with the attitude that Europe seems to have toward the dramatic and often tragic emigration of thousands of persons fleeing war, persecution, and misery, the European Churches and ecclesiastic communities have the duty to promote solidarity and hospitality. European Christians are called upon to intercede with prayer and by actively working to bring dialogue and peace to current conflicts.” (source: VIS)