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.



This is a look at the island nation of Malta that Pope Francis will visit over the weekend, and a personal story at the very end of how one of my trips to Malta, and the Malta stamp in my passport, became the focus of an investigation.

Pope Francis will spend this coming Saturday and Sunday in Malta, the southernmost nation of Europe and an island nation that I have visited several times.

My first visit was in 1983 to attend and report on a Marian Congress being held in this island nation. I made many friends and kept in touch with several of them for decades and we had a reunion on second trip.

My second visit was in the early 90s when I was working at the Vatican. We had six days off at Easter and I decided to return to Malta to spend Holy Week there, and it was one of the more exceptional Holy Week experiences of my life. To spend – to share – especially the Triduum and Easter Sunday with people, 90 percent of whom profess to be Catholic and the majority of whom are practicing Catholics, was a delightful but eminently spiritual experience.

Some priests I knew at the Vatican had told me to contact priests and a bishop who were friends of theirs in Malta, and I ended up learning a lot about the Church in Malta as well as having many privileged viewpoints during the Holy Week liturgies.

Malta is an awesome crossroads of peoples and cultures and histories and rulers – Romans, Moors, Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of Saint John of Jerusalem, of Rhodes and of Malta (more commonly known, of course, as the Order of Malta!), the French and British. Architecture, art and cuisine all reflect these many cultures.

Almost all Maltese are fluent in three languages, Maltese, English and Italian.

Malta is just the right size to be able to visit in four or five days, including the second largest island of Gozo where Maltese Cardinal Mario Grech, head of the Synod of Bishops, is from. You will probably find yourself so enjoying Malta, feeling so laid back and relaxed that you could easily decide to spend week.

There is a plethora of water sports, as you might imagine, to which you can add hours of exploring archaeological sites and the islands’ numerous churches. I was particularly enthralled by Mdina and Rabat. Punctuate all of the above activities with hours of enjoying both local and international cuisine.

St. Paul was shipwrecked here and there is a church that bears his name – the church of the Shipwreck of St. Paul – San Pawl Nawfragu in Maltese.

As the sitewww.visitmalta.com, tells us:

Christianity has almost 2000 years of history in Malta. According to tradition, it was brought to the Islands by none other than the Apostle Paul himself in around A.D. 60.

Paul was being taken to Rome to be tried as a political rebel, but the ship carrying him and some 274 others was caught in a violent storm only to be wrecked two weeks later on the Maltese coast. All aboard swam safely to land.

The site of the wreck is traditionally known as St. Paul’s Island, and is marked by a statue commemorating the event.

The welcome given to the survivors is described in the Acts of the Apostles (XXVIII) by St. Luke:

“And later we learned that the island was called Malta.
And the people who lived there showed us great kindness,
and they made a fire and called us all to warm ourselves… ”

As the fire was lit, Paul was bitten by a poisonous snake but he suffered no ill effects. The islanders took this as a sign that he was a special man. This scene is depicted in many religious works of art on the Islands.

According to tradition, the Apostle took refuge in a cave, now known as St. Paul’s Grotto in Rabat, Malta.

During his winter stay, he was invited to the house of Publius, the Romans’ chief man on the Islands. It was here, according to tradition, that Paul cured Publius’ father of a serious fever. Publius is then said to have converted to Christianity and was made the first Bishop of Malta. The Cathedral of Mdina is said to stand on the site of Publius’ house.

Archaeological evidence seems to support this tradition, as Malta was one of the first Roman colonies to convert.

In a more secular vein, I have to tell you what happened when I left Rome for the U.S. for Christmas after my second visit to Malta.

I was standing in line at the TWA check-in counter when a TWA staff member asked me, as they were asking all of us inline, to see my passport. He rifled through the pages and asked me if I had other ID on me. I had a California driver’s license and don’t remember what else.

He walked away with all my documents in his hand to consult with several officials and, for several minutes, I was without any documents to prove who I said I was! A really scary feeling, to be honest!

When he returned all the documents, he never explained why they were being examined – and never answered my question – but I later found out during a conversation with an embassy friend that it was most likely because I had a Malta stamp in my passport.

For those of you who may remember, a PanAm plane exploded over Lockerbee, Scotland in December 1988, killing all aboard. Wreckage of flight 103 that originated in Frankfurt and was en route to New York, was strewn for miles, and 270 people lost their lives. Lengthy investigations eventually discovered a tie with Malta.

As the LA Times reported: “newspapers said that a bomb concealed in a Toshiba radio had been placed in a Samsonite suitcase filled with clothing and put on board Air Malta Flight 180 from Valetta to Frankfurt on the morning of the explosion. The passenger who checked the suitcase for the flight, which was tagged for New York via Pan Am 103, did not board the Air Malta plane, although most airlines take steps to ensure that no baggage is put on board a plane unless it is accompanied by a passenger.”

U.S. airlines for years checked any and all people who had a Malta stamp in their passport. I was stopped and questioned every time I travelled. It ended only when I got a new passport.

But I’d return to Malta in a flash!

PS. I wish I knew where all my Malta photos were! I did not have a digital camera at the time so they must be in one of my dozens of albums!


In an interview with Vatican Radio, Maltese Cardinal Mario Grech, Secretary General of the Synod of Bishops, shares his expectations for Pope Francis’ 2-3 April Apostolic Visit to Malta this weekend.


Click here for a brief video of Cardinal Mario Grech, Maltese, and head of the Synod of Bishops, followed by a written interview: Cardinal Grech: Peter’s presence on Paul’s island will confirm our faith – Vatican News



Pope Francis will undertake a two-day apostolic journey to the Republic of Malta at the beginning of April 2022.

By Linda Bordoni (vaticannews)

Pope Francis will travel to the Mediterranean island nation of Malta for an apostolic visit in April.

A Holy See Press Office communiqué on Thursday said that, “Accepting the invitation of the President of the Republic of Malta, the civil authorities and the Catholic Church of the country, His Holiness Pope Francis will make an Apostolic Journey to Malta from 2 to 3 April 2022, visiting the cities of Valletta, Rabat, Floriana and the island of Gozo.”

Pope Francis received Maltese Prime Minister Robert Abela in the Vatican on 8 October 2021 –

The program and further details of the journey will be announced in the near future.

The Pope had originally been scheduled to visit Malta on 31 May 2020, but that apostolic journey was postponed due to the situation of the coronavirus pandemic.

Announcing the postponement of that visit on 23 March 2020, Holy See Press Office Director, Matteo Bruni, noted that the visit would eventually include a stop in Gozo, one of the twenty-one Islands that make up the Maltese archipelago.

The theme of the apostolic journey is: “They showed us unusual kindness!” It is meant to highlight the plight of the migrants who traverse the Mediterranean toward Europe, and to be a source of encouragement for new evangelization in the island nation.

The theme references the hospitality shown to St. Paul by the Maltese when a ship carrying him to Rome was shipwrecked there in 60 AD.

Two previous Popes have made apostolic visits to Malta:  Pope St. John Paul II visited Malta in 1990 and 2001. Pope Benedict XVI also visited in 2010. Pope St. John Paul II beatified George Preca, who (was canonized by Benedict XVI) and became Malta’s first Saint in 2007


The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, in an interview with the Sudan Tribune, said that a trip to South Sudan, together with Pope Francis, “could take place in coming months.” The previously planned trip was postponed in 2017 due to the worsening security situation in the country. He is reported as telling the paper that, “If God wills, in the coming months, perhaps within the year we will go to Juba, not Rome, and we will see what progress can be made.”



Join me this weekend on Vatican Insider for Part II of my conversation with my guest of honor, Fr. Ramil Fajardo, rector of the St. Frances Xavier Cabrini National Shrine in Chicago. Having talked last week about the life, times, and work of Mother Cabrini, America’s First Citizen Saint, and the migrants whom she helped, and about today’s migrants and refugees, Fr. Ramil, joined by Fr. Ryan Brady, looks at how Chicago will celebrate a Cabrini Jubilee Year! When will it start? What are some of the plans? Tune in this weekend to Vatican Insider!

St. Frances Xavier Cabrini died Dec. 22, 1917, after spending much of her life working with Italian immigrants in the United States.

Canonized on July 7, 1946, by Pope Pius XII, this year marks the 75th anniversary of her sainthood.

Fathers Ramil and Ryan joined me for dinner after our interview in the brief time I spent in Chicago during my recent, very wonderful, U.S. vacation.

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


Pope Francis on Friday received in audience Prime Minister Robert Abela of Malta who later met with Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, and Vatican Secretary for Relations with States, Paul Richard Gallagher. (Vatican photo)

A communique by the Holy See Press Office said, “During the cordial discussions in the Secretariat of State, the good bilateral relations and fruitful collaboration between the Church and the State were underlined. The parties focused on the contribution of Christianity to the history, culture and life of the Maltese people, and on the Church’s commitment to the human and social development of the country, especially in the fields of education and welfare.

“Issues of common interest were then discussed, such as migration, to which the Church and the Government are strongly committed, and some ethical issues. Attention then turned to the European and international situation, with particular attention to the Mediterranean region, as well as the importance of ecumenical and interreligious dialogue in building peace and brotherhood among peoples.”

A Vatican media report noted that the population of the tiny island nation is estimated at 516,000 people, over 90 per cent of whom are Catholics.  They are spread across the country’s two dioceses – the Archdiocese of Malta and the Diocese of Gozo.


The German weekly edition of the Vatican’s newspaper L’Osservatore Romano was started in 1971 with the blessing of Pope Paul VI.

By Vatican News staff reporter

Pope Francis has felicitated the weekly German-language edition of the Holy See’s newspaper L’Osservatore Romano (Italian for The Roman Observer), for its 5 decades of service in “edifying” its readers with an inside look into the Church of Rome and the world.

“With affection, I have taken note of the celebration of the fiftieth anniversary of the weekly edition of L’Osservatore Romano which is being celebrated in these days. I gladly accompany the collaborators, as well as the German-speaking readers, with my prayers.” the Pope wrote in a brief letter to the newspaper.

Edifying readers
“For half a century,” he noted, “the newspaper has been edifying its customers week by week with a look inside the events of the Church of Rome and that of the world; it reports on the Word of the Successor of Peter and provides a rich variety of cultural contributions.” All this, Pope Francis said, makes it possible for the faithful of local Churches to know the Universal Church better.  He concluded imparting his apostolic blessing on all those contributing to “this service of mediation” and to all its readers.

An initiative of Paul VI
The German edition was started in 1971, under the initiative of Saint Pope Paul VI.  “With joy We welcome the new weekly edition of the LOsservatore Romano in German and accompany its appearance with Our good wishes,” the Pope wrote in a letter dated October 1, 1971. “May it contribute to fostering the spirit of fraternal communion among the People of God.”  He imparted his blessing on “those who meritoriously contributed to the realization of this initiative”, as well as to all the collaborators and readers of the newspaper.

The German edition
The German edition consists of two instalments or segments. The first provides information and news of the Holy See, the Universal Church, and the local Churches, as well as cultural sections and in-depth doctrinal and historical reflections.  The second one is devoted to the activities of the Pontiff, including the translation of his discourses and interventions.  Since 1986 it has been printed in Germany by the publishing house Schwabenverlag that also is responsible for its distribution and subscriptions. It is also available in digital form.

Other language editions
The original edition of L’Osservatore Romano is the Italian daily, which was started 160 years ago in 1861. The daily is published 6 days a week (except for Monday). The weekly editions are available in French, English, Spanish, Portuguese, German, and also Italian.  A Polish edition is published monthly.  There is also a weekly edition printed in the Malayalam language in India, and a biweekly edition in Hungarian printed in Hungary.


It all depends on how you look at it – and this is fairly typical for a visit by a head of State or government to the Pope. These stories refer to the visit Saturday by Ukraine’s president who met the Pope and then Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Secretary of State, and Abp. Paul Gallagher, Secretary for Relations with States.

Vatican press office communiqué:
Talks in the Secretariat of State were mainly devoted to the humanitarian situation and to the search for peace in the context of the conflict that, since 2014, is still plaguing Ukraine. In this regard, the hope was shared that all parties involved show maximum sensitivity towards the needs of the population, the first victims of violence, as well as commitment and consistency in dialogue. Issues related to bilateral cooperation and the contribution of the Catholic Church, present in the country in various rites, were also examined.

Secular news media:
(Breitbart) – ROME — Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky met with Pope Francis in the Vatican Saturday, during which Zelensky asked the pope to intervene to secure the release of Ukrainian prisoners of war. While an official Vatican communiqué said that discussions between the Ukrainian leader and Vatican officials focused on “the humanitarian situation and the quest for peace,” President Volodymyr Zelensky became much more specific in a tweet he sent out to followers in both Ukrainian and Italian.

(Reuters) – Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy asked Pope Francis on Saturday for help to win the release of prisoners of war held by Russia and Russian-backed separatists. “(The pope) does everything possible to achieve peace and harmony throughout the world,” Zelenskiy said in a tweet after their meeting at the Vatican. “I asked for help with the release of Ukrainians captured in Donbass, Crimea and Russia.” Relations between Ukraine and Russia collapsed following Moscow’s annexation of the Crimean peninsula in 2014 and its subsequent support for separatists in a conflict in eastern Ukraine.)

Interestingly enough, if you go to the Vatican site http://www.vatican.va, (the original portal) and go to the News summaries, the same stories do not appear on all language sites. For February 8, English had only two papal addresses and no mention of the visit by the president of Ukraine. The press office communique on the visit was in Italian and appeared only on the Italian language site.


Pope Francis this morning received members of the Board of Directors of the Knights of Columbus, led by Supreme Knight Carl Anderson and noted, they are in Rome on a pilgrimage to “mark the centennial of the charitable activity of the Knights of Columbus in this city.”

“In fact, it was one hundred years ago,” said Francis, “that my predecessor Pope Benedict XV invited the Knights of Columbus to provide humanitarian aid to young people and others in Rome following the terrible conflict of the First World War. The Knights responded generously, establishing sports centers for youth that quickly became places for education, catechesis and the distribution of food and other essentials so needed at that time.

The Holy Father pointed out that, “in this way, your Order proved faithful to the vision of your founder, Venerable Michael McGivney, who was inspired by the principles of Christian charity and fraternity to assist those most in need.”

He underscored the work of the knights today, “in particular, your faithful witness to the sacredness and dignity of human life, evident at both the local and national levels. This conviction has also led the Knights of Columbus to aid, both materially and spiritually, those Christian communities in the Middle East that are suffering the effects of violence, war and poverty. I thank all the members of your Order for seeing in our persecuted and displaced brothers and sisters of that region neighbours for whom you are a sign of God’s infinite love.

He also noted the Order’s “unswerving devotion to the Successor of Peter. The establishment of the Vicarius Christi Fund is a testimony to this devotion, as well as to the desire of the Knights to share in the Pope’s solicitude for all the Churches and in his universal mission of charity. In our world, marked by divisions and inequalities, the generous commitment of your Order to serve all in need offers, especially to young people, an important inspiration to overcome a globalization of indifference and build together a more just and inclusive society.”

The knights are in Rome from February 7 to 13.


The Holy See Press Office announced this morning that Pope Francis will make an Apostolic Journey to Malta and Gozo on May 31. He has accepted invitations from Malta’s president and civil and religious authorities.

The Vatican will publish the itinerary at a later date but today did reveal the logo and the motto: “They showed us unusual kindness” Acts 28, 2 (vaticannews photo. Church of St. Paul)

The logo of the visit shows hands pointing towards the Cross, coming from a ship at the mercy of the waves. The hands represent a sign of the Christian’s welcome towards his neighbor and assistance to those who are in difficulty, abandoned to their destiny. The boat recalls the dramatic story of the shipwreck of the Apostle Paul on the island of Malta (see Acts 27.27-44) and the welcome given by the Maltese to the Apostle and shipwrecked (see Acts 28.1-10).



From the website of the Episcopal Conference of Malta (www.thechurchinmalta.org):

Archbishop Charles J. Scicluna and Bishop Mario Grech have drawn up guidelines for priests, for the application of Chapter VIII of the Apostolic Exhortation of Pope Francis Amoris Laetitia (The Joy of Love). This chapter is an invitation to mercy and pastoral discernment in the light of various social realities present today.

In a letter which will be read out this Sunday in churches all over Malta and Gozo, the Bishops explain that these guidelines for priests are aimed at accompanying people to an awareness of their life situation in the light of Jesus. “This message is also relevant to the couples and families who find themselves in complex situations, especially those involving separated or divorced persons who have entered a new union. Although they may have lost their first marriage, some of these persons have not lost their hope in Jesus. Some of these earnestly desire to live in harmony with God and with the Church, so much so, that they are asking us what they can do in order to be able to celebrate the sacraments of Reconciliation and the Eucharist.” Archbishop Charles J. Scicluna and Bishop Mario Grech invite all those people who are in such a situation, and who are seeking help to continue to enlighten their conscience, to seek the assistance of a priest to accompany them.

The guidelines of the Maltese Bishops have been published in a document which has been handed out to every priest in the Archdiocese of Malta and the Diocese of Gozo.

Click here for that 22-page document: http://ms.maltadiocese.org/WEBSITE/2017/PRESS%20RELEASES/Norms%20for%20the%20Application%20of%20Chapter%20VIII%20of%20AL.pdf

News reports and commentaries:
1.      (AP) January 13, 2017: http://www.nydailynews.com/news/world/vatican-newspaper-communion-guide-remarried-catholics-article-1.2946142   VATICAN CITY — The Vatican is making clear Pope Francis supports letting divorced and civilly remarried Catholics receive Communion under certain conditions by publishing a set of new guidelines in the pope’s own newspaper that go beyond even what he has said.

2.      Times of Malta: January 14, 2017: http://www.timesofmalta.com/articles/view/20170114/local/divorced-remarried-at-peace-with-god-may-receive-communion-bishops.636462   Priests should offer assistance to couples whose marriage has broken down, the Maltese bishops are urging, issuing a set of guidelines which some observers have described as going even beyond the Pope’s teachings.

3.      Catholic News Agency (CNA/EWTN), January 13, 2017: http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/maltese-bishops-divorced-and-remarried-at-peace-with-god-may-receive-communion-39095/   As debate over Amoris laetitia continues to gain steam, the Maltese bishops have come out with a new set of pastoral guidelines allowing divorced-and-remarried persons in certain cases, after “honest discernment”, to receive Communion.

4. Catholic News Service (CNS) – January 13, 2017: http://www.catholicnews.com/services/englishnews/2017/bishops-of-malta-issue-norms-for-ministry-to-divorced-civilly-remarried.cfm



St. Peter’s Square, December 9, 2016 – Official unveiling

of the Vatican Nativity Scene and lighting of Christmas Tree.

The spruce tree is a gift from the northern Italian region of Trentino

and the Nativity Scene was offered to the Vatican by the bishops

and government of Malta. It was designed by Manwel Grech

(you’ve seen my photos and videos of his team) and executed

by him and 7 teammates from Gozo, Malta.

I also posted a Facebook Live video as the ceremony was underway!

O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree!

How are thy leaves so verdant!

Not only in the summertime,

But even in winter is thy prime. O C

O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree, How are thy leaves so verdant!

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O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree,

Much pleasure dost thou bring me!

For ev’ry year the Christmas tree,

Brings to us all both joy and glee.

O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree, Much pleasure dost thou bring me!



O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree,

How lovely are thy branches!

Not only green when summer’s here

But in the coldest time of year.

O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree, How lovely are thy branches!


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O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree,

How sturdy God hath made thee!

Thou bidd’st us all place faithfully

Our trust in God, unchangingly!

O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree, How sturdy God hath made thee!





O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree,

Thy candles shine out brightly!

Each bough doth hold its tiny light,

That makes each toy to sparkle bright.

O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree, Thy candles shine out brightly!

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I had a fairly amazing evening last night but I should never really be surprised at what happens or whom I should meet when I go to La Vittoria restaurant!

At 7:30, I met a friend from the States who was in Rome for a few days of work at the Order of Malta. It was fairly quiet at La Vittoria but at one point, a bit late, a group of 8 men came in and sat down together. I was trying to understand what language they spoke but without success. They were enjoying dinner and conversing in low tones and I kept wondering about the dialect or language.

As Margaret and I were leaving, Valentino, one of the waiters told us these men were from the Maltese island of Gozo and were building the Vatican’s Nativity scene (It has a Malta theme)!! Well, I pivoted as fast as I could and went back into the main room to their table, introduced myself – they all knew EWTN! – and got the story and a few photos! We spoke in English. Manuel, who seemed to be the head builder or at least spokesperson, told me they start building today and the scene will be unveiled December 9th. They invited me to come ‘behind the scenes’, so to speak and I will do that as soon as possible. Of course I can’t do any photos before the 9th but what fun it would be in any case.

Shortly before I met the Maltese crew, a young man came to my table and introduced himself as a big fan of my work on EWTN, telling me in particular how his brief, 36 hours in Rome had benefited greatly by my book on the Holy Year. Paul is from Kansas City, MO., and when he learned of the Nativity scene builders, he took one of these photos.



As I’ve written so many times on this page, “life in the fast lane!”


(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis met on Monday with religious and civil authorities who organized the recently concluded Jubilee Year of Mercy, including members of the Pontifical Council for New Evangelization, headed by Archbishop Rino Fisichella, as well as police chiefs and Italian officials in charge of local and regional security.

Pope Francis spoke of the origin of his idea for a year of mercy, describing it as “a simple intuition” which the Lord transformed into a celebration of faith and joy for Christian communities throughout the world.


The opening of doors of mercy in so many cathedrals and shrines, he went on, enabled people to freely experience the love of God in their lives. The fruits of this extraordinary event must now become part of our daily living, he said, so that mercy truly becomes a permanent lifestyle for all Christians.

The Pope went on to thank all those individuals and organizations who worked hard to guarantee the safety and smooth running of the jubilee, which officially concluded on November 20th, the final Sunday of the liturgical year.

In particular, he mentioned Italy’s Home Affairs minister, the regional Lazio authorities and local chiefs of police who worked together with the Swiss Guards,  Vatican police and other offices of the Holy See to ensure a positive experience for the millions of pilgrims who travelled to Rome over the past year.

Last, but not least, he thanked members of the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization and all the volunteers from different parts of the world who worked so hard to transform this event into a real moment of grace. “May your efforts,” he concluded, “be rewarded by the experience of mercy which the Lord will not fail to grant you.”


POPE FRANCIS HAS SENT A TELEGRAM TO the newly-elected superior general of the Jesuit Order, Father Arturo Sosa Abascal, upon learning of the death of Father Peter Hans Kolvenbach, the former head of the Society of Jesus, who died in Beirut on Saturday, just days short of his 88th birthday. The Pope sent the telegram in his own name, recalling Father Kolbach’s career. His fidelity to the Gospel: Hearing the news of the pious death of the Reverend Father Peter Hans Kolvenbach, S.J., the former Superior General of the Company of Jesus, I desire to express to you and to the whole Jesuit family my heartfelt condolences. Recalling the integral fidelity of Father Kolvenbach to Christ and His Gospel, joined to a generous commitment in exercising his office with a spirit of service for the good of the Church, I lift up my prayers of suffrage, invoking, from the divine mercy, eternal peace for his soul. Spiritually present at the funeral rites, I cordially impart to you, to your brothers, and to those who share the sorrow for this loss, the Apostolic Blessing.

POPE FRANCIS RECEIVED IRELAND’S PRIME MINISTER Enda Kenny on Monday. A Vatican communiqué said the two “evoked the historical ties between the Holy See and Ireland, and underlined the continued contribution ensured by the Catholic Church in the fields of education and social service.” They also “spoke of the importance of the role of Christians in the public sphere, especially in promoting respect for the dignity of every person, beginning with the weakest and most defenseless.” Other topics included “an exchange of views on Europe, with particular reference to migration, youth employment and the main challenges that the continent has to deal with, from the political point of view and institutional.” Dublin, Ireland was chosen by Francis as the site of the next World Meeting of Families in 2018.