At a time when I am house bound, Mr. Murphy Law has paid a visit. You’ve heard of Murphy’s law – if something can go wrong, it will! My wash machine finally died and the fridge is on its way! I won’t even mention the smaller “bad  breaks.”

Normally, to purchase a new big ticket item, I would visit several stores that carry such items, price check, ask questions, do some research online and then make a purchase. I did go online, checking on reliable name brands, comnparing prices etc. It is amazing what machines offer today. The washers I saw seemed to do everything but dry and iron the wash load! I just need a few of the basics.

I had received an email a while back from the Vatican announcing that it had added the big ticket items such as refrigerators, washers, etc. to its stock. I called my neighbor Francesco last night (he works at the press office) whom I have known for years, along with his wife, and he said he’d look at some of the items today and call me from the store. He did just that, I listened to his advice and chose a great name brand washer and gave him the money as he came by on his way back to work and voilà, in about an hour, the washer will be delivered and installed!

I cannot remember a moment in my years in Italy whan anything so major has been achieved with such little fuss. Of course I did nothing except study items online – Francesco did the leg work. But it all means so much to me given that I have not been able to go out. I am sure that each of you, my readers, has also been blessed with good neighbors- there are so many ways of being Samaritans!

Now, in the near future, I must get a new fridge (that might be something I’d have to see in person)!

Before a look at a few news items, I want to share the account by ANSA (an Italian news agency) on Pope Francis’ homily at Mass this morning:

Vatican City, November 18 – Anyone can be touched by God and converted – even today’s corrupt and careless leaders, Pope Francis said Tuesday. During Mass at the Vatican’s St. Martha’s guesthouse, where he lives, the Pope described different calls to conversion in the Bible, including the story of Zacchaeus, a corrupt and despised tax collector who served the rich and dominant forces of the day.

“He was just like many leaders we know: corrupt,” Francis said. “Those who, instead of serving the people, exploit the people to serve themselves. There are some like this, in the world,” he added. “That changed after Zacchaeus became intensely curious about Jesus and wanted so much to see him that Zacchaeus made a fool of himself by climbing a tree in an effort to see Christ as He passed by,” said the Pope.

“The Holy Spirit is clever, eh! He sowed the seed of curiosity, and so in order to see him…(Zacchaeus) had to climb a tree to watch a procession. “Just think of it. How ridiculous!” said Francis. And from that moment, Zacchaeus converted to Christianity and was changed, the pope concluded. (http://popefrancisnewsapp.com/)


VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis is raffling off dozens of gifts he’s been given during his short papacy, including a new Fiat 4×4, some bikes and a fancy coffee maker, with the proceeds going to charity.

The Vatican City State administration this week put up posters around the Vatican advertising the 10 euro ($13) per ticket raffle. Tickets are on sale at the Vatican post office, pharmacy and other venues open to the public. Winners will be announced Jan. 8.

Francis, known for his simplicity, has overhauled the Vatican’s finances to make them more efficient and to devote more money to charity. The raffle is part of that effort, making sure gifts for which Francis has no use don’t just gather dust in storage but are used to help the needy.


The three-day colloquium in Vatican City, organized by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and the Pontifical Councils for the Family, for Inter-religious Dialogue, and for Promoting Christian Unity, on the subject of the Complementarity of Man and Woman in Marriage continues.  This global, inter-religious meeting featuring representatives from 14 religious traditions and 23 countries, was opened yesterday by Pope Francis.  Participants have been exchanging and sharing experiences from cultural, religious and societal points of view.OComplentarity conference

Chief Rabbi of the UK and the Commonwealth, Jonathan Sachs spoke Monday and said later in a radio interview that the result of the decline in stable, two parent families causes a rise among young people in eating disorders, drug and alcohol abuse, depression, suicide attempts and other stress-related symptoms. Three million children are living in an affluent society in this new form of poverty of the single parent family and it’s women who are bearing the brunt because they are the heads of 92% of those families.

He said that one million children will grow up never knowing or meeting their fathers, Rabbi Sachs says, and this is leading to an unprecedented divide between these disadvantaged kids and those growing up in stable, two parent families who will be advantaged in every way. This is a scandal, he says, and it needs someone to stand up for those children who are the victims of this widespread desertion of marriage.

Another speaker Monday was Sister Prudence Allen, a member of the chaplaincy team at Lancaster University in England and a newly appointed member of the International Theological Commission. She addressed the principles of complementarity and the rise of sex and gender ideologies that challenge the traditional vision of marriage and the family.

Summarizing her remarks with Vatican Radio she said that gender ideology was founded by John Money who thought the person was a collection of unconnected parts that from birth to the age of about two could be put together, almost like a Lego set, into different kinds of combinations. But Sister Prudence says this destroyed what we would call the centre of integration where we become an organised, integrated man or woman…..it is important to distinguish between the development of these ideologies, she says, and the reality of sex and gender identity.

Today, speakers included Johann Christoph Arnold, senior pastor of the Bruderhof, an international communal movement dedicated to a life of simplicity, service, sharing, and nonviolence. In thirty years as a family counselor, Arnold has advised thousands of couples and individuals, including the terminally ill, veterans, prison inmates, and teenagers. He topic was titled, ‘We Need to Become More Courageous Like the Early Church’ and he focussed on “Living Witness for Marriage: What God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.”

Helen Alvaré, communications liaison for the conference told Catholic News Agency that the colloquium hopes to offer “a greater understanding” of the relationship between man and woman within marriage. It also aims to provide support for those “who hope for marriage, but sometimes despair, and for people who are struggling with it if they have it.”

All videos shown and speeches delivered at the colloquium can be found here: http://humanum.it/en/videos/


Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem Fouad Twal told Fides news agency in a statement, “I extend my condolences to the relatives of the victims of the assault against the Synagogue of Jerusalem and all the violence that bloody the Holy Land. In our churches, convents and monasteries, we will pray more than ever that the Lord helps us and helps political leaders to take the right steps so that there is peace and security for all, all, all.”

Worshippers in the Jerusalem synagogue included the four rabbis who were killed, three of whom were Americans, according to news reports. Many others were injured.

Patriarch Twal, having just returned from abroad, told of a Jerusalem marked by a strengthening of security measures and roadblocks. He said, “this is a sign that the situation is anything but normal, and control measures cannot solve the seriousness of the problems. It is necessary to go to the roots, remove the causes of despair that breeds violence, stop the endless spiral of revenge. Otherwise we will always live in fear, without freedom or dignity. These are the thoughts that we have in our hearts, as we approach Christmas.”


(VIS) – This morning a press conference was held in the Holy See Press Office to present the 29th International Conference organised by the Pontifical Council for Health Care Workers, on the theme “The Person with Autism Spectrum Disorders: Animating Hope.”The three-day conference starts November 20.

Presenters included Archbishop Zygmunt Zimowski, president of the Pontifical Council for Health Care Workers (for Health Pastoral Care); Msgr. Jean-Marie Mate Musivi Mupendawatu and Fr. Augusto Chendi, M.I., respectively secretary and under-secretary of the same dicastery; and Stefano Vicari, head of the Department of Child Neuropsychiatry at the Bambino Gesu Paediatric Hospital, Rome.

Archbishop Zimowski explained that the term “autism” was first used by the Swiss psychiatrist Eugen Bleuler in 1911 to describe the introversion of schizophrenic patients. Subsequently, in 1943, his colleague Leo Kanner described the disorder for the first time, affirming that autistic children were born with a congenital incapacity to establish normal contact with other people. It is currently defined as a “neuro-behavioural disturbance (also known as Kanner’s Syndrome) of a pervasive type”, of multifactorial origin. In general, autism spectrum disorders manifest themselves before the age of three, and are life-long. The most recent statistics confirm that around 1% of children worldwide are affected.

“The many difficulties, including those of an ethical, moral and spiritual nature, faced by those with autism spectrum disorders and their carers have led us to choose such an important, difficult and delicate theme for this conference”, the prelate explained. “It will be a special occasion for observing the advances that have been made in research and treatment, as well as legal and political-administrative aspects; three valuable days for listening and exchanging experiences, and learning from the world’s most qualified specialists.”

The Conference will be attended by more than 650 people from 57 different countries, and will include an encounter with the Holy Father during the Wednesday general audience, as well as an exhibition of paintings by the Taiwanese autistic artist Leland Lee, a moment of prayer and testimonies from people affected by autism spectrum disorders, their families, and associations. Various famous Italian singers will offer a musical contribution.




TODAY – DIRECTLY FROM POPE FRANCIS: “I wish to confirm according to the wishes of the Lord, that in September of 2015, I will go to Philadelphia for the World Meeting of Families. Thank you for your prayers with which you accompany my service to the Church. Bless you from my heart.”

In addition to that wonderful announcement made this morning – Day One of the three-day colloquium on the Complementarity of Man and Woman in Marriage – there was a ton of important news this past weekend. I’ve posted a few stories on my Facebook page (facebook.com/joan.lewis.10420) including Pope Francis’ powerful words to Italian Catholic Doctors whom he met Saturday, his previously unannounced visit to Castelgandolfo Sunday, and a piece on Chicago’s outgoing archbishop of 17 years, Cardinal Francis George, and its new pastor, Bishop Blase Cupich (soup ich). In this column, I’ll bring you most of the Pope’s impassioned talk to doctors (you will want to read the 7th paragraph several times!), quote Sunday’s Angelus reflections and then feature the Holy Father’s talk today to the colloquium on marriage.

When the Pope announced his intention to go to Philadelphia in September 2015 he did not mention – nor did the press office – trips to other US cities and archdioceses, It is known that he has been invited to New York to visit the Church there and also to address the UN (would make a lot of sense as this body starts its annual fall session) and to go to Washington, D.C. I am just guessing but I feel fairly certain that a number of dioceses from sea to shining sea have asked Pope Francis to stop by. It does seem, however, that the East Coast has had the lion’s share of papal visits and that the Midwest and all points west are overdue for a papal pilgrimage.


Pope Francis Saturday met with the Association of Italian Catholic Doctors as their organization marks its 70th anniversary and, in a pasionate defenseof life, stressed that “human life is always sacred, valuable, and inviolable.”

“There is no doubt,” said the Pope, “that, in our time, due to scientific and technical advancements, the possibilities for physical healing have significantly increased; and yet, in some respects it seems the ability to ‘take care’ of the person has decreased, especially when he is sick, frail and helpless.”

He spoke of the Church’s mission as “attention to human life, especially that in greatest difficulty, that is, the sick, the elderly and children.” He stated, “there is no human life that is more sacred than another – every human life is sacred – just as there is no human life qualitatively more significant than another, only by virtue of resources, rights, great social and economic opportunities.”

He told the doctors that “human life is always sacred, valuable and inviolable. And as such, it must be loved, defended and cared for. … “In fact, if the Hippocratic Oath commits you to always be servants of life, the Gospel pushes you further: to love it no matter what, especially when it is in need of special care and attention.” He highlighted the organization’s “statutory goals of implementing the teaching of the Magisterium of the Church in the field of medical ethics.”

“The dominant thinking,” explained Pope Francis, “sometimes suggests a ‘false compassion’ that believes that it is: helpful to women to promote abortion; an act of dignity to obtain euthanasia; a scientific breakthrough to ‘produce’ a child and to consider it to be a right rather than a gift to welcome; or to use human lives as guinea pigs presumably to save others. Instead, the compassion of the Gospel is … the compassion of the Good Samaritan. … I encourage you to take them on as “Good Samaritans”, caring in a special way for the elderly, the infirm and the disabled.

Pope Francis pointed out that “fidelity to the Gospel of life and respect for life as a gift from God sometimes require choices that are courageous and go against the current, which in particular circumstances, may become points of conscientious objection. And this fidelity entails many social consequences.

In passionate terms, the Pope said: “We are living in a time of experimentation with life. But a bad experiment! Making children rather than accepting them as a gift, as I have said. Playing with life. Be careful, because this is a sin against the Creator: against God the Creator, who created things this way. When so many times in my life as a priest I have heard objections: ‘But tell me, why the Church is opposed to abortion, for example? Is it a religious problem?’ No, no. It is not a religious problem. ‘Is it a philosophical problem?’ No, it is not a philosophical problem. It’s a scientific problem, because there is a human life there, and it is not lawful to take out a human life to solve a problem. ‘But no, modern thought…’ But, listen, in ancient thought and modern thought, the word ‘kill’ means the same thing. The same evaluation applies to euthanasia: we all know that with so many old people, in this culture of waste, there is this hidden euthanasia. But there is also the other. And this is to say to God, ‘No, I will accomplish the end of life, as I will’. A sin against God the Creator! Think hard about this.”

The Holy Father concluded by noting, “St. Camillus de Lellis, in suggesting the most effective method in caring for the sick, would simply say: “Put more heart into those hands.” Put more heart in these hands! This is also my hope.”


Pope Francis Sunday at the Angelus reflected on the Gospel parable of the talents – a great sum of money at the time – that a man, about to embark on a trip, entrusts to his servants, asking that they make this treasure even more fruitful. Two servants double the wealth but the third, fearful of losing his portion, hid it in a hole. Upon his return, the master asks for the accounts and, while he rewards the first two, punishes the third.

Francis explained that the master in the parable is Jesus, we are the servants, and the talents are the patrimony that the Lord entrusts to us. “The patrimony of His Word, the Eucharist, faith in the Heavenly Father, his forgiveness … in summary, many things, his most precious goods. Not just to guard them, but to make them grow. While in common usage the term ‘talent’ refers to a marked individual quality, such as talent in music, in sport, and so on, in the parable the talents represent the gifts of the Lord. … The hole that the ‘wicked and lazy’ servant digs in the ground indicates the fear of risk that obstructs creativity and the fruitfulness of love.”

The Pope then said, in unscripted remarks, “Jesus does not ask us to preserve his grace in a safe … but instead to put it to the good of others. All the gifts that we have received are to be given to others, and in this way they grow. … And as for us, what have we done with them? Who have we ‘infected’ with our faith? How many people have we encouraged with our hope? How much love have we shared with our neighbor?”

He urged the faithful several times to read and er-read Matthew’s account of this parable – Matthew 25:14-30.

After praying the Angelus, the Pope reflected on recent tensions in Rome, elsewhere in Italy and in other European cities between citizens and immigrants, calling on civil institutions at every level “to take up as a priority what has now become a social emergency that, if not addressed promptly and in an adequate way, risks degenerating more and more.” He said, “the important thing is to not give into the temptation to confrontation” and “to reject all violence. … It is possible to dialogue, to listen to one another, to make plans together, and in this way to overcome suspicion and prejudice, and to build a coexistence that is ever more secure, peaceful, and inclusive.” He pointed out that the Christian community must be engaged in this issue in a concrete way.


Barely a month after the close of the synod on the family, Pope Francis Monday opened the three-day colloquium on the Complementarity of Man and Woman in Marriage organized by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and the Pontifical Councils for the Family, for Interreligious Dialogue, and for Promoting Christian Unity.

Sharing a reflection on the title of the colloquium, Francis said, “You must admit that ‘complementarity’ does not roll lightly off the tongue!  Yet it is a word into which many meanings are compressed. It refers to situations where one of two things adds to, completes, or fulfills a lack in the other. Yet complementarity is more than this. … To reflect upon complementarity is nothing less than to ponder the dynamic harmonies at the heart of all Creation. This is a big word, harmony. All complementarities were made by our Creator, so the Author of harmony achieves this harmony.

He added that the complementarity of man and woman “is a root of marriage and family. For the family grounded in marriage is the first school where we learn to appreciate our own and others’ gifts, and where we begin to acquire the arts of cooperative living. For most of us, the family provides the principal place where we can aspire to greatness as we strive to realize our full capacity for virtue and charity. At the same time, as we know, families give rise to tensions: between egoism and altruism, reason and passion, immediate desires and long-range goals.

“But families also provide frameworks for resolving such tensions,” continued the Pope. “This is important. When we speak of complementarity between man and woman in this context, let us not confuse that term with the simplistic idea that all the roles and relations of the two sexes are fixed in a single, static pattern. Complementarity will take many forms as each man and woman brings his or her distinctive contributions to their marriage and to the formation of their children — his or her personal richness, personal charisma. Complementarity becomes a great wealth. It is not just a good thing but it is also beautiful.”

The Holy Father underscored how “today marriage and the family are in crisis. We now live in a culture of the temporary, in which more and more people are simply giving up on marriage as a public commitment. This revolution in manners and morals has often flown the flag of freedom, but in fact it has brought spiritual and material devastation to countless human beings, especially the poorest and most vulnerable.”

He noted that, “Evidence is mounting that the decline of the marriage culture is associated with increased poverty and a host of other social ills, disproportionately affecting women, children and the elderly. It is always they who suffer the most in this crisis.”

Pope Francis also noted that, “the crisis in the family has produced an ecological crisis” and “we have been slower to recognize that our fragile social environments are under threat as well, slower in our culture, and also in our Catholic Church. It is therefore essential that we foster a new human ecology.”

“It is necessary, he underscored, “first to promote the fundamental pillars that govern a nation: its non-material goods. The family is the foundation of co-existence and a remedy against social fragmentation.  Children have a right to grow up in a family with a father and a mother capable of creating a suitable environment for the child’s development and emotional maturity. That is why I stressed in the Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium that the contribution of marriage to society is ‘indispensable’; that it “transcends the feelings and momentary needs of the couple.”

“In these days, as you embark on a reflection on the beauty of complementarity between man and woman in marriage, I urge you to lift up yet another truth about marriage: that permanent commitment to solidarity, fidelity and fruitful love responds to the deepest longings of the human heart.  I urge you to bear in mind especially the young people, who represent our future. Commit yourselves, so that our youth do not give themselves over to the poisonous environment of the temporary, but rather be revolutionaries with the courage to seek true and lasting love, going against the common pattern. Do not fall into the trap of being swayed by political notion. Family is an anthropological fact – a socially and culturally related fact. We cannot qualify it based on ideological notions or concepts important only at one time in history. We can’t think of conservative or progressive notions. Family is a family. It can’t be qualified by ideological notions. Family is per se. It is a strength per se.”

The Pope said he prays that, “the colloquium will be an inspiration to all who seek to support and strengthen the union of man and woman in marriage as a unique, natural, fundamental and beautiful good for persons, communities, and whole societies.”

And he closed with these words: “I wish to confirm according to the wishes of the Lord, that in September of 2015, I will go to Philadelphia for the World Meeting of Families. Thank you for your prayers with which you accompany my service to the Church. Bless you from my heart.”


FYI: Pope Francis has released a collection of daily thoughts and meditations in Italian, a 413-page book called “Il Mio Breviario” (“My Breviary”). Published by Mondadori Editori, the book takes material from Pope Francis’s various statements, including homilies, encyclicals, general audiences, and Angelus addresses. (http://popefrancisnewsapp.com/)


Pope Francis dedicated the last three days to marking the solemnity of All Saints on November 1, the feast of All Souls yesterday, Sunday and celebrating the traditional annual Mass this morning in St. Peter’s Basilica for the deceased cardinals and bishops who died in the past year. A myriad of adjectives could be used to describe Francis’ words over these three days – beautiful, profound, moving, heartfelt – but Saturday’s homily at Verano cemetery stands out as it was not only powerful – it was unscripted!

I posted Vatican Radio’s interesting history of this monumental cemetery on my Facebook page (www.facebook.com/joan.lewis.10420)


At noon Saturday, the Pope prayed the Angelus with an enormous crowd of faithful who had gathered in St. Peter’s Square from all parts of Italy and every corner of the globe. He began his reflections by noting that, “the first two days of November are for all of us an intense moment of faith, prayer and reflection on the ‘last things’ of life. … Today we praise God for the countless host of holy men and women of all ages: simple men and women, who sometimes were the ‘last’ for the world, but ‘first” for God. At the same time we already remember our departed loved ones by visiting cemeteries: It is a source of great consolation to think that they are in the company of the Virgin Mary, the apostles, the martyrs and all the saints of Heaven!”

”Today’s Solemnity thus helps us to consider a fundamental truth of the Christian faith that we profess in the Creed: the communion of saints. It is the communion that comes from faith and unites all those who belong to Christ by Baptism. It is a spiritual union that is not broken by death, but continues in the next life. In fact there is an unbreakable bond between us living in this world and those who have crossed the threshold of death. We here on earth, along with those who have entered into eternity, form one great family. Francis commented that, “this reality of communion fills us with joy: it is nice to have so many brothers and sisters in the faith who walk alongside us, supporting us with their help and together we travel the same road toward heaven. And it is comforting to know that we have other brothers and sisters who have already reached heaven ahead of us and who pray for us, so that together in eternity we can contemplate the glorious and merciful face of the Father.”

After reciting the Marian prayer, the Pope noted that, “today’s liturgy speaks of the glory of the heavenly Jerusalem. I invite you to pray that the Holy City, dear to Jews, Christians and Muslims, which in recent days has witnessed diverse tensions, always be a sign and foretaste of the peace which God desires for the whole human family.”


Saturday afternoon at Verano cemetery, Rome’s largest, Pope Francis celebrated Mass and, in his homily – which was totally unscripted! – spoke of the destruction of creation and also of the world’s refugees and homeless, calling them “the unknown saints.”  Referring to the first reading, he said, “we heard this voice of the Angel who cried aloud to the Four Angels who were given power to damage the land and the sea, ‘Do not damage the land or the sea or the trees’. This brings to mind a phrase that is not here but in everyone’s heart: men are capable of doing this better than you. We are capable of devastating the Earth far better than the Angels. And this is exactly what we are doing, this is what we do: we destroy creation, we devastate lives, we devastate cultures, we devastate values, we ravage hope. How greatly we need the Lord’s strength to seal us with His love and His power to stop this mad race of destruction!” (Photo L’Osservatore Romano)


The Holy Father said, “When I looked at the pictures in the sacristy of 71 years ago [depicting the WWII bombing of the area of San Lorenzo where the cemetery is situated], I thought, ‘This is so grave, so painful. This is nothing in comparison to what is happening today. Man takes possession of everything, believes he is god, believes he is the king. And wars, the wars that continue raging, not exactly helping to sow the seed of life but to destroy. It is an industry of destruction. It is also a system of life, that when things can’t be fixed they are discarded: we discard children, we discard the old, the young are discarded without a job … This devastation that is the result of the culture of waste. We discard people.  This is the image that came to my mind as I listened to the First Reading.”

The second image of this reading, said the Pope, is “this great multitude which no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language … The nations, the people … It’s starting to get cold: these poor people, who have to flee for their lives, their homes, their people, their villages, in the desert … and they live in tents, they feel the cold, without medicine, hungry … because the ‘god-man’ has taken control of Creation, of all that good that God has done for us. But who pays for this party? They do! The young, the poor, those who are discarded! And this is not ancient history: it is happening today. ‘But Father, it is far away …’ It’s here too! Everywhere. It is happening today. I will say more: it seems that these people, these children who are hungry, sick, do not seem to count, it’s as if they were of a different species, as if they were not even human. And this multitude is before God and begs, ‘Please, salvation! Please, peace! Please bread! Please work! Please, children and grandparents! Please, young people with the dignity of being able to work!”  (Photo AFP)


In his extemporaneous homily, Francis went on to say, “Among these are also those who are persecuted for their faith, those ‘robed in white’ in the passage from Revelation: ‘They are the ones who come from great distress, and their robes are made white by the blood of the Lamb’. And today, without exaggeration, today on the Feast of All Saints, I would like us to think of all these, the unknown saints. Sinners like us, worse off than us, destroyed. Of this multitude of people who are in great distress: most of the world is in distress. And the Lord sanctifies this people, sinners like us, but He sanctifies these people in distress”.

”Finally,” said the Holy Father, “there is a third image, ‘God. The first, the devastation; the second, the victims; the third, God. God:’ Beloved, we are God’s children now,’ we heard in the second reading: what we shall be has not yet been revealed. We do know that when it is revealed we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is’, that is: hope. And this is the blessing of the Lord that we still have: hope. Hope He will have pity on His people, mercy on those who are in the great distress and compassion for the destroyers that they will convert. And so, the holiness of the Church goes on: with these people, with us, that we will see God as He is. And what should our attitude be if we want to be part of this multitude walking to the Father, in this world of devastation, in this world of war, in this world of distress? Our attitude, as we heard in the Gospel, is the attitude of the Beatitudes. That path alone will lead us to the encounter with God. That path alone will save us from destruction, from destroying the Earth, creation, morality, history, family, everything. That path alone. But it too will bring us through bad things. It will bring us trouble.

”Persecution,” said Francis as he ended his unscripted homily, “But that path alone will take us forward. And so, these people who are suffering so much today because of the selfishness of destroyers, destroyers of our brothers and sisters, these people struggle onwards with the Beatitudes, hoping to find God, to find themselves face to face with the Lord in the hope of becoming saints, at the moment of our final encounter with Him.”


At the Angelus on Sunday, the Feast of All Souls, Pope Francis asked another huge crowd of faithful in St. Peter’s Square on a splendid November day, to pray for the world’s forgotten dead,  “those whom no one remembers,” the “victims of war and violence; the many “little ones” of the world crushed by hunger and poverty” and “the anonymous who rest in common graves.”

“Yesterday,” said Francis, “we celebrated the Solemnity of All Saints, and today the liturgy invites us to commemorate the faithful departed. These two occurrences are intimately linked to each other, just as joy and tears find a synthesis in Jesus Christ, the foundation of our faith and our hope. … Yesterday and today many people visit cemeteries, which, as the word itself implies, are ‘places of rest’, as we wait for the final awakening. … With this faith we stop – even spiritually – at the graves of our loved ones, those who have loved us and have done good deeds for us. But today we are called to remember everyone, to remember everyone, even those whom no one remembers. We remember the victims of war and violence; the many ‘little ones’ of the world crushed by hunger and poverty. We remember the anonymous who rest in common graves. We remember our brothers and sisters killed because they are Christians; and those who sacrificed their lives to serve others. We especially entrust to the Lord, those who have left over the last year. The Holy Father said that, “Remembering the dead, caring for their graves and prayers of suffrage, are witness of confident hope, rooted in the certainty that death is not the last word on human fate, death is not the last word, because man is destined to a life without limits, which has its roots and its fulfillment in God.”

He then raised this prayer to God:

”God of infinite mercy, we entrust to Your immense goodness all those who have left this world for eternity, where you await all humanity, redeemed by the precious blood of Christ Your Son, who died to save us from our sins.

“Look not Lord, at our poverty, misery and human weaknesses when we present ourselves before You to be judged in happiness or condemned.

”Gaze upon us with pity, born of Your tender heart and help us to walk the path of purification. May none of your children be lost to the eternal fires of hell, where repentance is no more.

”We entrust to You Lord, the souls of our beloved departed, of those who died without the comfort of the Sacraments or who did not have the opportunity to repent, not even at the end of their life.

”May no one fear the encounter with You at the end of their earthly pilgrimage, in the hope of being welcomed within the embrace of your infinite mercy.  May sister death find us in prayerful vigilance, and full of all the good we have done during our existence, be it long or short.

”Lord, may nothing distance us from you on this earth, may everything and everyone support us in our ardent hope to serenely and eternally rest in You. Amen”

Sunday evening at 6, as is traditional on the feast of All Souls, Pope Francis descended into the grottoes beneath the high altar of St Peter’s Basilica to pray before the tombs of his predecessors. There is traditionally a moment of prayer, a Scripture reading and the recitation of the prayer for the dead, after which the Pope pauses in silent prayer before several of the tombs of his predecessors, starting with the tomb of St. Peter. (Photo L’Osservatore Romano)



The synod on the family is over but talk about marriage and the family continues in the Vatican. in part as prelude to the October 2015 synod on the family, Part Two. In fact, from November 17 to 19, 2014 the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith will host a colloquium in Vatican City, in cooperation with the Pontifical Council for the Family, the Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue, and the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, on the “Complementarity of Man and Woman in Marriage.” It is a global, inter-religious meeting featuring representatives from 14 religious traditions and 23 countries. Pope Francis will open the meeting.

Sessions will be opened successively by the leadership of each of the cooperating Vatican offices, followed by the presentations and witness testimonies of leading religious figures and scholars.

Each session will also premiere one of six short films treating men and women and marriage the world over. Each film features a variety of illuminating interviews with young and old, single and married, women and men, lay and religious, from many cultures, continents and religions. Topics range from the beauty of the union between the man and the woman, to the loss of confidence in marital permanence, to the cultural and economic woes that follow upon the disappearance of marriage.

Go to http://www.humanum.it to see the trailer video mentioned above.


It was the AP (Associated Press – or Amazing Priests, if you like) story that was published last Thursday that started the ball rolling on what has now become an avalanche of views of my video of the two priests, Fathers David Rider and John Gibson dancing at the Rector’s Dinner last April at NAC (they were seminarians then). As I write, there have been 1,415,931 views! Trisha Thomas did the research and wrote the story and took AP’s cameramen to NAC to video some footage. Her extensive account of this saga is on her blog: http://www.mozzarellamamma.com/2014/romes-dueling-dancing-duo/

It was quite a weekend for me – not only watching the numbers grow on the video and continuing to answer requests to air it or otherwise feature it but I have also been spending time with some friends who are visiting Rome: Isabella and her mother who were in town from Vienna, Austria; Gary and Meredith Krupp from New York (you know Gary from my radio shows and blogs and from The World Over), and Marie Fiscus from Toronto, Canada. Michael Hesemann just landed in Rome and two of my dearest friends from Amman, Jordan, are about to land.

Marie works for Air Canada and is in Rome on a brief holiday. She has friends from previous visits and one of her friends, Luigi, who has a B&B in Rome, arranged, though his brothers (it is definitely WHO you know in Italy), for a small group to attend a beautiful concert last night in St. Paul’s Outside-the-Walls. We all met up at the basilica and ended up in the third row to hear Verdi’s “Requiem” performed by the IlluminArt Philharmonic Choir and Orchestra from Japan, conducted by the amazing 44-year-old female conductor Tomomi Nishimoto.

One of the men who helped arrange everything for this small group of Luigi’s friends is Gilberto, who has worked for the Vatican in one capacity or another for 50 years!! We discovered after the concert that we live about 100 feet from each other on Via di Porta Cavalleggeri! Gilberto was our guardian angel all evening and made it possible for me to greet a longtime friend, Cardinal James Harvey, archpriest of the basilica. Truly an evening to remember – in so many ways.

I uploaded two brief videos of several minutes of the “Requiem” and only wish I had known precisely when the concert would finish (even though I was reading the lyrics in the program) because the end was extraordinary! Not the music! The silence! As the last note was played, every member of the choir and orchestra bowed their heads and they – and we – all remained in total silence for perhaps a minute! A stunning and unexpected – and perfect! – conclusion!

Here is a slide show of St. Paul’s basilica and a few pictures of the orchestra.

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And now a look back at some of the news of the weekend. I am highlighting the Pope’s remarks to members of the Schönstatt movement because he talks about marriage and the family and we’ve only recently concluded the synod on the family.


Saturday morning, in a lively exchange with over 7,000 members of the Schoenstatt movement, an international Marian and apostolic organization marking the centenary of its founding in Germany, Pope Francis participated in a Q&A session, replying to questions on a broad range of topics. Schoenstatt members are both lay and religious, including many priests, from scores of nations around the world.

Pope Francis stated that the institution of Christian marriage has never been attacked so much as nowadays given the temporary or “throw-away” culture that has become so widespread. He said marriage should not be seen just a social rite and urged priests to stay close to couples and especially children experiencing the trauma of a family break-up.

In its report on the meeting, Vatican Radio listed some of the wide range of issues treated by the Holy Father as he answered questions off-the-cuff: mistaken views about marriage and its true meaning, the temporary or throw-away culture, the need to be courageous and daring, Mary’s missionary role, the Devil’s aim for disunity and a look at why the concept of solidarity is under attack.

In a question about marriage, the Pope was asked what advice he would offer to those who don’t feel welcome in the Church. He stressed the need for priests to stay close to each member of their flock without becoming scandalized over what takes place within the family. He said a bishop during the recent synod on the family asked whether priests are aware of what children feel and the psychological damage caused when their parents separate? The Pope noted how, in some of these cases, the parent who is separating ends up living at home only part-time with the children, and he described this as a “new and totally destructive” form of co-habitation.

Francis said the Christian family and marriage have never been so attacked as they are nowadays because of growing relativism over the concept of the sacrament of marriage.  When it comes to preparing for marriage, he said all too often there is a misunderstanding over the difference between the sacrament of marriage and the social rite. Marriage is forever, he said, but in our present society there is a temporary or throw-away mindset that has become widespread.

Turning to the missionary role of Mary, the Pope reminded people that nobody can search for faith without the help of Mary, the Mother of God, saying a Church without Mary is like an orphanage. When asked how he maintains a sense of joy and hope despite the many problems and wars in our world, Pope Francis replied that he uses prayer, trust, courage and daring. To dare is a grace, he said, and a prayer without courage or daring is a prayer that doesn’t work.

Asked about reform of the Church, the Pope said people describe him as a revolutionary but he pointed out that the Church has always been that way and is constantly reforming itself.  He stressed that the first revolution or way of renewing the Church is through inner holiness and that counts far more than more external ways such as reforming the Curia and the Vatican bank. Pope Francis also spoke about the importance of having a freedom of spirit and warned against closing ourselves up in a mass of rules and regulations, thus becoming a caricature of the doctors of law.

The theme of our throw-away society was touched on a number of times by the Pope – as he has done throughout his pontificate. In yet another reply, he said our present-day culture is one that destroys the human bonds that bind us together. And in this context, he continued, one word that risks dying or disappearing in our society is ‘solidarity’ and this is also a symptom of our inability to forge alliances.

Pope Francis also warned about the Devil, stressing that he exists and that his first weapon is creating disunity.


An estimated 80,000 plus faithful filled St. Peter’s Square on Sunday to pray the noon Angelus with the Pope and listen to his Sunday reflections on the day’s Gospel reading.

Sunday’s Gospel by Matthew recounts the day that some Pharisees put Jesus to the test by asking him which commandment was the most important in the Law. Francis explained that Jesus, citing the book of Deuteronomy, answered: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment.”

“He could have stopped there,” said the Pope. “Instead, Jesus adds something else that was not asked by the expert of the law. Indeed, he said: ‘And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself’. Even this second commandment is not invented by Jesus, but rather taken from the Book of Leviticus. Its newness consists precisely in putting together these two commandments – the love for God and love for one’s neighbor – revealing that they are inseparable and complementary, they are two sides of the same coin. You cannot love God without loving your neighbor and you can’t love your neighbur without loving God.”

In fact, said Pope Francis, “the visible sign that a Christian can show to give witness to the world … of the love of God is the love of his brethren. The commandment of love for God and one’s neighbor is the first, not because it is the first in the list of commandment. Jesus does not place it at the top, but rather at the center since it is the heart from which everything must begin and to which everything must return and refer to. … In the light of Jesus’ words, love is the measure of faith, and faith is the soul of love. We can never separate religious life from the service of the brothers and sisters, to those real brethren we meet.

After these reflections and praying the Angelus with the faithful, the Holy Father recalled the beatification Saturday in Sao Paulo, Brazil of Mother Assunta Marchetti: the Italian-born co-founder of the Missionary Sisters of St. Charles Borromeo, known as “Scalabrinians” after the late 19th century bishop of Piacenza, Giuseppe Scalabrini, who helped found the missionary congregation originally dedicated to maintaining Catholic faith and practice among emigres to the New World, which now focuses its missionary work on migrants, refugees and displaced persons.

Pope Francis had greetings for pilgrims from Italy and around the world, with special words for the Peruvian community in Rome, which came to St. Peter’s Square in procession with an image of El Senor de los Milagros – the Lord of Miracles – an image of Christ crucified that was painted by an anonymous freedman in the 17th century in Lima, and that has become a focus of deep veneration and intense devotion, especially among Peruvians. (source VIS)



This morning, Pope Francis addressed the Pontifical Academy of Sciences as they meet in plenary session, and witnessed the unveiling of a bust of his predecessor, Pope-emeritus Benedict XVI. Speaking in the academy headquarters, the lovely Casina Pio IV in the heart of the Vatican gardens, Francis called his predecessor, “a great Pope: great for the power and penetration of his intellect, great for his significant contribution to theology, great for his love for the Church and of human beings, great for his virtue and piety.” Today’s unveiling comes as the academy meets on the theme of evolving concepts of nature.

The Pope recalled that Benedict XVI was the first to invite a president of this academy to participate in the Synod on new evangelization, “aware of the importance of science in modern culture.”


Pope Francis noted that the Catholic intellectual tradition has always affirmed the fundamental compatibility of a natural order that unfolds and develops, with the idea that the universe has been made, and does not merely happen. “Evolution in nature is not inconsistent with the notion of creation,” he said. “The scienctist, must [nevertheless] be moved by a trust in the idea that nature hides, within her evolutionary mechanisms, potentialities that it is the task of intellect and freedom to discover and actuate, in order to achieve the [kind of] development that is in the design of the Creator.”

Click here for his full talk: http://www.visnews-en.blogspot.it/2014/10/francis-in-pontifical-academy-of.html



I received the following email today from the Vatican Library and want to share it with you: “The Vatican Library now has an official Twitter account, in Italian (@bibliovaticana) and in English (@vaticanlibrary). All communications about our activities will be entrusted to tweets that, from time to time, will be also displayed on our homepage. If you wish to receive our tweets and be constantly kept up-to-date, follow us on Twitter or keep an eye on the tweets on the web.”

A few news items follow, including Pope Francis’ weekly general audience. I’ve also posted a summary of today’s synod press briefing and, if time allows, will try to add more.


Late yesterday after the following statement was released by the director of the Holy See Press Office on behalf of the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops:

”The General Secretariat of the Synod, in response to reactions and discussions following the publication of the Relatio post disceptationem, and the fact that often a value has been attributed to the document that does not correspond to its nature, reiterates that it is a working document, which summarizes the interventions and debate of the first week, and is now being offered for discussion by the members of the Synod gathered in the Small Groups, in accordance with the Regulations of the Synod.”


Pope Francis catechesis today at the general audience focused on the final destination of the People of God, with a strong accent on the virtue of hope. He began by quoting St. Paul’s words to the Thessalonians who, anxious to know what would become of them: replied: “We will be with the Lord forever.” Francis said this was one of the most beautiful phrases of Sacred Scripture, and inviting the faithful to repeat it three times with him.

The Holy Father noted how John, in the Book of Revelations returns to the intuition of the Prophets and describes the final and definitive dimension in terms of “a new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband,” This, said the Pope, is who the Church is: She is the people of God who follow the Lord Jesus and who prepares herself, day by day, for the encounter with Him, like a bride with her groom. And it is not simply a turn of phrase: it will be a true wedding. Yes, because Christ, who made Himself man like us, and making us one with Him, by His death and resurrection, truly took us as His spouse.”

I stopped by the general audience today after an interview with Cardinal Donald Wuerl at the synod hall – here are a few images of the Pope, the crowd and a group of flag throwers from Puglia, Italy.

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Francis explains another element that consoles us and opens our heart: The Church, the “new Jerusalem,” is “called to become a city, the quintessential symbol of co-existence and human relations. How beautiful it is to already be able to contemplate, according to another evocative image from Revelation, all the peoples and populations gathered together in this city, as if they were all under the same roof, in God’s home. And in this glorious setting there will be no more isolation, abuse or distinctions of any type – social, ethnic or religious – but we will all be one in Christ.”

“In the presence of this unprecedented and wonderful scene,” said Pope Francis, “hope can only be strongly confirmed in our heart. … Christian hope, then, is our joyful expectation of the Lord’s coming and the fulfilment of his saving plan for the human family. In every generation the Church holds high the lamp of this hope before the world. Today let us ask whether our own lamps are alight with the oil of faith, and to what extent we live as credible and joy-filled witnesses to our hope in God’s promises.”


Pope Francis has sent a message to Bishop Jesus Garcia Burillo of Avila, Spain on the occasion of the fifth centenary of the birth of St. Teresa of Avila, whose feast is celebrated today. In his letter, he mentions the joy the saint often spoke of “in encountering the suffering of work and pain,” and how she affirmed that “the Gospel is not a bag of lead that trails heavily behind us, but rather a source of joy that leads the heart to God and urges us to serve our brethren” He remarked how St. Teresa emphasized the importance of cheerful perseverance and prayer. For her, contemplative prayer was “a close sharing between friends; … taking time frequently to be alone with Him whom we know loves us.”


Cardinal Martinez Sistach of Barcelona, Archbishop Joseph Kurtz, president of the USCCB and Archbishop Rino Fisichella, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization, spoke to journalists today at the daily press briefing about the work being done in their language groups.

Cardinal Sistach said an “atmosphere of communion, fraternity, and pastorality” dominated the Spanish-speaking group he is in. The group noted how similar problems are on all continents such as difficult matrimonial situations, canonical problems, etc.. He reiterated that the relatio that the groups are studying is a working document, not a final one, but a document to which his group and the others will contribute suggestions and amendments.

Abp. Kurtz said his group experienced basically the same cordial atmosphere of “communiuo” and, with a broad smile, said he was smiling because his group had finished its work. He said his group has suggested amendments and, in the next document, people “will notice we were intent on making sure that message is one of hope that instills confidence. We want to be pastoral, to reach out and accompany people, to go where they are, to bring people closer to Christ. We worked hard to craft amendments and improve the report and we hope our work contributes to a deepened and improved pastoral Document.”

Abp. Fisichella said jokingly he was not smiling because he is the “relatore” and his work has just begun as he is now responsible for putting the amendments together, with several other prelates, for the next document. He said the language groups were “very cordial, very free. There were no time limits and there was a great variety in each group. It is in the language groups that we see the universality of the Church, the different ways of expressing or living problems on different continents.”

In the Q&A, one journalist spoke of the presence of “lobbies” in the press briefings, both conservative and liberal, and asked if the document is an answer to these groups?

Cardinal Sistach said the synod fathers spoke with great freedom, not answering to groups or interests, and this was reiterated by Abps. Kurtz and Fisichella. Abp.Kurtz said it was the synod fathers and all the delegates that influenced him, not media reports or interest groups.

The journalists’ questions principally revolved around the debate that has arisen since Monday’s publication of the relatio, a working document that was taken by many in the media to be a definitive statement of the Church’s teaching on a number of hot button issues in particular.

One journalist asked if, within the “cordial atmosphere of communio” in the language groups, there was also “disputatio.” Abp. Fisichella replied, “it would really have been a problem if there had been no debate, no differences of opinion, no ‘disputatio’. Fortunately there was and this is a way to grow. Otherwise there would be a boring uniformity.”

Abp.Kurtz said, “the very amendment process is a form of disputatio, with people helping and being attentive to each other and to other ideas.” He said that, “differences can refine contributions,” adding that, “it will take some very careful work to be true to Church teaching and also to reach out.”

“There was ‘disputatio’,” said Barcelona’s archbishop. “There are different opinions, we saw different tendencies and trends, different sensibilities, different contributions.”

Abp. Fisichella, answering a question about the new evangelization, stressed that the family in the context of the new evangelization was precisely the work of the synod. The synod fathers are trying to verify in what way can the problems of families and the ideal of the Christian family become an object of evangelization. He said the crisis of faith is at the origin of today’s crisis in the family. Many synod fathers quoted Pope Francis “Evangelii gaudium” and St. John Paul’s “Familiaris consortio” in the hall, suggesting these be the basis for the family pastoral. He said, “where faith is strong, so is family.”

Cardinal Sistach said that, “the synod has recognized the great need for pastoral care of the family. The Church can do a lot for couples in crisis, as well as for stable families. We must help those who struggle, and we can and must do more in this area.”

Abp. Kurtz echoed the cardinal’s description and said the synod must help all couples, especially “those who do everything to make things work and those who strive to witness to their faith in the family.”

Asked what the principal modifications would be to Monday’s relatio, all three prelates said that all chapters would in some way be modified and the focus will be on the pastoral. Abp. Kurtz said amendments should help focus on and highlight the importance of loving families today. They should also make sure that the document’s words and expressions are “welcoming and from the heart.”

Abp. Fisichella said of the amendment process: “We know amendments can be made regarding even one word and we have to make sure we use clear, precise language. We also have to make sure that when we report that “’many synod fathers said thus and such’ that it really was ‘many’ and not just a few. We have to make sure that what we say truly reflects reality.” He added that, “interestingly enough, some suggestions were made in the language groups that did not come out in hall, for example: regarding the streamlining of the annulment process, it was suggested that annulments be free. The process should be the same for everyone and cost no one.” He also said that other suggestions concerned adoptions – these must be highlighted more, especially in Catholic families.

The three guests all spoke of the great contribution given by the laity in the synod. Abp. Kurtzx said, “we would have been shortchanged without the presence of the laity and couples.” He said he has been promoting restored confidence in marriage and said of a bishop’s task, “ours is a call to work outward, not inward…..we should also give witness to those who struggle but are faithful.”


Fides news agency, an office of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, reports that the government in Baghdad has announced the launch of a project for the construction of at least 2,000 prefabricated housing units for refugees – mostly Christians – who have found shelter in the suburb of Ankawa, on the outskirts of Erbil, the capital of the autonomous region of Iraqi Kurdistan.

The announcement – according to reports from local sources consulted by Fides – was released on Sunday, October 12 by the office of Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq, in charge of rescue operations in favor of refugees. The project will be implemented in collaboration with authorities and government bodies in the autonomous region of Iraqi Kurdistan. The houses should be ready within 45 days, before the cold season enters its most acute phase. Twenty-three thousand prefabricated housing units have also been destined to the area of Dohuk, where around 50 % of the displaced who have fled from the cities of Mosul and Nineveh Plain are concentrated.


Thursday, October 9, 2014: It is day four of the synod on the family and it continues to be non-stop activity for both synod participants and those of us who cover the synod as we interview people, stand outside the synod hall at both the start and end of each congregation, hoping for a quick answer to a question, a sound bite or photo op, and then attend press conferences and briefings. In what passes as free time, we have to upload photos and audio, download materials and write our stories (Photos are from outside the synod hall this afternoon). Lunch, if one is lucky, will be eaten at one’s desk, or perhaps a slice of pizza on the fly. Dinner, is one is lucky, is probably at a very late hour (as it will be tonight).

A panorama shot of the area outside the synod hall: 20141009_162517

The “pen” where journalists must stay outside the synod hall (aka the Paul VI Hall):20141009_161837

Today I was lucky enough to have lunch at my desk, but I’ve been less lucky with technology. In the last 48 hours, I have recorded two interviews for Vatican Insider as well as an amazing talk given last night at NAC by Cardinal Timothy Dolan on the person and pontificate of Pope Francis. I went to upload the three audio files about an hour ago and all three are blank – no sound! The recording light was on as I taped the interviews, the elapsed time was constantly shown and I had no doubts in my mind that I had three great recordings! A techie friend is coming soon to see if there is anything to recover, or if the fault les in the recorder. I just did a test in my office – and no sound!

Back to better news – the synod.

In this column I don’t intend to be a one-person wire service like AP but I do hope to give you, on a daily basis, a sense of what is happening in the hallowed synod halls, sometimes through my own eyes and observations and often through the very thorough reports of Vatican Radio and VIS, as both are Vatican offices.

As you will see in the following VIS story, today’s morning session – the Seventh General Congregation – further debated some of the hot button topics of yesterday’s afternoon session and also discussed the theme scheduled for this morning – openness to life.

Following that report, I offer a beautiful homily given yesterday morning by Archbishop Philip Tartaglia of Glasgow, and following that is a talk by a couple from South Africa who are leaders in Africa for Retrouvailles.

Lots of stuff, long reports but much food for thought!

P.S. Alessandro has come and gone and my recorder has died! Another little obstacle to overcome! I lost my interview with the Heizens, the American couple at the synod and will try yo re-schedule that if their busy days allow for time. I always try to look on the bright and the bright side for me is that I have not yet done interviews with some cardinals and with Abp.Kurtz so all is not lost! I did, however, lose the recording I did last night of Cardinal Dolan’s talk at NAC but will try to remedy the content so I can share it with you.


(VIS) October 9 – The Seventh General Congregation took place this morning and was divided into two phases: the first consisting of further general debate on the theme of the previous afternoon, “Difficult Pastoral Situations,” and the second regarding the theme of, “The Pastoral Challenges concerning an Openness to Life”.

In the first part the assembly continued its reflection on the matter of access to the sacrament of the Eucharist for divorced and remarried persons. It re-emphasized the indissoluble nature of marriage, without compromise, based on the fact that the sacramental bond is an objective reality, the work of Christ in the Church. Such a value must be defended and cared for through adequate pre-matrimonial catechesis, so that engaged couples are fully aware of the sacramental character of the bond and its vocational nature. Pastoral accompaniment for couples following marriage would also be useful.

At the same time, said participants, it is necessary to look at individual cases and real-life situations, even those involving great suffering, distinguishing for example between those who abandon their spouse and those who are abandoned. The problem exists – this was repeated several times in the Assembly – and the Church does not neglect it. Pastoral care must not be exclusive, of an “all or nothing” type but must instead be merciful, as the mystery of the Church is a mystery of consolation.

It was in any case recalled that for divorced and remarried persons, the fact of not having access to the Eucharist does not mean that they are not members of the ecclesial community; on the contrary, it is to be taken into consideration that there exist various responsibilities that may be exercised. Furthermore, the need to simplify and speed up the procedures for the declaration of marriage nullity was underlined.

With regard to cohabitation in certain regions, it was shown that this is often due to economic and social factors and not a form of refusal of the teachings of the Church. Often, moreover, these and other types of de facto unions are lived while conserving the wish for a Christian life, and therefore require suitable pastoral care. Similarly, while emphasizing the impossibility of recognizing same sex marriage, the need for a respectful and non-discriminatory approach with regard to homosexuals was in any case underlined.

Further attention was paid to the matter of mixed marriages, demonstrating that in spite of the difficulties that may be encountered, it is useful to look also at the possibilities they offer as witness to harmony and inter-religious dialogue. The synod members then returned to theme of language, so that the Church may involve believers, non-believers and all persons of good will to identify models of family life that promote the full development of the human person and societal well-being. It was suggested that the family should be spoken of using a “grammar of simplicity” that reaches the heart of the faithful.

In the second part of the Congregation, the theme of responsible parenthood was considered, emphasising that the gift of life (and the virtue of chastity) are basic values in Christian marriage, and underlining the seriousness of the crime of abortion. At the same time, mention was made of the numerous crises experienced by many families, for instance in certain Asian contexts, such as infanticide, violence towards women and human trafficking. The need to highlight the concept of justice among the fundamental virtues of the family was underlined.

The debate turned to the issue of the responsibility of parents in educating their children in faith and in the teachings it offers: such responsibility is primordial, it was said, and it is important to pay it suitable attention. It was also noted that the pastoral care of children can create a point of contact with families who find themselves in difficult situations.

With regard to children, the negative impact of contraception on society and resulting decline in the birth rate was underlined. It was remarked that Catholics should not remain silent in relation to this issue, but should instead bring a message of hope: children are important, they bring life and joy to their parents, and they reinforce faith and religious practices.

Finally, attention turned to the essential role of the laity in the apostolate of the family and in its evangelization, and the role of lay movements accompanying families in difficulty.


As the synod convened on Wednesday, October 8, Archbishop Philip Tartaglia of Glasgow praised the joys of a loving family and lamented the pain caused by divorce.

Preaching at midmorning prayer, he said that in the Church’s ministry to those wounded by separation and divorce, forgiveness does not entail “accommodation or indifference but genuine and sometimes hard-won reconciliation,” so that there may be “new faithfulness, a new page in the story of love of husband and wife and their children.”

“When husband and wife are happy together and are blessed with children, then love expands from two to three and four and five,” he said. “There is every opportunity to renew faithfulness to one another by laughing together, crying together, supporting one another, saying sorry to one another, giving one another the benefit of the doubt, embracing one another, being happy for each other, just knowing the right word at the right time. And when those things happen, we are privileged to behold the beauty and simplicity and strength of married love and of family love, a love which truly through the grace of Christ endures all things.”

“But when families fracture, love is the first casualty,” he continued. “The love that was the glue between spouses turns to hate very quickly. Intimate communion of life is replaced with a terrible logic of division. Children’s peace of heart is shattered and they find themselves both loving and hating their parents at the same time.”

“Into this sadness,” he added, “the Church has to find a way to speak St Paul’s words of love, which compassionately excuse and forgive, but which also heal and renew and lift up again; where forgiveness is not accommodation or indifference but genuine and sometimes hard-won reconciliation, engendering new trust, new hope, new endurance, and new faithfulness, a new page in the story of love of husband and wife and their children.”

”St. Paul’s inspiring words on love that we have heard today mean that we must have compassion for the pain and laceration of the human hearts caught up in separation, betrayal and divorce. St Paul’s words encourage us to find a way to uphold God’s holy purpose in marriage and in the family while also upholding those for whom that purpose has become almost impossible to attain. In times of distress and misfortune, people still instinctively turn to the Church for hope and consolation and inspiration. We must not fail them.”


(Vatican Radio) What can the Church do to accompany families in difficult pastoral situations such as the separated, divorced or divorced and remarried, single parents, teen mothers, children from broken homes? What is the Churches pastoral outreach concerning unions of persons of the same sex? These were the topics of discussion in the Wednesday afternoon session of the synod on ‘The pastoral challenges of the family in the context of evangelization.’

The afternoon session was led by President Delegate Cardinal Raymundo Damasceno Assis, archbishop of Aparecida (Brazil). He warned against a shortsighted legalistic approach stating that the Church wants to fathom the depths of these difficult situations in order to welcome all of those involved so that it may be a paternal home where there is a place for everyone with his or her life’s difficulties.

The discussion was introduced by the testimony of auditors Stephen and Sandra Conway, from South Africa. They are regional Retrouvailles leaders for Africa, an organization that helps marriages in crisis.

They told participants that “financial difficulties, infidelity and family of origin issues are common problems”. However they also pointed to a predominant “singles married lifestyle” which begins innocently but over time drives a wedge between the couple.

They described the hurt and long-term anger they have encountered in couples who are in their second marriage and thus excluded from the Sacraments. In being excluded from the Eucharist, the Conway’s noted “they believe that they are constantly reminded and guilty of past relationships or mistakes”.

The couple also spoke of requests from same sex unions or couples to take part in their counselling course.

Testimonies from married couples have introduced each session of debate at the Synod. To date a common factor running through these presentations which has received little or no media coverage is children. Passing on the faith to children, the effects of family breakdown on children, children from mixed marriages, abandoned children, the inability to have children.

Wednesday afternoon, the Conways again spoke at length about children. They emphasized that the best gift couples can give their children is to decide to love each other; to put their marriage first.

Testimony of Stephen and Sandra Conway, regional leaders for Retrouvailles (South Africa):

“Good day. We are Stephen and Sandra Conway – the Co-Ordinators for Retrouvaille in Africa. Retrouvaille is an organization that helps hurting couples who often attend our program as a last resort, before separation or divorce. We have been asked to share our experiences on difficult pastoral situations, in particular a) situations in families and b) concerning unions of persons of the same sex.

“In 2008, after 21 years of marriage, our relationship had hit rock bottom. I went to my doctor, with no positive response. I tried talking to members of my family, who offered advice.I went to my priest, who listened to my hurt and handed me a Retrouvaille brochure. It is now 6 years later – I am a different person because of Retrouvaille and our marriage relationship has been evangelized. The Church, through Retrouvaille, became the “house of the Father, with doors wide open, a place for us with our problems.”

“Our 3-month program begins with a live in weekend followed by 12 post sessions. We are open to any couple, regardless of their religious beliefs. Often we are approached by couples who have lived together for many years, have children but have not as yet married. Others have been married before and have a fear of making the same mistakes again. We also have couples on their second marriage, but fall into the trap of bringing the same problems from their previous marriage into the new one. The majority of couples, however, are in their first marriage but arrive at our weekend totally disillusioned and often on the verge of divorce.

“What leads couples to our program? Financial difficulties, infidelity and family of origin issues are common problems which result in what we call “the singles married lifestyle”- couples married but doing things separately. Often this single married lifestyle begins innocently but over time drives a wedge between the couple and they drift apart.

“Our program looks at the four stages of marriage – romance, disillusionment, misery and joy.

“Most couples get stuck between the stages of disillusionment and misery. It is in the misery stage that many throw in the towel. It is our aim to equip couples with tools and techniques to get to the joy stage of marriage – where the emphasis is on ‘us’ as opposed to the ‘me’ or ‘I’ attitude found in the single married lifestyle. We explain that love is a decision, not a feeling; as is trust and forgiveness. We also encourage forgiveness setting the hurt party free. We use the Parable of the Prodigal Son to show that just as the Father forgave his Son, we too can forgive ourselves and each other the hurts of the past – we can come back to the Father’s house – the Church and our homes. We can be the forgiving Father, by making the decision to forgive. We can also be the forgiven Son, by receiving forgiveness offered by our hurting spouse.

“Children are greatly affected by an unhappy marriage. We have a few teachers on our team – they often share on the pain and hurt shown in the children of separated, divorced or unhappy marriages. We emphasize that the best gift couples can give their children is to decide to love each other; to put their marriage first; and to stand united in all decision involving the children. It inspires us when we receive letters from children, after their parents have completed our program, and thank us for their new Mom and Dad.

“We have come across couples who are remarried and feel lost or aggrieved because they are unable to partake in the Eucharist. One example is that of a couple who married outside of the Catholic Church. The wife was non-Catholic and joined the RCIA to convert. As this was her second marriage, she had to apply to have her first marriage annulled. She became disillusioned with the Church and both husband and wife left the parish, after being in RCIA for 2 years and not being able to have the marriage annulled.

“If God is the ultimate forgiver and full of compassion then these couples should be forgiven for previous mistakes, however, they believe that they are constantly reminded and guilty of these past relationships or mistakes by not being able to partake in communion. We have also had requests from same sex unions or couples to attend Retrouvaille. We do chat with these couples and try to show understanding and compassion to them. However, we explain that our program is presented by teams of husbands and wives and that our stories and experiences would not relate to those in a same sex marriage or union. We also have a list of professional counsellors who offer their services to same sex unions and we pass this information on.

“Retrouvaille has served the citizens of Durban, South Africa for 15 years, and communities round the world for 35 years. Approximately 10 000 couples attend our programs internationally every year, about 90% of these managing to turn away from divorce, some at the last opportunity. Thank you for your time.”