Alveda King, Martin Luther King’s niece, and I have shared dreams in several encounters over the years. A couple years ago, on a visit to Rome, I interviewed her for “Vatican Insider.” We had met earlier in the morning in my home and started the day with breakfast with two friends. Alveda said at one point she wanted to see the office and “sit in the chair” in which I wrote my columns and prepared my radio shows. I brought her back to my office, she sat down at my desk and did a Facebook live, telling everyone she was at the ‘famous’ desk of her friend, Joan of Rome! I actually forgot to take photos of her at my desk!


I was reminded of today’s celebration of Martin Luther King Day on Saturday evening, January 15, when I read the daily entry in a prayer book of mine. It began by quoting St. Matthew 5: “You have heard it said ‘an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth’. But I say to you ‘Offer no resistance to someone who is wicked.”

It goes on: How unnatural it seems to offer no resistance to those who wish to harm us! We can learn much about peaceful resistance from Martin Luther King, Jr., who was born on this day. Recall the wise words of Dr. King about the antiquated notion of justice: “That old law about an eye for an eye leaves everybody blind!”

Very wise words indeed! Perhaps a good idea to sear them into our hearts!

You may remember that Pope Francis has spoken several times about Rev. King in his pontificate.

In fact, just a year ago, in a message to participants at a commemorative event honoring the life and achievements of Dr. King, he wrote: “In today’s world, which increasingly faces the challenges of social injustice, division and conflict that hinder the realization of the common good, Dr. King’s dream of harmony and equality for all people, attained through nonviolent and peaceful means, remains ever timely.”

Quoting his encyclical, Fratelli tutti, Francis wrote: “Each one of us is called to be an artisan of peace, by uniting and not dividing, by extinguishing hatred and not holding on to it, by opening paths of dialogue.”

Addressing the U.S. Congress on Sept 24, 2015, the Holy Father said: “My visit takes place at a time when men and women of good will are marking the anniversaries of several great Americans. The complexities of history and the reality of human weakness notwithstanding, these men and women, for all their many differences and limitations, were able by hard work and self-sacrifice – some at the cost of their lives – to build a better future.”

He continued: “I would like to mention four of these Americans: Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Dorothy Day and Thomas Merton …… Here too I think of the march that Martin Luther King led from Selma to Montgomery fifty years ago as part of the campaign to fulfill his ‘dream’ of full civil and political rights for African Americans. That dream continues to inspire us all. I am happy that America continues to be, for many, a land of “dreams”. Dreams that lead to action, to participation, to commitment. Dreams that awaken what is deepest and truest in the life of a people.”

“Three sons and a daughter of this land,” stated Francis, “four individuals and four dreams: Lincoln, liberty; Martin Luther King, liberty in plurality and non-exclusion; Dorothy Day, social justice and the rights of persons; and Thomas Merton, the capacity for dialogue and openness to God.”

How much we need that peace today! We need unity, not division – justice, not inequities – liberty in plurality and non-exclusion. We need people who can truly dream, as King did. …dreams that awaken what is deepest and truest in the life of a people.

Let’s re-ignite those dreams today! And dream new dreams!



On the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., the Vatican’s representative to the United Nations says Pope Francis and Dr. King share a belief in the importance of non-violence and the need for global solidarity.

By Devin Watkins (vaticannews.va)

Wednesday, April 4th marks the 50th anniversary of the death of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The American Baptist minister and civil rights activist was assassinated in 1968 in Memphis, Tennessee, while fighting poverty and racism.

He was talking with friends on the balcony of Lorraine Motel on April 4, 1968, when he was struck down by a bullet.

Following Dr. King’s death, Pope Paul VI at an Angelus address in St. Peter’s Square expressed his sorrow for the killing “of a Christian prophet for racial integration”. (photo from archdiocese of Baltimore)

Pope Francis, in his address to the U.S. Congress on September 24, 2015, said Martin Luther King, Jr.’s dream continues to inspire Christians around the world.

Non-violence and global solidarity

Archbishop Ivan Jurkovič, Apostolic Nuncio and Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations in Geneva, spoke to Alessandro Gisotti from Vatican News about the similarities between Dr. King and Pope Francis.

He said the two men share a focus on the importance of non-violence and the need for global solidarity.

Archbishop Jurkovič said, “Every human development can be achieved only through non-violence. Violence represents new problems and new divisions.”

Regarding the need for solidarity, he said the Church believes, and Martin Luther King, Jr. believed, that “we all belong to one human family and we have to overcome every division, especially those based on racial or social differences.”

“The perception is that Pope Francis is one of the few people really, consistently defending human rights… Striving for peace,” Archbishop Jurkovič said, “must become a global paradigm of political development.”


EWTN television carried the papal visit to the Sant’Egidio community live yesterday, for which I did the English-language commentary. It was a lot of work and also very instructive to research Sant’Egidio about which I knew a fair amount but learned a lot more over the weekend – its founders, its history, its work in Rome and the world, and the countless opportunities it offers all of us as volunteers to give aid to the homeless, the unemployed, prisoners, the very ill, those who live alone and are lonely, migrants and refugees.

I had never searched the name Egidio but the websites notes that Egidio is Giles in English.

I also researched the very beautiful basilica of Santa Maria in Trastevere – a church I know from many visits – in order to provide an account of its history, architecture, unique features and also its relationship to Sant’Egidio – what we call “color commentary” or background.

Trastevere is a very old neighborhood of Rome (many say only the Roman Forum area of Rome is older!) but I’ve often wondered if the thousands of visitors who have had a meal or two or three here know what the name Trastevere means! Tras means ‘across’ and Tevere means ‘Tiber’!

Fortunately the Vatican provided the papal speech in both Italian and English – a gift to those of us doing a commentary. However, the seven speeches by Impagliazzo, Riccardi, Santa Maria’s pastor and the four witnesses were all in Italian so that part of the coverage was a translation marathon.

I wish I had time now to give a detailed account of the amazing work done by the Sant’Egidio community, a group of people who are truly revered in Rome. I hope they are well known throughout the world given their countless initiatives for what Pope Francis calls the “three Ps” – – Prayer, the Poor, Peace.

Here is a link to their website: https://www.santegidio.org/pageID/30008/langID/en/THE-COMMUNITY.html

You can probably watch a replay on EWTN’s Youtube page.


Here is a link to a video realized yesterday, Sunday, March 11 by Vatican media: http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/events/event.dir.html/content/vaticanevents/en/2018/3/11/santegidio.html

Pope Francis arrived at Trastevere’s famed Piazza Santa Maria in Trastevere a bit after 4:30 in the afternoon and made brief, off the cuff remarks under a tent-like structure given the rain that was falling. In fact, part of the ceremony was to take place in the square and part in the beautiful and historical basilica by the dame name but most of the event was moved inside due to the inclement conditions.

The president of Sant’Egidio, Marco Impagliazzo, welcomed the Holy Father, Following his remarks, the Pope and the official party processed into the basilica, accompanied by a choir. The Liturgy of the Word was celebrated, the pastor of Santa Maria in Trastevere spoke and the faithful prayed the Our Father and exchanged a sign of peace.

At this point, four people gave very moving testimonies about the Sant’Egidio community’s work in Rome, where it was founded 50 years ago by Andrea Riccardi and some high school classmates, and around the world in 70 countries. The four included an eloquent 80-year old Roman grandmother, Giovanna La Vecchia, 15-year old Jafar, a Syrian Palestinian from Damascus who arrived Rome two years ago aided by Sant’Egidio, Laura Guida, 23, a member of the community’s Youth for Peace group and Mauro Garofalo, 41, head of international relations for Sant’Egidio.

Andrea Riccardi then addressed the Holy Father who, in turn, addressed the assemblage. I have not, as I write, found his address at Vaticannews.va – only the video link.


Pope Francis has sent a telegram of condolences to Bishop Peter Kohlgraf of Mainz, following the death of Cardinal Karl Lehmann on Sunday, 11 March. He paid tribute to the stature of the late cardinal, recalling his fruitful activity as theologian, bishop and president of the German Episcopal Conference.

Religious and political leaders mourn the death of Cardinal Karl Lehmann (photo: ANSA)

In a telegram addressed to the current bishop of Mainz, the town where Lehmann served as bishop until 2016, the Pope described the Cardinal as having “contributed to shaping the life of the Church and of society, always open to the issues and the challenges of the time and committed to offering answers and orientations stemming from Christ’s message.”

Cardinal Lehmann, Francis went on to say, was someone who was ever present to accompany people in their lives, always “seeking the thread that unites and overcomes the boundaries drawn by different confessions, certainties or States.”

He assured his heartfelt prayers for those who are grieving the loss of the Cardinal whom, he said, the Lord has called to Himself following a grave illness and much suffering. The Pope concluded his message imploring Jesus to give his faithful servant fulfillment in the Kingdom of heaven. (vaticannews.va)


Bernice Albertine King visits Pope Francis while in Italy to receive an award recognizing her commitment to non-violence and peace.

By Sr Bernadette Mary Reis, fsp (vaticannews.va)

Pope Francis received in audience this morning the daughter of Martin Luther King, Jr, Bernice Albertine King who presented the Holy Father with the sixth volume of the series entitled “The Papers of Martin Luther King, Jr: Advocate of the Social Gospel, September 1948-1963”.

Bernice King was awarded an International Prize recognizing women involved in non-violence and peace initiatives. Gabriela Lio, a Baptist pastor says that, “In the present racist and xenophobic climate, giving an award to Bernice King puts the spotlight on Martin Luther King’s legacy of non-violence, by recovering the courage of a faith that welcomes, encounters, and dialogues, which in this moment cannot but be interreligious. The legacy of which Bernice King is an authoritative spokesperson reconnects these aspects of the faith as a lesson of consistency between what is believed, what is preached, and what is practiced.”

The award ceremony took place on March 10 in Monteleone di Puglia in the Province of Foggia and was organized by the Gandhi Centre located in Pisa, and Rocco Altieri, a pacifist and an authority on the issue of non-violence.


I am dedicating today’s column to the March for Life in Washington, D.C., given the enormous impact it always has on the city and our nation, and the even bigger issue it represents – the pro-life movement in America! You will find out how to gain a plenary indulgence by participating in the March, learn about President Trump’s participation, his proclamation of Religious Freedom Day and about the new department in the government for religious freedom.

By the by, President Trump has also proclaimed January 22 as National Sanctity of Human Life Day!!

Last year I participated in the March for Life and it was a thrill and an honor – I clearly remember ever moment of that day! Hope to do it again! I remember telling Teresa Tomeo, as we listened to Vice President Mike Pence address the rally, that I hoped next year (this year) for the 45th March for Life, we would have the just-inaugurated 45th president of the United States! And so it is – via a live White House linkup! http://insider.foxnews.com/2018/01/17/donald-trump-be-first-sitting-president-address-march-life

(Am watching White House feed now – 6:30 pm, Rome time, 12:30 noon in D.C.!)

In addition, my weekend radio program, “Vatican Insider” will focus on pro-life issues with a special guest. So take your time to read these special reports and then to listen to VI – unless, of course, you are in D.C. and marching and, in that case, God sit on your shoulder! When you get some down time, then you can put your feet up, relax and ready today’s column!

There’s a lot to digest so take it easy. The prolife movement should be rejoicing this week!


As you know, last Monday was Martin Luther King Day in America and Friday, January 19, marked the 45th March for Life in Washington D.C., following the Supreme Court’s legalization of abortion in 1973. This weekend, therefore, seemed the perfect occasion to re-air the interview I did not long ago in Rome for Vatican Insider with Alveda King, niece of Martin Luther King, Jr., and an ardent pro-life activist. I tell you more about her life, and background in that conversation.

Alveda King is a niece of civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. and the founder of Alveda King Ministries. She is an American activist, author, former college professor and former state representative for the 28th District in the Georgia House of Representatives. Alveda currently serves as a Pastoral Associate and Director of Civil Rights for the Unborn, the African-American Outreach for Priests for Life and Gospel of Life Ministries. Among her many talents and ministries, she is also a voice for the Silent No More Awareness Campaign, sharing her testimony of two abortions, God’s forgiveness, and healing.

In the United States, you can listen to Vatican Insider (VI) on a Catholic radio station near you (there is a list of U.S. stations at http://www.ewtn.com) or on channel 130 Sirius-XM satellite radio. Outside the U.S., you can listen to EWTN radio on our website home page by clicking on the right side where you see “LISTEN TO EWTN.” Vatican Insider airs Saturday mornings at 9:00am (ET). On the SKY satellite feed to the UK and parts of Europe, VI airs on audio channel 0147 at 11:30 am CET on Saturdays, and 5:30am and 10pm CET on Sundays. It’s also available on demand on the EWTN app and on the website. CHECK YOUR TIME ZONE. Here’s a link to download VI to your iTunes library: http://www.ewtn.com/se/pg/DatService.svc/feed/~LE.xml For VI archives: http://www.ewtn.com/vondemand/audio/file_index.asp?SeriesId=7096&pgnu=


I think the late Cardinal Francis George of Chicago would have loved the symbolism of January 16 being named religious Freedom Day – this year he would have been 81 on that day! He was a stirring and sterling voice that fought, taught and spoke against the incursions on religious freedom in our country in recent years!

Saying emphatically that “No American — whether a nun, nurse, baker, or business owner — should be forced to choose between the tenets of faith or adherence to the law,” President Trump’s proclamation was issued on January 16.

It begins: “Faith is embedded in the history, spirit, and soul of our Nation. On Religious Freedom Day, we celebrate the many faiths that make up our country, and we commemorate the 232nd anniversary of the passing of a State law that has shaped and secured our cherished legacy of religious liberty.”

“Today,” states the Proclamation, “Americans from diverse ethnic and religious backgrounds remain steadfast in a commitment to the inherent values of faith, honesty, integrity, and patriotism. Our Constitution and laws guarantee Americans the right not just to believe as they see fit, but to freely exercise their religion. Unfortunately, not all have recognized the importance of religious freedom, whether by threatening tax consequences for particular forms of religious speech, or forcing people to comply with laws that violate their core religious beliefs without sufficient justification. These incursions, little by little, can destroy the fundamental freedom underlying our democracy. Therefore, soon after taking office, I addressed these issues in an Executive Order that helps ensure Americans are able to follow their consciences without undue Government interference and the Department of Justice has issued guidance to Federal agencies regarding their compliance with laws that protect religious freedom. No American — whether a nun, nurse, baker, or business owner — should be forced to choose between the tenets of faith or adherence to the law.

“The free exercise of religion,” writes the president, “is a source of personal and national stability, and its preservation is essential to protecting human dignity. Religious diversity strengthens our communities and promotes tolerance, respect, understanding, and equality. Faith breathes life and hope into our world. We must diligently guard, preserve, and cherish this unalienable right.”

You can read the full text from the White House here: https://www.whitehouse.gov/presidential-actions/president-donald-j-trump-proclaims-january-16-2018-religious-freedom-day/

There’s also this: President Donald J. Trump Proclaims January 22, 2018, as National Sanctity of Human Life Day: https://www.whitehouse.gov/presidential-actions/president-donald-j-trump-proclaims-january-22-2018-national-sanctity-human-life-day/


Washington D.C., Jan 18, 2018 / 04:21 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- A new division at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) will work to ensure the protection of religious freedom and conscience rights for Americans, government officials announced Thursday.

The state should not force people to go against their integrated view of humanity,” said the Director of the Office for Civil Rights at HHS, Roger Severino, at a Jan. 18 press conference.

This new Conscience and Religious Freedom Division, which falls under the HHS Office for Civil Rights, will focus on the enforcement of existing laws on rights of conscience and religious freedom. It will also provide an outlet to field Americans’ complaints of any discrimination they have experienced in the field of healthcare.

For examples, doctors or nurses who have been forced to participate in an abortion or an assisted suicide that violates their moral convictions will be able to file a complaint directly on the HHS website.

Sarah Hellwege, a nurse-midwife, spoke at the press conference announcing the new division. She said that she experienced discrimination in an interview process because of her membership in a pro-life medical association.

The number of these types of conscience complaints to HHS has increased dramatically since President Donald Trump’s election. Ten complaints were filed with HHS during the eight years of the Obama administration, whereas there have been 34 since November 2016.

Severino told EWTN News Nightly that he attributes this surge in complaints to “pent up demand” and that this new division has been established “to assess complaints, see which ones are meritorious, and to vindicate the interests of justice as the law requires.”

Also speaking at today’s announcement was Montse Alvarado, the Executive Director of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, who explained to CNA what this new division will mean for Catholic healthcare professionals across the country.

“For the past 10 years we have had attacks on conscience that manifested themselves particularly for the Catholic community in the area of healthcare and healthcare providers with individuals and institutions,” she said.
“Because Catholics play such a large role, they finally will have a place to bring their grievances to try to solve things and bring common sense solutions that are so important without having to resort to litigation. And if they do need to litigate them, they will have a partner in this division.”

Several other government officials and religious figures spoke at the press conference announcing the new division.

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy noted a concern from his state of California, where a new law forces pregnancy centers to provide information about local abortion providers. This Supreme Court will hear this case, National Institute of Family and Life Advocates v. Becerra, this year.

Representatives from HHS cited President Trump’s executive order last May as an impetus for the new HHS division. The executive order called on all executive departments and agencies to “respect and protect the freedom of persons and organizations to engage in religious and political speech” to the extent permitted by law. The order specifically requested that the Secretary of Health and Human Services address conscience-based objections.

Earlier this week, President Trump recognized National Religious Freedom Day, saying in a Jan. 16 proclamation, “No American – whether a nun, nurse, baker, or business owner – should be forced to choose between the tenets of faith or adherence to the law.”

When asked by EWTN News Nightly about the likelihood of the new department surviving in future administrations, Severino responded, “It would be very difficult to undo the division. This is a foundational civil right.

Everybody should be in favor of civil rights for all and that includes our first civil right, which is our right to free expression of religion and conscience. This is enforced through our laws that have been passed by bipartisan congresses and presidents in both parties that have been with us for decades. Those are not going to go away and we have to enforce those laws fully.”

The Conscience and Religious Freedom Division will enforce existing protection statutes over which the Office of Civil Rights already has authority. This includes the Weldon Amendment, which stipulates that states receiving federal funds cannot discriminate against health plans that do not cover or pay for abortions. The division will also enforce Section 1553 of the Affordable Care Act on assisted suicide.

“Laws protecting religious freedom and conscience rights are just empty words on paper if they aren’t enforced. No one should be forced to choose between helping sick people and living by one’s deepest moral or religious convictions,” said Severino in a press release.

For Americans who are concerned that they have experienced a violation of their conscience rights, Severino told CNA, “We are going to make it as user-friendly as possible, so that people know that the doors are open and that every complaint will be treated appropriately and given the attention it deserves and then those that require enforcement will be handled appropriately.”

“We encourage anyone who believes that their conscience rights have been violated in a healthcare context to reach out to us. They are free to file a complaint. To get more information from our website, just google ‘Office for Civil Rights HHS’ and just add the word ‘conscience.’”


Washington D.C., Jan 7, 2018 / 04:01 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Catholics participating in the 45th annual March for Life in Washington, D.C., Jan. 19 will be able to receive a plenary indulgence for doing so, the local Church has announced.

“In virtue of the authority granted by our Holy Father, Pope Francis… a plenary indulgence can be obtained under the usual conditions…by the Christian faithful who are truly penitential and compelled by charity, if they take part in the sacred celebrations, along with the great assembly of people, throughout the whole course of the annual event that is called ‘March for Life,’” announced a Dec. 20 letter from the Archdiocese of Washington and the Diocese of Arlington.

The document was signed by Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington and Bishop Michael Burbidge of Arlington, who together encouraged their brother bishops with the hope “that you will share this information with those entrusted to your pastoral care.”

Deirdre McQuade, assistant director for pro-life communications at the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, said the indulgence may be obtained “by participating in the National Prayer Vigil for Life or the other sacred celebrations surrounding the March for Life.”

Individuals who wish to obtain the plenary indulgence must engage in the events hosted by the March for Life in Washington, D.C.: the youth rally, Mass at Capital One Area, the adult and family rally at St. Matthews Cathedral, or the Prayer Vigil for Life at the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.
In addition, the usual conditions for a plenary indulgence must be met: that the individual be in the state of grace by the completion of the acts, have complete detachment from sin, and pray for the Pope’s intentions. The person must also sacramentally confess their sins and receive Communion, up to about twenty days before or after the indulgenced act.

The letter also noted that “the aged, sick and all those who due to grave reason are not able to leave home” are also able to receive the plenary indulgence so long as they “spiritually join themselves to the holy ceremonies, while also having offered prayers and their sufferings or the ailments of their own life to the merciful God.”

An indulgence is the remission of the temporal punishment due to sins which have already been forgiven.