In the framework of the Jubilee Year of Mercy’s “Mercy Fridays” Pope Francis this afternoon at 4 went to the main offices of the Elisa Scala Institute in Rome, a state-run school on the southwest periphery of Rome.

Born in the 1950s, with demographic changes the institute added four additional buildings over the years. This institute is home to diverse ethnic groups and cultural and economic realities, and has always supported activities and initiatives aimed at promoting the integration of foreigners and the culturally deprived. The Pope was greeted by the head of school and hundreds of children who attend after-school activities.

Pope Francis learned the story of Elisa Scala, a vivacious, popular book-loving student who died suddenly at the age of 11 of leukemia in October 2015. She spoke often to her family and friends of her love of books and libraries and, after her death, her parents proposed creating a library in her honor at the school. In December 2015, “Elisa’s Library” was born. Thousands of books have since been donated – more than 20,000 from all over Europe, in diverse languages and dedicated to Elisa. (photo: LaRepubblica)

Pope Francis donated several volumes to the library, each of which had a dedication to Elisa.

Just months ago, the city of Rome gave permission for the Institute to be named after Elisa Scala. Pope Francis spent some time with her parents at the Institute this afternoon.


I have been privileged in my life to have been a lector in many beautiful churches and in different circumstance. The truly special times are always those Sundays in my parish – for years that was Santa Susanna’s here in Rome, now St. Patrick’s –as the parish has always been my spiritual family.

And there are also the unforgettable occasions: doing the second reading at Midnight Christmas Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica for Pope John Paul: being a reader at the Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica that opened the Great Jubilee Year 2000 under John Paul: doing the first reading at a private Mass in his Santa Marta Chapel for Pope Francis: doing readings at two commemorative Masses for Mother Angelica in St. Peter’s as well as the Vatican parish church of St. Anne: and last but not least, reading twice in the basilica of St. Francis in Assisi (the chapel of his tomb and the upper basilica) during Masses with Bishop Baker of Birmingham, Alabama.

And this morning: A priest known to all of you, Msgr. Anthony Figueiredo, especially for his many appearances on EWTN television, celebrates Mass on the First Friday of the month for EWTN employees at the altar of the tomb of Saint John XXIII in St. Peter’s Basilica. John XXIII was the first Pope I ever saw in person, up close and personal, during a Rome visit when I was a junior in college studying in Switzerland. I cherished that day, decades ago, and I cherished being at his side, so to speak, today.

Come join us at 8:45 am if you are Rome on a First Friday!

IN THE VATICAN: It was announced today that Pope Francis will go to Geneva on June 21 to mark the 70th anniversary of the World Council of Churches. A press conference at the Vatican Friday focused on that anniversary and the papal trip. http://www.vaticannews.va/en/pope/news/2018-03/pope-to-visit-geneva-for-world-council-of-churches-anniversary.html


Lent is Rome is perhaps a bit more special than other dioceses in the world for one principal reason – the lovely, historical tradition of the 40 Lenten Station Churches. Instead of an interview this week I will bring you a Special dedicated to the history of these churches, where they are and how to participate in a 7 am English-language Mass at one of the churches while you are in Rome.

Stay tuned for that after this news summary and the Q&A (If you have a question, email me at joansrome@ewtn.com)

You will undoubtedly want to tune in to the Q&A as it answers the questions: Can Catholics have destination weddings? Does the Church allow Catholics to be married on a beach?

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=


Today Pope Francis continued his Mercy Friday tradition, surprising mothers, their children, and the staff of “Casa di Leda” in Rome’s EUR district.

By Sr. Bernadette Mary Reis, fsp

Pope Francis continues expressing his closeness to those who find themselves living in difficult situations. Today, he visited “Casa di Leda,” home to 5 mothers and their children. His visit was a complete surprise. Pope Francis was accompanied by Archbishop Rino Fisichella, president of the Council for Promoting the New Evangelization that organized this initiative.

A surprise visit from Pope Francis

At 4:00 in the afternoon the Pope surprised the 5 mothers (between the ages of 25 and 30), their children and the staff as they were going about their normal afternoon activities. Pope Francis exchanged a word with the mothers and staff on duty, and he played with the children. The children welcomed his gift of large Easter eggs with shouts of joy. They then invited him to have a snack with them. (Vatican photo)

The mothers in turn gave the Pope a gift that is the product of the many simple activities and tasks that they carry out inside the shelter. They also had the chance of telling the Pope about the wonderful opportunity they have of being able to raise their own children, despite their situation.

Casa di Leda Director, Dr. Lillo Di Mauro, told the Pope, “Your Holiness, dear Father, we are the invisible ones.” He then described the effort it took in setting up the structure. There was an awareness of the importance of transforming a space that had contributed to criminal activity, in order to give back to society a project fostering civilization and humanity.

The Holy Father also left gifts for the mothers, including a parchment signed in memory of his visit. His visit lasted about an hour, after which he returned to Santa Marta, in the Vatican.

Casa di Leda: transformation

Located in Rome’s EUR district, and hidden in a beautiful, green residential area, “Casa di Leda” was formerly owned by persons connected to organized crime. Seized by the State, it has been transformed into a haven for women in difficulty.

Casa di Leda: first of its kind

Opened in March 2017, Casa di Leda is run by the non-profit “Cecilia.” At Casa di Leda, mothers detained for minor offenses whose parental rights are still legally recognized can live their period of detention with their children within a family setting. The mothers are accompanied by staff, educators, and volunteers from the volunteer association called “A Roma Insieme” (In Rome Together). Other associations involved in the project are “P.I.D. Emergency Intervention Disagio Società Cooperativa Sociale Onlus” and the “Ain Karim” Association.

The mothers staying in the structure are allowed to drop off and pick up their children from school. They take part in activities that prepare them to hold a job in view of future reintegration into society. This is the first structure of its type in Italy, and perhaps, in the world.


Have a great weekend! I’ll be back with you next Tuesday when I return to Rome – but check just in case I have some photos to post from the Family Celebration. Also check Facebook (facebook.com/joan.lewis.10420)


As you know, I am in Birmingham, Alabama this weekend for the EWTN Family celebration but I’ve been working on “Vatican Insider” to bring you the latest Vatican news and also, as I do every weekend, a conversation with a guest. You won’t want to miss this week’s interview segment when I talk to Michael Collopy, a portrait photographer whose life story could make a fascinating movie, especially his years with Mother Teresa! Wait till you hear his stories!

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Most importantly, Michael is the photographer behind the images on the tapestry displayed for St. Teresa’s canonization. Did you know that? Stay tuned and hear him tell that story – a story that should be better known.


Here are the two photos that inspired the artist Chas Fagan to paint the image for the tapestry (sorry for the repeat photo of the hands – have tried for 15 minutes to cut/delete it).  Fagan had never met Mother Teresa and so relied on the images from a man who had known her for 15 years! You see his photos and then the Fagan painting inspired by those photos.




David Ramsey Commercial Photography 1124 S. Mint St Studio C Charlotte, NC 28203 704.376.2139 [#Beginning of Shooting Data Section] Image Size:L (7360 x 4912), FX 2016/06/30 15:35:27.10 Time Zone and Date:UTC-5, DST:ON RAW (14-bit) Nikon D800 Lens:VR 105mm f/2.8G Focal Length:105mm Focus Mode:AF-S AF-Area Mode:Single VR:OFF AF Fine Tune:OFF Aperture:f/14 Shutter Speed:1/60s Exposure Mode:Manual Exposure Comp.:0EV Exposure Tuning: Metering:Matrix ISO Sensitivity:ISO 100 Device: White Balance:Color Temp. (5000K), 0, G1 Color Space:Adobe RGB High ISO NR:OFF Long Exposure NR:OFF Active D-Lighting:OFF Image Authentication: Vignette Control:Normal Auto Distortion Control:ON Picture Control:[NL] NEUTRAL Base:[NL] NEUTRAL Quick Adjust:- Sharpening:2 Contrast:0 Brightness:0 Saturation:0 Hue:0 Filter Effects: Toning: Optimize Image: Color Mode: Tone Comp.: Hue Adjustment: Saturation: Sharpening: Latitude: Longitude: Altitude: Altitude Reference: Heading: UTC: Map Datum: [#End of Shooting Data Section]

Forgot to mention how you can listen to VATICAN INSIDER and Michael Collopy this weekend:

As you know, in the United States, you can listen to Vatican Insider on a Catholic radio station near you (there is a list of U.S. stations at www.ewtn.com) or on channel 130 Sirius-XM satellite radio. If you live 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 9:00 am (Eastern time). 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 FOR YOUR TIME ZONE. Past shows are in VI archives: http://www.ewtn.com/vondemand/audio/file_index.asp?SeriesId=7096&pgnu=


(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has made two more of his impromptu visits to hospitals and social service centres as part of his regular Friday initiatives during this Year of Mercy.

The Pope began by making a surprise visit to the Accident and Emergency department and to the Neonatal unit of Rome’s San Giovanni hospital.


After putting on a mask and completing the other health and safety procedures, the Pope stopped beside the incubators of twelve new born babies, five of whom are suffering from severe complications, including one set of twins. The Holy Father offered words of comfort and support to all of the parents, before going on to meet with staff and families at the nursery on the floor above.

Later in the afternoon the Pope visited some thirty terminally ill patients at the Villa Speranza Hospice, located in the north of Rome as part of the Gemelli University Hospital Foundation.

A note from the Holy See press office explained that through these two ‘Mercy Friday’ encounters, Pope Francis wished to “send a strong signal about the importance of life from its first moment until its natural end”. Welcoming life and guaranteeing its dignity at all times, the statement said, is a teaching that the Pope regularly reiterates. Through these two visits, it concluded, he has given a concrete and tangible sign of the importance of caring for the weakest and most vulnerable in order to show mercy in our lives.