(Vatican Radio)  At the general audience Wednesday, Pope Francis explained that Friday, June 3, the Church celebrates the Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, saying this year “is enriched by the Jubilee for Priests.” He invited “everyone to pray the Heart of Jesus for the entire month of June and to support with closeness and affection your priests so that they always reflect the image of that Heart full of merciful love.”

The Jubilee for Priests falls on the 160th anniversary of the institution of the Feast of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus,  introduced in 1856 by Pope Pius IX.

To celebrate their Jubilee in Rome, on Wednesday clergy and seminarians from around the world began the first of three days of prayer and reflection with pilgrimages to the Jubilee churches: S. Salvatore in Lauro, S. Maria in Vallicella (Chiesa Nuova) and S. Giovanni Battista dei Fiorentini.

In a note, the Holy See Press Office said that some 6,000 priests and seminarians “are already present for this Jubilee” in Rome.

Events will provide opportunities for them to reflect and mediate together on the Word of God, to adore the Most Blessed Sacrament, to receive the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation, and to make a pilgrimage through the Holy Door of St. Peter’s Basilica.

On Thursday, Pope Francis will offer three meditations for a spiritual retreat on the theme of “the Good Shepherd: the priest as a minister of mercy and compassion, close to his people and servant of all.”


Pope Francis will take part in Thursday’s retreat with stops in the three Papal Basilicas:  St. John Lateran, Saint Mary Major and Saint Paul’s Outside the Walls (10:00, 12:00 noon and 4pm respectively). The basilicas will be connected via video link throughout the day so that priests present can follow the entire day’s meditations.

“The great novelty” of the Jubilee, said the Holy See Press Office, is that, thanks to the Vatican Television Center which will film the event, the public will be able to follow Pope Francis’ meditations for the clergy 2 June on major national and international Catholic television networks and in streaming on the official Jubilee of Mercy website: .  Streamed video will be offered in the original Italian and with simultaneous translations  in English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, German and Polish.

Among Catholic stations to broadcast the event in the U.S. are EWTN and BCTV.

The Jubilee celebrations will conclude with a Holy Mass presided by the Holy Father on Friday 3 June in St. Peter’s Square.


Pope Francis presided at the weekly general audience in a sunny St. Peter’s Square before tens of thousands of pilgrims on this, the first of three days of celebrations in Rome for the Jubilee of Priests. Countless priests and seminarians attended the Wednesday audience and were spotted afterwards in nearby neighborhoods as they visited churches, browsed in religious goods stores, took photos in and around the basilica or began searching for outdoor restaurants for an early lunch.

Large groups of priests gathered at Castel Sant’Angelo where, under a small white tent, Jubilee pilgrims start the several-block-long procession to and through the Holy Door of St. Peter’s Basilica. A beautiful wood Jubilee cross is given to one person who will lead the procession as the group listens to prayers and reflections.

As some groups approached the square this morning, they may have heard the Pope’s voice over loud speakers as he gave the day’s catechesis. Following is the English language summary of the general catechesis in Italian:

Ag  June 1

“In our continuing catechesis for this Holy Year of Mercy, we now turn to the parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector (Lk 18: 9-14). Jesus contrasts the arrogance and self-righteousness of the Pharisee’s prayer with the tax collector’s humble recognition of his sinfulness and need for the Lord’s mercy.

“True prayer is born of a heart that repents of its faults and failings, yet pleads for the grace to live the great commandment of love of God and neighbor. Indeed, the proud disdain of the Pharisee for the sinner at his side pevents him from being righteous in God’s sight.

“To pray well, then, we need to look into our own hearts and, in humble silence, let the Lord speak to us there. The honesty and humility that God asks of us is the necessary condition for our receiving His mercy.

“The Blessed Virgin Mary is the model of such prayer. In her Magnificat, she tells us that God looks with favor on the humility of His servants, and hears their plea. May she, our Mother, help us to pray as we ought.”


PAPAL TWEET – April 13, 2016: The Lord’s presence dwells in families, with all their daily troubles and struggles, joys and hopes.

As you know, Pope Francis will travel to the Greek island of Lesbos this Saturday to assess the situation of the huge numbers of migrants and refugees who have arrived there and are taxing not only the local economy but the reserves of hospitality of the people. I will bring you more in coming days about that trip, including input from Caritas, which is present on the ground.


Pope Francis told the tens of thousands of faithful at today’s general audience that, “in our catechesis for this Holy Year of Mercy, we now consider the Gospel account of the calling of Saint Matthew.  Jesus not only invites a tax-collector, a public sinner, to be his disciple, but also sits at table with him, thus scandalizing the Pharisees.  The Lord then explains that he has come to call not the righteous but sinners.”

The Pope went on to say that, “the calling of Matthew reminds us that when Christ makes us his disciples, he does not look to our past but to the future.”

The Holy Father then interrupted his own catechesis by quoting what he said was “a wonderful saying I heard long ago: ‘There is no saint without a past and no sinner without a future!’” In fact, he repeated these words several times, to great applause from the faithful.

“We need but respond to (Jesus’) call with a humble and sincere heart,” explained Francis. “Jesus invites us to sit with him at the table of the Eucharist, in which he purifies us by the power of his word and by the sacrament unites us ever more deeply to himself.  Citing the prophet Hosea, he tells us that what God desires is ‘mercy, not sacrifice’, true conversion of heart and not merely formal acts of religion.

“May all of us,” urged the Pope, “in acknowledging our sins, respond more generously to the Lord’s invitation to sit at table with him, and with one another, with immense gratitude for his infinite mercy and saving love.”

At the end of the catechesis, Pope Francis remarked that he was united with the Church in Poland in marking the 1050th anniversary of the “baptism of the nation” an he asked God to bless the Polish people both at home and abroad.

“Together with the pastors and faithful, I give thanks to God for this historic event, which over the centuries has formed the faith, the spirituality, and the culture of your country, in the community of peoples  whom Christ has invited to participate in the mystery of His death and resurrection,” he told Polish pilgrims, many of whom wore traditional dress.

“Give thanks to the Lord – according to the words of Saint John Paul II – for the gift of having been – over 1000 years ago – baptized in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit; to be baptized in the water which, through grace, perfect in us the image of the living God; the water which is a wave of eternity: a spring of water welling up to eternal life. I ask God that the present generation and future generations of Poles remain faithful to the grace of baptism, giving witness to the love of Christ and the Church.,”

According to a note by Vatican Radio, a joint session of both chambers of the Polish Parliament will meet in Poznań on Friday to mark the acceptance by Polish ruler Mieszko I of Christianity in 966, which is considered the foundational event of the nation.


(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Wednesday issued an appeal for prayers for his upcoming trip to the Greek island of Lesbos, where he will meet with some of the tens of thousands of refugees who have passed through the island. (photo


“Next Saturday I will go to the island of Lesbos, where many refugees have passed in recent months,” the Pope said, speaking during his 13 April general audience at the Vatican. “I will go, together with my brothers, Patriarch of Constantinople Bartholomew and Archbishop Ieronymos of Athens and of all Greece, to express my closeness and solidarity to the refugees and citizens of Lesbos, and all the Greek people – who are very generous in their welcoming.”

“I ask you to please accompany me with prayer, invoking the light and strength of the Holy Spirit and the maternal intercession of the Virgin Mary.”

Pope Francis will travel to Lesbos Saturday, 16 April at the invitations of the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, Bartholomew I, and of Greek President, Prokopis Pavlopoulos, the Vatican announced 7 April.

One million refugees have made their way to Greece over the past year. Lesbos is a major entry point for refugees, which has received tens of thousands of people, many of them fleeing the war in Syria.


(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis’ appeal to pray for his upcoming journey to Lesbos on Saturday shines a spotlight on the plight of hundreds of thousands of desperate migrants fleeing conflict and poverty.

Internationally acclaimed photojournalist Aris Messinis, the chief photographer for Agence France Presse in Athens, is currently on assignment in Lesbos. Messinis recently gained attention in the media not for a photo he captured, but rather for an image taken of him in which he set his camera aside to help a refugee child struggling to get out of the water. (photo:


Messinis has been on assignment in Lesbos for over a year now. Vatican Radio’s Antonella Palermo speaks with him about the situation there and his thoughts on the upcoming papal visit.

“Lesbos is only one part of a difficult journey,” Messinis explains. There are many risks involved with travelling by ocean. Many refugees do not know how to swim. The dinghies they are using are designed for lakes and made to hold a maximum of 18 people, though they try to fit up to 80 in one. Because they are so overcrowded, the risk for drowning or going missing is much higher.

As a photojournalist, Messinis feels it is his job to show people the reason why there is a migrant crisis. “We need to understand that it is not the migrants’ fault,” he says. “Someone else created this war, and it is just a survival instinct for them to escape the danger.”

When asked about the now iconic photo of himself, he said it was a “natural instinct” to help the refugee. “When you see someone in danger asking for help, what will you do – take their picture? No way.”

Messinis is thrilled to be present for Pope Francis’ visit, calling it a “big step.” He hopes it will inspire people to take action in aiding the thousands of suffering migrants risking their lives for the pursuit of a better future.


Pope Francis’ catechesis today at the general audience was quite fascinating, and a certain portion of it was off-the-cuff, as is his wont to do with great frequency.

At the end of the audience the Holy Father met with Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore who is in Rome with several faith leaders from Baltimore in support of their work together to improve relations and conditions in this city that is trying to recover from the great unrest of a year ago. If you remember, last April in Baltimore, Freddie Gray died due to injuries allegedly sustained while in police custody and that brought the city from peaceful protests to an outbreak of riots, the first since 1968, on the afternoon of Gray’s funeral.

I spoke to the archbishop this afternoon and you will hear that interview on “Vatican Insider.” We will learn why the faith leaders are in Rome and how their visit went with Pope Francis.


(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis says the Church has no need for “blood” money that derives from exploitation of people; what it needs is that the hearts of faithful be open to God’s mercy.

Speaking to the crowds gathered in St. Peter’s Square for the weekly general audience, the Pope’s catechesis was inspired by the Holy Year of Mercy and he reflected on God’s fatherly love and forgiveness.

When God’s children err in their ways, the Pope said, God calls out to them lovingly and never disowns them.   “The most evil of men, the most evil of women, and the most evil of peoples are His children” he said.

The Lord never disowns us; he always calls us to be close to Him. This – the Pope said – is the love of our Father, the mercy of God. “To have a Father like this gives us hope and trust” he said.

And commenting on the fact that “when a person is sick he turns to the doctor; when he feels he has sinned” Francis said: “he must turn to God – because if he turns to the witch doctor he will not be healed”.

Pointing out that “we often choose to tread the wrong paths in search of a justification, justice, and peace” Pope Francis said that these are gifts that are bestowed upon us by the Lord if we choose the right path and turn to Him.

“I think of some benefactors of the Church, who come with an offering for the Church and their offering is the fruit of the blood of people who have been exploited, enslaved with work which was under-paid.” “I will tell these people to please take back their checks. The People of God don’t need their dirty money but hearts that are open to the mercy of God” he said

Reflecting on how the prophet Isaiah presents God in the Scriptures, he said that this fatherly love of the Lord also involves correction, a summons to conversion and the renewal of the Covenant.   If he chastises his people, said Francis, it is to move them to repentance and conversion, and in his mercy, he asks them to turn back to him with all their hearts and to receive a righteousness that is itself his gift.

“Though our sins be like scarlet, he will make them white as snow” he said.

And with a special thought and mention for the many refugees who are attempting to enter Europe and do not know where to go, Pope Francis invited the faithful to be open, during this year of grace, to our heavenly Father’s merciful invitation to come back to him and to experience this miracle of his love and forgiveness.


The Catholic Education, an online publication of The Cardinal Newman Society, posted a story yesterday about a new research center named in honor of Pope Benedict XVI and dedicated to the study of religion and the social sciences that was recently given approval by the Vatican to be called the Benedict XVI Centre for Religion and Society. The Centre was founded last fall at St Mary’s University,Twickenham in London on the five-year anniversary of the pope’s visit to England. (photo from website)

BXVI Center

“If we’re sure of the Truth, as it is revealed to us through Scripture, Tradition and the Magisterium, then it’s imperative upon us to bring these riches to the surrounding culture. I think this is the clear, personal witness of Pope Benedict XVI,” Dr. Stephen Bullivant, senior lecturer in theology and ethics and director of Benedict XVI Centre for Religion and Society, told The Cardinal Newman Society.

On February 1, the University received confirmation from Archbishop Antonio Mennini, apostolic nuncio to Great Britain, that the Holy See Secretariat of State approved the naming of the Centre in honor of the emeritus pope. The Centre serves as “an international hub for research and engagement activities in the area of religion and the social sciences,” especially in areas of economics, sociology and political science, according to its website.

The Centre seems a welcome response to the call Pope Benedict issued to Catholic educators during his papal visit in 2010. A Catholic education “is not and must never be considered as purely utilitarian,” Pope Benedict said in his address to teachers and religious when he visited St. Mary’s. “It is about forming the human person, equipping him or her to live life to the full – in short it is about imparting wisdom,” he reminded those gathered.

(JFL: I recently wrote on these pages about Twickenham and St. Mary’s in reference to my covering Pope Benedict’s visit to this College in September 2010 when he addressed a student group. I can’t wait to return, also because my friend Francis Campbell, former ambassador from Great Britain to the Holy See, has been, since 2014 the vice-chancellor of St. Mary’s University at Twickenham)

Click here to read the rest of the story:


The new book with kids’ question for the Holy Father will be a wonderful read. I intend to get a copy ASAP – let’s see what those “big questions are that the young ones ask Pope Francis.


Pope Francis dedicated the weekly general audience to his recurring theme of mercy as expressed in the Bible, and underscored the need for Christians to have a proper disposition towards the goods of the earth. He said, “they serve the common good if used in accordance with the demands of justice, charity and mercy, but become a source of corruption and death if used selfishly and arrogantly.” To this end, the Holy Father highlighted the Biblical account of Naboth, a man unjustly put to death so that King Ahab might take possession of his property.

Departing from his prepared text, the Pope recommended a slim, powerful volume by St. Ambrose of Milan, the great 4th century bishop and Doctor of the Church, as especially pertinent and helpful reading for Lent. “This is not a story from other times,” said Francis. “It is a story of today, as well, a story of the powerful who exploit the poor, who exploit the people for their own gain. It is the story of human trafficking, of slave labor, of poor people who work ‘under the table’ and for a pittance in order to enrich the powerful – it is the story of corrupt politicians who want more and more. For this, I said it would do us well to read St. Ambrose’s book on Naboth – because it is a book about current events.”

The story of Naboth teaches us what happens when authority is exercised “without respect for life or justice and without mercy. Here we see where the thirst for power leads: it becomes avarice, the desire to possess everything.” Francis gave the example of the words of the prophet Isaiah, “who was not a communist”, when he observed the avidity of the rich landowners who sought to acquire more and more houses and land. “Woe to those who join house to house, who add field to field, until there is no more room, and you are made to dwell alone in the midst of the land.”.

He explained that, “God is greater than evil and the dirty games human beings play, and in His mercy He sends the prophet Elijah to help Ahab convert. The king, faced with his sin, is humbled and asks for forgiveness. How good it would be if today’s powerful exploiters were to do likewise!” exclaimed Francis. “The Lord accepts his penance, but an innocent man was killed and this inevitably has consequences. Indeed, the evil committed leaves painful traces, and the history of mankind bears the scars.” (VIS), Vatican Radio)


(VR) Pope Francis has answered 30 questions presented to him from children from around the world. Loyola Press is publishing the responses in a book due to be published on 1 March called Dear Pope Francis


The United States-based Jesuit publishing house approached Pope Francis about the idea last year, and received a positive response. They then asked Jesuits from around the world to collect questions from children aged 6-13, including Catholics and non-Catholics. They also asked the children to send drawings, which are included in the book.

They received 259 questions from 26 countries in 14 languages. The book’s editor, Fr. Paul Campbell, SJ, then sat down with a committee and chose the questions to send the Pope.

“One of the lines we use to describe this book is: Little children have big questions,” Fr. Campbell told Vatican Radio.

“Yes they are questions from little children, but they are very, very profound questions,” – Fr. Campbell said – “The Holy Father was very clear that it was terribly difficult to answer these questions.”

The Jesuit priest said one thing that comes out of reading the book is the Holy Father’s profound sensitivity to the suffering of children around the world.

“I believe it was William from the United States who asked the question if you could cause one miracle…what would it be? And the Holy Father said ‘to stop the suffering of children’,” – Father Campbell explained – “and it is very clear to me that the Holy Father’s heart is full of compassion for those who suffer.”

This book is only a small way of giving suffering people hope.

“The  Holy Father wants to reach out to children and adults to everyone who experiences suffering – which means all of us – to tell us that he does not understand suffering, that he cannot explain it, but that he does believe that Jesus did suffer for us, and that is the only thing that gives him hope and comfort,” Father Campbell said.



For those of you who will be in Rome early next month and want to see the mortal remains of St. Padre Pio for the days they will be in the Eternal City and in Vatican City, click here (the official Vatican Jubilee website) for details:


It was a fun day for pilgrims attending Pope Francis’ weekly general audienc, held this week in a sun-splashed St. Peter’s Square, because the circus was in town and performed in front of the Holy Father who gave every indication of greatly enjoying the colorful performance. (CNS photo)


“I greet the circus performers,” he said after they had performed, “and I thank them for their very welcome exhibition. You are champions of beauty: you make beauty, and beauty is good for the soul.” Then, extemporaneously, he said, “Beauty brings us closer to God, but behind this spectacle of beauty, how many hours of training there are! Go forward, keep it up!”

Earlier, the Pope delivered his weekly audience catechesis in Italian, with summaries delivered in seven other languages by monsignori from the Secretariat of State. (photo


“Continuing our weekly catecheses inspired by this Holy Year devoted to divine mercy,” began Francis, “we now consider God’s mercy at work in the history of the Chosen People. The Scriptures show the Lord’s merciful concern for Israel throughout its history, beginning with the call of Abraham. God’s mercy is expressed particularly, however, in the experience of the exodus from Egypt. God heard the cry of his people, as he hears the cry of the poor and oppressed in every age. He raised up Moses to be the mediator of his mercy and salvation.

“Through Moses,” continued the Pope, “he led Israel to freedom and, through the covenant, he made them his own possession, “a kingdom of priests and a holy nation”, a people precious in his eyes. The mystery of God’s mercy culminates in the sending of his Son, the Lord Jesus, in that “new and eternal covenant” inaugurated in his blood, whereby we are granted the forgiveness of our sins and become truly God’s children, beloved sons and daughters of our good and merciful Father.

The Holy Father explained that, “Moses, one of God’s chosen ones, saved from the waters of the Nile by divine mercy, becomes a mediator for the liberation of his people. “And we too, in this Year of Mercy, can be mediators … with the works of mercy, being close to our neighbours, to relieve them. They are many good things we can do.

In off-the-cuff remarks, Francis said, “I think about so many brothers and sisters who are estranged from their families; they don’t speak to each other. This Year of Mercy is a good occasion to meet up again, to embrace each other and forgive each other, to leave bad things behind.” And he urged those with such issues to try and settle them, to patch things up, to take advantage of this year of mercy

Pope Francis emphasized performing both spiritual and corporal works of mercy uring this Holy Year – and beyond – and this was also the core of his just-released 2016 Message for Lent.


(Vatican Radio) During his General Audience on Wednesday, Pope Francis called attention to a Jubilee Year initiative of the Pontifical Council Cor Unum, promoting a day of spiritual retreat for persons and groups dedicated to the service of charitable works. These days of retreat, to be offered in each diocese during the coming Lent, will offer an opportunity to reflect on the call to be merciful as the Father is merciful. “I invite you to welcome this initiative,” Pope Francis said, “making use of the suggestions and materials prepared by Cor Unum.”

The day of retreat will have as its theme “Caritas Christi urget nos” (2 Cor 5,14: the love of Christ compels us). In a letter announcing the initiative, Cor Unum suggests that each individual charitable group should celebrate its own day of reflection, citing the Holy Father’s desire that the Jubilee be celebrated in local communities. The letter suggests the retreat be organized in three parts: “a penitential celebration with individual confessions; a time of sharing in group and the Eucharistic celebration.”

More information on the Day of Spiritual Retreat can be found here.

The Pontifical Council Cor Unum was instituted by Pope Paul VI in 1971 and, in the words of Pope Benedict XVI, its tasks are to orient and coordinate the Organizations and charitable activities promoted by the Catholic Church.



The Vatican today published Pope Francis’ Message for Lent 2016 – “I desire mercy, and not sacrifice (Mt 9:13). The works of mercy on the road of the Jubilee.” It was dated October 4, 2015, Feast of Saint Francis of Assisi.

LENT 2016

The heart of the Pope’s Message is in Number 3, The works of mercy, where he quotes Misericordiae vultus, the Bull of Indiction for the Jubilee of Mercy:

“God’s mercy transforms human hearts; it enables us, through the experience of a faithful love, to become merciful in turn. In an ever-new miracle, divine mercy shines forth in our lives, inspiring each of us to love our neighbour and to devote ourselves to what the Church’s tradition calls the spiritual and corporal works of mercy. These works remind us that faith finds expression in concrete everyday actions meant to help our neighbours in body and spirit: by feeding, visiting, comforting and instructing them. On such things will we be judged. For this reason, I expressed my hope that “the Christian people may reflect on the corporal and spiritual works of mercy; this will be a way to reawaken our conscience, too often grown dull in the face of poverty, and to enter more deeply into the heart of the Gospel where the poor have a special experience of God’s mercy” (ibid., 15). For in the poor, the flesh of Christ “becomes visible in the flesh of the tortured, the crushed, the scourged, the malnourished, and the exiled… to be acknowledged, touched, and cared for by us” (ibid.). It is the unprecedented and scandalous mystery of the extension in time of the suffering of the Innocent Lamb, the burning bush of gratuitous love. Before this love, we can, like Moses, take off our sandals (cf. Ex 3:5), especially when the poor are our brothers or sisters in Christ who are suffering for their faith.”

And Francis continues, pointing to the need for conversion, another central point of his Lenten Message:

“In the light of this love, which is strong as death (cf. Song 8:6), the real poor are revealed as those who refuse to see themselves as such. They consider themselves rich, but they are actually the poorest of the poor. This is because they are slaves to sin, which leads them to use wealth and power not for the service of God and others, but to stifle within their hearts the profound sense that they too are only poor beggars. The greater their power and wealth, the more this blindness and deception can grow. It can even reach the point of being blind to Lazarus begging at their doorstep (cf. Lk 16:20-21). Lazarus, the poor man, is a figure of Christ, who through the poor pleads for our conversion. As such, he represents the possibility of conversion which God offers us, and which we may well fail to see. Such blindness is often accompanied by the proud illusion of our own omnipotence, which reflects in a sinister way the diabolical “you will be like God” (Gen 3:5), which is the root of all sin. This illusion can likewise take social and political forms, as shown by the totalitarian systems of the twentieth century, and, in our own day, by the ideologies of monopolizing thought and techno-science, which would make God irrelevant and reduce man to raw material to be exploited. This illusion can also be seen in the sinful structures linked to a model of false development based on the idolatry of money, which leads to lack of concern for the fate of the poor on the part of wealthier individuals and societies; they close their doors, refusing even to see the poor.

“For all of us, then, the season of Lent in this Jubilee Year is a favourable time to overcome our existential alienation by listening to God’s word and by practising the works of mercy….”

The full papal Lenten message is here:


I got a big kick today out of the fact that Pope Francis, in his Message for the 50th World Day of Social Communications, as his very first quote about communications and mercy, cited Shakespeare’s words from The Merchant of Venice: “The quality of mercy is not strained.  It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven upon the place beneath.  It is twice blessed: it blesseth him that gives and him that takes.”

This brought a smile to my face because the opening quote in my book, A Holy Year in Rome, is the entire quote from Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice!

This was the very first quote that came to mind on March 13 of last year when I heard Pope Francis announce he was calling for a Jubilee of Mercy!


Please join me for Part II of my conversation with Msgr. John Kozar, president of CNEWA, the Catholic Near East Welfare Association for almost five years now. He came to that post after serving as national director of the Pontifical Mission Societies in the United States. He was in Rome for a series of meetings and found time to be my guest on Vatican Insider. We learn what CNEWA is and does, where it works and we talk about current and future projects.

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 or on 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 9:30 am (Eastern time) and re-airs Sundays at 4:30 pm (ET). Check for your time zone. Past shows are found in Vatican Insider archives:


(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Friday said the Church’s teaching on marriage is not an “ideal for the few” but “a reality that, in the grace of Christ, can be experienced by all the baptized.”

The Holy Father was speaking the Tribunal of the Roman Rota, the Vatican court which mainly deals with marriage annulment cases.


In his address inaugurating the judicial year, Pope Francis said the court’s role as Tribunal of the Family, and its role as Tribunal of the Truth of the Sacred Bond are complementary.

“The Church… can show the unfailing merciful love of God to families – especially those wounded by sin and the trials of life – and, at the same time, proclaim the essential truth of marriage according to God’s design,” Pope Francis said.

“When the Church, through your service, sets about to declare the truth about marriage in a concrete case, for the good of the faithful, at the same time you must always remember that those who, by choice or unhappy circumstances of life, are living in an objective state of error, continue to be the object of the merciful love of Christ and thus the Church herself,” he continued.

The Holy Father pointed out the recent two-year Synod process on the family said to the world that “there can be no confusion” between the family as willed by God, and every other type of union.

Reaffirming the doctrine of the Church, the Holy Father said the “quality of faith” is not an essential condition of marital consent, and pointed out the faith infused at baptism continues to have influence on the soul even “when it has not been developed and even seems to be psychologically absent.”

He added it is not uncommon for couples to discover “the fullness of God’s plan” for marriage after their wedding, when they have begun to experience family life.

“Therefore,” concluded Francis, “the Church, with a renewed sense of responsibility, continues to propose marriage in its essentials – offspring, good of the couple, unity, indissolubility, sacramentality – not as ideal only for a few – notwithstanding modern models centered on the ephemeral and the transient – but as a reality that, in the grace of Christ, can be experienced by all the baptized faithful.”


(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis’ message for the 50th World Day of Social Communications was released at a press conference in the Vatican on Friday. The message, entitled  ‘Communication and Mercy: A Fruitful Encounter’ is focused on the responsibility of all communicators to promote caring and healthy relationships in our fragmented and polarized world.

Quoting from Shakespeare, the Gospels and the Old Testament, the Pope reminds us that, as Christians, our “every word and gesture, ought to express God’s compassion, tenderness and forgiveness for all”. If our hearts and actions are inspired by charity and divine love, he says, then our communication will be touched by God’s power too.

As sons and daughters of God, the message stresses, we are called to communicate with everyone, without exception.  Communication, the Pope insists, has the power to build bridges, to enable encounter and inclusion, to heal wounded memories and thus to enrich society. In both the material and the digital world, he says, our words and actions should help us all “escape the vicious circles of condemnation and vengeance which continue to ensnare individuals and nations, encouraging expressions of hatred”.

Pope Francis invites all people of good will to rediscover the power of mercy to heal wounded relationships and to restore peace and harmony to families and communities.  Even when ancient wounds and lingering resentments stand in the way of communication and reconciliation, he says, mercy is able to create a new kind of speech and dialogue.

Our political and diplomatic language in particular, the Pope says, would do well to be inspired by mercy, which never loses hope He appeals to political and institutional leaders, as well as the media and opinion makers to remain especially attentive to the way they speak of those who think or act differently.  Even when condemning sins such as violence, corruption and exploitation, the Pope says, we must speak with meekness and mercy that can touch hearts, rather than with harsh, moralistic words that can further alienate those we wish to convert.

True communication, the Pope says, means listening, valuing, respecting and being able to share questions and doubts. Online or in social networks, he stresses, we must remember that it’s not technology which guarantees authentic communication, but rather the human heart and our capacity to use wisely the means at our disposal.

The Pope concludes by encouraging everyone “to see society not as a forum where strangers compete and try to come out on top, but above all as a home or a family, where the door is always open and where everyone feels welcome”.

For complete Message, click here:



What an amazing story of mercy from Rome, from the Vatican actually – a heartwarming story during days which have seen frigid temperatures in Rome, especially overnight.

At 2 am Tuesday, one of the coldest nights Rome has seen in a very long time, a 36-year old Romanian homeless woman gave birth to a 7-pound baby girl in Pius XII Square, the small square adjacent St. Peter’s Square. She had been sleeping under the porticos on Via della Conciliazione when her labor pains began. A homeless companion called the police who happened to be patrolling at that time and the woman, Maria Claudia, gave birth at about 2 am. The two police who came to her aid – a man and a woman – took off their own coats in the very cold weather to place over the mother and newborn who was named Irene.

The policewoman who helped the Romanian woman was also named Maria. Mother and child were brought to nearby Santo Spirito hospital, just several hundred yards from St. Peter’s Square.

A big role was also played by Papal Almoner, Archbishop Konrad Krajewski. He had tried to help Maria Claudia in the past but she had never wanted assistance- However, on Tuesday, having heard the story, he saw to it that Maria Claudia went to the hospital and he went to visit them. He later told Fr. Federico Lombardi, head of the Holy See Press Office that mother and daughter are doing well.

Archbishop Konrad said that, though the mother refused offers of help in the past she was able to use the showers the Vatican has built for the homeless as well as other services that Pope Francis has placed at the disposition of the homeless in the vicinity of the Vatican.

Although the two police officers who came to help Maria Claudia had called for an ambulance, it arrived quickly but only after Maria Claudia had given birth on the cold sidewalk. Every evening there are dozens of homeless people under or near the colonnades of St. Peter’s Square and in the doorways of many of the Vatican buildings on Via della Conciliazione, including the Holy See Press Office.

While the homeless very often come at sunset and spend the night outdoors, most leave in the morning when offices open.

Archbishop Krajewski has become the most active ever of all papal almoners, those who distribute help to the poor, the needy, and the homeless. His work, especially with the homeless, has become a hallmark of Pope Francis’ papacy. The Pope has seen to it that showers were set up for the homeless just off of St. Peter’s Square. He also saw to it that barbers gave freely of their service one day a week for these same homeless people. In addition, last fall a dormitory was built several blocks from St. Peter’s Square that houses up to 34 homeless people a night – all the work of Pope Francis and his almoner, Polish Archbishop Konrad Krajewski.

And now for the happy ending to this story:

Archbishop Krajewski let Maria Claudia know that, in the name of the Pope, she and her daughter may stay for a year in the home for unwed mothers that is run by the sisters of Mother Teresa in the Primavalle neighborhood of Rome.


Marie, a friend from Toronto who is in Rome for only a few days, had written to ask if I might get a ticket for this week’s general papal audience and asked if I could accompany her. I write about but rarely attend a general audience but felt this would be a wonderful experience and also quality time to spend with a friend.

It was a bitter cold morning outside but the lines for security went quite well, quickly and efficiently. Being in a much warmer Paul VI Hall was all we needed to bring a real smile to our faces. We got inside about 90 minutes before the audience but that kind of time passes quickly as you talk, watch people, listen to groups sing or watch groups wave flags, etc.


Before the Pope arrives, announcements are made in 8 languages about how the audience wil proceed, praying the Our Father at the end of the audience with the Pope, having rosaries and other religious goods blessed, etc. The final announcement was the one that broight joy to our hearts: at the end of the audience, whoever wished to go through the Holy Door of St. Peter’s Basilica should follow the directives of the Jubilee volunteers!


Marie had earlier asked me how to go about this and I told her that reservations had to be made online or at the Visitor’s Office on Via della Conciliazione and that the starting point of the long walk to the basilica Holy Door was at Castel Sant’Angelo, Now, we could take a shortcut!


Announcements made, Pope Francis arrived about 10 am on the dot and strolled up the center aisle of the Paul VI Hall to reach the stage.


The Holy Father focused his attention on the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity that began, as is tradition, on January 18 an ends on the 25, feast of the conversion of St. Paul. The Pope told us that the theme for this special week was taken from the first letter of Saint Peter, “Called to proclaim the mighty acts of the Lord,” and he explained, with apparent delight, that this had been chosen by an ecumenical group in Latvia.


Francis said this week of prayer invites us to “reflect on, and bear witness to, our unity in Christ as God’s People. … all those who are baptized, reborn to new life in Christ, are brothers and sisters, despite, ‘our divisions’.”


Baptism was also a focus of the weekly catechesis. The Pope said, “baptism means rediscovering the source of mercy, which is a source of hope for all.” He said once – and then repeated it, looking up from his text – that “no one is excluded from God’s mercy.”  Sharing this grace, “creates an unbreakable bond between us Christians” so that, “by virtue of Baptism, we can consider ourselves brothers.


More than anything, prayed the Pope, may the Lord, in this week of prayer, “help all Christians to grow in that unity that is greater than what divides us. .. Together, may we respond to his call to share with others, especially with the poor and forgotten of our world, the gift of divine mercy which we ourselves have received.”


After the audience, as Pope Francis was receiving a delegation of Muslims who invited him to visit the mosque of Rome, Marie and I made our way out to St. Peter’s Square and, following the indications of the Jubilee volunteers, climbed the broad steps to the atrium of the basilica and joined others to go through the Holy Door. This was, as you can imagine, a very special moment that became the prelude to a prayerful visit to this historical basilica built over the tomb of the first Pope, St. Peter, and to prayer time at the tomb of St. John Paul, the tomb of St. John XXII and to the Blessed Sacrament Chapel.

The photo of the Holy Door as we approached it is not very good because we were not supposed to stop and take photos.




A bonus, on the way out, was a visit to the basilica’s nativity scene (I’ll post photos another day).


The Holy Father was asked to address the annual economic summit in Davos, Switzerland, but ecided to express his thoughts to members of this exclusive yearly gathering in the form of a message. His principaal appeal was to never forget vthe poor, reflecting what he tweeted yesterday: The Gospel calls us to be close to the poor and forgotten, and to give them real hope.

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In his first general audience of the new year, held inside the Paul VI Hall, as often happens at this time of year, Pope Francis announced a new series of catecheses: “Today we begin a series of catecheses on mercy from a Biblical perspective, so that we may learn mercy by listening to what God Himself teaches us through His Word.”

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“We will begin with the Old Testament,” he said, “which prepares us and leads us to the full revelation of Jesus Christ in whom the mercy of the Father is fully revealed. He noted that, “in Sacred Scripture, the Lord is presented as the merciful God. This is His name, the name by which He reveals to us, so to speak, His face and His heart.” And he quoted from the Book of Exodus where God “reveals Himself to Moses as: ‘the Lord, a merciful and gracious God, slow to anger and rich in kindness and fidelity’. We find this formula in other texts too; there might be some variations, but the focus is always on the mercy and love of God who never tires of forgiving,” explained the Holy Father.

He then looked at these qualities, one by one.

“The Hebrew word for mercy,” said Francis, evokes the tender and visceral love of a mother for her child.  The God of mercy is also gracious, ever ready to understand and forgive.  He is slow to anger, prepared to wait patiently, like a wise farmer, for the seeds of repentance to grow in our hearts. Likewise, he abounds in steadfast love and faithfulness. God’s love, freely given, precedes any merit on our part; his faithfulness, like that of the father in the parable of the prodigal son, has no limits.  He waits for us, ever ready to forgive our sins and to welcome us back to a right relationship with him.  In this Year of Mercy, may we turn to God with all our heart, trusting in his mercy and grace, his infinite faithfulness and love.”

At the end of today’s audience, the Holy Father invited prayer for the victims of the attack that took place yesterday afternoon in Istanbul.

“May the Lord, the Merciful, grant eternal peace to the departed, consolation to their families and steadfast solidarity to all of society, and convert the hearts of the violent.”

A suicide bomber, discovered to be a Syrian terrorist who had returned to Turkey, killed nine German and one Peruvian tourist on in Istanbul’s historic Sultanahmet Square, a prime area of the city for tourists, and not far from the famed Blue Mosque.