A very busy – and extremely hot – afternoon for EWTN cast and crew as they cover the 10 World Meeting of Families with the opening events taking place in the Paul VI Hall in the presence of Pope Francis.

Some pix I took this afternoon with some of the guests on the EWTN platform – faces you will recognize from TV, faces familiar to viewers of programs in English, Spanish and German.


After delivering his general audience catechesis and extending language greetings to the pilgrims present in St. Peter’s Square, Pope Francis noted that, “in the past few hours, an earthquake has claimed victims and caused extensive damage in Afghanistan. I express my sympathy to the injured and those affected by the earthquake, and I pray in particular for those who have lost their lives and for their families. I hope that with everyone’s help, the suffering of the dear Afghan people can be alleviated.”

“I also express my sorrow and dismay,” he added, “at the killing in Mexico the day before yesterday, of two Jesuit religious – my confreres – and a layman. How many killings there are in Mexico! With affection and prayer, I am close to the Catholic community affected by this tragedy. Once again, I repeat that violence does not solve problems, but increases unnecessary suffering!

The Holy Father also noted that “the children who were with me in the Popemobile were Ukrainian children: let us not forget Ukraine. Let us not forget the suffering of that martyred people.” They accompanied him as the Popemobile circled St. Peter’s Square before the audience.


“Dear brothers and sisters,” began Pope Francis this morning in St. Peter’s Square, “In our continuing catechesis on the meaning and value of old age in the light of God’s word, we now consider the words of the Risen Jesus to Peter at the Lake of Tiberias (Jn 21:17-18).”

“It is a moving dialogue, from which shines all the love of Jesus for his disciples, and also the sublime humanity of his relationship with them, in particular with Peter: a tender relationship, but not melancholic; direct, strong, free, and open. A relationship between men and in truth.”

Francis stated that, “Peter reaffirms his love for Christ and receives the command to feed the Lord’s sheep. Jesus adds, with a reference to Peter’s eventual martyrdom: ‘When you were younger, you used to go wherever you wished; but when you grow old, another will take you where you would not go’.”

The Pope then personalized those words: “Jesus’ warning to Peter: when you were young you were self-sufficient, when you are old you will no longer be so much the master of yourself and your life. Tell me I have to go in a wheelchair, eh? But that’s how it is, that’s life. With old age you get all these illnesses and we have to accept them as they come, don’t we. We don’t have the strength of youth! And your witness will also be accompanied by this weakness. You have to be a witness to Jesus even in weakness, illness and death. There is a beautiful passage from St Ignatius of Loyola that says: ‘Just as in life, so also in death we must bear witness as disciples of Jesus’.”

Francis said, “these words have a particular meaning for the elderly, since the passing of the years naturally entails physical frailty and heightened dependence on others. At the same time, however, old age can be a time of renewed love for the Lord, hope in his promises, and growth in spiritual wisdom. Jesus goes on to tell Peter not to concern himself with John, the younger disciple, but with persevering in fidelity to his own calling and mission. “

“His words remind us of the need,” concluded the Pope, “in life’s later years, to make room for the younger generations and to respect their place in the unfolding of the Lord’s saving plan. For Christ’s disciples, old age can thus be a fruitful season of contemplation, gratitude and witness to the grace of God constantly at work in our lives and in the world around us.”



I returned to Rome yesterday, safe and sound and with all my luggage and, after a great night’s sleep, I now face the ever-bustling, there’s-something-on-the-calendar-every-day fall season of visitors, special events, concerts and embassy receptions, houseguests, parish council meetings, the diaconate ordination at the North American College and the blessing of new EWTN offices for CNA.

Speaking of travel, I received the following advisory today from the U.S. Embassy and wanted to pass it on in the event you might have a reservation on Alitalia for tomorrow: “The U.S. Embassy in Italy informs U.S. citizens that a union representing Alitalia pilots and flight attendants has announced its intention to strike on Thursday, September 22 as part of ongoing negotiations.  Multiple Alitalia flights could be affected.  Please note that the strike may be cancelled depending on the status of these negotiations; travelers should check with Alitalia prior to their scheduled travel for the latest information.”

And now, the news, including a fun story about a Roman bridge, and this September 21 papal tweet: Dialogue is born when I am capable of recognizing others as a gift of God and accept they have something to tell me.


Before presiding the weekly general audience in St. Peter’s Square this morning, Pope Francis stopped in the Paul VI Hall to greet a number of faithful who were ill. Weather reports had predicted rain this morning and the Vatican felt it prudent to move some people indoors.

Actually, the audience went off without a hitch and Pope Francis enjoyed his usual ride in the popemobile, greeting the faithful, kissing babies and small ones and being serenaded by a group of musicians from Indonesia. (photo


His weekly catechesis was focused on mercy, as it has been during this Holy Year of mercy, noting that, “merciful love is the only path, for by it we are able to make known the Father’s mercy that has no end.”

“Dear Brothers and Sisters,” he said in the English summary, “In our Gospel passage this morning, we are reminded of our call to be merciful even as our heavenly Father is merciful.  When we look at salvation history, we see that God’s whole revelation is his untiring love for humanity which culminates in Jesus’ death on the Cross.  So great a love can be expressed only by God.”

Jesus’ call to humanity to be as merciful as the Father,” continued the Holy Father, “however, is not a question of quantity.  Instead it is a summons to be signs, channels and witnesses to his mercy.  This is the Church’s mission, to be God’s sacrament of mercy in every place and time.

Francis went on to explain that, “as Christians, therefore, God asks us to be his witnesses, first by opening our own hearts to his divine mercy, and then by sharing that mercy towards all people, especially those who suffer.  In this way, our works of mercy and charity will offer to the world a glimpse of the face of Christ.  In the Gospel, Jesus explains that we especially show the Father’s mercy when we pardon one another, for we express the free gift of God’s love, and help one another on the way of conversion.  Jesus invites us also to give freely, for all we have has been freely given to us by God, and we will receive only in the measure that we freely give to others.  Merciful love is the only path, for by it we are able to make known the Father’s mercy that has no end.”

The Pope stressed throughout the catechesis how important it is to forgive in order to achieve a merciful heart. We all need to give, but also to forgive. “If God has forgiven us, why can we not forgive? Are we bigger than God?” And he said; “Mercy is to give, forgiving is to give.”


(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has expressed his sadness for the killing of two Mexican priests and has sent a telegram of condolences assuring their diocese and families of his prayers.

Father Alejo Nabor Jimenez Juarez and Father José Alfredo Suarez de la Cruz were abducted from their Church in the State of Veracruz’s northern city of Poza Rica on Sunday.  Their bodies, with bullet wounds, were found the following day. (photo


The telegram, sent by Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin on behalf of the Holy Father, expressed the Pope’s profound sadness for the killing of the priests who were respectively the parish priest and the vicar of the Our Lady of Fatima church in Poza Rica.

The Pope strongly condemned the brutal attacks on the lives and on the dignity of the people involved and urged the clergy and all members of the diocese to continue to pursue their mission despite the difficulties.

He said  he is praying for the eternal rest of the priests, for their families and for the entire parish community.

The telegram was addressed to Bishop Trinidad Zapata of Papantla.

Poza Rica and its surrounding territory has been the scene of drug-related gang violence and trafficking for many years. But it’s unclear why the Catholic priests were targeted.

Priests have been killed before in Mexico, but many of the killings have occurred in the Pacific coast state of Guerrero. The two murders bring the total number of Catholic priests killed in Mexico since 2012 to 14.


(From ChurchPOP – September 21)  Rome is overflowing with beautiful art. On every corner, it seems, there’s some gorgeous church, or ancient fountain, or stunning masterpiece from a famous artist. For visitors who aren’t used to it, it can be a bit overwhelming!

The Ponte Sant’Angelo, or Bridge of Angels, is one of these incredible sights. But unless you look closely, you’ll miss its deeper meaning.

The Ponte Sant’Angelo goes all the way back to the first century. During the medieval period, it was sometimes called the “Bridge of St. Peter” since it was how most pilgrims crossed the Tiber River to get to St. Peter’s Basilica. But the bridge took on a new meaning in the 17th century when Pope Clement IX commissioned new statues.

Artistic genius Gian Lorenzo Bernini came up with the plan. There’d be 10 statues of angels, but each would be holding something special: the arma Christi, or instruments of the Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ.

It’s really easy to miss if you’re not looking carefully; the average person probably just sees beautiful angels. But sure enough, all the angels are holding objects related to the suffering and death of Christ.

It’s a really beautiful way to remember and honor the sacrifice of our Lord, especially for pilgrims making their way to one of the most important churches of Christendom!

Below are pictures of all the statues look like and what each angel is holding.

PS FROM JOAN: Two of the original statues are in the church of Sant’Andrea delle Fratte near the Spanish Steps! This is truly one of Rome’s must see churches!

Click here to see those photos!



(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis concluded his Apostolic Visit to Mexico on Wednesday, thanking the Mexican people for their welcome. The Aeromexico Boeing that is bringing Pope Francis back to the Vatican at the end of his 12th Apostolic Journey abroad has taken off from the International Airport of Ciudad Juarez.


And it was the Mexican airline that flew him throughout his visit during which he travelled from Mexico City to Chiapas, Morelia, and Chihuahua.

As reported on the airline webpage, Pope Francis is an easy passenger: “Known for his humility and simple taste, very few special accommodations have been made to welcome the Pope onboard. Meal service has been arranged with suggestions from the Vatican, and the Boeing Dreamliner 787 has been equipped to host an onboard press conference. True to his reputation, the Pope has very humble needs for a head of state”.

Pope Francis is the third Pope to be flown by Mexico’s oldest airline, after Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI.

He arrived Rome in early afternoon Thursday, February 18. As is traditional, both before and after an apostolic trip, the Holy Father marked his return to Rome with prayers of thanks before the image of Mary, known as Salus Populi Romani. at St. Mary Major basilica. He was greeted and applauded by many faithful.



From my colleagues at CNA/EWTN News in Ciudad Juarez:

At the Mexico-U.S. border town of Ciudad Juarez, Pope Francis told hundreds of thousands of people present to beg God for the “gift of tears” over the suffering of others, especially forced migration.
Juarez-US Border

“Let us together ask our God for the gift of conversion, the gift of tears, let us ask him to give us open hearts,” he said during the Feb. 17 Mass at Benito Juárez stadium.

“No more death! No more exploitation!”

Pope Francis drew on the day’s reading from Jonah in which God calls upon the prophet to go and convert the Ninevites, whose city was “self-destructing as a result of oppression and dishonor, violence and injustice.”

“God sent him to testify to what was happening, he sent him to wake up a people intoxicated with themselves,” he said.

Jonah’s message to the Ninevites and God’s divine mercy saved the people from self-destruction, proving that “there is always the possibility of change, we still have time to transform what is destroying us as a people, what is demeaning our humanity.”

This account presents us with the very mystery of divine mercy, the pontiff said.

“Mercy always appeals to the latent and numbed goodness within each person…It seeks and invites us to conversion, it invites us to repentance; it invites us to see the damage being done at every level. Mercy always pierces evil in order to transform it,” he said.

Pope Francis traveled to Ciudad Juarez, the Mexican city that borders El Paso, Texas, to celebrate Mass during the final day of his Feb. 12-17 visit to Mexico. Hundreds of thousands of people attended the Mass, which included faithful on both sides of the border.

At this place, along with many other border cities between the neighboring countries where thousands of Mexicans and Central Americans try to enter the United States, the story of the Ninevites’ conversion “echoes forcefully among us today” and invites us to conversion, Pope Francis said.

“In this Year of Mercy, with you here, I beg for God’s mercy; with you I wish to plead for the gift of tears, the gift of conversion,” he said.

“To weep over injustice, to cry over corruption, to cry over oppression,” the Pope said. “They are tears that can sensitize our gaze and our attitude hardened and especially dormant in the face of another’s suffering. They are the tears that can break us, capable of opening us to conversion.”

So often the humanitarian crisis of forced migration is measured with numbers and statistics, but in order to open our hearts to conversion, the Holy Father said, “we want to instead measure with names, stories, families.”

This journey, filled with “legal vacuums,” always “ensnares” and “destroys the poorest.”

The young are especially vulnerable in the flight of forced migration, he said calling them “cannon fodder,” as they are “persecuted and threatened when they try to flee the spiral of violence and the hell of drugs.”

He praised civil and religious organizations dedicated to “accompanying migrants” and “defending life” calling them “signs lighting the way and announcing salvation” just as Jonah did.

“By their very lives they are prophets of mercy; they are the beating heart and the accompanying feet of the Church that opens its arms and sustains,” Pope Francis said.

He closed urging those present to ask for God’s mercy and grace, saying that it’s not too late for conversion.

“This time for conversion, this time for salvation, is the time for mercy,” he said. “And so, let us say together in response to the suffering on so many faces: In your compassion and mercy, Lord, have pity on us … cleanse us from our sins and create in us a pure heart, a new spirit.”


Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, Feb 17, 2016 / 03:29 pm (CNA).- Speaking to laborers in the Mexican City of Juarez on Wednesday, Pope Francis laid out several key areas of focus in fighting what he called “the cycle of drug trafficking and violence.”

“One of the greatest scourges for young people is the lack of opportunities for study and for sustainable and profitable work, which would permit them to work for the future,” the Pope said Feb. 17.

He said that this lack of opportunity frequently leads to situations of poverty, which then becomes “the best breeding ground for the young to fall into the cycle of drug trafficking and violence.”

This, the Pope said, “is a luxury which no one can afford; we cannot allow the present and future of Mexico to be alone and abandoned.”

Pope Francis met with members of Mexico’s workforce Feb. 17 in Ciudad Juarez on his last day in the country. Juarez borders the U.S. city of El Paso, Texas, and is a major destination for thousands of immigrants from Mexico and Central America who want to enter the United States.

The Pope’s visit to Juarez is the last in a series of daytrips he has made to some of the poorest and most violent areas of the country, including the state of Chiapas and the city of Morelia in Mexico’s Michoacán state.

His final stop in Juarez has special meaning not only because of the border Mass he will celebrate later in the afternoon, but also because of the sharp distinction between the economic state of the two countries on each side of the border.

Before speaking to the workers, Pope Francis listened to the testimonies of both a married couple who work, and high-level businessman.

Daisy Flores Gamez and her husband Jesus Varela Arturo Gurrola expressed their concern that economic problems are making it increasingly more difficult to balance family life and true care for one’s children. They also said that, in their opinion, the decline and conflict of values is due to the absence of parents in the home.

The Pope also heard from Juan Pablo Castanon, national president of the Business Coordinating Council, who shared his concerns on problems related to poverty and unemployment, and stressed the importance of developing technology, but not allowing it to take the place of people.

In his speech to the workers, Pope Francis said that “more needs to be done” in fostering a culture of dialogue, encounter and inclusion.
“Unfortunately, the times we live in have imposed the paradigm of economic utility as the starting point for personal relationships,” he said, noting that the current mentality pushes for “the greatest possible profits, immediately and at any cost.”

This mentality not only destroys the ethical dimension of business, but also ignores the fact that the best investment to be made is in people – both as individuals and as families, he said.

When the flow of people is put “at the service of the flow of capital,” the result is the exploitation of employees “as if they were objects to be used and discarded,” Francis said, quoting his environmental encyclical, Laudato Si.

God, he added, “will hold us accountable for the slaves of our day, and we must do everything to make sure that these situations do not happen again.”

Francis noted that some people object to the social doctrine of the Church, saying it reduces business to mere charity organizations or “philanthropic institutions.”

However, he stressed, the “only aspiration of the Church’s Social Doctrine is to guard over the integrity of people and social structures.”

“Every time that, for whatever reason, this integrity is threatened or reduced to a consumer good, the Church’s Social Doctrine will be a prophetic voice to protect us all from being lost in the seductive sea of ambition,” he said.

Pope Francis warned that each time a person’s integrity is violated, it begins a process of declination for society as a whole. Therefore, every sector of society is obliged look out for the good of everyone.

“We are all in the same boat. We all have to struggle to make sure that work is a humanizing moment which looks to the future,” he said, and asked those present what kind of world and what kind of Mexico they want to leave for their children.

“Do you want to leave them the memory of exploitation, of insufficient pay, of workplace harassment? Or do you want to leave them a culture which recalls dignified work, a proper roof, and land to be worked?”

He also asked whether they would leave behind air “tainted by corruption, violence, insecurity and suspicion, or, on the contrary, an air capable of generating alternatives, renewal and change?”

Francis acknowledged that the issues he raised are not easy to face, but said that leaving the future in the hands of corruption, brutality and inequity would be worse.

Even though it’s difficult to bring different sides together to negotiate, more harm is done by refusing to negotiate, the Pope said. He added that while getting along can be hard in an increasingly competitive world, it would be worse if society allows this competition to destroy people.

“Profit and capital are not a good over and above the human person; they are at the service of the common good,” he said. When the common good is used only to serve profit and capital, “the only thing gained is known as exclusion.”

Francis closed his speech by inviting the citizens of Mexico to build a country “that your children deserve; a Mexico where no one is first, second or fourth; a Mexico where each sees in the other the dignity of a child of God.”


As I am about to post, the Pope is about to start his final day in Mexico, traveling from Mexico City to Ciudad Juarez, just across the U.S. border from El Paso, Texas. You will be able to watch it on EWTN, either on TV or online at

In the following stories, you will find a look back at Pope Francis’ days in Mexico through the eyes of papal spokesman and head of the Holy See Press Office, Fr. Federico Lombardi, a profile of the final papal stop, Ciudad Juarez, and a look at a group of 12 nuns, Las Siervas (The Servants) whose singing has become an Internet sensation. They will be singing in Ciudad Juarez.


(Vatican Radio) On the last day of his pastoral visit to Mexico, Pope Francis on Wednesday visits inmates at a prison in Ciudad Juarez on the U.S.-Mexico border. Before heading back to Rome Wednesday evening, he will also meet people from the working world and celebrate Mass in the city located just across the border from El Paso, Texas. On Tuesday, the Holy Father visited Morelia in central Mexico where he celebrated Mass with religious, consecrated people and seminarians and later was greeted by tens of thousands of young people at the local stadium.

Holy See Press Office Director, Fr. Federico Lombardi says the Pope has come to Mexico as “a messenger of mercy and of peace.” Even through his gestures and small actions, the Pope “was teaching love and demonstrating love and mercy of God… not only through his words,” adds Fr. Lombardi. In this way, he said, the Pope “has contributed very much to the harmony and reconciliation of a society that has dramatic tensions and problems with violence and internal conflicts and disparities of situations in the society.”

In an interview with Vatican Radio’s Veronica Scarisbrick, Fr. Lombardi notes that Pope Francis has made his mark in Mexico “in a very pastoral way, not as a politician, not as a person who comes with easy solutions for problems that are so incredibly difficult. But he demonstrates understanding for the situation, for the people and the temptations that they have: [the] discouragement [they feel] in this situation. And he encourages them, and he witnesses the love of God, and invites [them] to the profound devotion to the Virgin of Guadalupe that is in the heart of Mexicans.”

Pope challenges Mexicans to put love, hope into practice

Pope Francis has also been challenging Mexicans to embrace this witness concretely, in their own lives, in their families and in society, Fr. Lombardi affirms. “I think he leaves to the Mexican people a treasure of hope – a horizon of hope for the future.” It was this message that the Pope stressed in a particular way to the young people he encountered, “because they are the majority of the society and the future is concretely in their hands even if they have difficulties [in finding] their way in this society.”

Fr. Lombardi observes that one of the things that has impressed Pope Francis the most on this trip is “the love of the people [on the streets] for him.” For the Pope, theirs is a gratuitous, freely-given love: “they come to demonstrate spontaneously in the street to demonstrate sincerely that they love the Pope, the Church. That they desire to be a community which hopes [for] a better situation.” Pope Francis, Fr. Lombardi adds, is “grateful for the witness of love that he has received and he has tried to give his contribution to [the Mexican people] to overcome this historical, difficult moment.”

Moving moments

Fr. Lombardi admits that he personally found two moments of the trip particularly moving: “the silent dialogue between the Pope and the Virgin of Guadalupe” in the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe at the end of Saturday’s Mass in Mexico City. And the moment during Monday’s meeting with families in Tuxtla Gutiérrez, when a severely disabled child in a wheelchair was brought towards the Pope. The episode, Fr. Lombardi remarks, reminded him of the Gospel story “in which the people bring the paralytic to Jesus: the Pope has seen this and then came down from the podium to encounter this child and to bless him…. It was a very particular moment: the witness of faith of the people bringing this sick young man to the Pope and the love of the Pope” who interrupted the testimonials of families “to go down where he sees this desire of blessing for a person that was in very, very particularly grave sickness.”


(Vatican Radio) This evening Pope Francis will celebrate Holy Mass in Ciudad Juarez at the end of his six-day stay in Mexico. But in the morning his first appointment will be at the Cereso 3 State prison in the city that used to be a hotspot of gang power.

Our correspondent in Mexico Veronica Scarisbrick tells us more.
For many years now Ciudad Juarez has represented first for Mexicans and then for Central Americans a personal dream, that of crossing the border to reach ‘El Norte’, the United States.

This search for a better future for most has often become a dashed dream. For those who make it here crossing the border is often impossible, for those without papers the risk of falling into the hands of traffickers is even greater.

Just imagine for a moment the state of mind of migrant minors who reach this desolate place, dubbed until not so long ago the murder capital of the world. A place notorious for the unsolved murders of hundreds of women and rife with all kinds of violence, much of it gang and drug based.

Located in the middle of the Chihuahuan Desert, it’s Mexico alright but without a crumb of glamour. There’s a river that provides a natural physical divide, and a looming chain link fence divide.

And it’s by this chain link fence that Pope Francis will celebrate Holy Mass on the evening of Wednesday 17th of February at the end of his six day stay in Mexico. Right on the border with the United States, so near that it’s within earshot of the El Paso inhabitants on the other side of the fence.


Pope Francis flies in to Ciudad Juarez in the morning and his first appointment is at the Cereso 3 State prison that used to be a hotspot of gang power.

Officials with the diocese say 800 inmates have already been chosen for that special meeting with Pope Francis, half of them women. On this occasion he will also meet with family members.

Ciudad Juarez is not a place for the faint hearted but it seems that when Pope Francis arrives here the worst of the bloodshed of this once hell hole has been left behind.

Certainly during this Jubilee Year of Mercy it will give Pope Francis a chance to console prisoners, workers, and the inhabitants of this long suffering Mexican City.

Inhabitants many of whom have been orphaned, widowed or simply traumatized by the violence they’ve witnessed.


Here’s a great story from Mexico City by CNN: A group of pop-singing nuns will perform before Pope Francis on Wednesday, thanks in part to a viral video that made them an overnight sensation. “Siervas” or “The Servants,” took the Internet by storm late last year after the band posted a music video to YouTube.


The clip, “Confía en Dios” or “Trust in God,” has been viewed more than 270,000 times. It shows the 12 sisters playing classical and rock instruments, and singing their catchy tune in their religious robes on top of a rooftop helipad.

“We posted our video online only a few months ago and couldn’t believe how popular it became,” Sister Monica, one of the group’s leaders told CNN. “A Mexican priest watched it and messaged us saying, ‘Come to Mexico,’ so we did.”

The Peru-based nuns are scheduled to perform in the city of Juarez, the final stop in the Vatican leader’s Mexican tour. They will be the warm-up act before his last Mass of the trip.

The group’s unique blend of rock instruments and religious hymns has made them popular among Catholics and non-Catholics alike, with nearly 30,000 followers on Facebook.

For Sister Cindy, the band’s standup bass player, the trip is a dream come true. “I went to the Brazil [in 2013] during the Pope’s trip there and got to see him in the popemobile, but never dreamed I would actually get to play for him,” she said. “Words cannot begin to express how overwhelmed I am.”

In addition to playing in Juarez, Siervas will have gigs in Mexico City, Chihuahua and San Juan del Rio.

The sisters are hoping their online success will help transmit their faith to a wider audience.

“The Lord is always present in our lives, even in the tough times,” said Sister Andrea, who is originally from Argentina. “I think our video brings a very universal message that people connect to.”

The international ensemble, which has been together for a little over a year, includes members from China, Japan, Ecuador and Chile, among others.

Despite the group’s diversity, they all speak the same language when singing in unison and expressing their “Trust in God.”

“Our faith speaks volumes,” Sister Cindy said. “That is what we are hoping to transmit to Pope Francis and to young people around the world.”


Yesterday, in my reflections on Justice Antonin Scalia and my comments on the Supreme Court, I wrote: Because SCOTUS (Supreme Court of the United States) now has 8 members and they are equally divided into liberal (4) and conservative camps (4) the extremely important decisions facing the justices this year on religious freedom could end up in a tie, a “hung jury,” so to speak.

To clarify: Under Supreme Court practice, a 4-4 tie means the ruling from the lower-instance court stands.

Speaking of law, the Church’s Code of Canon Law is quite clear about the sins whose pardon is “reserved” to the Holy See. I received an email from a reader who asked what the “reserved sins” were, other than abortion, that incurred excommunication and could only be absolved by the Holy See. Reserved sins came up last week, as you may remember, when Pope Francis on Ash Wednesday gave the mandate to over 1100 Missionaries of Mercy, that is, confessors to whom the special privilege was given of absolving sins normally reserved to the Holy See through the Apostolic Penitentiary.

The Apostolic Penitentiary is one of three tribunals of the Roman Curia. It is considered a tribunal of mercy, as it is responsible for issues relating to the forgiveness of sins, such as the absolution of excommunications latæ sententiæ reserved to the Holy See. See my third story today about this issue.


(Vatican Radio)  On Monday evening Pope Francis flew to the city of Tuxtla Gutiérrez, the capital of the Mexican southeast state of Chiapas, where he met with families in the city’s stadium.

What a great photo!


Before addressing the gathering, he listened to testimonies by people from different family situations who included a civilly-married couple of divorced parents who are actively involved with charitable work, a disabled adolescent who found joy in being accepted by the church and is now active in the evangelization of other youth, a single mother who was rejected by society but welcomed with love in the Church, and a catholic family of the diocese of Tapachula.

In his prepared remarks, Pope Francis noted that the testimonies he had heard represented the joys, hopes, and determination by which many families confront sadness, disillusion and failings. He observed that “living in a family is not always easy, and can often be painful and stressful”. He added that he would prefer a wounded family that makes daily efforts to put love into play to a society that is afraid of love.

Here’s a Rome Reports video on that meeting:

In his third papal tweet of February 15, Pope Francis wrote: I prefer a family with a tired face from sacrifices made rather than a pretty one which is unfamiliar with tenderness and compassion.


Veronica Scarisbrick, my colleague on my weekly Vatican Radio program, “Joan Knows,” has been in Mexico to report on the Holy Father’s apostolic journey and she offers us this report about the Mexican state that Framcis will visit today, Michoacán.

(Vatican Radio)  Pope Francis on Tuesday begins the 4th day of his Apostolic Journey to Mexico with a trip to one of the country’s most drug-ridden states. Veronica Scarisbrick is with the Holy Father and sent us this report, entitled “Horror and Hope in Michoacán”.

Pope Francis on Tuesday travels to Morelia, capital of Michoacán, the Mexican state most identified with the drug trade. A place where there are performances of stupefying violence. Although I’ve been told there are worse places still in terms of the drug scene across Mexico.

Francis who comes to Mexico as ‘messenger of peace’ has called drugs ‘messengers of death’. The scenario related to drugs here is complex and multi- faceted. To set a strategy that might break the organized crime model is not an easy task, the law is one thing and implementation is another. Also government anti-corruption cartels are not sufficiently powerful to counter the power of narco billions.

It’s not that the problem has been ignored, the military and federal police have been called in on various occasions and in turn accused of the same crimes they were out to crush. And the result was so weak that the local communities decided to set up their own militias, the vigilantes’ with the result that you have lemon and avocado pickers turned gunmen.

There are contradictions as well. Traditional crime groups are often deeply tied to religion.  Furthermore they offer benefits people find hard to refuse and are often obliged to accept.

Among the consequences of this situation are economic and social disintegration and a connection with the escalating number of ‘desaparecidos’ in the area.

Overall in Mexico there are more than 20.000 people who have disappeared in ten years. Although UN sources have stepped up that number to over 26.000.  But these numbers don’t relate exclusively to Michoacán.

But significantly it’s in the capital of Michoacán, Morelia that Pope Francis has chosen to meet with young people in an effort to bring a much needed message of hope.

He’ll be meeting with them in the afternoon at the stadium ‘José Maria Morelos y Pavòn’. It promises to be a moving moment, one they will treasure. Let’s recall how Pope Francis said in his first speech to the nation. ‘One of Mexico’s greatest treasures is that it has a youthful face”.

It’s in Morelia too that earlier in the day Pope Francis will go to the heart of this stunning colonial city, to the Cathedral in the characteristic pink stone of the area which dominates the city. There he will meet with fourteen deans of Mexican Universities and six leaders of other Christian religions.

But he will start the day by celebrating Holy Mass in the local stadium with priests, men and women religious, consecrated people and seminarians.

All in the presence of the man he created Cardinal a year ago,  the Archbishop of Morelia Alberto Suarez Inda.


The sins whose absolution, as I mentioned earlier, is reserved to the Holy See are those that incur automatic excommunication. The email author wanted to know what sins, other than abortion, incur automatic excommnication: I felt the following Q&A from Catholic Answers was complete and answered the question concisely.

Question: Having an abortion means automatic excommunication from the Church. Are there other sins that carry this penalty?

Answer:  Yes. In the 1983 Code of Canon Law (CIC) eight other sins carry the penalty of automatic excommunication: apostasy, heresy, schism (CIC 1364:1), violating the sacred species (CIC 1367), physically attacking the pope (CIC 1370:1), sacramentally absolving an accomplice in a sexual sin (CIC 1378:1), consecrating a bishop without authorization (CIC 1382), and directly violating the seal of confession (1388:1).

Apostasy is the total repudiation of the Christian faith. Heresy is the obstinate doubt or denial, after baptism, of a defined Catholic doctrine. Schism is the refusal of submission to the Roman Pontiff or the refusal to be in communion with members of the Church who are in communion with him (CIC 751).

Violation of the sacred species is the throwing away the consecrated species of Christ’s body or blood or the taking or retaining of them for a sacrilegious purpose (CIC 1367).

Physically attacking the pope is self-explanatory, as are absolving an accomplice in a sexual sin and consecrating a bishop without authorization from the Vatican.

A direct violation of the seal of confession is one in which both the penitent and the penitent’s sin can easily be determined by the confessor’s words or behavior. Again, the penalty of automatic excommunication does not apply if no one perceives the disclosure (CIC 1330).

Automatic excommunication for abortion (CIC 1398) applies not only to the woman who has the abortion, but to “all those who commit this crime with knowledge of the penalty attached, and [this] includes those accomplices without whose help the crime would not have been committed” (Evangelium Vitae 62).

No one is automatically excommunicated for any offense if, without any fault of his own, he was unaware that he was violating a law (CIC 1323:2) or that a penalty was attached to the law (CIC 1324:1:9). The same applies if one was a minor, had the imperfect use of reason, was forced through grave or relatively grave fear, was forced through serious inconvenience, or in certain other circumstances (CIC 1324). (Answered by: Catholic Answers Staff )