Today is the first day of summer and the first day of a kind of rebirth. The block-long apartment building in which I live has been shrouded in canvas-covered scaffolding since the start of October 2020 – the front and back façades and the two sides of the building, a huge undertaking. Today, for the first time since then I can see my beloved dome of St. Peter’s Basilica as 90 percent of the scaffolding on the front of the building has come down!

Serious work is now being done on the back of the building where all of our balconies are located. I have three rooms in the back of the building, each of which has a balcony. However, as lovely as that might sound, there is no great view to enjoy and balconies get dirty and dusty so fast that no one ever uses them for just sitting and visiting with friends or sharing a cappuccino or glass of wine.

A downside in the work on the back of the building is that the outside units of my AC have all been covered so, until the work is finished and scaffolding comes down, I can’t turn on the air conditioning. And today it was 92!

As the expression goes, this too will pass!   Another thing to offer the Lord for the poor souls in purgatory!

We did get new elevator in the building renovation process and if nothing else had been done to the building, that was worth the inconvenience! In the old elevator, you opened one outside door and two small doors to enter the cabin. You reversed that once inside. Then you repeated the entire procedure when you got to your floor. So, all told, you opened and closed 12 doors in one trip! And now it is all automatic! Welcome to the 21st century!

Will soon post some photos of the building before and after the reno.

THE POPE’S DAY: Shortly after 8:45 this morning at the Santa Marta residence, Pope Francis met a group of about 20 inmates from Rome’s Rebibbia prison. Accompanied by the prison director, the chaplain and some officials, the group subsequently went to visit the Vatican Museums. (from Holy See Press Office)


The Holy See’s humanitarian arm for the Oriental Churches kicked off its plenary meeting on Monday with ROACO’s attention going to the Holy Land, Ethiopia, Armenia, and Georgia in particular.

By Devin Watkins (Vatican news)

The Reunion of Aid Agencies for the Oriental Churches (ROACO) began its 94th plenary assembly on Monday afternoon at the Casa Bonus Pastor in Rome.

The annual meeting runs until Thursday.

In a press release today, the Congregation for the Oriental Churches laid out the schedule for the 4-day assembly.

Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, prefect of the Congregation and ROACO President, will preside over the opening Eucharist on Tuesday, during which all the agencies donor will be prayed for.

The Mass also serves to entrust “to the Lord and the intercession of the Blessed Mother of God the progress of the scheduled sessions and especially countries which continue to suffer because of violence and social and political instability made worse by the ongoing pandemic.”

Concern for Holy Land

Tuesday morning’s sessions will be dedicated to the situation in the Holy Land, as well as ROACO’s work to assist people in the area. (vatican media photo)

Church leaders presenting on the topic include the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, Archbishop Pierbattista Pizzaballa, the Custos of the Holy Land, Fr. Francesco Patton, and the Vice Chancellor of Bethlehem University, Br. Peter Bray.

Participants will also be informed about the 2020 Collection Pro Terra Sancta.

Ethiopia, Armenia, Georgia

In the afternoon, ROACO’s attention shifts to the situation in Ethiopia to be presented by the Apostolic Nuncio, Archbishop Antoine Camilleri.

Ethiopia’s Tigray region saw a devastating conflict near the end of 2020 and into this year. The UN recently reported that Tigray is home to some 30,000 children who are severely malnourished, with over 400,000 people facing famine in the region.

The afternoon session will also focus on Armenia and Georgia, through an intervention from Archbishop José Avelino Bettencourt, the Apostolic Nuncio to both nations.

Middle Eastern region

On Wednesday, participants in the plenary session will turn their focus to the entire Middle East, concentrating especially on Syria and Iraq.

Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher, the Vatican Secretary for Relations with States, will speak at the assembly, along with the Pope’s representatives in Syria (Cardinal Mario Zenari), Lebanon (Archbishop Joseph Spiteri), and Iraq (Archbishop Mitja Leskovar).



On Sunday November 10, 2019 at 16.30 in the Cathedral of San Pietro Apostolo in Frascati (Rome) there will be the closing ceremony of the diocesan phase of the cause of beatification and canonization of the Servant of God Chiara Lubich, founder of the Focolare Movement. The ceremony will be presided by the Bishop of Frascati, Mons. Raffaello Martinelli. Maria Voce, president of the Focolare Movement will be present.

If by any chance you have plans to be in Lucerne, Switzerland between November 7 and the 10th, you will have an opportunity to meet two Swiss Guards according to a communique today from their Vatican headquarters: “For the first time, the Pontifical Swiss Guard will have its own stand at the Central Switzerland Education Fair in Lucerne from Thursday November 7 to Sunday the 10th. During the training fair in Lucerne, two active guards will be present in uniform at Stand D 2099, in Hall 2, next to the Lucerne Police. They will present the job of the Pontifical Swiss Guard and will gladly answer the questions of interested visitors.”

As I read today’s general audience catechesis I could not help but think this sounds like what is needed in the Amazon vis a vis evangelization. I know it sounds like over-simplification but do we need thousands of words to describe evangelization? I know the Amazon region also need priests but perhaps the seminaries should be open to indigenous males. If you recall Pope Francis’ closing words at the final meeting of the Amazon synod participants, he said: “There was talk, very forceful, of indigenous Seminaries. I thank Cardinal O’Malley for his courage in this because he put his finger on the sore in something that is a real social injustice, which is, in fact, the Indians are not allowed to go on the seminarian path and on the path of the priesthood.”

That was a stunning affirmation that no one seems to have made note of! I was breathless when I read that sentence and spoke about it on October 30 with Teresa Tomeo on “Catholic Connection” and am looking into this situation to find out why and when the cardinal made his remarks (I do not recall this being highlighted at Vatican press briefings) and to look into regional seminaries.


As he does the first days of each month, Pope Francis released a video message with his prayer intention for November 2019 in which he invites us to pray that, “a spirit of dialogue, encounter, and reconciliation emerge in the Middle East.”

Francis speaks in Spanish as a video is shown with English subtitles.

Following is the full text:
In the Middle East, concord and dialogue among the three monotheistic religions is based on spiritual and historic bonds. The Good News of Jesus, risen out of love, came to us from these lands. Today, many Christian communities, together with Jewish and Muslim communities, work here for peace, reconciliation, and forgiveness. Let us pray that a spirit of dialogue, encounter, and reconciliation emerge in the Middle East.

The prayer intentions and videos are prepared by the Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network of the Apostleship of Prayer.

Click here to see video and text:


As he has done for weeks now, Pope Francis today continued his weekly general audience catechesis on the Acts of the Apostles, focusing on St. Paul who, in his myriad travels, preached in Athens, seeking to explain the Gospel to non-believers.

“Dear brothers and sisters,” began Pope Francis as he addressed pilgrims who sat through rain and then very blue skies in St. Peter’s Square. “In our catechesis on the Acts of the Apostles, we now see the Apostle Paul preaching before the Areopagus in Athens, the cultural capital of the pagan world. In a city filled with idols, Paul proclaims the Gospel by appealing to the religiosity of his hearers and their desire to know the truth.”

The Holy Father explained that, “Seeing an altar dedicated to an ‘unknown god’, Paul states that God, the transcendent Creator of the world, has indeed made himself known, and sent his Son among us to call all people to conversion and the fullness of truth.”

“Yet,” he emphasized, “when Paul begins to speak of Christ’s death and resurrection, his listeners lose interest. The mystery of the cross, in which God’s wisdom and power are revealed, appears as folly in the eyes of the Greeks. Yet Paul’s preaching bears fruit in the conversion of some Athenians, including Dionysius the Areopagite and Damaris.”

Francis told the faithful, “As we think of our own culture, may we, like Paul, be sensitive to people’s deepest yearnings in order to propose the mystery of Christ and his saving love.”



Pope Francis gave the bishops of Chile a series of themes for meditation at their first meeting Tuesday afternoon in the Vatican. A second meeting is Wednesday afternoon and two are scheduled for Thursday, May 17. (vatianmedia photo)

The Holy Father called the meeting with the Chilean episcopate to address the crisis of clerical sexual abuse, and the failure of church leaders to respond adequately to it. The meeting was prompted by the reception of 2300-page report by two special envoys sent by Pope Francis earlier this year, Archbishop Charles Scicluna of Malta and Fr. Jordi Bertomeu Farnós. Both travelled to the Americas to hear testimony from victims of clerical abuse.

Upon receiving the final report, Pope Francis “humbly” requested the bishops’ “collaboration and assistance in discerning the short-, mid-, and long-term measures that must be adopted to re-establish ecclesial communion in Chile, with the goal of repairing as much as possible the scandal, and re-establishing justice.” The meeting in Rome is intended to discuss the results of the envoys’ visit and discuss the Pope’s conclusions.

A time for meditation and prayer

The Pope held the first meeting with the bishops on Tuesday afternoon in the auletta or small hall of the Paul VI Hall. There were 34 Chilean bishops in attendance. According to a statement from the Holy See Press Office, the Pope gave each of the Bishops a text with themes for meditation. “From this moment and until the next meeting, a time is open [which is] dedicated exclusively to meditation and prayer,” the statement said. (Vatican News)


Pope Francis began this week’s general audience in a sun-splashed St. Peter’s Square by noting that, “In this, our final catechesis on Baptism, we turn to the rites illustrating the grace of the sacrament. Following an ancient tradition, the newly baptized are robed in a white garment signifying their new life in Christ, and are admonished to preserve it unstained for eternal life. Since, as Saint Paul says, the baptized have been clothed in Christ (cf. Gal 3:27), they are called to cultivate every virtue, especially charity, which binds the others together (cf. Col 3:14).

“So too,” added Francis, “the taper lighted from the paschal candle symbolizes the light of Christ and the warmth of his love which, with the help of the parents and godparents, must be nurtured through education in the Christian life. These rites evoke not only our communion in the Church on earth but also point to its fulfilment in the heavenly Jerusalem, where God will be our light for ever (cf. Rev 22:5).”

The Holy Father explained that, “the rite of Baptism concludes with the Our Father, as the expression of our dignity as God’s adoptive children in Christ. May all of us cherish the gift of grace we received on the day of our Baptism, and let ourselves be guided at every step by the Holy Spirit who dwells in our hearts.”

At the end of the audience, Pope Francis expressed concern at the escalation of violence in the Middle East and urged for peace: “I am very concerned at the escalation of tension in the Holy Land and in the Middle East, and the spiral of violence that is moving away further from the path of peace, dialogue and negotiation, …I express my great sorrow for the dead and wounded and with prayer and affection I am close to all who suffer. …I repeat that the use of violence can never lead to peace, War begets war, violence begets violence.”

He urged all parties concerned and the international community to renew their commitment to ensure that dialogue, justice and peace prevail, and recited the Hail Mary, asking everyone to join him in praying to Mary, Queen of Peace.

In closing greetings, the Pope extended his “cordial wishes” to Muslims worldwide who on Thursday begin their fasting month of Ramadan. He said he hoped this “privileged time of prayer and fasting help in walking the path of God which is of peace.”


The following statement from Cardinal Vincent Nichols of Westminster was released today, May 16:

‘Today I have had a phone conversation with Fr. Mario da Silva, the Catholic parish priest in Gaza to offer our prayers and support. He told me that life is so hard and everyone is desperate with shortages of water and other basic necessities. He said that knowing Catholics in England & Wales and across the world remembered the people of Gaza and were praying for them was a great encouragement.

“Please pray for peace in the Middle East and especially for the people in Gaza. They are living through traumatic times of remembrance and protest at the dramatically deteriorating humanitarian situation. This is a people who are both extremely vulnerable and deprived. Their fate is central to peace and peace can never be built on neglect.”


The Holy See Permanent Observer to the United Nations, Archbishop Bernadito Auza spoke twice this week at the UN about peace-building and peace-keeping. Here’s a link to the great website of the Holy See Permanent Observer Mission to the United Nations: Take a trip there some day if you want to understand the Holy See mission and what the Catholic Church’s position is on a myriad of issues.

I expect that soon this Holy See office in New York and/or the press office here in Rome will be making a statement on today’s breakthrough meeting between the two leaders of North and South Korea at the demilitarized zone. This is the meeting for which Pope Francis, at last Wednesday’s general audience, asked for prayers

As I write this column – 4:35 pm local time – there is no Vatican statement on the meeting in Korea.


Join me this weekend on “Vatican Insider” for Part II of my conversation with Paulist Father Jim Lloyd. We had a great visit over the Easter holidays at the Paulist Motherhouse in NY where I was a guest for a few days. He had just turned 97 and on May 1st he will celebrate his 70th anniversary as a priest!!

The Paulists, of course, have been in Rome since 1922 when they were asked to care for the Catholic American community in the Eternal City. Our home now is St. Patrick’s Church on Via Boncompagni in central Rome.

Fr. Jim began our conversation by telling me about his amazing parents – his Jewish father and Irish Catholic mother, both of whom starred for years in Vaudeville! We cover his multi-faceted and very rich priestly life and ministries and this week talk about his NBC TV show “Inquiry” – and so much more! You will be riveted by every facet of his life! Not a dull second in our conversation!

As I said last week, I only wish that Vatican Insider was TV instead of radio so you could see Father Jim’s sparkling blue eyes and feel his enthusiasm and joy when he talks about the amazing, different periods in his life as a priest. One thing you will hear him says several times is that, no matter what he was doing, he always wore his Roman collar so people would know he was a priest.

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 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: For VI archives:


The Holy See Permanent Observer to the United Nations spoke at two high level UN meetings in New York calling on them to increase peace-building efforts and to seek peace in Syria.

By Sr Bernadette Mary Reis, fsp

The Holy See Permanent Observer to the United Nations, Archbishop Bernardito Auza, addressed participants in the High-Level Meeting on Peace-building and Sustaining Peace at the United Nations headquarters in New York, which took place on April 24-25, 2018. Archbishop Auza presented five priorities on behalf of the Holy See. (photo vaticanmedia)

Increase peace-building efforts

The Archbishop stated that the United Nations “can and should recommit itself to, and scale up, its peace-building efforts.” Unified and broad action, effective transitional strategies, analysis, better and more coherent synergy, and constant adjustment were among his recommendations.

Preventive diplomacy

Identifying beforehand the presence of factors, such as corruption, that destabilize nations would lead toward preventive diplomacy. Where potential conflicts are foreseen, “the international community should focus on institutional and capacity building,” the archbishop said.

Address arms trafficking

Archbishop Auza called the end of both the trafficking of arms and the illicit funding behind it to be “essential elements to sustaining peace.” He added that former combatants can be invited to “become a part of a peaceful solution” through “demobilization and reintegration” strategies.

Involving all sectors of society

Lasting peace can only be attained when all sectors of society are involved. The Holy See representative specifically mentioned women, saying they “must play an active role” along the entire spectrum of conflict prevention and resolution.

Justice and accountability

Unless justice and accountability are “seriously addressed,” successful transition from conflict to peace is not attainable. “Justice and legal accountability are essential vectors of reconciliation, not its opposite,” Archbishop Auza said. In the absence of prosecution and punishment at the local level, he said that, “the International Criminal Court must play its full role.”

Conflicts in the Middle East

In a separate address to the Security Council Open Debate on the situation in the Middle East on April 26, Archbishop Auza addressed the ongoing conflicts in that region.

Archbishop Auza reiterated Pope Francis’ appeal to negotiation in Syria as the only way “that can bring about peace and not death and destruction.” It is the UN Security Council, he said, that is the “key actor” ensuring that all efforts to end the conflict in Syria are guided by international law.

He concurred with the Secretary General’s definition of the war in Yemen as a “stupid war,” calling it the world’s largest humanitarian, entirely man-made catastrophe. He called on the international community to “give much greater attention to this conflict, where civilians are paying a huge price in a senseless war that has been overshadowed by other conflicts in the region.”

Israel and Palestine
Calling for “a renewed commitment” for completely violence-free peace talks leading toward a Two-State solution, the archbishop reiterated the Holy See’s position. He stated that it is the only “viable way of fulfilling the aspirations for peaceful co-existence among Israelis and Palestinians alike.” Regarding Jerusalem, he stated that the Holy See sees it as an “obligation of all Nations to respect the historical status quo of the Holy City.”


Do you want a pictorial delight? Go to and it will appear automatically!

FYI: Pope Francis will make his debt on Instagram March 19 under the handle Franciscus.


The general audience Wednesday was marked by a papal appeal to leaders to open their doors to migrants. Pope Francis told the 25,000 faithful gathered in St. Peter’s Square, “I like to see leaders who open their hearts and their doors” to the many migrants fleeing their countries.”

As he gave his weekly catechesis, highlighting mercy and consolation, the Holy Father interrupted his prepared text many times with off-the-cuff remarks, especially about the countless migrants who attempt to enter Europe as they leave their native lands because of poverty, war and violence.

He spoke of “our many brothers and sisters who are living a real and dramatic situation of exile, far from their homeland, with the ruins of their homes and the fear still in their eyes, and even, unfortunately, the pain for the loss of their loved ones.”

Francis asked:  “How is it possible that so much pain can strike innocent men, women and children who find doors closed to them when they attempt to go elsewhere? And they are there, on the border, because so many doors and so many hearts are closed. Migrants today are suffering. They are without food and they are not allowed in. They do not feel a welcome” he said.  “God does not forget the pain of those who are rejected” and, in such cases, “it is easy to ask oneself: where is God?”

The Pope’s reflections centered on a reading in the book of the Prophet Jeremiah that he described as containing a message of consolation. Jeremiah, he explained, turns to the Israelites who had been exiled. This experience had shaken their faith, yet the prophet proclaims that God, far from abandoning his people, reaffirms his faithful love and his promise of salvation.  Jeremiah’s words of consolation and hope have a particular resonance today in the light of so many tragic situations of exile throughout our world.

He explicitly mentioned Albania’s recent history, noting that, after “so much persecution and destruction, (this nation) has managed to lift itself in dignity and faith.”

Francis also spoke of St. Patrick at the end of the general audience when he traditionally greets young people, the ill and newlyweds. “Tomorrow we will commemorate St. Patrick, the apostle of Ireland. May his spiritual stamina stir you, dear young people, to be consistent with your faith; may his trust in Christ the Savior sustain you, dear sick and infirm people, in times of great difficulty; and may his missionary dedication remind you, dear newlyweds, of the importance of the Christian education of your children.”


(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis Wednesday offered words of solidarity for those in the Middle East currently suffering from the wars and violence which are affecting the region. (photo:

POPE-Middle EAst

“How many experiences of exile, expatriation, grief, and persecution that pushes us to doubt even the goodness of God, and His love for us,” Pope Francis said, while greeting Arab-speaking pilgrims during the weekly general audience.

“Doubt which dissipates in front of the truth that God is faithful, close, and keeps his promise to those who do not doubt Him, and for those who hope against hope,” – the Holy Father continued – “The consolation of the Lord is near to those who pass through the agonizing night of doubt, clinging and hoping for the dawn of the Mercy of God, which the totality of the darkness and injustice will never be able to defeat.”

Pope Francis concluded his remarks by saying: “The Lord bless you all, and protect you from evil!”


(Vatican Radio) One of the many initiatives in favor of the poor that has sprung to life thanks to the wish of Pope Francis is an outlet providing medicines to those in need.

Close to the shower and hairdressing facilities, which are open to homeless and indigent people near the right-hand colonnade of St. Peter’s Square, is a “solidarity” counter that hands out medicines provided by the Italian “Banco Farmaceutico” whose mission is to respond to the needs of poor people.

The Vatican counter is one of the 1,663 charitable entities in Italy that received donations of medicines by ordinary citizens on the National Collection Day last February 13.

Speaking on Wednesday at the launch, the president of the “Medicina Sociale” Association that participates in the project said:  “We are proud to be able to contribute to the initiative promoted by Pope Francis to open a solidarity medicine counter in St. Peter’s Square. It is a gesture of true mercy and we cannot remain indifferent.”

The 2016 XVI National Medicine Collection Day is currently present in 94 Italian provinces. However it aims to consolidate and expand its activities through the structured and continuous contribution of an ever growing number of volunteers and pharmacies to be able to respond more efficiently to the increasing number of requests it receives for medicines from charity organizations.

The National Day is promoted by the non-profit “Banco Farmaceutico Foundation” which also provides broader support to the poor.

It currently receives donations from over 30 pharmaceutical companies, from pharmacies and operates to recover unexpired medicines from private individuals.




First, some non-synod news: The 2014 Nobel Peace prize was announced this morning and went to children’s rights activists Malala Yousafzai of Pakistan and Kailash Satyarthi of India. As of yesterday many oddsmakers had Pope Francis the winner – one name among well over 200 on the list of nominees. I went to the Nobel website last night to possibly learn more (you can watch the announcement live on their website if you are in front of a computer at 11 am on October 10 each year). I did learn the following: The Nobel Prize and Prize in Economic Sciences have been awarded to women 46 times between 1901 and 2014; Two people – Jean-Paul Sartre and Le Duc Tho – both declined the Nobel Prize, Sartre in 1964 and Le Duc Tho in 1973; 49 out of all Laureates were younger than 40 years old at the year of the award. Most of them are Physics Laureates. I also learned that Alfred Nobel was a scientist and businessman, spoke 5 languages fluently at the age of 17, worked as a chemist, engineer and industrialist, invented dynamite in 1866 and left a controversial will, leaving the equivalent today of $265 and specifying that the bulk of his fortune should be used for prizes – in physics, chemistry, physiology or medicine, literature and peace.

For the synod summaries, I have made ample use of the VIS reports on Thursday’s 8th Congregation and this morning’s 9th Congregation.


Because my tape recorder broke and I lost the interviews I had planned for this weekend and next, Vatican Insider this week will re-air an interview I did not too long ago with an amazing group of English-speaking Iraqi Catholic students who were in Rome for educational purposes and to visit the Vatican. This seems like a propitious time to air this conversation not only because the world’s spotlight is on the violence and immense suffering in the Middle East, but because the people of that region, especially Iraq and Syria, are in the thoughts and prayers of the synod fathers. In fact, today the synod addressed a Message to families who suffer as a result of conflicts, as you will see in the next story.

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Following is the Message from the Synod on the Family to families who suffer as a result of conflicts:

“Gathered around the Successor of the Apostle Peter, we the Synod Fathers of the Third Extraordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, along with all participants, share the paternal concern of the Holy Father, expressing our profound closeness to all the families who suffer as a consequence of the many conflicts in progress.

“In particular, we raise to the Lord our prayers for Iraqi and Syrian families, forced on account of their profession of the Christian faith or their belonging to other ethnic or religious communities, to abandon everything and flee towards a future without any form of certainty. We join with the Holy Father Francis in emphasizing that no-one may use the name of God to commit violence, and that to kill in the name of God is a grave sacrilege. Offering thanks to International Organisations and Countries for their solidarity, we invite persons of good will to offer the necessary assistance and aid to the innocent victims of the current barbarism, and at the same time we implore the international community to act to re-establish peaceful co-existence in Iraq, in Syria, and in all the Middle East.

“Equally, our thoughts go to those families that are torn apart and suffering in other parts of the world, and who suffer persistent violence. We wish to assure them of our constant prayer that the Lord may convert hearts and bring peace and stability to those who are now in need.

“May the Holy Family of Nazareth, which suffered on the painful road of exile make every family a community of love and reconciliation a source of hope for the whole world.”


On Thursday afternoon at the eighth general Congregation, the general debate continued on “The Challenge of Upbringing in General / Christian Education in Difficult Family Situations.”

In discussions relating to openness to life, the faithful were invited to better know Paul VI’s Encyclical, Humanae Vitae, to thus better understand natural methods of fertility control and the non-acceptance of contraception. Some synod fathers noted the tendency of several states and organisations based in the Western world to present, especially in the context of Africa, various concepts (including abortion and homosexual unions) as “human rights” linked to economic aid and strong pressure campaigns for the promotion of such concepts. It was noted that the expression “rights to sexual and reproductive health” (used in the United Nations, for example) does not have a precise definition in international law and ends up encompassing mutually contradictory principles such as the condemnation of forced abortion and the promotion of safe abortion, or the protection of maternity and the promotion of contraception.

Synod Fathers universally have reiterated the importance of adequate preparation for marriage, as its celebration seems to be increasingly reduced to the social and legal status, rather than a religious and spiritual bond. The preparatory course, it was noted, is often perceived by couples as an imposition, a task to complete without conviction, and as a result it is too brief. Since marriage is a vocation for life, preparation for it should be long and detailed, as in the case of preparation for religious life.

The participants insisted on the importance of good preparation for priests in relation to the pastoral care of marriage and the family, and remarked that homilies can be used as a special and effective moment for proclaiming the Gospel of the family to the faithful.

With regard to streamlining procedures to verify matrimonial nullity, it was noted that a special study Commission for the reform of the canonical marriage nullification process was instituted by the Holy Father Francis on September 20th.

During the hour dedicated to free discussion – 6 to 7 p.m. – three themes emerged in particular: 1. with regard to divorced and remarried persons, the need for a penitential path was highlighted, to be accompanied by reflection on the case of divorced persons who remain alone and suffer in silence, at the margins of social life. Secondly, mention was made of the need to protect the children of divorced couples from suffering the psychological affects of their parents’ divorce. Some noted. in this respect, that adequate pastoral care of children often causes their parents to draw closer to the Church.
Thirdly, the importance of the relationship between the family and the education of children was affirmed, with particular reference to parents’ right to choose the most suitable educational plan for their children, so that they may receive a quality education.


The 15 interventions Friday morning in the synod hall (6 couples and 9 individual Auditors), were almost exclusively from laypersons from different countries who are engaged in the fields of family pastoral care, bioethics and human ecology.

For openers, mention was made of the difficulties experienced by families living in the Middle East, especially in Iraq where conflicts have serious repercussions on families, divided by the death of their members, forced to migrate in search of a safe place to live, deprived of a future for the young who are removed from schools or for the elderly who are abandoned to their own devices. The unity of the Christian family in the Middle East is profoundly disrupted, with consequences also for the social and national unity of the countries in the region. Faced with such dramatic situations, the Church truly represents a safe haven, a “family of families” that offers comfort and hope.

Auditors spoke of the need for the Church to listen more to laypeople in the search for solutions to the problems of families, especially in relation to the sphere of intimacy in the life of couples. There must be synergy between the academic world and the pastoral world, so as to form not “technicians” but rather pastoral workers who know and understand how to promote the themes of family and life through a solid Catholic overall anthropological vision.

They also highlighted the need for greater dialogue between Church and State in promoting the protection of the rights of the family and the defense of life. The laity must be active and competent in the public square re: the values of life and the family.

Interventions repeated the need to adequately and permanently prepare priests in relation to themes regarding the family, especially in relation to openness to life, so that they are able to explain and speak naturally and clearly about conjugal love. Emphasis was on natural family planning, highlighting its positive worth and how it can strengthen the life of the couple.

Great importance was attached to witness: the young do not need theory, but they clearly understand the centrality of the family if it is demonstrated by families themselves, credible witnesses and subjects of evangelisation.

Time was devoted to the suffering of those who lose a family member: widows and widowers, orphans, or parents who lose a child. For these people, the accompaniment of the Church is fundamental, through support groups and sharing, so that they do not become lost in the profound anguish of loss, and the fear of a “desert” of emotions, but remain firm in their faith.


Italian news agency ANSA has reported that a senior prelate insisted Tuesday that marriage cannot be dissolved and that “starting a new union contradicts what the Lord has indicated.” ANSA quoted Archbishop Georg Gaenswein, prefect of the papal household who made the remarks in an interview with “Chi” magazine. Excerpts were released in advance at the start of the synod of bishops on the family.

The archbishop, who is also private secretary to Pope emeritus Benedict XVI, said, “Gays must be received with respect but their acts are contrary to natural law. …The Church must have the courage to express its convictions as otherwise it would not be in the service of truth.” Asked by the magazine about the question of possibly allowing divorced people to take communion, he said, “this is a very delicate question, at stake is the sacramental matrimony that according to Catholic doctrine cannot be dissolved, just like the love of God for man. As far as I can see Pope Francis is following the line of his predecessors whose teaching on matrimony is very clear.”


(From: Tuesday, October 7, 2014)


The Vatican announced today that a consistory for the causes of saints has been expanded to include a discussion of the situation facing Christians in the Middle East. The announcement was made by the dean of the College of Cardinals, Cardinal Angelo Sodano, during this morning’s meeting of the Extraordinary Synod. The change was made especially in light of the recent meeting of apostolic nuncios from the Middle East here in Rome.

All cardinals in Rome, including those here for the Synod, are invited to attend the consistory. The principle relator at the consistory will be Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin.

The consistory will take place in the Vatican on October 20th.

The announcement comes as the Custody of the Holy Land confirmed that Franciscan Fr. Hanna Jallouf of the Custody of the Holy Land, and parish priest at Knayeh (Qunayeh), Syria, was abducted on Sunday night  by some brigades linked to the Jahbat Al-Nusra militant group. Along with Fr. Hanna, several men of the Christian village were also taken. A number of nuns managed to escape and found refuge in nearby houses.


Pope Francis is adding another trip to his 2015 travel agenda that already includes Sri Lanka and the Philippines in January: The Vatican has, in fact, confirmed he will visit France next year, stopping off in Paris and Lourdes. It is highly likely that the Holy Father’s 2015 pilgrimages will also include Philadelphia in September 2015 for the World Meeting of Families.

Pope Francis’ next scheduled trip is at the end of November when he will travel to Strasbourg to address the European Parliament. He will leave several days later for Turkey for a brief visit.


I had television commitments and interviews today so was unable to attend the daily press briefing but the following is an excellent summary from Vatican Radio:

Journalists heard how the bishops meeting on the second full day of the Synod for the Family have been discussing the importance of using more inclusive language to talk about people living outside the teachings of the Church. They’ve also been stressing the need for a ‘gradual’ or ‘stepping stones’ approach to couples, and the recognition that elements of truth also exist in those relationships which do not conform to the Church’s ideal vision of family life.

The head of the Holy See Press Office, Fr Federico Lombardi and his assistants, spoke of the many different subjects under discussion on the first two days of the Synod, in particular the need for a more sensitive and inclusive language about family life that will not turn people away from the Church. Canadian Fr Tom Rosica gave some specific examples from the English speaking bishops present at the meeting:

“Language such as ‘living in sin,’ ‘intrinsically disordered,’ or ‘contraceptive mentality’ are not necessarily words that invite people to draw closer to Christ and the Church.”

Synod participants have also been underlining the need to apply the so-called ‘law of graduality’ or ‘stepping stones approach’ as they minister to people living in all kinds of relationships that do not conform to the Church’s ideal of marriage and family life.

Philippa Hitchens reported on Vatican Radio:

Fr Lombardi used an analogy from the Second Vatican Council which led to profound changes in the Catholic Church’s relations with other Christians and people of other religious traditions. During the Council, bishops agreed that while the fullness of Christ’s Church “subsists” only in the Catholic Church, important elements of truth and holiness also exist in other churches and faith communities. In a similar way, he said, valid and important elements of true love and holiness can also exist in a relationship that does not conform to the full vision of an ideal Catholic marriage.

English Cardinal Vincent Nichols and Lebanese Cardinal Bechara Boutros Rai also shared impressions from the Synod Hall, including the call for a special message for families being persecuted for their Christian faith Iraq. They spoke about Synod Fathers who live in countries where Catholics are a tiny minority and who say the Church has much to learn from the wisdom and experience of other religious traditions.

Cardinal Nichols also described the very open and relaxed atmosphere of the Synod and the importance of hearing married couples share details of their relationships, including the pivotal role that sex plays in the life of most married couples:

“The Australian couple were quite explicit and developed in their thought and emphasis on the central role of sexuality and sexual intercourse in their marriage – now that’s not what we bishops talk about mostly! But to hear that as the opening contribution did open up an area which others followed and it was a recognition that it is often central to the wellbeing of a marriage.”

Cardinal Nichols pointed out it’s too early to draw any conclusions from these first sessions, yet it does seem clear that this first synod of Francis’ pontificate is shaping up for a much more honest and down-to-earth discussion than most bishops have experienced here in the Vatican over recent decades.


Today, in particular, you’ll want to listen to the video interview with Australian couple Ron and Mavis Pirola. I have heard they received a standing ovation after their talk in the synod hall. There is also a nulti-lingual summary of the Monday afternoon session of the synod.

For the entire list of participants, click here:


–     Pope Francis said in an interview with the Argentinian daily La Nación, “It is important for everyone to be able to express their ideas in complete freedom. Governance of the Church is another matter. That is in my hands, after appropriate consultations.”

–   The Holy Father also said on Monday: “Synod is always conducted cum Petro et sub Petro [with Peter and under Peter] and the presence of the Pope is a guarantee for all and a safeguard for the faith.”

–     Is renewal in the air? The synod’s special secretary, Archbishop Bruno Forte of Chieti-Vasto, a theologian, said: “If we were to repeat what has always been said, there would be no point in holding another synod.”

–     Abp. Forte also defined the synod’s work and focus on Monday at the press conference: “Souls to save, that’s what a ‘pastoral’ synod means. Doctrine is not an abstract value in itself, a bludgeon to be hammered home all the time. Doctrine is the message of salvation and at its center is the charity of God, mercy, compassion. It is necessary to look at people.”




This morning in St. Peter’s Basilica I attended the annual diaconate ordination of 43 seminarians from the North American College. This is a very special day for these young men and their families and friends – it is always beautiful, solemn, joyful and moving! I have been so close to the entire NAC family for so many years – the successive rectors, the staff and the young men studying there – that the diaconate ordination becomes a red letter day on their calendar and mine! Today was also, as you can imagine, a beautiful day for the Church!

The entire day – Mass and the reception at NAC – was glorious! Right now it is late and I am supposed to go to dinner but have not yet uploaded photos to Facebook ( or my 3 videos to Youtube ( . I’ll do what I can before I leave for dinner and tell more of this beautiful story tomorrow – the wonderful people I met – the many fans of Joan’s Rome who are in town (!), etc.

In the meantime here’s a look at Pope Francis’ very full Thursday!


DAILY HOMILY: GUARDIAN ANGELS, “OUR COMPANIONS ON LIFE’S JOURNEY” Guardian angels exist, they are not [the fruit of] imaginative doctrine, but companions that God has placed beside us on our life’s journey said Pope Francis Thursday morning at Mass at Casa Santa Marta, on the day when the Church celebrates the Feast of the Holy Guardian Angels.

“According to the tradition of the Church, we all have an angel with us, who protects us, helps us hear things. How often have we heard: ‘I should do this, I should not do this, that’s not right, be careful …’: so often! It is the voice of our traveling companion. Be sure that he will guide us to the end of our lives with advice, and so listen to his voice, don’t rebel against it…because rebellion, the desire to be independent, is something that we all have; this is arrogance, the same arrogance of our father Adam in paradise: the very same. Do not rebel: follow his advice”.


Pope Francis on Thursday met with participants of the plenary assembly of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace. In his address, the Holy Father noted the assembly coincides with the fifth anniversary of Benedict XVI’s encyclical “Caritas in veritate,” which Pope Francis called “a foundational document for the evangelization of the social sphere.”

The Holy Father said “it is necessary to keep alive concern for the poor and social justice,” which must involve the sharing of the riches that are produced and “the universalization of free markets in the service of families.” There must also be “the redistribution of sovereignty, both on the national and supra-national levels. Caritas in veritate also addressed other current social issues, including environmental concerns, and especially the link between “environmental ecology and human ecology.”


“No religious, political or economic motives can justify what is happening to hundreds of thousands of innocent men, women and children:”  these are Pope Francis’ words Thursday, calling what is happening to Christians and other minorities in Iraq and Syria “daily persecution.” He was speaking in a audience to Catholicos Patriarch of the Assyrian Church of the East, Mar Dinkha IV.  The Patriarch is head of one of the oldest Christian churches – tracing its roots back to the first century in Iraq, Iran, Syria and Turkey.  Though theological discussions are on-going.

In his remarks, Pope Francis noted the suffering that we share from the wars that are crossing different regions in the Middle East and, in particular, from the violence that Christians and the faithful of other religious minorities are subjected to, especially in Iraq and in Syria.”


The papal representatives in the Middle East are meeting in the Vatican from October 2 to 4, at the Holy Father’s behest, to discuss the presence of Christians in the region, given the grave situation that has prevailed in recent months. The meeting began this morning at the Secretariat of State and was attended by the officials of the Secretariat of State and the Roman Curia directly linked with the issue, as well as the Holy See Permanent Observers at the United Nations in New York and Geneva, and the apostolic nuncio to the European Union. The meeting demonstrates the Holy Father’s closeness and interest in this important question. He opened the meeting, thanking the participants convened to pray and reflect together on what to do to approach the dramatic situation experienced by Christians in the Middle East, along with other religious and ethnic minorities who suffer as a result of the violence that continues to rage throughout the region.


Last evening Pope Francis met with survivors of the October 3, 2013 Lampedusa migrant tragedy when about 370 people, mostly Eritrean and Syrian asylum-seekers, drowned when the overcrowded boat they were traveling on capsized off the island of Lampedusa. About 50 survivors of that tragedy, mostly living in northern Europe, will travel to Lampedusa Thursday as they press for an international day of memorial for the thousands who perish at sea each year trying to reach Europe.
On the eve of the one-year anniversary of that devastating shipwreck, Pope Francis met privately with the delegation, confessing that he had difficulty in expressing himself to them.  He told them “words are not enough to describe what you have suffered, this can only be contemplated in silence, with tears and by trying to find a way to be close to you.” Francis has called on the men and women of Europe to ‘open the doors of their hearts’ and welcome migrants who risk their lives at sea to flee war and poverty.”