Tomorrow, July 18, marks the 150th anniversary of the promulgation of the Dogmatic Constitution Pastor Aeternus that defined the dogmas of the primacy of the Pope and that of papal infallibility in the First Vatican Council in 1870. If those topics are of interest to you and you also love Church history, then this article is for you:

To read this weekend’s L’Osservatore Romano in English, click here:


This weekend, in what is normally the interview segment of “Vatican Insider,” I present another of the Specials I have prepared for you in these months of Covid restrictions for in-person interviews but we are working on something to remedy that. This weekend I’m calling this Special “Inquiring Minds Want To Know” because I’m going to bring you some trivia – some little known, and often unusual facts about the Vatican – some fun stories about bells and flags and basilica floors. For example, flags – only two states in the world have officially square flags: Vatican City is one. What is the other? did you know that there is a German cemetery in Vatican City? Then listen to the great story about the mosaic of Mary on the façade of the Apostolic Palace. So stay tuned for “Inquiring Minds Want To Know”! I might even quiz you at the end!

IN THE UNITED STATES, you can listen to Vatican Insider (VI) on a Catholic radio station near you (stations listed at or on channel 130 Sirius-XM satellite radio, or on 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.” VI airs at 5am and 9pm ET on Saturdays and 6am ET on Sundays. On the GB-IE feed (which is on SKY in the UK and Ireland), VI airs at 5:30am, 12 noon and 10pm CET on Sundays. Both of these feeds are also available on the EWTN app and on ALWAYS CHECK YOUR OWN TIME ZONE! For VI archives: (write Vatican Insider where it says Search Shows and Episodes)


Pope Francis has donated 2500 Covid-19 tests to Gaza’s Ministry of Health through the Congregation for Oriental Churches. The test kits were delivered by Caritas Jerusalem and Fr. Gabriel Romanelli of the Sacred Family parish in Gaza. The donation is part of the initiative pro-
moted by the emergency fund established by Pope Francis to help the countries most impacted by the spread of the coronavirus. According to Fr. Romanelli, “the kits sent by the Pope will help to make more precise diagnoses and as soon as we received them we took them to the laboratory
at the Ministry of Health. In fact, there is only one machine in all of Gaza that is able to perform the analysis”.


FRIDAY 17THIS CONSIDERED AN UNLUCKY DATE IN ITALY. But that’s not the only strange Italian superstition you’ll need to be aware of. Particularly among the older generation, you’ll discover that Italians tend to take superstitions seriously, often doing things ‘per scaramanzia’ – to ward off bad luck. So if you want to ensure good fortune comes your way, here are some of the things to watch out for, according to Italian customs.   (You would not have a dinner party with 17 people)

First, the good news. Italy has its own date that you should be wary of: Friday the 17th. Just as some Western airlines avoid including the 13th row on planes, you might find number 17 omitted in Italian planes, street numbering, hotel floors and so on, so even if you’re not the superstitious type, it’s handy to be aware of. The reason for this is because in Roman numerals, the number 17 (XVII) is an anagram of the Latin word VIXI, meaning “I have lived” — the use of the past tense suggests death, and therefore bad luck. It’s less clear what’s so inauspicious about Friday.

Thought there was no point crying over spilled olive oil? Think again. In Italy, this is very bad luck indeed. And it’s not just because Italians don’t want to see their top quality oil wasted (though the tradition likely has its roots in a time when olive oil was a luxury), or because oil stains are tough to get out of clothes. The act of spilling the liquid is considered to bring ill fortune. (

VISIT THE COLOSSEUM UNDER THE STARS WITH GUIDED TOURS IN ENGLISH AND ITALIAN – Guided tours of the Colosseum will take place every Saturday night this summer, from 25 July to 29 August 2020, thanks to the return of the Luna sul Colosseo experience. The tours last about an hour and begin on the arena floor, with its views into the underground tunnels where gladiators and wild animals were held before combat, and also includes a visit to the first level of the ancient amphitheatre.

The tours, conducted in Italian and English, are designed for groups of up to 20 people, with visitor safety and social distancing guaranteed by Parco Colosseo. Tickets cost €24, and there is a family package costing €44 (two adults plus up to three children under the age of 18). Visitors must wear masks and maintain social distancing. Booking must be made online, by selecting the day and time of visit, via the Colosseum website or Coopculture website. (source: WantedinRome)

‘A LITTLE CORNER OF ENGLAND IN NAPLES’: THE SECRETS OF A FAMED ITALIAN TIE SHOP – Film stars, British royalty and local Naples residents all buy handmade ties from one shop so famous for its artisanal finery that some customers boast collections of thousands. The painstaking needlework cannot be rushed, despite demand for E. Marinella ties usually far outstripping production. In Naples, the tiny shop near the sea remains much as it was when it opened in 1914, with its wood-framed windows, chandelier, and counter where the red, blue, polka dot or diamond-patterned ties are displayed.

Maurizio Marinella, 64, who is the third generation to head up the company, says his family’s success in the southern Italian city, which struggles with poverty and unemployment, was “a kind of miracle”.  “It all started in 20 square metres in Naples, where everything is a little  more difficult than elsewhere,” he told AFP.



Today’s talk by Pope Francis in Naples was one of the longest he has given in recent memory – 4.500 words and about a half hour in length, all told. He addressed a two-day, Jesuit-organized conference in Naples on the theme “Theology after Veritatis gaudium in the context of the Mediterranean.”

I started reading the Italian version – the only one published so far – and found I had to re-read some paragraphs and even re-read a third time as they touched on so many topics and ideas and ideologies and usages of the word ‘theology’ that I found myself wishing I was sitting with a theologian, a philosopher and a Church historian.

The priest next to the Pope in this photo is wearing the same expression I probably had as I was reading the discourse, aka, “I’m not sure what you mean!” (I am quite sure this Jesuit Father did understand!)

I really need to spend some more time with theologians to grasp more thoroughly exactly what the word “theology” means and the many contexts in which it can be used (dogmatic theology, moral theology, systematic theology, biblical theology, theology of the body, pastoral theology, a theology of welcoming as the Pope said today, and so on. I know some of those categories but do not understand (and want to) for example, “theology of sports,” “theology of suffering,” “theology of work.”

The most concise definition of theology I ever read (and the first one I ever learned) was: “theology” is derived from two Greek words (theos and logos) that combine to mean “the study of God.”

Even though I spent many hours online researching theology yesterday and today, I have a lot to learn (and just wish I had some time for some formal courses).


My special guest this week on Vatican Insider is Michael Galligan-Stierle, outgoing president and CEO of ACCU, the Washington, D.C.-based Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities. I’ve known Michael and his wife Pamela for a number of years and we renew that friendship every June when Michael leads the ACCU’s annual Rome seminar for university and college presidents.

We look at Michael’s decades-long career in education, ACCU’s history and structure and mission, its members, how one becomes a member, the benefits of joining ACCU, the difference between college and university, the many advantages of attending a Catholic university, the annual Rome seminar and much more!

IN THE UNITED STATES, you can listen to Vatican Insider (VI) on a Catholic radio station near you (stations listed at or on channel 130 Sirius-XM satellite radio, or on 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.” VI airs at 5am and 9pm ET on Saturdays and 6am ET on Sundays. On the GB-IE feed (which is on SKY in the UK and Ireland), VI airs at 5:30am, 12 noon and 10pm CET on Sundays. Both of these feeds are also available on the EWTN app and on ALWAYS CHECK YOUR OWN TIME ZONE! For VI archives: (write Vatican Insider where it says Search Shows and Episodes)


Pope Francis makes a strong appeal for a theology of welcome based on dialogue and proclamation, that contributes to building a fraternal society among the peoples of the Mediterranean.

The Pope’s speech concluded a two-day conference in Naples on the theme “Theology after Veritatis gaudium in the context of the Mediterranean.” With that Apostolic Constitution, Pope Francis provided for a renewal of theological studies in the context of a Church that goes forth.

Pope Francis began his reflection by recalling that “the Mediterranean has always been a place of transit, exchange, and sometimes even conflict” and today it is a place that “poses a series of questions, often dramatic. To face them – he observes – we need “a theology of welcoming”, aimed “at developing an authentic and sincere dialogue (…) for the construction of peace in an inclusive and fraternal society and for the protection of creation”.

Dialogue and kerygma
The Pope indicates two elements, kerygma, that is, the proclamation of Christ who has died and risen, and dialogue, as “criteria” for renewing studies for a Church that puts evangelization at its center. Dialogue is above all a “method of discernment” and of proclamation, capable of relating to every human situation. It is Saint Francis of Assisi who outlines how dialogue and proclamation can take place, by witnessing to God’s love for all men and women. It requires docility to the Spirit, that is, “a style of life and proclamation without a spirit of conquest, without a desire for proselytism and without an aggressive intent to refute”. It is a dialogue with people and their cultures that also includes witnessing to the point of sacrificing life as did, among others, Charles de Foucauld, the monks of Tibhirine, and the bishop of Oran, Pierre Claverie.

Dialogue with Muslims and Jews
This dialogue was established by encouraging courses in Arabic and Hebrew language and culture in the theological faculties to foster relations with Judaism and Islam in order to understand common roots and differences. With Muslims, he says, “we are called to dialogue to build the future of our societies and our cities,” “to consider them partners to build a peaceful coexistence, even when there are shocking episodes by fanatical groups that are enemies of dialogue, such as the tragedy of last Easter in Sri Lanka.”

“Yesterday the Cardinal of Colombo told me this: ‘After I did everything I had to do, I realized that a group of people, Christians, wanted to go to the Muslim neighborhood to kill them. I invited the imam with me, in the car, and we both went there to convince the Christians that we are friends, that these are extremists, that they are not our own.’ This is an attitude of closeness and dialogue.”

With Jews, we are called to “live our relationship better on the religious level”. The Mediterranean – the Pope observes – is a “bridge” between Europe, Africa and Asia, a space in which to build a “great tent of peace” where the different children of the common father Abraham can live together.

Theology of Compassion
The Pope launches an appeal to theologians: “In this continuous journey of going out of oneself and meeting with the other, it is important that theologians be men and women of compassion, touched by the oppressed life of many, by the slavery of today, by social wounds, by violence, by wars and by the enormous injustices suffered by so many poor people who live on the shores of this ‘common sea’. Without communion and without compassion, constantly nourished by prayer, theology not only loses its soul, but loses its intelligence and ability to interpret reality in a Christian way.”

Therefore, it deals with the complex events of “aggressive and warlike attitudes,” “colonial practices,” “justifications for wars” and “persecutions carried out in the name of a religion or a claimed racial or doctrinal purity.” The method of dialogue, guided by mercy, can enrich a reinterpretation of this painful history by promoting also “by contrast, the prophecies of peace that the Spirit has never failed to arouse.”

“Now that Western Christianity has learned from many errors and criticisms of the past, it can return to its sources, hoping to be able to bear witness to the Good News to the peoples of East and West, North and South. Theology (…) can help the Church and civil society to get back on the road in the company of many shipwrecked people, encouraging the people of the Mediterranean to reject any temptation to re-conquest and to identitarian closure”.

Theological Pentecost
The task of theology is to tune in to the Risen Jesus and “reach the peripheries,” “even those of thought.. In this sense, theologians must “encourage an encounter of cultures with the sources of Revelation and Tradition,” but the Pope warns, although “the great theological syntheses of the past” are mines of theological wisdom, they “cannot be applied mechanically to current issues”: “It is a matter of treasuring them to seek new ways. Thanks be to God, the first sources of theology, that is, the Word of God and the Holy Spirit, are inexhaustible and always fruitful; therefore, one can and must work in the direction of a ‘theological Pentecost’, which allows the women and men of our time to listen ‘in their own language’ to a Christian reflection that responds to their search for meaning and full life.”

To do this, it is necessary to “start again from the Gospel of mercy” because theology is born in the midst of concrete human beings, met with the gaze of God who goes in search of them with love: “Practicing theology is also an act of mercy (…). Even good theologians, like good shepherds, smell of the people and the streets and, with their reflections, pour oil and wine on the wounds of men. Theology should be the expression of a Church that is a ‘field hospital’, that lives its mission of salvation and healing in the world!

The Pope emphasizes that “theological freedom” is necessary because without the possibility of experimenting with new paths, nothing new is created: “everything must be oriented” to “encourage as much as possible the participation of those who wish to study theology”, such as lay men and women, in addition to seminarians and religious. “I dream of theological faculties where one lives the conviviality of differences, where one practices a theology of dialogue and acceptance; where one experiences the model of the polyhedron of theological knowledge in place of a static and disembodied sphere. Where theological research is able to promote a challenging but compelling process of inculturation.”

The theology after Veritatis gaudium, concludes Pope Francis, is therefore in dialogue with cultures and religions “for the construction of the peaceful coexistence of individuals and peoples.” (source:



Pope Francis travels to Naples on Friday to take part in a conference that will discuss the impact of the Apostolic Constitution, Veritatis Gaudium, on theological studies.

By Linda Bordoni (vaticannews)

During his one-day visit to the southern Italian city of Naples on June 21, Pope Francis will deliver a speech entitled “Theology after Veritatis Gaudium in the context of the Mediterranean.”

The event takes place within an initiative that brings experts to the table to discuss theology in connection with the current context in the Mediterranean area that is impacted by migration, inter-culturality and in need of inter-religious and ecumenical dialogue.

The event is hosted by the Jesuits who run the Pontifical Theological Faculty of Southern Italy in Naples. Pope Francis will be welcomed by the city’s archbishop, Cardinal Crescenzio Sepe, and by the dean of the faculty. During his visit, he will lunch with Jesuits from across the Euro-Mediterranean region.

Pope Francis’ apostolic constitution Veritatis Gaudium was published in January 2018, and stipulated new norms of governance and education for all institutions that issue ecclesiastical degrees.

In it, the Pope urges theologians and philosophers to always be open to the maius [greatness] of God and of the truth, which is always in development. The constitution also calls for institutions to develop procedures for the education of refugees and migrants.

Jesuit Father Pino Di Luccio, is the dean of the faculty. He told Vatican Radio that the programme for the event foresees a series of interventions that will shine the light on the new context in Mediterranean countries impacted by immigration and inter-culturality. He said speakers will focus on the crucial contribution of dialogue between religions.

Father Di Luccio said that the recent Abu Dhabi Document on Human Fraternity, signed by the Pope and by the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, will also offer points of discussion and reflection.

He said that, “assuming the criteria of Veritatis Gaudium for the renewal of ecclesiastic studies, [the objective is] to elaborate a theology for the new context of the Mediterranean.”

Father Di Luccio also said he expects that the Pope himself, who calls for dialogue as a way of building a new, fraternal society, “will show us how this dialogue can be actualized in theological studies in order to elaborate a new theology” in the Mediterranean context.


As of early 2017, the name, the term, the words “Vatican Radio” were to be strictly confined to “Radio Vaticana Italia” as this was part of a Vatican communications reorganization that was to be Italian-centric, at least in the beginning. Those of us in communications were enjoined not to use the name Vatican Radio unless we were referring to the Italian language radio.

I wrote a column about “the death of a radio” last March and received an incredible number of emails with people expressing condolences, disappointment, and delusion.

Today, as you will see below, I offer excerpts from a Vatican Radio report on the 65th anniversary of the inauguration of the radio. It is a fascinating, colorful read for sure, yet sad at the same time in light of the communications reforms. The most popular programs, for example, for the major language at Vatican radio were always the feature programs and it is those programs that basically died a year ago.

The story I offer below would have been typical of what the radio referred to as a “feature program.” I can just hear the voice of a reporter reading this account, the dramatic, yet historic recounting of the birth of a radio. Feature programs – the true art of storytelling!

If you want news a la radio, then scroll down to the bottom of the website, click on “podcasts” and listen to a selection of language news programs.


POPE FRANCIS WILL VISIT THE ITALIAN CITY OF NAPLES ON JUNE 21ST to take part in a meeting on “Theology after Veritatis Gaudium in the Mediterranean context.” He is scheduled to arrive around 9 AM and will be welcomed by Cardinal Crescenzio Sepe, archbishop of Naples, Bishop Francesco Marino of Nola, and Fr. Arturo Sosa, Jesuit Superior General. Francis will address participants in the conference that is being hosted by the San Luigi section of the Pontifical Theological Faculty of Southern Italy. The Pope is set to return to the Vatican early in the afternoon. He previously visited Naples in March 2015.

TO UNDERLINE HIS CONSTANT ATTENTION TO WELCOMING MIGRANTS, on Friday February 15, at 4.00 pm at the Fraternal Domus of Sacrofano (Rome), Pope Francis will preside the Eucharistic Celebration that opens the “Free from Fear” meeting on the realities of welcoming and receiving migrants organized by the Migrantes Foundation, by Italian Caritas and by the Centro Astalli. The three-day meeting starts February 15, 2019. The visit will have a private character, so the presence of journalists and communication operators is excluded. Vatican television will supervise the live broadcast of this event.

TODAY, FEBRUARY 12, MARKS THE 88TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE INAUGURATION OF VATICAN RADIO on Thursday February 12, 1931. Pope Pius XI transmitted the first radio message in Latin in the presence of Guglielmo Marconi, inventor of the radio and creator of Vatican Radio, and Fr. Giuseppe Gianfranceschi S.I., first director of the radio.


On February 12, 1931, the Marquis Guglielmo Marconi spoke these historical words:

“I have the highest honor of announcing that in only a matter of seconds the Supreme Pontiff, Pope Pius XI, will inaugurate the Radio Station of the Vatican City State. The electric radio waves will transport to all the world his words of peace and blessing. With the help of Almighty God, who allows the many mysterious forces of nature to be used by man, I have been able to prepare this instrument which will accord to the Faithful of all the world the consolation of hearing the voice of the Holy Father. Most Holy Father, the work that Your Holiness has deigned to entrust to me, I, today return to You…may you deign, Holy Father, to allow the entire world to hear your august words.”

It is exactly 4:49 p.m. on the Twelfth of February, Nineteen Thirty-One.

The rich text of the first radio message was written in Latin by Pius XI himself. The Pope imbued his message with passages from the Sacred Scriptures which emphasize the universality of the Gospel message. Pius XI concluded the first line of the discourse in this manner: “Listen, O Heavens, to that which I say; listen, O Earth, listen to the words which come from my mouth…Listen and hear, O Peoples of distant lands!” He continued, speaking in the voice of the Old Testament prophet, To the City and to the World! Now, we turn to the reporting of the event and to the story that preceeded it.

As early as 1925, the Director General of Communications for Vatican City, Jesuit Father Giuseppe Gianfranceschi, was in the process of drawing up plans for the establishment of a wireless station in the Vatican. A letter written by Fr. Gianfranceschi dated July 25, 1925 speaks about the establishment of such a transmission station.

Two years later Fr. Gianfranceschi contacted the Italian scientist Guglielmo Marconi to undertake initial plans and meetings for the realization of this project for the Pope. Marconi demonstrated much enthusiasm for this project and offered his complete availability to the Pontiff. Additionally, he stated that he would perform the work for the Church without charge. Two more years passed before the work would begin. Actually, it was the signing of the Lateran Treaty in 1929 that gave rise to the initiation of the work on this transmission station in the Vatican Gardens. Only four days after the signing of the Lateran Treaty, Marconi received official permission to begin construction of this project for the Vatican City State.

Inauguration of Vatican Radio
On the inauguration day of Vatican Radio a large group of reporters and cameramen from Paramount News of the United States was present. They brought equipment of the highest quality to record the event. The cameras, although hand-powered, shot for the first time in the history of cinema exterior footage with live soundtrack. The film footage of the event, which is conserved in the archives of Vatican Radio, is an irreplaceable testimony of the event in the history of the Church and telecommunications.

It is a cold clear day, with a light wind coming from the mountains in the north…at exactly 3:00 p.m. a Papal gendarme orders the evacuation of the premises. Two Papal banners suspended from each side of the building flutter in the wind. Inside everything is prepared and ready for the first broadcast. The transmitters have been tested for the last time. At 3:30 p.m. the Marquis Marconi arrives; the illustrious inventor goes directly to the Amplification Studio, places the earphones on his head, and begins the transcontinental conversations. The voice arrives clearly in New York, Melbourne, and Quebec. Fr. Gianfranceschi works with his usual conentration in preparing the final arrangements for the broadcast of the Pope. Although beseiged with many questions he responds with his characteristic smile and kindness. His manner serves to reduce the commotion and nervousness of the day. After several moments the equipment is shut down and will be reactivated only after the arrival of the Pontiff.

The first signal to be sent out is in Morse code. The technician types the words, In nomine Domini, Amen, that is In the Name of the Lord, amen! At this very instant radio stations, ships, and anyone who has the equipment to receive the signal hears this benediction and invitation. After a brief introduction of the Pope by Marconi, Pius XI takes the microphone and inaugurates the first world-wide radio message ever given by a Pope.

The first to approach the big microphone is the great architect. Guglielmo Marconi is 56 years old and two years earlier, Pius XI – who wanted a state-of-the-art radio station for the newborn Vatican City – proposed the company to him. The inventor of the radio visits the Vatican on 11 June 1929, just four days after the exchange of ratifications by the Lateran Pacts. The construction work is fast and when the second anniversary of the Pacts … is approaching, the inauguration of the radio is also approaching. …At the microphone, an excited Marconi underlines the most striking aspect of the novelty. After “twenty centuries” of papal Magisterium that has “made itself felt” with the documents, it is the “first time” in which it can be heard “simultaneously” by the Pope’s “living voice”


PS: Marconi’s daughter Maria Eletra lives in Rome

Click here for photos and video from those days in 1931with Pope Pius XI:


After a jam-packed one-day visit to Naples and a Sunday marked by the Angelus prayer with thousands of faithful in St. Peter’s Square, Pope Francis has a quieter public agenda for today and tomorrow as he prepares for the Wednesday general audience and for Palm Sunday and Holy Week. Palm Sunday is this coming Sunday, of course, and it marks World Youth day on a diocesan level, as well as the start of all the Holy Week activities, especially the sacred Triduum of Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday and the Easter vigil.

Today I offer the Pope’s words – and actions – at the Sunday Angelus, and then I’ll look at the “miracle of San Gennaro” that took place Saturday in the cathedral of Naples during Pope Francis’ visit.


Tens of thousands of faithful gathered under the rain Sunday in St. Peter’s Square to recite the Angelus with Pope Francis and hear his traditional Sunday reflections. He began, as is customary, by commenting on the day’s Gospel, where John notes that some “Greeks, Hebrews, had asked the Apostle Philip if they could see Jesus.” Francis said this request actually was the expression of “something universal” as it “reveals a desire present in the ages and cultures, a desire present in the heart of so many people who have heard of Christ, but have not yet met him.”

Francis explained that “we can offer three things to those who want to see Jesus, who search for Him, those who have not yet encountered Jesus or who have lost their faith: the Gospel, where we can encounter Jesus, listen to Him, know Him; the Cross, sign of the love of Jesus who gave Himself for us; and our witness of faith, poor but sincere. “ Francis said this faith can be seen when we live it, when it “is translated into simple gestures of fraternal charity. But mainly, in the coherence of our life, between what we say and what we do, coherence between our faith and our life, between our words and our actions,”

To help people live their faith, the Holy Father explained that he had a gift for those in the square Sunday morning: Holding up a small, pocket-sized Gospel, the Pope said thousands would be handed out in the square so that “we can meet Jesus, listen to Him, and get to know Him.” He made the same gesture last year during Lent when the idea was born with the aid of the papal almoner, Archbishop Konrad Krajewski.

In fact, Pope Francis specified that it would be a number of homeless people from Rome who would be handing out the 50,000 mini-Gospels, doing so with the assistance of religious such as the Missionaries of Charity. Saying this is “a beautiful gesture,” Francis said, “it is the needy, the homeless who will be giving us the Word of God.”

“Take it,” urged the Holy Father, “keep it in your pocket or in your handbag and read a passage a day. God’s word lights up our path. It will do you good!”

Also, after the Angelus prayer, the Pope thanked the people of Naples for the great welcome offered during his apostolic trip on Saturday. He also noted that Sunday marked World Day of Water, promoted by the United Nations. He stated that, “Water is the most essential element for life. The future of humanity depends on our capacity to guard it and share it.” And he appealed to the international community to ensure that the planet’s waters are adequately protected and that no one is excluded or discriminated against in the use of this common good.


If you asked Pope Francis for the highlight of his one-day trip to Pompeii and Naples last Saturday, he’d probably tell you that every visit, every place, every person, every prayer, was a highlight. And, of course, he’d be right.

And then you’d have to ask him: “But, Holy Father, what about the liquefaction of the blood in the reliquary of San Gennaro?! That has not happened in the presence of a Pope since 1848 when Pius IX visited Naples and the blood in the vial in the reliquary liquefied!”

Yes, by all media accounts, and by the very words and witness of Cardinal Crescenzio Sepe, archbishop of Naples, another “miracle of San Gennaro” took place on Saturday, March 21, 2015.

At the end of the spontaneous, almost tumultuous visit of the Holy Father that afternoon with priests, deacons and religious in the cathedral, Cardinal Sepe took the reliquary for veneration by Pope Francis and the faithful. As the Pope held the reliquary and kissed it, the cardinal announced the blood of Gennaro “is already halfway liquefied,” adding, “It’s a sign that San Gennaro loves the Pope, who is Neapolitan like us” (photo:


Pope Francis is reported to have replied: “The archbishop said the blood is half-liquefied. It means the saint loves us halfway. We all have to convert a little more so that he loves us more.”

What does this mean? Was this a supernatural sign of God’s favor on this pontiff who has moved, inspired, taught and prayed with legions during his still young pontificate? How did Pope Francis feel when he saw the solid mass become liquid right before his very eyes? Did he know this had not happened in the presence of a Pope for 167 years?

Above all, you might ask “Who is San Gennaro?”

San Gennaro – St. Januarius in English – is the much-loved patron saint of the archdiocese of Naples and the principal patron saint of the city (Naples has several dozen patrons!), in addition to being the patron saint of the region oif Campania, blood banks and volcanic eruptions. Let’s be clear that Januarius is the patron to prevent volcanic eruptions, and this because of the devastating history of eruptions of Vesuvius that destroyed both Pompeii and Herculaneum, whose amazing ruins can be visited today.

San Gennaro, a bishop of Benevento, is a saint and martyr in both the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox traditions. According to legendary sources, he died in 305 during the persecutions of Emperor Diocletian near Pozzuoli, at the sulphur mines near Solfatara, where he was visiting imprisoned deacons. The relics – the saint’s head and his blood which was, according to legend, soaked up with a sponge by a Christian woman and placed in two vials – were re-discovered in 1480. Cardinal Oliviero Carafa in 1497 ordered the relics brought to Naples.

What for centuries has been called “the miracle of San Gennaro” takes place three times a year: on his September 19 feast day, on December 16, which marks his patronage of Naples and the archdiocese, and on the Saturday before the first Sunday of May to mark the relocation of the relics to Naples. The first recorded reference to the “miracle of the blood” was in 1389.

In the chapel dedicated to San Gennaro in Naples’ cathedral is a silver reliquary resembling a small carriage lamp, inside of which are two vials. Both contain blood but the larger vial – about four inches in height and about two and a quarter inches in diameter – is about half full of a dark, solid mass, absolutely opaque when held up to the light, and showing no displacement when the reliquary is turned upside down. (photo:

JANUARIUS RELIQUARY - gazzettadelsud

During the May, September and December ceremonies, the celebrant, usually the cardinal archbishop of Naples who today is Cardinal Crescenzio Sepe, holds the reliquary by its extremities, without touching the glass, and from time to time turns it upside down to note whether any movement is perceptible in the dark mass enclosed in the phial. In a period ranging from minutes to a few hours – and on a couple of occasions, it took several days! –  the mass gradually detaches itself from the sides of the vial, become a liquid of a more or less ruby tint, and in some instances has been seen to froth and bubble up and increase in volume.

When the blood liquefies, the celebrant announces, “Il miracolo é fatto” – “the miracle has taken place” –  a Te Deum is sung, and the reliquary containing the liquefied blood is brought to the altar rail so that the faithful may venerate it by kissing the vessel. The miracle is also “announced” with a 21-gun salute at the 13th-century Castel Nuovo. Often, in the evening, there are fireworks for which Naples is noted, given the many firework factories in the area.

It is said that, should the blood not liquefy, a huge calamity will happen in Naples, however, rarely has this failed to occur. One especially interesting fact about the liquefaction of the saint’s blood is that it is what is called a recurrent non-medical, physical “miracle” that can be – and has been – studied scientifically.

Speaking of calamities: The story is told how, in 472, Vesuvius erupted violently and thousands of frightened citizens sought refuge in the catacombs where they prayed intensely to San Gennaro. As the volcano subsided, the people gave thanks and declared Gennaro their new patron. Even since, San Gennaro has protected Neapolitans from Vesuvius.

Another story related to the blood of St. Januarius – and attested to by eyewitnesses – reports that a block of basalt at Pozzuoli (where he died), reputed to bear traces of the blood of St. Januarius, grows vividly red for a short  time in May and September at the hour when the miracle of the liquefaction takes place in Naples. (source, Catholic Encyclopedia, Wikipedia, Naples archdiocese)