This morning, as is traditional on the Fridays of Advent and Lent, Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa, preacher of the papal household, delivered an Advent sermon in the presence of the Holy Father and members of the Roman Curia on the theme “My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.” He preached in the Redemptoris Mater chapel.

Later in the morning Pope Francis had several private audiences and then a meeting with the donors of the Christmas tree and nativity scene in St. Peter’s Square, including delegations from Friuli-Venezia Giulia and Veneto, and the patriarch of Venice, Archbishop Francesco Moraglia.

At 4:30 Friday afternoon, members of those delegations and several thousand faithful were in St. Peter’s Square where the Jesolo Sand Nativity scene was unveiled, following which there was the official lighting of the Vatican’s Christmas tree. There was music by the Vatican’s gendarmerie band, songs by choirs from the regions donating the tree and sand sculpture and speeches by various regional and Vatican dignitaries.

EWTN transmits such events live on our Facebook page. Check it out:

I did not make the official ceremony as I’ve been preparing Vatican Insider as well as this column but I’ll go to the piazza shortly to take some photos and perhaps do a Facebook live.

Tomorrow is a very important feast day – feast of the Immaculate Conception. It is a holy day of obligation and a holiday in the Vatican and Italy.


My guest this week on Vatican Insider is one of EWTN’s own in Rome – Ben Crockett – or, as the Register described him in a headline “Meet the Millennial Who Is Taking Virtual Reality to the Front Lines of the Church. California-born, Harvard graduate student pursues his dreams in Rome.”

Ben in Malawi –

Ben is one of the most amiable, talented, hard-working and creative people of the many like people on EWTN’s Rome staff! In the fairly short time he has been with us, he has revolutionized so much in the area of social media, but especially his expertise in VR – virtual reality. You’ve surely seen some of his amazing VR work and maybe did not know he was responsible for it. Well, this weekend you will have the chance to meet this remarkable young man by tuning in to Vatican Insider!

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)


The tree and the Nativity Scene tell us about Christmas and “help us to contemplate the mystery of God who was made man in order to be close to each one of us” said Pope Francis Friday morning as he thanked all the people who donated this year’s Sand Nativity Scene and the 23-meter tall ‎Christmas tree for St. Peter’s Square.

A Tree of Light

Pope Francis described how “the Christmas tree with its lights, reminds us that Jesus is the light of the world; the light of the soul that drives out the darkness of enmity and makes room for forgiveness.”

The Pope noted, that this year’s tree comes from the forest of Cansiglio in northern Italy, and he went on to explain that its’ height symbolized God “who with the birth of his Son Jesus came down to man in order to raise him to himself and raise him from the mists of selfishness and sin.”

Reflecting on the Nativity Scene which this year is made from Jesolo sand native to the Dolomites, the Pontiff pointed out that, “the sand, a poor material, recalls the simplicity, the smallness with which God revealed Himself with the birth of Jesus in the precariousness of Bethlehem.”

The Sand Nativity, symbol of humility and freedom

He went on to tell the donor delegation gathered in the Vatican’s Clementine Hall that, “who is small – in the evangelical sense – is free to express themselves and move with spontaneity. All of us are called to be free before God, to have the freedom of a child before his father. The Child Jesus, Son of God and our Saviour, whom we lay in the manger, is holy in poverty, smallness, simplicity and humility.”

Pope Francis concluded by saying that, “the crib and the tree, fascinating symbols of Christmas, can bring to families and to the places where they are found, a reflection of the light and tenderness of God, to help everyone to live the feast of the birth of Jesus. By contemplating the God Child who shines a light on the humility of the manger, we too can become witnesses of humility, tenderness and goodness.”



I have paid several visits to the 2017 nativity scene in St. Peter’s Square but only today did I bring my camera. I’ll let those photos tell the story of the 2017 Nativity scene in St. Peter’s Square.

I have been in Rome a lot of years and believe I have photographed every tree and nativity scene since my arrival, and I have to say this is my least favorite ever. It is also probably the smallest, though it may seem large in the photos.

The best ever, in my opinion, were those produced for several decades by the Vatican’s own Technical Services staff – they were brilliant creations, painstakingly and artfully executed. By the way, remember that it was Saint John Paul who brought the idea of a nativity scene and Christmas tree to St. Peter’s Square in 1982.

The tree has been universally praised, but the nativity scene has not received universally favorable coverage. In fact, a close up photo (which I will show you below) of the depiction of the act of mercy of “clothing the naked” on one Facebook page actually caused that page to be banned by FB.

The concept is lovely – speaking of the corporal acts of mercy – but that aspect seems to have faded into the background, at least from what I heard people saying as they viewed the nativity scene (and children, as always, had the best comments!). Remarks are more focussed on the “head” in the jail cell, the unclothed man (clothe the naked), a body on a table (bury the dead), on the fact there are no animals, not a single lamb or ox, on the fact that the Holy Family, the Baby Jesus, seem to get lost in clutter. Yet Jesus, Mary and Joseph – Jesus! – ARE the focus of any Christmas celebration or depiction.

You are standing next to a five-year old who turns to his parents and exclaims (in Italian), “But our presepe (nativity scene) at home is much nicer!”

And today, another youngster asked, “what is that head in a jail or some place?”

The Vatican website (and, as of yesterday, there is a brand new news portal – – that’s a whole other news story, not without its critics!) noted before Christmas that, “The crib scene for Christmas 2017 will be donated by the ancient Abbey of Montevergine in the Campania region of southern Italy. The scenery and crib figures, in 18th century Neapolitan costumes, will be produced by artisans in a local workshop. The two-metre high figures, inspired by the theme of the Works of Mercy, will be made of coloured terracotta with garments in traditional fabrics.”

The same note explained that the Christmas tree is a giant, 28-meter high red fir, given, by the archdiocese of Elk in north-eastern Poland. It was transported over two thousand kilometres across central Europe and Italy, before arriving here in the Vatican.

The tree was decorated with stars and baubles designed by young cancer patients from several Italian hospitals. The decorations have been made out of clay by children and their parents during therapeutic workshop sessions and reproduced in hard-wearing synthetic materials that can stand up to the winter weather conditions in St Peter’s Square. A number of children from earthquake-hit areas of central Italy also took part in this design project.

There is an interactive element to this year’s nativity scene and that is actually nice.

I accessed the file, per their instructions, saw a 4-minute video and copied the English text for you exactly as it appeared on my cell phone – here it is:

The nativity scene in St. Peter’s Square is a gift from the sanctuary of Montevergine in the province of Avellino. In the Cernobo, founded by Saint William from Vercelli in the first half of the 12th century, the imposing icon of our Lady of Montevergine is worshipped.

The work was carried out by the Cantone and Costabile workshop in Naples which into 2013 brought to this square the first large Neapolitan crib. The theme is “mercy” all around the scene of the nativity in Neapolitan style of the 18th century. There are several characters who act (out) the seven works of bodily mercy transmitted by the Gospels. These are two or three-inch high-rise figures following the tradition with head, hands and feet of terracotta, eyes of glass and fabric padded-stuffed bodies.

At the center of the composition stands the Holy Family housed in the ruins of an ancient, once-balled temple, a direct setting pointing to how Christianity defeated paganism. The scene is completed by an angel with wings spread, a piper and the Kings, who come to the sight of Jesus led by the starry comment.


As for the other scenes: on the left there is the representation of the work “visiting the prisoners”: the setting is a fictitious cell formed by a grate with a single bar, a metaphor of the human being prisoner of his sins, that refers to an inner inertia that can only cease with repentance and with the reception of God in one’s life.

To be mentioned is also the interpretation of the work “housing pilgrims” represented by a woman who hosts a stranger, to symbolize the welcome in the broad sense, with particular reference to the present and the invitation to except the brother come from a far distance often repeated by Pope Francis.(this photo also has the image of Our Lady of Montevergine)

It is precisely on the representation of this work that there is a branch of the Madonna of Montevergine that remembers the donation of the nativity by the Abbey and emphasizes that the same mother of God constantly welcome so many pilgrims, even in her Irpinian sanctuary.

In the representation of the scene “treating the sick,” master Canton has focused on the dualism between body and spirit; very often, in fact, we focus on the external aspect at the expense of the spiritual one.

“Feed the hungry” and “quench the thirsty” are depicted in a single scene: the character was made with his mouth open and wide eyes, a sign of wonder and amazement in the face of goodness of mind and altruism; instead of being pleased with the gift received, man is astonished by the kindness of action, since in contemporary society Christian values seem to have sunken; the generosity of the neighbor creates wonder and is manifested in the character’s gaze.

In the scene “burying the dead”, is depicted only a falling arm, a reference to the deposition of Caravaggio in the Vatican museums.

For “dressing the naked,” an Academy was created, that is, a character entirely carved; the scene presents two men almost peers, a noble who gives a cloak to a needy lying down and half naked; it is the triumph of charity, and the purpose of donating in the imitation of Christ, who gave his life for the salvation of man.



Sunday, in the splendor of the Sistine Chapel, in a tradition started by St. John Paul on the feast of the Baptism of Our Lord, Pope Francis baptized 28 babies – 13 girls and 15 boys – born to Vatican employees. He told them, in an off the cuff homily, that Jesus’ first “sermon” was probably the sound of his crying in the stable at Bethlehem.

At one point, when the crying and cooing of the babies reached a cresendo, Francis joked, “the concert has begun!” He told the mothers, “if your children are crying because they are hungry, then go ahead and feed them, just as Mary breastfed Jesus.”  (photo


He told his guests that faith does not just mean reciting the Creed on Sundays, but rather believing in the truth, trusting in God and teaching others through the example of our lives. Francis said faith is also the light that grows in our hearts – that’s why a lighted candle is given to every person being baptized. The Ppope told parents, “you have the task of making that faith grow, of nurturing it, so that it may bear witness to others.”

Later, at the noon Angelus, addressing shivering pilgrims in St Peter’s Square, Pope Francis asked for prayers for all those living and dying on the streets at this time of year, noting that a number of homeless in Rome have already ready succumbed to the cold.

Papal Almoner Archbishop Konrad Krajewski, who spoke to Vatican Radio, said the three hostels run by the Vatican will remain open 24 hours a day during the spell of frigid weather. Several Vatican cars were also been made available, outside of Vatican City, on Via della Conciliazione, for those who wish to remain on the streets, but could be better protected in a car. In addition, special thermal sleeping bags and gloves are being brought to the homeless.

It has been so cold that the water in the fountains in St. Peter’s Square froze. I took these photos today as I walked through the square to film a segment for “At Home with Jim and Joy.”



I did find one thing rather sad: workers were dismantling both the Christmas tree and the Nativity scene and they will surely be a thing of the past by tonight or tomorrow morning. Why is this sad? Because for all the decades I have lived here, if memory is correct, the tree and nativity scene have remained up until the February 2 feast of the Presentation of the Child Jesus in the Temple, allowing a lot more visitors to Rome to view this seasonal gift by the Church to the faithful.





St. Peter’s Square, December 9, 2016 – Official unveiling

of the Vatican Nativity Scene and lighting of Christmas Tree.

The spruce tree is a gift from the northern Italian region of Trentino

and the Nativity Scene was offered to the Vatican by the bishops

and government of Malta. It was designed by Manwel Grech

(you’ve seen my photos and videos of his team) and executed

by him and 7 teammates from Gozo, Malta.

I also posted a Facebook Live video as the ceremony was underway!

O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree!

How are thy leaves so verdant!

Not only in the summertime,

But even in winter is thy prime. O C

O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree, How are thy leaves so verdant!

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O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree,

Much pleasure dost thou bring me!

For ev’ry year the Christmas tree,

Brings to us all both joy and glee.

O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree, Much pleasure dost thou bring me!



O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree,

How lovely are thy branches!

Not only green when summer’s here

But in the coldest time of year.

O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree, How lovely are thy branches!


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O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree,

How sturdy God hath made thee!

Thou bidd’st us all place faithfully

Our trust in God, unchangingly!

O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree, How sturdy God hath made thee!





O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree,

Thy candles shine out brightly!

Each bough doth hold its tiny light,

That makes each toy to sparkle bright.

O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree, Thy candles shine out brightly!

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In minutes I will be leaving for St. Peter’s Square for the lighting of the Christmas tree and the official unveiling of the Nativity Scene. I’ll obviously try to get some good photos and video – maybe even do a Facebook Live! – and will post those as soon as I have the chance.

In the meantime, here’s a heads-up about my Vatican Insider guest this weekend, and the Pope’s words this morning to the donors of both the Christmas tree and the Nativity scene.


Join me this weekend on Vatican Insider for Part II of my interview with Steve Bollman, founder of Paradisus Dei, a ministry that helps families discover what he calls “the superabundance of God within marriage and family life.” Since its inception, Paradisus Dei has grown rapidly (largely by word of mouth), and has established itself as a large nationwide ministry helping families vis-a-vis husband/wife relationships and parent/children relationships. It has particular strengths in developing compelling programming and helping individuals discover the presence of God in the midst of communion.

During the Great Jubilee, Steve experienced a personal call to found a ministry dedicated to finding God within the context of marriage and family life. In 2001, he founded Paradisus Dei as a lay Catholic ministry and in 2002 he set aside his professional interests as an energy derivatives trader in Houston, Texas to dedicate himself full time to the development of the ministry. (

As he was about to hold the first meeting at 6am on a weekday morning, he was told no one would show up. However, 150 men came to the meeting. And it kept on growing. The growth has been amazing since then and today Paradisus Dei is in well over 500 parishes in the U.S.

As you know, in the United States, you can listen to Vatican Insider on a Catholic radio station near you (there is a list of U.S. stations at or on channel 130 Sirius-XM satellite radio. If you live outside the U.S., you can listen to EWTN radio on our website home page by clicking on the right side where you see “LISTEN TO EWTN.” Vatican Insider airs Saturday mornings at 9:00 am (Eastern time). On the SKY satellite feed to the UK and parts of Europe, VI airs on audio channel 0147 at 11:30 am CET on Saturdays, and 5:30am and 10pm CET on Sundays. It’s also available on demand on the EWTN app and on the website. CHECK FOR YOUR TIME ZONE.


(Vatican Radio) In the Paul VI hall this morning, Pope Francis met with the donors of the Vatican Christmas tree and the nativity scene in St. Peter’s Square, telling them that these gifts “form a message of hope and love.”

Welcoming the donors, Pope Francis thanked them for their gifts which he said, would be admired in Saint Peter’s Square “by pilgrims from around the world during Advent and the Christmas holidays.”

The 25-meter (82-feet) high spruce tree was donated by the Lagorai Forests Association in the Trentino region of northern Italy. The Pope remarked that, “the beauty of those views is an invitation to contemplate the Creator and to respect nature, the work of his hands.”

Francis had special thanks for the children who decorated the tree, with the support of the “Lene Thun Foundation” that organizes the ceramic therapy workshops in various Italian hospitals for children undergoing treatment for cancer and other illnesses.

He told them that, “the multicolored ornaments you have created represent the values of life, love and peace that Christ’s Christmas proposes to us anew each year.”

This year’s Nativity scene was donated by the bishops and government of Malta and is the work of artist Manwel Grech from Gozo.

The Nativity scene features 17 figures dressed in traditional Maltese costume as well as a replica of a traditional “Luzzu” Maltese boat.

The Holy Father said that this typical Maltese vessel, recalled “the sad and tragic reality of migrants on boats making their way toward Italy,” and he expressed the hope that “those who visit this nativity scene would be invited to rediscover its symbolic value”, which, he said, was “a message of fraternity, of sharing, of welcome and solidarity.”

Pope Francis concluded by telling his guests that, “the crib and the tree form a message of hope and love, and help create a Christmas spirit that can draw us closer to living with faith the mystery of the birth of the Redeemer who came to this earth in simplicity and meekness.”




As I walked through St. Peter’s Square this morning to go to some Vatican offices, I took a few photos with my phone of the Nativity scene that is under construction near in the square near the obelisk.


The tree has been up about a week but the building of the Nativity scene started only Monday. The tree will be lit and the nativity scene unveiled on Friday, December 9.

It was St. John Paul who started this tradition in the Christmas season of 1982 when he noticed that, with all the great Nativity scenes or presepe in the papal palace and apartments, in Roman Curia offices and in St. Peter’s Basilica, there was no such scene in the square. He asked that henceforth both a tree and presepe be placed in the square.

Trees in the past have come from countries like Austria, Switzerland and Germany and from various regions in Italy. This year features as a 25-meter (82 feet) tall red spruce from Trento, northern Italy. In its place, local schoolchildren have planted some 40 new spruce and larch seedlings to replace trees suffering from a parasite that had killed many of them. After the Christmas season, the wood from the Vatican tree will be used for charity.


The ornaments for this year’s spruce are ceramic and were made by children in hospitals across Italy who are receiving treatment for cancer and other illnesses. The beautiful tree will be lit by 18,000 LED Christmas lights that were chosen to respect the environment. The LED technology allows for very low energy consumption.

Boxes of ornaments –


The Nativity scene this year will pay tribute to the people who are forced to flee their countries and undertake dangerous journeys across the sea. In 2016 alone, says the International Organization of Migration, over 3000 people died in the Mediterranean, although many believe that number is higher as many vessels and sinkings go unrecorded.

As I studied the Christmas scene this morning, it seemed to be that the area enclosed by canvas where workers from Malta are building the presepe, was much larger than in the past, wider for sure. An earlier Vatican communique noted that the Nativity scene will measure 19 meters in width – just over 62 feet – and will feature 17 statues dressed in traditional Maltese costumes as well as a replica of a traditional “Luzzu” Maltese boat.



That communique explained that the boat not only represents tradition – fish and life – but also, unfortunately the realities of migrants who in these same waters cross the sea on makeshift boats to Italy.

And these – if you remember my post on Monday – are the 8 men from the Maltese island of Gozo who are building the Nativity scene.:


Both the Nativity and the Christmas tree will be lit on December 9, and will remain illuminated until Sunday, January 8.


(Vatican Radio) Wednesday morning, before holding the general audience, Pope Francis met the Italo-American movie director Martin Scorsese whose latest film “Silence” recounts the persecution of a group of Jesuit missionaries in 17th century Japan. Scorsese was accompanied at the audience in the Vatican by his wife, his two daughters, the producer of the “Silence” film and the prefect of the Secretariat for Communications Monsignor Dario Viganò. A Vatican statement said the meeting was very cordial and lasted 15 minutes.


Pope Francis told those present that he had read the novel on which the film “Silence” was based, written by the late Japanese author Shusaku Endo.

Scorsese gave the Pope two paintings on the theme of “hidden Christians,” one of them a much-venerated image of the Madonna painted by a 17th century Japanese artist. Pope Francis gave his guests rosaries.

The audience in the Vatican came after a special screening of “Silence” in Rome on Tuesday night for more than 300 Jesuit priests. The movie is due to premiere in the United States this December.


In his weekly general audience held in the Paul VI Hall this morning, Pope Francis concluded his cycle of catecheses dedicated to the works of mercy, having looked at all 14 spiritual and corporal works of mercy. This also ends his series of weekly catecheses on mercy that began at last year’s opening of the Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy.

The Holy Father told those present today that although the cycle has reached conclusion, we must continue to practice mercy in our lives. Many of his remarks during the general audience were off the cuff.

Speaking of the corporal work of mercy which invites us to bury the dead,  Pope Francis said it could appear a strange request. In fact, he said, it is sadly meaningful in the present day when we think of the many people who risk their lives in order to give decent burial to the victims of war who live in fear under constant fire and bombardment.  And for us Christians, he said, burial is an act of great faith because when we lower the bodies of our loved ones into the tomb, we do so in the hope of their resurrection.

He also underscored the importance of praying for the living and the dead which he said is part of the work of mercy of burying the dead, noting this is especially meaningful in this month of November when we commemorate all the faithful departed.

Even more, said Francis, praying for the living and the dead is an eloquent expression of the communion of saints and reminds us of how we are all united in God’s great family.

“This is why we pray for each other” he said.

In one of his off-the-cuff moments, Francis also recalled the story of a young business owner present at yesterday’s daily Mass in the Santa Marta residence. This man, he noted, had to close his company because they couldn’t sustain it anymore. This man, the Pope said, “cried, saying: ‘I don’t feel that I can leave more than 50 families without work. I could declare the company’s bankruptcy: I go home with my money, but my heart will cry my entire life for these 50 families’.”

“This is a good Christian who prays with the works: he came to Mass to pray so that the Lord would give him a way out, not only for him, but for the 50 families,” Francis said, pointing to him as a clear example of what it means to pray for one’s neighbor.

As he concluded, the Pope encouraged the faithful “to open our hearts to the Holy Spirit, who knows our deepest desires and hopes, and embrace in our prayer all those in any kind of need:” He also admonished to not forget to thank God for the good things in our lives.”

The catechesis “ends here,” he said. “We made this path of the 14 works of mercy, but mercy must continue and we must practice it in these 14 ways.”


We all know that Pope Francis is a great soccer fan so we could easily imagine his grief when he learned that members of a Brazilian soccer team perished in a plane crash in Colombia minutes before the plane was due to land.

Vatican Radio reported that Pope Francis sent a telegram of condolences to the cardinal archbishop of Brasilia in Brazil following a plane crash that killed 71 people including members of the Brazilian soccer team Chapecoense. They were on their way to a South American cup final in Colombia when the accident happened. In the message signed by Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Pope Francis said he was dismayed by the tragic news of the plane crash in Colombia that caused numerous victims, and he sent his condolences to all those who are mouning and commended the deceased to God the Father of Mercy.



I had a fairly amazing evening last night but I should never really be surprised at what happens or whom I should meet when I go to La Vittoria restaurant!

At 7:30, I met a friend from the States who was in Rome for a few days of work at the Order of Malta. It was fairly quiet at La Vittoria but at one point, a bit late, a group of 8 men came in and sat down together. I was trying to understand what language they spoke but without success. They were enjoying dinner and conversing in low tones and I kept wondering about the dialect or language.

As Margaret and I were leaving, Valentino, one of the waiters told us these men were from the Maltese island of Gozo and were building the Vatican’s Nativity scene (It has a Malta theme)!! Well, I pivoted as fast as I could and went back into the main room to their table, introduced myself – they all knew EWTN! – and got the story and a few photos! We spoke in English. Manuel, who seemed to be the head builder or at least spokesperson, told me they start building today and the scene will be unveiled December 9th. They invited me to come ‘behind the scenes’, so to speak and I will do that as soon as possible. Of course I can’t do any photos before the 9th but what fun it would be in any case.

Shortly before I met the Maltese crew, a young man came to my table and introduced himself as a big fan of my work on EWTN, telling me in particular how his brief, 36 hours in Rome had benefited greatly by my book on the Holy Year. Paul is from Kansas City, MO., and when he learned of the Nativity scene builders, he took one of these photos.



As I’ve written so many times on this page, “life in the fast lane!”


(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis met on Monday with religious and civil authorities who organized the recently concluded Jubilee Year of Mercy, including members of the Pontifical Council for New Evangelization, headed by Archbishop Rino Fisichella, as well as police chiefs and Italian officials in charge of local and regional security.

Pope Francis spoke of the origin of his idea for a year of mercy, describing it as “a simple intuition” which the Lord transformed into a celebration of faith and joy for Christian communities throughout the world.


The opening of doors of mercy in so many cathedrals and shrines, he went on, enabled people to freely experience the love of God in their lives. The fruits of this extraordinary event must now become part of our daily living, he said, so that mercy truly becomes a permanent lifestyle for all Christians.

The Pope went on to thank all those individuals and organizations who worked hard to guarantee the safety and smooth running of the jubilee, which officially concluded on November 20th, the final Sunday of the liturgical year.

In particular, he mentioned Italy’s Home Affairs minister, the regional Lazio authorities and local chiefs of police who worked together with the Swiss Guards,  Vatican police and other offices of the Holy See to ensure a positive experience for the millions of pilgrims who travelled to Rome over the past year.

Last, but not least, he thanked members of the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization and all the volunteers from different parts of the world who worked so hard to transform this event into a real moment of grace. “May your efforts,” he concluded, “be rewarded by the experience of mercy which the Lord will not fail to grant you.”


POPE FRANCIS HAS SENT A TELEGRAM TO the newly-elected superior general of the Jesuit Order, Father Arturo Sosa Abascal, upon learning of the death of Father Peter Hans Kolvenbach, the former head of the Society of Jesus, who died in Beirut on Saturday, just days short of his 88th birthday. The Pope sent the telegram in his own name, recalling Father Kolbach’s career. His fidelity to the Gospel: Hearing the news of the pious death of the Reverend Father Peter Hans Kolvenbach, S.J., the former Superior General of the Company of Jesus, I desire to express to you and to the whole Jesuit family my heartfelt condolences. Recalling the integral fidelity of Father Kolvenbach to Christ and His Gospel, joined to a generous commitment in exercising his office with a spirit of service for the good of the Church, I lift up my prayers of suffrage, invoking, from the divine mercy, eternal peace for his soul. Spiritually present at the funeral rites, I cordially impart to you, to your brothers, and to those who share the sorrow for this loss, the Apostolic Blessing.

POPE FRANCIS RECEIVED IRELAND’S PRIME MINISTER Enda Kenny on Monday. A Vatican communiqué said the two “evoked the historical ties between the Holy See and Ireland, and underlined the continued contribution ensured by the Catholic Church in the fields of education and social service.” They also “spoke of the importance of the role of Christians in the public sphere, especially in promoting respect for the dignity of every person, beginning with the weakest and most defenseless.” Other topics included “an exchange of views on Europe, with particular reference to migration, youth employment and the main challenges that the continent has to deal with, from the political point of view and institutional.” Dublin, Ireland was chosen by Francis as the site of the next World Meeting of Families in 2018.