CORRECTION FYI: The Good Friday meditation before the Crown of Thorns will be broadcast live from inside the Notre-Dame Cathedral from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. local time FRIDAY APRIL 10, days before the first anniversary of the fire. This relic was spared during last year’s fire in the cathedral. This will be transmitted on the website of France’s Catholic television station, KTO. I do not know as I write if Vaticannews.va and/or EWTN will transmit this.


At today’s general audience that took place in the library of the Apostolic Palace, the Holy Father focussed his catechesis on Holy Week and the Lord’s passion, linking them to the spiral of death and fear that has enveloped the entire world with Covid-19.

“At this time of anxiety and suffering caused by the current pandemic,” began Francis, “we all face uncertainty and may ask where God is to be found in this situation. During these days of Holy Week we can find solace in the account of the Passion of Jesus. Our Lord also faced questions, with many wondering whether he really was the promised Messiah.

“It was only after his death,” continued the Pope, “that a centurion confirmed that Jesus truly was the Son of God. He did this after seeing Christ suffer silently on the cross, which teaches us that God’s power is revealed in humble and self-sacrificial love.”

The Holy Father explained that, “We, like the disciples, may have preferred the Lord to manifest his strength by resolving our problems according to our own measure of what is right. Yet the death and resurrection of Jesus show that while earthly power passes away, only love endures forever. Dear brothers and sisters, let us draw courage from our crucified and risen Lord, who embraces our fragility, heals our sins, and draws us close to him, transforming our doubts into faith and our fears into hope.”


From the Vatican Press Office today:

During a recent audience granted to His Eminence Cardinal Luis Francisco Ladaria Ferrer, SJ, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Holy Father decided to establish a new study commission on the female diaconate, calling the following to be part of it:

President: Cardinal Giuseppe Petrocchi, Archbishop of L’Aquila.
Secretary: Rev. Denis Dupont-Fauville, official of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
Prof. Catherine Brown Tkacz, Lviv (Ukraine).
Prof. Dominic Cerrato, Steubenville (USA).
Prof. Don Santiago del Cura Elena, Burgos (Spain).
Prof. Caroline Farey, Shrewsbury (Great Britain).
Prof. Barbara Hallensleben, Fribourg (Switzerland).
Prof. Don Manfred Hauke, Lugano (Switzerland).
Prof. James Keating, Omaha (USA).
Prof. Msgr. Angelo Lameri, Crema (Italy).
Prof. Rosalba Manes, Viterbo (Italy).
Prof. Anne-Marie Pelletier, Paris (France).


This page may be quiet in coming days as EWTN employees have some time off on Holy Thursday and Good Friday to participate in or attend Triduum liturgies. Urgent or breaking news will always be reported, in any case – here or on facebook.com/joan.lewis.10420.

I want to wish all of you – my listeners, readers and TV viewers – a meaningful Holy Week and a blessed Easter of the Resurrection. I will remember you in prayer during the rest of Holy Week.

And now, a heads up for VATICAN INSIDER, my weekend radio program. In particular, after the news segment, stay tuned for Part II of my conversation with a longtime friend and a colleague when we both worked at Vatican Radio for many years – Tracey McClure. Tracey and a few others made some history not long ago by founding D.Va – Donne in Vaticano – Women in the Vatican – the first ever women’s association approved by the Vatican! I am a member of D.VA (pronounced diva) and have participated in many activities but I wanted Tracey to give you the behind the scenes input. So stay tuned to learn more about Women in the Vatican!

IN THE UNITED STATES, you can listen to Vatican Insider (VI) on a Catholic radio station near you (stations listed at http://www.ewtn.com) or on channel 130 Sirius-XM satellite radio, or on http://www.ewtn.com. 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 another note altogether – a note about a truly remarkable woman – I hope everyone has a chance to follow the Way of the Cross, the Via Crucis that will take place Good Friday evening at the Colosseum with Pope Francis, This year’s meditations were written by Consolata Sister Eugenia Bonetti – chosen by Pope Francis – who has dedicated a great part of her 80 years to ridding the world of trafficking in persons, especially trafficking in women.

She spoke passionately about her life and her work at a briefing today in the Holy See Press Office, explaining her work with 12 sisters from 12 different religious Orders and 12 different countries, as “women for women.”

Sister Eugenia said that she hoped the “Colosseum would again become the place that represents the many kinds of suffering today as it was in the past. It will represent the Passion of today, of Christ who dies in our streets.”

“We still have the crucified today,” she noted, highlighting cases where girls who do not submit to prostitution are burned alive.

She added that, “there are, however, many Veronicas out there today, those who still help to dry tears.”


Pope Francis says his thoughts remain close to Parisians and the people of France, as donations for the reconstruction of Notre Dame Cathedral pour in from around the world.

By Devin Watkins (vaticannews)

Speaking to French pilgrims present at the Wednesday general audience, Pope Francis thanked the many people who risked their lives to salvage Notre Dame as fire tore through the Paris Cathedral. “The gratitude of the whole Church goes to those who did everything they could, even risking their lives, to save the Basilica,” he said.

The Holy Father said he felt a great sense of sorrow for the damage caused by the devastating blaze.

Extensive damage
Fire broke out on Monday evening in Notre Dame’s rafters, where workmen had been carrying out renovations. The spire of the 12th-century cathedral collapsed, along with the entire roof. Courageous firefighters saved the Blessed Sacrament and several relics, including the Crown of Thorns and the tunic of St. Louis. Much of the artwork was also rescued.

Authorities consider the fire an accident.

Phone call with Macron
Pope Francis spoke by phone with President Emmanuel Macron on Tuesday, personally expressing his solidarity with the people of France.
He repeated the feeling again on Wednesday, telling the nation: “I feel very close to all of you. May the Virgin Mary bless you and support the work of reconstruction. May it be a harmonious work of praise and glory to God.”

Support pours in
Donations are pouring in to rebuild Notre Dame Cathedral. Nearly $1 billion has already been raised. The French government, which owns the Cathedral, is setting up an office to gather donations. France’s cultural heritage envoy, Stephane Bern, said contributions came from both ordinary Catholic faithful and wealthy donors.

Barbara Jatta, the head of the Vatican Museums, told Reuters that her staff of art historians and restorers “are willing to do anything we can to help.”

Daring the odds, President Macron has pledged to restore Notre Dame Cathedral to her former glory in 5 years, just in time for the 2024 Paris Olympics.


Before Jesus celebrated the Passover, a “spy” went out to betray him.
As the days of Holy Week move forward, various events occur that directly lead to what will take place on Good Friday. Among these events was the fateful betrayal of Jesus by one of his own disciples:

Then one of the twelve, who was called Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests and said, “What will you give me if I deliver him to you?” And they paid him thirty pieces of silver. And from that moment he sought an opportunity to betray him. (Matthew 26:14-16)

This action by Judas earned him the title of “spy” by medieval Christians, in accord with the traditional definition of the English word, “one who keeps secret watch on a person or thing to obtain information.”

From Wednesday onward, Judas secretly watched for a chance to turn Jesus over to the chief priests, and so many Christians labeled this day as “Spy Wednesday.”

In the same vein various cultures reflected the somber mood of this day by calling it “Black Wednesday” or “Wednesday of Shadows,” which also corresponds to the liturgical rite of Tenebrae that is celebrated on this day.

It is also called “Silent Wednesday,” as the Gospels do not record any activities in the life of Jesus. The only event is the secret meeting of Judas with the chief priests.

Wednesday’s events usher in the final days of Jesus’ life on earth and directly lead to the sacrifice of Jesus on Good Friday. (https://aleteia.org/2018/03/28/what-is-spy-wednesday/)


When I woke up this morning I felt a strange sensation, like something was not right, a kind of melancholy, and then I remembered the images I had seen last night of the devastating fire in Paris at the beloved cathedral of Notre Dame. I had been to dinner with Ella Sullivan, a niece working at EWTN as an intern, when a friend walked in the restaurant and asked if we had heard about Paris. I said I’d seen a cryptic FB message from a friend – “So sad about the Notre Dame fire” – but had not pursued it.

I then got out my phone and images and reports were everywhere we turned. We had no words! No words can do justice to an image that shocks your entire system, mind, body and soul. As I later wrote my sister Gail, it seemed as if we were watching the trailer for a film – this could not be real life!

I have followed events throughout the day on television. The absolute best, most complete coverage is, as you might imagine, on France 24, the English language satellite French news channel.

Last night the images were devastating and we all asked: Will Notre Dame be standing in the morning? The very ferocity of the flames left little room for doubt. You saw and heard the doubt and fear of those standing not far from the cathedral and watching this beloved icon go up in flames.

This morning, the blackened walls of the cathedral, the iconic twin bell towers, the main facade, the basic stone structure – inside and out – were still indeed standing, miraculously standing, as was the scaffolding erected for much-needed restoration of this grande dame of churches.

As the sun rose and the day went on, you could see hope and relief in faces and hear it in people’s voices as they spoke to various media outlets.

One woman told French TV: “I have hope because the lady is still standing.”

As the expression goes, “Hope is the last to die!”

I first saw Notre Dame many decades ago, as a student in college as our group travelled through Europe to reach Fribourg, Switzerland where we would study French for a year. We went back during the academic year and, in the summer following classes in Fribourg, two cousins and I spent 3 weeks in Paris as we wanted to perfect our language skills.

For many years I returned to France, to Paris, as a French teacher and group leader bringing students overseas on study abroad programs. The majesty, the history, the breathtakingly stunning stained glass windows, the beauty of the myriad works of art, the sculptures, both inside and out, the works by gold and silver smiths, the awesome organ – everything about Notre Dame penetrates your being. Bigger than life. A long and beautiful story told in stones and colored glass.

Notre Dame – a cathedral symbolizing almost a millennia of Catholic faith.

Notre Dame – a glorious tribute by hundreds of the world’s best artists to the glory of God.

Notre Dame – a masterpiece whose very name pays tribute to the Mother of God, Mary, Our Lady, Notre Dame.

With Our Lady watching over it, we know that Notre Dame will rise again.

As her Son rose after His passion and death – Easter Sunday, the Resurrection!


The interim director of the Holy See Press Office, Alessandro Gisotti, issued a brief statement in reaction to the devastating fire that engulfed the Cathedral of Notre Dame on Monday evening.

“The Holy See has heard with shock and sadness the news of the terrible fire that devastated the Cathedral of Notre Dame, symbol of Christianity in France and in the world. We express our closeness to French Catholics and the people of Paris. We assure our prayers for the firemen and all those who are doing everything possible to deal with this dramatic situation.”


The following telegram was sent by Pope Francis to Archbishop Michel Aupetit of Paris:

“Following the fire that devastated much of the Notre-Dame cathedral, I associate myself with your sadness, as well as that of the faithful of your diocese, the inhabitants of Paris and all the French. In these Holy Days where we remember Jesus’ passion, his death and his resurrection, I assure you of my spiritual closeness and my prayer.

“This disaster seriously damaged a historic building. But I realize that it has also affected a national symbol dear to the hearts of Parisians and French in the diversity of their beliefs. For Notre-Dame is the architectural jewel of a collective memory, the gathering place for many major events, the witness of the faith and prayer of Catholics in the city.

“While saluting the courage and the work of the fire-fighters who intervened to circumscribe the fire, I express the wish that the Notre-Dame cathedral can become again, thanks to the works of reconstruction and the mobilization of all, this beautiful treasure chest in the heart of the city, sign of the faith of those who built it, mother church of your diocese, architectural and spiritual heritage of Paris, France and humanity.

“With this hope, I cordially grant you the apostolic blessing, as well as the Bishops of France and the faithful of your diocese, and I call the blessing of God on the inhabitants of Paris and all the French.” FRANCISCUS PP.


Pope Francis is praying for the Catholics of France, as well as for the people of Paris and all those striving to cope with the fire that ravaged the Cathedral of Notre Dame on Monday evening.

By Devin Watkins (vaticannews)

In a tweet on Tuesday morning, Alessandro Gisotti, the interim Director of the Vatican Press Office, expressed Pope Francis’ closeness to the people of France.

The Pope, he said, is praying for “all those who are striving to cope with this tragic situation.”

Soon after the blaze started on Monday evening, Gisotti tweeted the Holy See’s “shock and sadness”, calling the Cathedral of Notre Dame “a symbol of Christianity in France and in the world”.

What happened?
Fire broke out in Paris’ 860-year-old Cathedral on Monday evening, tearing through its timbered roofing and causing its storied spire to collapse.

The inferno raged for more than 12 hours before hundreds of firefighters were able to bring it under control. One firefighter was injured as he battled the flames.

The blaze started in the area around the spire, where workmen had been carrying out extensive renovations to the roof and the spire’s wooden frame.

The Paris prosecutor’s office has opened an investigation into the cause of the fire. Police sources told Reuters that they were working under the assumption that the fire was accidental.

What was saved?
Only the Gothic masterpiece’s outer walls, façade, and twin bell towers remain standing. Its famous pipe organ, dating back to the 1730s, also survived intact.

Firefighters reportedly saved many of the treasures housed inside.

Notre Dame’s Rector, Msgr. Patrick Chauvet, said the Crown of Thorns – which tradition holds was worn by Jesus during his Passion – and the tunic believed to have been worn by St. Louis, the 13th century king of France, were rescued from the flames.

‘United in sorrow’
Messages of solidarity and sorrow are pouring in from around the world.

The Bishops of France said Notre Dame’s influence “extends beyond the capital” and that it would remain “a major symbol of the Catholic faith”. They also invited Catholics around the world to “be living stones of the Church,” especially as the faithful journey through Holy Week and look to the hope of Christ’s Resurrection.

Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Archbishop of New York, said New Yorkers are united in sorrow with Parisians. “This Holy Week teaches us that, like Jesus, death brings life. Today’s dying, we trust, will bring rising,” he said on the steps of St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Manhattan.

The spiritual leader of the Coptic Orthodox Church, Pope Tawadros II of Alexandria, said the fire was “a huge loss for all humanity,” calling the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris “one of the most important monuments in the world.”


Pope Francis expresses his sorrow to the Archbishop of Paris, and the people of France, for the fire that devastated Paris’ Notre Dame Cathedral, as the Vatican offers technical assistance for the historic sanctuary’s reconstruction.

By Devin Watkins (vaticannews)

“Following the fire that ravaged a large part of Notre Dame Cathedral, I join you in your sorrow, as well as that of the faithful of your diocese, the inhabitants of Paris, and all the French people.”

Pope Francis sent those words of solidarity to Archbishop Michel Aupetit of Paris on Tuesday.

He assured all the people of France of his spiritual closeness and prayers during Holy Week, as the Church recalls Jesus’ passion, death, and resurrection.

National symbol damaged
“This disaster,” he wrote, “caused serious damage to a historic building.”

“But,” the Pope went on, “I recognize that it has also affected a national symbol dear to the hearts of Parisians and French people, in the diversity of their convictions.”

He called Notre Dame “an architectural jewel of a collective memory,” and said it was “the location of many great events and a testimony to the faith and prayer of the city’s Catholics.

Hope for the future
Pope Francis expressed his appreciation for the courage of the firemen who intervened to contain the blaze and his hope that it returns to its former glory.

“May Notre Dame Cathedral once again become – thanks to reconstruction efforts and the mobilization of all – a sign of the faith of those who built it”.

He said the 860-year-old sanctuary represents “the architectural and spiritual heritage of Paris, of France, and of all humanity.”

Vatican offers expertise
Also on Tuesday, Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi offered the Vatican’s technical know-how to help rebuild Notre Dame.

The President of the Pontifical Council for Culture told reporters that the Holy See could take part in some specific area of the reconstruction, making reference to the technical expertise of the Vatican Museums.

We have the type of know-how that the whole world recognizes as being of a high quality,” said Cardinal Ravasi. “So I think an eventual future offer by the Holy See will be significant.”