Once again, St. John Henry Newman is in the limelight of my weekend radio program, “Vatican Insider,” because of my special guest, Msgr. Keith Newton. Our new saint has been on my mind for several weeks, going back to my interview a few weeks ago with Sr. Birgit Dechant of the Friends of Cardinal Newman Center in Rome who gave a little card with Newman’s suggestions for A Short Road to Perfection. I share that with you now:

If you ask me what you are to do in order to be perfect, I say, first-
Do not lie in bed beyond the due time of rising;
Give your first thoughts to God;
Make a good visit to the Blessed Sacrament;
Say the Angelus devoutly;
Eat and drink to God’s glory;
Say the Rosary well;
Be recollected; keep out bad thoughts;
Make your evening meditation well;
Examine yourself daily;
Go to bed in good time, and you are already perfect.


I encourage you to tune in to Vatican Insider this weekend when my special guest in the interview segment is Msgr. Keith Newton. He was an Anglican bishop who, after 35 years of ordained ministry, entered into full communion with the Catholic Church and was ordained a Catholic priest on January 15, 2011 by then Archbishop, now Cardinal Vincent Nichols of Westminster.

At that time Pope Benedict named him as the first ordinary for the Ordinariate. What is the Ordinariate? Well, in 2009 Benedict XVI had created a structure called the Personal Ordinariate, the Catholic Church’s response to requests from Anglicans who wished to enter into full communion with Rome. The one in the UK – the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham – was created in January 2011, and in 2012 a Personal Ordinariate was established in the U.S. – the Ordinariate of the Chair of Peter.

Msgr. Newton and I first met in London just after he was ordained a Catholic priest in 2011. He was in Rome this past week for the canonization of Cardinal John Henry Newman – also an Anglican who converted to Catholicism. Don’t miss our conversation!

I took these photos in my home after Msgr. Newton did the interview. He is standing in my entryway and, as you can see, I have a lovely image of Our Lady of Walsingham on my wall, one of only 100 I was told by the person who gave it to me!

The image depicts the much larger one of the Blessed Mother in Walsingham who is depicted enthroned as a Queen, carrying the Child Jesus and wearing a golden Saxon crown and golden slippers. You also see the book of Gospels and a lily.

Our Lady of Walsingham is venerated by both Catholics and Anglicans who visit this shrine in large numbers. Her title goes back to the 11th century and refers to apparitions received by a pious noblewoman, Richeldis de Faverches in 1061 in the village of Walsingham. She eventually built a structure known as “The Holy House,” the precursor of today’s actually shrine.

For more, visit the website:

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February 2 – As I write I am in the co-cathedral of the Sacred Heart in Houston, Texas, awaiting the episcopal ordination of Steven Lopes as the first Bishop of the Ordinariate of the Chair of Peter.  I got here very early to get a good seat and, in fact, I have a terrific seat with the family and close friends of the ordinand! The cathedral is just magnificent as you will see later in some photos. I am surrounded by beautiful people, many friends and family members of the bishop-elect whom I have met in the past 48 hours. This is a moment of history for both Steven and the Church and I feel so happy and privileged to be a part of it all.

I arrived in Houston Sunday afternoon after spending the night in Chicago, having arrived about 8 pm from Rome after what I wish I could say was an uneventful trip. Details some other time!

The Ordinariate arranged for out-of-town guests to stay at the Hilton Americas, which was a wonderful idea as it brought together so many friends under one roof. I have seen so many priests, bishops and cardinals I know, many friends from NAC, the North American College, and from around the US or from Rome. Present were 6 Cardinals:  William Levada (CDF emeritus prefect), Donald Wuerl of Washington, Edwin O’Brien (Grand Master of the Order of the Holy Sepulchre), Gerhard Mueller (prefect of the CDF, Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith – he will ordain Steven), Roger Mahony, emeritus of Los Angeles, and Daniel DiNardo (of Houston-Galveston).

Also present: Archbishops Joseph Kurtz (president of the USCCB) Salvatore Cordileone (San Francisco) and Augustine DiNoia (secretary, CDF), and George Niederauer, (emeritus San Francisco) to name a few.

Msgr. Keith Newton, ordinary of the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham in the UK, and a very good friend, is also here for the ceremonies, as was Msgr. Harry Entwistle, ordinary of Our Lady of the Southern Cross in Australia.

The ordination is a two-day event. The highlight for all of us yesterday was the 5 pm vespers ceremony, called evensong in the Anglican tradition. This is one of the remarkable and very beautiful elements of the Ordinariate. The Personal Ordinariate was created in 2009 as a structure in the Catholic Church to welcome Anglicans who wanted to enter in full communion with Rome. One of the important provisions in the creation of this structure was that which allowed the Ordinariate to retain many of its liturgical traditions, music, hymns, etc.

Evensong last night was a supreme example of the indescribable beauty of the Anglican tradition. As we listened to the choir of the church of Our Lady of Walsingham, or as we sang along, only one word came to my mind to describe the music – sublime! That same word could have described the entire ceremony. The choir was spectacular but even more so was the singing by the faithful. It was as if this was the last time everyone would sing….or as if we were all trying out for top prize in a best congregation contest. The feeling, the robustness of the participation, people’s voices just exploding in harmony and vigor and joy. Most amazing was the fact that it was as if we had rehearsed for days….the timing was perfection it was the same when we chanted the Creed!

The liturgy was the talk of the evening as we all headed from this very beautiful church to the adjacent chancery hall for a reception, which was followed by a magnificent dinner for family and close friends. The adjacent St. Jude Hall was transformed into a very classy room for the evening.

To return to the Ordinariate liturgy for a moment.

There was such beauty last night in the music and hymns and chants. The language of the readings and of song was old English, Shakespearian almost, the language many of us grew up with in the Mass and liturgy before the changes from Vatican Council II. It is a language that is imbued with beauty and the sacred, creating space in your heart and mind for prayerful recollection. God is so real. His Son is so real. We yearn, in our hearts and with our voices, to praise God’s majesty, to praise His Son. And I felt that Monday. This is what I came away with from the magnificent evensong.

This was the beauty I remember from my pre-Vatican Council II childhood. Changes were made to the liturgy to help us “understand” things better. But, as the movie title says, I feel something was lost in translation – beauty and the sacred. That was a feeling shared by many last night in our conversations.

Words to one hymn were written by Rabanus Maurus – 780-856! Composers dated from the 15th and 16th to the 19th century.

I will admit to something: I am happily a lector at church because if you heard me sing, you’d ask me to be a reader! Well, I sang my heart out Monday – and it was a joyful experience!

The highlight of the evening was Bishop-elect Lopes’ reading the formula of the Profession of Faith, followed by his recitation of the Oath of Fidelity to be Sworn by Bishops. After that, he signed all necessary documents on the altar, co-witnessed by Archbishop DiNoia, the papal representative at the ceremony, and Ms. Laurel Miller, Chancellor of the Ordinariate of the Chair of Peter. Abp. DiNoia then blessed the Episcopal insignia.

(More to come as soon as I return to Rome! I leave tomorrow morning, returning Friday a.m. in Rome. The photos you see now are from the Monday vespers)



This sign was in front of Our Lady of Walsingham on Monday when we had vespers – evensong.


This sign was there today!


As of Sunday, the church will have the title of cathedral (the see of a bishop) when Bishop Lopes take possession of the church. The diocese of Galveston-Houston will then have the honor of having three cathedrals: The cathedral of Galveston (the oldest) the co-cathedral of the Sacred Heart in Houston and, as of Sunday, the Ordinariate cathedral of Our Lady of Walsingham.



Fr. Christopher Pearson’s post on my Facebook page brought back some terrific memories of a trip to London in September 2010, a wonderful meal in an Italian restaurant in London and a friendship born that night. I write about this because of his post and also because you’ve heard two of my conversations with Fr. Christopher on “Vatican Insider.” (photo from his Facebook page)


As you will see, there is another important thread as I weave this story: The Personal Ordinariate.

I had gone to London for six days to cover Pope Benedict’s amazing visit to the UK. On Friday, September 17, the second day of his state visit and the day after his triumphant reception in Scotland, he was scheduled to visit St. Mary’s University College in Twickenham, where I was credentialed to cover his meeting with 3,000 young people – schoolchildren, students – to celebrate Catholic education.

Twickeham was a bit of a train trip from London and I had to be up at 4 am to get the train and be at the college to go through security, find the media section, etc. It was a terrific morning and experience (I wrote about it extensively on these pages) and I was only able to write about it and download photos after returning to London and going to the Queen Elizabeth II Convention Center, the media center for the papal visit

I finished work shortly after 9 pm and was absolutely starving. I had had only a sandwich and some orange juice for lunch – I don’t even remember having breakfast! All the restaurants and pubs were closed near the center but the personnel told me there should be a few places open about four blocks up Queen Victoria street. That sounded good to me and I knew I had to find a place as I had a phone interview to do for EWTN at 10 pm.

It is fairly rare that I seek an Italian restaurant when I travel but Il Coliseo seemed suitable and there was quite a number of people inside – a good sign as Londoners generally eat earlier than Romans do, thus a restaurant with a crowd at 9:30 seemed ideal. I ordered dinner, got up just before 10 to go outside and do the EWTN phone report and returned to my seat to finish dinner.

Just as I ordered coffee (to try and sat awake as I had now been up for 18 hours), two men came into the restaurant. The first was wearing a Roman collar and carrying a huge Vatican flag and he was accompanied by a friend. They sat down at a table not far from mine. I smiled and decided I would go and ask a priest his thoughts about the papal visit, Pope Benedict, etc. I was still wearing my media credentials but apparently did not need them for, as I approached the table, the man who turned out to be Fr. Pearson, said, “Oh my word, it’s Joan Lewis from EWTN!”

It turned out that Fr. Pearson was the pastor of an Anglican parish, St. Agnes, and he was with what Anglicans call the parish ‘warden’, also named Christopher. They invited me to have my coffee while they had dinner and the next hour or more was filled with some of the most stimulating conversation I’ve ever had about the Church, faith, Catholics and Anglicans, Pope Benedict, the Personal Ordinariate, and so on. Had Father not told me he was Anglican I would not have doubted for a minute that he was Catholic. But not to get ahead of myself.

I had my first interview with him on that trip: We spoke about the Personal Ordinariate, established only the year before by Pope Benedict which is, put simply, a structure created by the Catholic Church for those bishops, priests and people in the Anglican Communion who seek to enter the Catholic Church and be in full communion with the Successor of Peter.

In 2011 when the first Personal Ordinariate, Our Lady of Walsingham, was created, Fr. Christopher joined and became a Catholic priest, as did many other priests and several Anglican bishops, one of whom became the Ordinary of this first ordinariate and is now also a friend of mine, Msgr. Keith Newton. I spent 4 days in London in January 2011, right after Our Lady of Waslingham was established and Msgr. Newton was named as ordinary. I interviewed him and also visited St. Agnes where many of the parishioners had a thousand questions about the Ordinariate. Many, it turned out, would want to join.

My second interview with Fr. Christopher for Vatican Insider was when he was a Catholic priest. He is now the rector of the Ordinariate and Parish Church of the Most Precious Blood in London.

Almost as if to complete the circle, it looks like I will be going, at the end of the month, to Houston, Texas, where yet another good friend, Bishop-elect Steven Lopes, will be ordained as the first bishop of the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of Peter! He will be ordained on February 2 at the Co-Cathedral of the Sacred Heart.

I’ll have to find out if Fr. Christopher or Msgr. Newton will be in attendance.

If not, we must plan to meet in London at Il Coliseo!


CARDINAL GEORGE PELL, PREFECT OF THE SECRETARIAT FOR THE ECONOMY, announced on Sunday the Holy See is taking steps to “slave-proof” the Vatican supply chain. He was speaking in Rome during a meeting of The Global Foundation, an Australian organization which brings together business and government leaders. “I am pleased to confirm that the Vatican itself will commit to slavery-proofing its own supply chains and I hope that today’s announcement will serve as encouragement for others to follow suit,” Cardinal Pell told the gathering. At the same meeting, the Consumer Goods Forum – a consortium of major companies including Carrefour, Barilla, and Nestle – announced it had passed a resolution to “eradicate” forced labour from their supply chains.

“INTERRELIGIOUS DIALOGUE AND EXTREMISM: REASONS AND REMEDIES” was the title of the First Arab Thinkers Forum, held in Abu Dhabi January 17 and 18 at the Emirates Centre for Strategic Studies and Research. The only non-Muslim speaker was Fr. Miguel Angel Ayuso Guixot, secretary of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, who intervened during the first session during which the Grand Mufti of Lebanon, Sheikh Abdul Latif Daryan, also gave an address. Fr. Ayuso Guixot structured his discourse around five key points: extremism, the culture of encounter, the key role of religious leaders, the need for sincere dialogue and the importance of prayer. He emphasised that it was not his intention to pursue considerations on the economic, political, social and cultural reasons for extremism, well known to those present, preferring to focus instead on Pope Francis’ recommendations to the international community on how to construct peace which can serve to counter extremism.

A PRECIOUS TREASURE FROM THE ROME CHURCH OF SAN GREGORIO AL CELIO was brought back home on Monday after spending a week on loan to Canterbury Cathedral for a meeting of worldwide Anglican leaders there. The head of a crozier, or pastoral staff, associated with St Gregory the Great, has been on display in the crypt of Canterbury Cathedral, alongside a rare 6th century book of the Gospels given by Pope Gregory to St Augustine as he set off on his mission to take the Christian faith to England. The manuscript is the oldest surviving Latin illustrated Gospel book and one of the most ancient European books in existence. Appropriately, the relic of St Augustine was returned to Rome at the start of the annual week of prayer for Christian Unity. (sources: VIS, Vatican Radio)


The Sistine Chapel is today’s big story as the new lighting, heating and ventilation systems installed by Carrier and the German firm Osram were introduced to the media last evening. Only a doctor‘s order could keep a good woman down and that is the reason I missed last night’s presentation. However, I have had other similar beautiful experiences and share those with you (see the first story below which I also put on my Facebook page.)

The Sistine Chapel was also the subject of one of the stories in a column I wrote on November 2, 2012 about the previous evening when Pope Benedict XVI celebrated vespers to mark the 500th anniversary of the completion of the chapel’s famed ceiling by Michelangelo in October 1512. (Enjoy the up-close-and-personal of the chapel with photos I took on an earlier visit.).

The last decades have seen the restoration of the Sistine Chapel’s main frescoes: work began on Michelangelo’s ceiling on November 7, 1984, after which the Last Judgment was restored and completed, and the chapel was re-opened to the public on April 8, 1994. The north and south walls with the Lives of Jesus and Moses were unveiled in December 1999.

On April 8, 1994 Pope John Paul II celebrated Mass in the Sistine Chapel on the occasion of the restoration of the Last Judgment. In his homily he said, “The frescoes that we are contemplating here introduce us into the world of the contents of the Revelation. The truths of our faith speak to us here from all sides. From them human genius took its inspiration undertaking to clothe them in forms of incomparable beauty.”

He also wrote about the Sistine Chapel in his 2003 book of poetry, “Roman Triptych: Meditations” in Part Two “On the Book of Genesis at the Threshold of the Sistine Chapel.” He reflects on man, as well as the image of God in the scenes from Creation to the Last Judgment.

In the event you will be visiting the Sistine in the near or distant future, you might want to print the following information about the side panels on the north and south walls that depict the lives of Jesus and Moses.

NORTH WALL – LIFE OF CHRIST: Baptism of Jesus (Perugino)– The Temptation of Jesus (Botticelli) – the Calling of the First Disciples (Ghirlandaio) – Sermon on the Mount (Rosselli) – Jesus giving the Keys to Peter (Perugino) – The Last Supper (Rosselli)

SOUTH WALL – LIFE OF MOSES: Moses’ Journey through Egypt (Perugino) – Different scenes (Botticelli) – Crossing the Red Sea (Rosselli and d’Antonio) – Moses with the Ten Commandments (Rosselli) – the Punishment of Korah, Datham and Abiram (Botticelli) – Moses’ last acts and death (attributed to Luca Signorelli)

By the way, you can take a virtual tour of the Sistine Chapel through the Vatican website:

Here are links to two good articles about last night’s unveiling:–finance.html


I was so sorry not to have been able to attend last night’s event in the Sistine Chapel with the new lighting, heating and ventilation system installed by Carrier, I have had many beautiful experiences in this stunning chapel, including attendance at a number of liturgies – the original and real purpose of a chapel. I was there for a special Mass for the Swiss Guards in January 2006 as they celebrated the 500th anniversary of the establishing of the Guards by Pope Julius II. There were only about 120 of us, all told, including celebrants, Swiss Guards and the choir. What a privilege!

And I well remember being in the chapel with fellow journalists in December 1999 when the restored panels depicting the lives of Jesus and Moses were unveiled. Experts from the Vatican museums restoration team were there to answer our questions and it was an amazing once-in-a-lifetime evening, much as last night was. I am sure.(I did speak to some friends a few days ago who were privileged to see the chapel even before last night’s unveiling and they said it was spectacular)

Of the December 1999 visit with fellow journalists, one thing stands out in particular. Towards the end of the evening as people began to trickle out of the chapel, I had been talking with Father Raymond de Souza and at a certain point we both realized – at the same instant – that we were the last two visitors in the chapel! There was a gendarme or two and a Swiss guard or two but no one made a move to ask us to leave so we enjoyed the solitude and immense beauty for about five more minutes, alone with our thoughts and meditations even prayers.

Father Raymond and I exited the chapel descending the imposing Scala Regia and exiting at the Bronze Door to a silent, majestic St. Peter’s Square where the cobblestones glistened in the darkness of a cool December evening after a brief rainfall.

An evening that was unforgettable, spiritual and, yes, magical!


The Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham was established in 2011 to welcome Anglicans coming into full communion with Rome. It was the first such ordinariate to be established under the November 2009 Vatican document instituting this structure. The Ordinary, Msgr Keith Newton, a former Anglican bishop, recently sent greetings to both Pope Francis and Pope Emeritus Benedict to, as the latest Ordinariate newsletter notes, “express the love, loyalty and gratitude of the clergy and people in the run-up to the anniversary of the publication in November 2009 of the Apostolic Constitution, “Anglicanorum Cœtibus,” that instituted the ordinariates.

In his letter to Pope Francis, Msgr. Newton expressed the sentiments of “hundreds of lay members of the Ordinariate with their priests from the length and breadth of Great Britain for a weekend of addresses, conversations and celebrations, centred around the celebration of Mass in Westminster Cathedral.” He said, “it is with deep gratitude that through the provisions of that Apostolic Constitution we are now united with you in the full communion of the Catholic Church. I ask you, Holy Father, to remember the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham in your prayers, as we remember you, and to grant us your Apostolic Blessing.

Msgr. Newton’s letter to Pope emeritus Benedict XVI spoke of the same gathering at Mass in Westminster Cathedral on the vigil of the fifth anniversary of the publication of “Anglicanorum Coetibus”: “We will never forget that it was your wisdom and vision that brought about that Apostolic Constitution and so we thank you for bringing us, joyfully, into the full communion of the Catholic Church. I ask you to continue to remember in your prayers the members and the mission of the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham, as you will always occupy a special place in the hearts and prayers of all of us.


Pope Emeritus Benedict XVl has written to the Ordinariate by way of response to a letter he had received from Nicolas Ollivant, chairman of the Friends of the Ordinariate, a charity set up to support the Ordinariate’s work. In his own letter to the Pope emeritus, Ollivant enclosed a brief history of the church in Warwick Street. (Both photos are from the Ordinariate newsletter)


Benedict XVI – born in Bavaria – answered with the following letter – published on the Ordinariate website and in their newsletter and translated from the original German:

“Since I know that you read the German language without difficulty, I may answer your friendly letter of 1 September in my mother tongue, since my English would not quite suffice to do so.

“Your thanks for the establishment of the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham has greatly moved me, and I ask you to convey my thanks to all its members. Naturally, I am particularly glad that the former Bavarian Chapel has now become your Ordinariate’s church, and serves such an important role in the whole Church of God. It has been a long time since I have heard news of this holy place, and it was therefore with all the more interest and gratitude that I read the description with which you accompanied your letter.

“Once more, many thanks, and may God bless you all.

“Yours in the Lord,

“Benedict XVI”