I just spent some quality time this afternoon watching the farewell ceremony at the Houston airport for former President George H.W. Bush as Air Force One brings his body to Washington D.C. for viewing and the official funeral.

While I never met Bush 41 as everyone is calling him, I enjoyed hearing stories about him in the early 90s when the late Tom Melady was U.S. ambassador to the Holy See and he and his wife Margaret invited me for dinners and other get-togethers at Villa Richardson, the ambassador’s residence.

At the time, Margaret was working on a doctoral thesis on how Pope John Paul communicated through travels and we had a number of meetings in my office at VIS, Vatican Information Service, where I tried to help her with copies of papal speeches, itineraries of all his visits and any other information I could provide. She was also president of AUR, American University of Rome, for several years. Margaret is a widely-respected and multi-talented individual and I’m sure she will be at some of this week’s ceremonies for the late president.

FYI: I wrote that Air Force One is taking Pres. Bush to D.C: that’s the name of the presidential plane when he is on board but if someone else is on board a different name is used. Today it is Special Air Mission 41. Air Force One is the official air traffic control call sign for a United States Air Force aircraft carrying the President of the United States. In common parlance the term describes those Air Force aircraft designed, built, and used to transport the president.


Pope and president underscore the need to re-activate the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

The Holy See Press Office released the follow statement on today’s meeting between Pope Francis and Mahmoud Abbas:

Today, 3 December 2018, the Holy Father Francis received in audience H.E. Mr. Mahmoud Abbas, President of the State of Palestine, who subsequently met with His Excellency the Secretary for Relations with States, Abp. Paul Richard Gallagher.

During the cordial discussions, the good relations between the Holy See and Palestine were noted, as were the positive role of Christians and the activity of the Church in Palestinian society, enshrined in the Global Agreement of 2015.

Attention then turned to the path of reconciliation among the Palestinian people, as well as the efforts to reactivate the peace process between Israelis and Palestinians, and to reach a two-state solution, hoping for a renewed commitment on the part of the international community to meet the legitimate aspirations of both peoples.

Particular attention was reserved for the status of Jerusalem, underlining the importance of recognizing and preserving its identity and the universal value of the Holy City for the three Abrahamic religions.

Finally, mention was made of the other conflicts afflicting the Middle East and the urgency of promoting paths of peace and dialogue, with the contribution of the religious communities, to combat every form of extremism and fundamentalism.


Pope Francis meets with the Citadel of Peace Association, praising their work in the field of conflict resolution and supporting their appeal to the UN.

The Citadel of Peace Association was founded 20 years ago by Franco Vaccari who had an interest in conflict resolution. Mr. Vaccari took the formerly abandoned Italian village of Rondine in Tuscany and turned it into a centre for conflict resolution that was nominated in 2015 for the Nobel Peace Prize.

Over the years, young people from areas of conflict around the world have come to the village and the centre in a bid to promote understanding and peace. Those who are welcomed at the centre for a course of study come from countries such as; Israel and the Palestinian Authority; Serbia and Bosnia; Armenia and Azerbaijan; Russia and Chechnya.

Transforming conflicts and Peace Building
Greeting the 350 members of the association in the Vatican on Monday, on the occasion of its 20th anniversary, Pope Francis told those gathered that in these twenty years they had “developed a method capable of transforming conflicts, bringing young people out of this deception and sending them back to their peoples for full spiritual, moral, cultural and civil development: generous young people who, blameless, were born with the burden of the failures of previous generations.”

By choosing to dedicate yourselves to young people, the Pope said, “you are also committed to fighting poverty and building peace, as a work of justice and love. An action that nourishes hope and places trust in man, especially in young people.”

Peace Appeal
The Pontiff went on to discuss an appeal the Citadel of Peace Association has written and which will be presented to the UN on December 10, on the occasion of the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Pope Francis said that, “listening to a young Palestinian and a young Israeli together asking the governments of the world to take a step that can reopen the future, transferring the cost of a weapon from the budget of defense to the budget of education to form a peace leader, is a rare and beautiful thing!… I feel I must give you all my support, my affection, my blessing.”

“Your appeal”, the Pope continued, “contains and proposes a concrete vision”, adding that he supported it and asked Heads of State and Government to do likewise.

The role of Peace Leaders
Peace leaders, the Pope underlined, “are not those politicians who do not know how to dialogue and confront each other: a leader who does not strive to meet the ‘enemy’, to sit with him at the table as you do, cannot lead his people towards peace. To do this we need humility and not arrogance.” Peace,” Pope Francis concluded, “is everyone’s responsibility.” (vaticannews)



For the interview segment on this week’s “Vatican Insider,” I feature Part II of my conversation with John Schlageter, executive director of the Bethlehem University Foundation. Hopefully we will bring you on a short visit to the Holy Land, to Palestine and Bethlehem University, one of my favorite places in the Holy Land.

As I wrote last week, John and I have been friends for years, starting when he was a lawyer for the Military Ordinariate of the United States specializing in First Amendment rights. We saw each other recently when I was in Washington, and I asked John to speak of his new position as executive director of the Foundation.


We talk about Bethlehem University, the Foundation, John’s work and the situation in the Holy Land,oly among many fascinating topics. Part I aired last weekend. If anything can help bring peace to this part of the world, it will be the contribution of Bethlehem University and its amazing students – John and I talk about them throughout our conversation.

Here are some quick facts about BU (from website: https://www.bethlehem.edu/), interspersed with photos from my first visit to the campus. It was at vacation time and there were no students to feature – I’ll just have to go back when classes are in session! My second visit was when I spent the night in May 2014 in a guest apartment at the university before Pope Francis arrived the following morning from Amman, Jordan, to celebrate Mass in Bethlehem.



Bethlehem University – Founded in October 1973 with 112 students



Fall 2016 enrollment of 3,290 students:

214 Graduate students (Masters & Higher & Professional Diplomas)

3,076 Undergraduate students (Baccalaureate & Diploma)




719 Graduates (Acad. year 2015/2016)

Total 16,480 Degrees conferred as of August 2016

Total Number of Graduates: 15,282



Courses offered in Bethlehem, Qbeibeh near Ramallah and Online

A Jewish settlement seen from the university: I was told that what used to be a thriving olive tree grove serving Palestinians was razed to the ground to create this settlement:


Bethlehem University Foundation; www.bufusa.org



Instead of writing this column, I’d actually like to cross the street and go into St. Peter’s Basilica for some quiet prayer. I’d like to spend some time at the Altar of St. Joseph, that saintly, humble man who was the head of the Holy Family and putative father of Jesus. I’d then cross to the right aisle of the basilica to spend some time in meditation before Michelangelo’s Pieta, the magnificent statue that depicts a sorrowful Mary holding the body of her crucified Son.

After talking to Mary, I’d move on down the right aisle just a few feet to the Chapel of St. Sebastian and kneel in prayer before the tomb of St. John Paul, the pontiff who wrote so magnificently about the family, about marriage, about “Love and Responsibility,” and who instituted the World Meetings of Families.

And how could I not spend time in prayer at the tomb of the first Pope I ever saw, St. John XXIII! He wrote so lovingly and beautiful about the family and marriage – and it is the question of marriage – the utter, total redefining of marriage –  that is tearing my heart apart today.

This is why I want to pray so badly – pray for our nation where the Supreme Court has just decided that same sex marriage must be allowed in all 50 U.S. states.

I cannot write a reasonable and well-thought-out column on this subject today.  I have seen television commentary and I have downloaded Chief Justice Roberts’ dissent and have started to read that 6,033 word document.  I not only have fears about traditional marriage, I have fears about religious freedom, fears that Chief Justice Roberts expresses in his dissent.

For now, here are Chief Justice Roberts’ final words in his dissent:

“If you are among the many Americans—of whatever sexual orientation—who favor     expanding same-sex mar­riage, by all means celebrate today’s decision. Celebrate the achievement of a desired goal. Celebrate the oppor­tunity for a new expression of commitment to a partner. Celebrate the availability of new benefits. But do not celebrate the Constitution. It had nothing to do with it. I respectfully dissent.”

On June 29, 1959, St. John XXIII’s Encyclical “Ad Petri cathedram” was published. In that beautiful document, which should be read and re-read as it addresses truth, unity, the moral life and peace in what has been called “a fatherly message … addressing (these) issues with warmth and concern.”

In that document, St. John wrote:All the evils that poison men and nations and trouble so many hearts have a single cause and a single source: ignorance of the truth—and at times even more than ignorance, a contempt for truth and a reckless rejection of it.”

Ora pro nobis!


Pope Francis on Monday, June 29, the solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul, Apostles, in St. Peter’s Basilica will give the pallium to the 46 new metropolitan archbishops whom he has named since July 1, 2014.  June 29 is a holiday in Rome as well as the Vatican.

Earlier this year Francis changed the traditional ceremony in which the prelates receive the pallium, deciding that the public ceremony of investiture of the pallium on metropolitan archbishops will henceforth take place in their home dioceses and not in the Vatican as has been the case under recent pontiffs. The Holy Father will concelebrate Mass with the archbishops on June 29 and afterwards will give each metropolitan the pallium “in a private manner,” not placing it on their shoulders as seen here.

POPE- Pallium

Guido Marini, Master of Liturgical Ceremonies of the Supreme Pontiff, broke the news in a January 12 letter to nuncios in countries where metropolitan archbishops had been named to receive the pallium from the Pope in the Vatican on June 29.

Msgr. Marini, in an interview with Vatican Radio, said: “Pope Francis believes that this new custom can serve to advance that journey of synodality in the Catholic Church which, from the beginning of his pontificate, he has constantly emphasized as particularly urgent and precious at this time in the history of the Church.”

The pallium will be blessed during the Mass on the feast of Saints Peter and Paul in the Vatican, but placed on the metropolitan archbishop in his own diocese by the papal representative, the apostolic nuncio, in the country. The ceremony is to be determined individually with each new metropolitan.

The pallium, which is placed on the shoulders of each archbishop and worn at all liturgical ceremonies in his own archdiocese, is a band of white wool with two hanging pieces, front and back, that is decorated with six black crosses and represents the authority of a metropolitan archbishop and unity with the Holy Father.  The Pope also wears a pallium. The wool used in weaving the palliums comes from baby lambs  – lambs under one year of age – that are blessed each year in the basilica of St. Agnes in Rome on her January 21 feast day and then brought to the apostolic palace to the Holy Father.


Pope emeritus Benedict XVI explained “the symbolism of the pallium” in a very concrete way in his homily when he inaugurated his Petrine ministry on April 24, 2005 and said, “the lamb’s wool is meant to represent the lost, the sick or weak sheep which the shepherd places on his shoulders to carry to the waters of life.”

Click here to see the names of those who will reeive the pallium:  http://www.news.va/en/news/metropolitan-archbishops-to-receive-the-pallium


On Friday, June 26, 2015 at the Vatican Apostolic Palace, Archbishop Paul Gallagher, Secretary for Relations with States, and Dr. Riad Al-Malki, minister of Foreign Affairs, of the State of Palestine, signed a Comprehensive Agreement between the Holy See and the State of Palestine.

-Sala dei Trattati-Firma Accordo tra la Santa Sede e la Palestina   26-06-2015  - (Copyright L'OSSERVATORE ROMANO - Servizio Fotografico - photo@ossrom.va)

-Sala dei Trattati-Firma Accordo tra la Santa Sede e la Palestina 26-06-2015
– (Copyright L’OSSERVATORE ROMANO – Servizio Fotografico – photo@ossrom.va)

The accord follows on the Basic Agreement that was signed between the Holy See and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) on February 15, 2000 and is the result of the negotiations undertaken by a bilateral working commission over the past number of years.

Others who took part in the ceremony include, for the Holy See: Archbishop Giuseppe Lazzarotto, Apostolic Delegate to Jerusalem and Palestine; Archbishop Antonio Franco, Apostolic Nuncio, and Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem Fouad Twal; Msgr. Antoine Camilleri, Under-Secretary for Relations with States; Fr. Lorenzo Lorusso, O.P., Under-Secretary of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches; Msgr. Alberto Ortega, Official of the Section for Relations with States of the Secretariat of State; Msgr. Paolo Borgia, Official of the Section for General Affairs of the Secretariat of State; and Fr. Oscar Marzo, O.F.M., member of the Custody of the Holy Land and Official of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches.

For the State of Palestine: His Excellency Dr. Ramzi Khoury, Advisor to the President, Deputy Head of the Presidential Higher Committee on Church Affairs in Palestine; Ambassador Issa Kassissieh, Representative of the State of Palestine to the Holy See; Ambassador Rawan Sulaiman, Assistant Foreign Minister for Multilateral Affairs; Mrs. Vera Baboun, Mayor of Bethlehem; Mr. Moussa Abu Hadeed, Mayor of Ramallah; Mr. Ammar Hijazi, Deputy Assistant Foreign Minister for Multilateral Affairs; Mr. Azem Bishara, Legal Advisor of the PLO; Mr. Ammar Nisnas, Counselor of the Diplomatic Representation of the State of Palestine to the Holy See.

The Agreement is comprised of a Preamble and 32 Articles distributed in 8 Chapters. It deals with essential aspects of the life and activity of the Catholic Church in the State of Palestine, while reaffirming support for a negotiated and peaceful resolution of the situation in the region.

The Agreement shall come into force when both Parties have notified each other in writing that the constitutional or internal requirements for the coming into force of the Agreement have been met.

Archbishop Gallagher, welcomed the delegations, saying the Agreement “marks an important step on the path of good relations which for some time have happily existed between the Parties.”

He noted that, in contrast with the February 2000 Agreement, “the present one is being signed by the Holy See and the State of Palestine; this is indicative of the progress made by the Palestinian Authority in recent years, and above all of the level of international support, which culminated in the Resolution of the General Assembly of the United Nations of 29 November 2012, which recognized Palestine as a non-member Observer State at the United Nations.

“In this context,” said the archbishop, “it is my hope that the present Agreement may in some way be a stimulus to bringing a definitive end to the long-standing Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which continues to cause suffering for both Parties. I also hope that the much desired two-State solution may become a reality as soon as possible. The peace process can move forward only if it is directly negotiated between the Parties, with the support of the international community. This certainly requires courageous decisions, but it will also offer a major contribution to peace and stability in the region. “

Archbishop Gallagher went on to note that, “the Comprehensive Agreement, while constituting an understanding between two subjects of international law, basically concerns the life and activity of the Church in Palestine. In this respect, I am pleased that juridical recognition is clearly established and that guarantees have been given for the work of the Catholic Church and her institutions. Catholics do not seek any privilege other than continued cooperation with their fellow-citizens for the good of society. I am also pleased to say that the local Church, which has been actively involved in the negotiations, is satisfied with the goal attained and is happy to see the strengthening of its good relations with the civil Authorities.

“In the complex reality of the Middle East, where in some countries Christians have even suffered persecution, this Agreement offers a good example of dialogue and cooperation, and I earnestly hope that this may serve as a model for other Arab and Muslim majority countries. With this in mind, I would like to emphasize the importance of the chapter dedicated to freedom of religion and freedom of conscience. (source: news.va)