The afternoon of February 14, 2018, Ash Wednesday and the start of Lent, Pope Francis processed from the church of San Anselmo to the basilica of Santa Sabina on the Aventine Hill, thus renewing a centuries-old Roman tradition of celebrating Mass at what are known in Rome as Lenten station churches.

There was a moment of prayer at San Anselmo, and then the penitential procession to the basilica of Santa Sabina, the first of the 40 Lenten station churhes. Cardinals, archbishops, bishops, the Benedictine monks of San Anselmo, the Dominican Fathers of Santa Sabina and the lay faithful processed with the Holy Father.

Fortunately for all involved, the very cold rainy morning had dissipated and there was some sunshine for the start of the procession.

The Holy Father received ashes during Mass at Santa Sabina and delivered the following homily, which I offer in its entirety for its thought-provoking content. Francis offers us little jewels to think about – ways we must pause, ways and things we should see and suggestions for places to return to. Little nuggets we can think about every day of Lent: (photo vaticannews)

The season of Lent is a favourable time to remedy the dissonant chords of our Christian life and to receive the ever new, joyful and hope-filled proclamation of the Lord’s Passover.

The Church in her maternal wisdom invites us to pay special attention to anything that could dampen or even corrode our believing heart. We are subject to numerous temptations. Each of us knows the difficulties we have to face. And it is sad to note that, when faced with the ever-varying circumstances of our daily lives, there are voices raised that take advantage of pain and uncertainty; the only thing they aim to do is sow distrust.

If the fruit of faith is charity – as Mother Teresa often used to say – then the fruit of distrust is apathy and resignation. Distrust, apathy and resignation: these are demons that deaden and paralyze the soul of a believing people. Lent is the ideal time to unmask these and other temptations, to allow our hearts to beat once more in tune with the vibrant heart of Jesus. The whole of the Lenten season is imbued with this conviction, which we could say is echoed by three words offered to us in order to rekindle the heart of the believer: pause, see and return.

Pause a little, leave behind the unrest and commotion that fill the soul with bitter feelings which never get us anywhere.
Pause from this compulsion to a fast-paced life that scatters, divides and ultimately destroys time with family, with friends, with children, with grandparents, and time as a gift… time with God.
Pause for a little while, refrain from the need to show off and be seen by all, to continually appear on the “notice board” that makes us forget the value of intimacy and recollection.
Pause for a little while, refrain from haughty looks, from fleeting and pejorative comments that arise from forgetting tenderness, compassion and reverence for the encounter with others, particularly those who are vulnerable, hurt and even immersed in sin and error.
Pause for a little while, refrain from the urge to want to control everything, know everything, destroy everything; this comes from overlooking gratitude for the gift of life and all the good we receive.
Pause for a little while, refrain from the deafening noise that weakens and confuses our hearing, that makes us forget the fruitful and creative power of silence.
Pause for a little while, refrain from the attitude which promotes sterile and unproductive thoughts that arise from isolation and self-pity, and that cause us to forget going out to encounter others to share their burdens and suffering.
Pause for a little while, refrain from the emptiness of everything that is instantaneous, momentary and fleeting, that deprives us of our roots, our ties, of the value of continuity and the awareness of our ongoing journey.
Pause in order to look and contemplate!

See the gestures that prevent the extinguishing of charity, that keep the flame of faith and hope alive. Look at faces alive with God’s tenderness and goodness working in our midst.
See the face of our families who continue striving, day by day, with great effort, in order to move forward in life, and who, despite many concerns and much hardship, are committed to making their homes a school of love.
See the faces of our children and young people filled with yearning for the future and hope, filled with “tomorrows” and opportunities that demand dedication and protection. Living shoots of love and life that always open up a path in the midst of our selfish and meagre calculations.
See our elderly whose faces are marked by the passage of time, faces that reveal the living memory of our people. Faces that reflect God’s wisdom at work.
See the faces of our sick people and the many who take care of them; faces which in their vulnerability and service remind us that the value of each person can never be reduced to a question of calculation or utility.
See the remorseful faces of so many who try to repair their errors and mistakes, and who from their misfortune and suffering fight to transform their situations and move forward.
See and contemplate the face of Crucified Love, who today from the cross continues to bring us hope, his hand held out to those who feel crucified, who experience in their lives the burden of failure, disappointment and heartbreak.
See and contemplate the real face of Christ crucified out of love for everyone, without exception. For everyone? Yes, for everyone. To see his face is an invitation filled with hope for this Lenten time, in order to defeat the demons of distrust, apathy and resignation. The face that invites us to cry out: “The Kingdom of God is possible!”.

Pause, see and return.
Return to the house of your Father. Return without fear to those outstretched, eager arms of your Father, who is rich in mercy (cf. Eph 2:4), who awaits you.
Return without fear, for this is the favourable time to come home, to the home of my Father and your Father (cf. Jn 20:17). It is the time for allowing one’s heart to be touched… Persisting on the path of evil only gives rise to disappointment and sadness. True life is something quite distinct and our heart indeed knows this. God does not tire, nor will he tire, of holding out his hand (cf. Misericordiae Vultus, 19). Return without fear, to join in the celebration of those who are forgiven.
Return without fear, to experience the healing and reconciling tenderness of God. Let the Lord heal the wounds of sin and fulfil the prophecy made to our fathers: “A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put with in you; and I will take out of your flesh the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh” (Ezek 36: 26).
Pause, see and return!



Pope Francis tweeted today: The statute of Our Lady of Aparecida was found by poor workers. May Mary bless all of us, but especially those seeking employment.

There are so many fascinating institutes, academies and other institutions in Rome that to cover them, even summarily, would require full time dedication to just this area. The same could be said for any (or all) of the Vatican’s nine congregations, some going back almost 500 years while one, the Congregation for Oriental Churches, now celebrates its centenary.

For a small idea of the nature, scope, work and jurisdiction of this congregation – From the Vatican website: http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/orientchurch/profilo/rc_con_corient_pro_20030320_profile.html


Pope Francis celebrated a Mass of Thanksgiving this morning at St. Mary Major Basilica to commemorate the centenary of the Congregation for Oriental Churches and the Pontifical Oriental Institute. He also visited the pontifical institute as it is a very short distance from the basilica.

The Congregation for Oriental Churches is responsible for the 23 Eastern Catholic Churches in full communion with Rome, such as the Maronite, Melkite and Chaldean traditions, to name but three. There are about 16 million faithful in these Churches – about 1.5 % of the Catholic Church.

In his homily, Francis encouraged all Christians of the Oriental Churches to continue with their courageous witness, despite the dramatic persecutions that they suffer. Recalling the establishment of the PIO, the acronym for the pontifical institute, by Benedict XV in 1917, during the First World War, Pope Francis said that today we are living though another “piecemeal” world war. When we see the persecution and worrying exodus of Christians, he said, just like the people of the Old Testament, we cry out “Why?”

He answered by saying, if we pray and trust in the Lord, we know that “’everyone who asks, receives; those who seek, find; and to those who knock, the door will be opened’.. The Spirit is God’s great gift to us, so let’s learn how to knock courageously on the door of God’s heart. May courageous prayer inspire and sustain your service to the Church so that it may bear fruit that does not wither and die.”

Wednesday, at the general audience, Pope Francis had special greetings for Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, prefect of the congregation and grand chancellor of the Pontifical Oriental Institute. The “Orientale” as it is known in Rome, became part of the “Gregorian Consortium” that includes the Gregorian University and the Biblical Institute, all under the direction and tutelage of the Jesuits.(source: Vatican Radio)


(Vatican Radio) Church leaders from the different Eastern Catholic rites have been gathered in Rome this week to mark the centenary of the foundation of the Pontifical Oriental Institute and the Congregation for Eastern Churches. Pope Francis visited the Institute on Thursday and issued a mesage praising its “high achievements” and reminding it to be always attentive to the “enormous challenges facing Christians in the East”.

In 1917, in the middle of the First World War, Pope Benedict XV wstablished the Institute to be a bridge between East and West and to make the rich traditions of the Oriental Churches available to the entire Catholic world. A century on, the Institute maintains a world class reputation for its research, teaching and publishing on all issues of Eastern theology, liturgies, patristics, history, canon law, literature, spirituality, archeology, as well as questions of ecumenical and geopolitical importance.

Jesuit Father David Nazar is the current rector of the Pontifical Oriental Institute. Born in Canada to a family of Ukrainian origin, he’s a former superior of the Society of Jesus in Ukraine and  former Provincial of the Jesuits in the English Canada Province.

He spoke to Vatican Radio, and explained that the ‘Orientale’ as it’s known, is a papal institute, entrusted to the Society of Jesus, to focus on matters concerning all of the Catholic and Orthodox Eastern Churches.

Since many of the Eastern Churches are smaller and lacking the resources of Christians in the West, he says, the popes were concerned to make sure that the wealth of research on liturgy, ancient traditions, and original manuscripts could be made available to Christians across the globe.

Fr Nazar says that over the past century, the Jesuits have worked hard to establish a world class library, which was funded for a number of years by friends of Pope Pius XI. It remains second to none in the world, he notes, in the study of the ancient traditions and languages of the Eastern world.

Much of this work has been significant for the West as well, he adds, such as the Second Vatican Council’s document on the importance of the Eastern Churches “which would have been unimaginable without the fifty years of research that had been done at the Orientale”.


I hope all of you had wonderful Memorial Day yesterday, hopefully with family and friends and equally hopefully with good weather. I was able to see President Trump at Arlington Cemetery in the ever-moving ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and his tribute to the fallen of past wars and his visit with families who lost members in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Several years ago I had a very personalized visit to this magnificent cemetery when a retired Navy Capitain friend of mine, a Vietnam war veteran, Ted Bronson, accompanied me for a very extensive visit, a true history lesson. I will never forget the day and one of the things on my bucket list is to some year at Christmas become a volunteer to lay Christmas wreaths at the tombs of our soldiers.

Most of my Memorial Day holiday was spent getting around Rome to electronic stores to look for a new laptop. I am waaaay overdue in replacing my current one which has served me well but is finally on its last legs. I had a list of specs from friends who are tech-savvy, and that helped enormously. I think I have narrowed it down and one of those friends will accompany me when he has some time off.

Now, re the news: I read this morning’s homily (see below) by Pope Francis twice. I was so intrigued by the first sentence, and then the rest of the homily, that I had to re-read it (and perhaps read in between the lines). Is there only one message here – or are there two? Is he talking about bishops who should ‘move on’? By the way, he is the Bishop of Rome. Or is this simply Francis’ reading of that Biblical account?

Pope Francis’ hoped-for trip to South Sudan is off – for now. Holy See Press Office director Greg Burke told journalists today, Tuesday, May 30, that, although the Pope still wishes to travel to South Sudan, hopefully alongside Anglican Archbishop Justin Welby, such a trip is off for this year. The Vatican was tenatively looking at October.


(Vatican Radio) The true shepherd knows how to step down from his church, because he knows that he is not at the center of history, but is a free man who has served without compromises and without taking control of his flock. That was Pope Francis message during his homily at Mass celebrated on Tuesday in the Vatican’s Santa Marta residence.

“A shepherd must be ready to step down completely from his church, rather than leave in a partial manner” said the Pope.

His words were drawn from the first reading at Mass, where St Paul addressed the church leaders in Ephesus.  The Pope said that this reading could easily be called “A bishop’s leave taking” because Paul has left the Church of Ephesus in order to go to Jerusalem, where the Holy Spirit called him to go.

“All shepherds have to step down. There comes a moment where the Lord says ‘go to another place, come here, go there, come to me.’ And it’s one of the steps that a shepherd must take; be prepared to step down in the correct way, not still hanging on to his position. The shepherd who doesn’t learn how to do this because he still has some links with his sheep that are not good, links that are not purified by the Cross of Jesus” said Pope Francis.

According to the Pope, St Paul had held a council with all the priests of Ephesus and during this council he had demonstrated three “apostolic attitudes.”

The first of these is never turning back. The Pope said that this is the worst of all sins, to turn back. This is the thing which will bring much peace to the shepherd, when he remembers that he is not a shepherd who has led the church through compromising. Pope Francis admitted that this attitude requires much courage.

The second attitude is obedience to the Spirit, without knowing what will happen. A shepherd must know that he is on a journey.

The Pope said that Paul was a shepherd who serves his sheep.

“While guiding the Church he had an uncompromising attitude, at that moment it was the Spirit who asked him to go on his journey, without knowing what would happen to him. And he went because he had nothing of his own, he had not wrongly taken control of his sheep. He had served them. Paul said ‘Now God wants me to leave. I leave without knowing what will happen to me. I know only this – the Spirit had told him this – that the Holy Spirit had testified to me that trials and tribulations are awaiting me from city to city.’ This was what he (St Paul) knew. That I am not retiring. I am going away to serve other churches. The heart is always open to the voice of God, I am leaving this place, I will see what the Lord is asking of me. This is a shepherd without compromises who is now a shepherd on a journey.”

The third attitude is “I do not consider my own life to be precious in any way. I am not the center of history. Whether it’s large history or small history, I am not the center, I am a servant” said the Pope.

“With this most beautiful example, let us pray for our shepherds, for our parish priests, our bishops, the Pope, that their lives will be lives lived without compromise, lives on a journey and lives where they do not believe that they are the center of history and have learned how to step down. Let us pray for our shepherds.”


Big celebrations are set for the coming days when an estimated 35,000 members of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal movement from around the world are set to converge on Rome for a huge series of events, workshops, Masses and a meeting with Pope Francis at the Circus Maximus on Saturday evening, June 3, the vigil of Pentecost. If guests wear the color of Pentecost – the descent of the Holy Spirit as firelike tongue – Rome will be awash in red.

Celebrations start Wednesday, May 31 and conclude Sunday morning in St. Peter’s Square with Mass presided over by Pope Francis to celebrate Pentecost, the birth of the Church.

Following are organizational and events charts from the CCR website (http://www.ccrgoldenjubilee2017.org/pdetails.php?lang=en) (not sure if you can read these (or enlarge) – if not, go to the CCR website)


Today is the feast of the Presentation of the Lord in the Temple and the day on which the Church traditionally celebrates the World Day of Consecrated Life. His homily for Mass appears below.

To mark this day, Pope Francis tweeted: Consecrated life is a great gift of God: a gift of God to the Church, a gift of God to His People.


(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis Thursday afternoon celebrated Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica to mark the feast of the Presentation of the Child jesus in the Temple and the World Day for Consecrated Life in the presence of members of Institutes of Consecrated Life and of Societies of Apostolic Life.

The World Day for Consecrated Life, now in its 21st edition, was established in 1997 by Pope Saint John Paul II. This day is also known as “Candlemas” due to the blessing of candles and the procession that takes place at the beginning of the Mass. The candles symbolize both Christ, the Light of the World, and the lives of consecrated women and men who are called to reflect the light of Christ for all peoples.


In his homily, Pope Francis spoke of the “hymn of hope” pronounced by Simeon and Anna when they saw the Savior appearing in the Temple. We, too, the Pope said, “have inherited this hymn of hope from our elders… We would do well to take up the dreams of our elders, so that we can prophesy in our day, and once more encounter what originally set our hearts on fire.”

But he also warned of a “temptation” that can make the consecrated life barren: the temptation of “survival,” which urges us to protect ourselves at the expense of our dreams. “The temptation of survival makes us forget grace.”

The Holy Father reminded consecrated women and men, that they are called to put themselves “with Jesus in the midst of His people.”


Pope Francis concluded his homily with the exhortation: “Let us accompany Jesus as He goes forth to meet His people, to be in the midst of His people.”

This year’s celebration of the World Day for Consecrated Life has a particular significance, being devoted to thanksgiving and prayer for the give of vocations, especially in view of the upcoming Synod of Bishops, which will be dedicated to the theme: “Youth, faith and vocational discernment.” The Synod is expected to meet in October 2018.

For the complete papal homily, click here: http://www.news.va/en/news/homily-for-feast-of-the-presentation-of-the-lord-f


Pope Francis’ prayer intention for February is COMFORT FOR THE AFFLICTED: That all those who are afflicted, especially the poor, refugees, and marginalized, may find welcome and comfort in our communities.

The Apostleship of Prayer produced the Pope’s video on this prayer intention. The text of his remarks follows:

Welcome the Needy

We live in cities that throw up skyscrapers and shopping centers and strike big real estate deals … but they abandon a part of themselves to marginal settlements on the periphery.

The result of this situation is that great sections of the population are excluded and marginalized: without a job, without options, without a way out.

Don’t abandon them. Pray with me for all those who are afflicted, especially the poor, refugees, and marginalized, may find welcome and comfort in our communities.


The Vatican has anounced that its supermarket, known by shoppers as l’annona, is supporting those affected by the earthquakes in central Italy by offering goods for sale made by local farmers in the region, especially the small town of Amatrice, which was hit hardest by the quake on August 24, 2016.

Special ID passes with the individual’s name and photo are given to Vatican and Roman Curia employees, retirees, and others associated with the Vatican to shop here.

The brief anouncement noted that immediately after the earthquake, in which nearly 300 people died, Pope Francis sent members of the Vatican fire department to aid in rescue efforts. Medical personnel working at the Vatican also volunteered to help.


I arrived in Birmingham yesterday afternoon, got settled in at the Sheraton hotel, just across from the city’s convention center where this weekend’s EWTN Family Celebration will be held, and thern had dinner with Fr. Frank Pavone, Janet Morana, Fr. Steve Imbarrato, Elena Rodriguez and Kathy Ranelli, all of EWTN’s “Defending Life” program. Fun evening, great food and very interesting conversation.

I did a bit of work this morning before going to the network to appear live on “At Home with Jim and Joy.” It was a barrel of fun and the time passed so quickly it was unbelievable. But don’t we always say, “how quickly time passes when you’re having fun!”

I also met a number of “Joan’s Rome” fans in studio and we had some time to speak and will see each other again at the Family Celebration. Met more fans in the hotel as people start to arrive from around the state and country for this annual celebration.

I’m now in the hotel to work on a new edition of “Vatican Insider” that will air this weekend – more on that tomorrow.

I have just one comment to make about visiting the U.S. in summer time or any time the weather is really hot. Why do hotels, stores, restaurants, cafes, convention centers, etc., etc. all have to have the air conditioning at such low levels you could be excused for thinking you just got off a plane in Antarctica!

You cannot visit America when it is summer unless you have packed a shawl, a long-sleeved sweater, a suitcoat or some jacket to put over your summer clothing just to stay reasonably warm inside a building. When the temps and humidity are really high – as they are now in Birmingham, AC is the way to go, but not the excessive low temps – just give us enough to make us feel comfortable.

And you know what? The food gets cold much faster when a restaurant has very cold AC. That is just logical.

And now to three news stories from yesterday and today that I wanted to bring to you – important words and events. I’d love to be a fly on the wall at some of the meetings mentioned in the third story about the Jubilee of Papal Diplomats.

PAPAL TWEETS: September 15: The Church is called to walk with Jesus on the roads of the world, in order to meet the humanity of today.

Yesterday: The Church’s forgiveness must be every bit as broad as that offered by Jesus on the Cross and by Mary at his feet.


(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Wednesday morning celebrated Mass for the French priest of Rouen, Fr. Jacques Hamel, whom he described, is part of the chain of Christian martyrs that runs throughout the history of the Church. (photo news.va)


Father Hamel was murdered while celebrating Mass in his Parish Church by two men swearing allegiance to the so-called Islamic State in July. Linda Bordoni reports:

To the congregation gathered at Santa Marta, which included Archbishop Dominque Lebrun of Rouen and 80 other pilgrims from the diocese, Pope Francis said that “to kill in the name of God is satanic.”

Reflecting on the many martyrs that are part of the history of the Catholic Church, Pope Francis said: “this is a story that repeats itself in the Church, and today there are more Christian martyrs than there were at beginning of Christianity.”

Today, he continued, there are Christians “who are murdered, tortured, imprisoned, have their throats slit because they do not deny Jesus Christ.”

This history, said Francis, continues with our Father Jacques: he is part of this chain of martyrs.

“Father Jacques Hamel was slain as he celebrated the sacrifice of Christ’s crucifixion. A good man, a meek man, a man who always tried to build peace was murdered (…). This is the satanic thread of persecution,” he said.

Pope Francis continued: “What a pleasure it would be if all religious confessions would say: ‘to kill in the name of God is satanic’.”

The Holy Father concluded his homily by holding up Fr. Hamel and his example of courage and said we must pray to him to grant us meekness, brotherhood, peace and the courage to tell the truth: “to kill in the name of God is satanic.”

On the altar, a simple photograph of Fr. Hamel who was slain by two Islamist fanatics while celebrating Mass in the Church of Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray on July 26, 2016.

The liturgy was broadcast live by the Vatican Television Station.


(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis issued an Apostolic Letter motu proprio on Thursday, in which he brings the basic legal instruments that govern the Latin Church and the Eastern Churches in communion with Rome more closely into accord with one another in several different specific areas regarding the discipline of the sacraments, and ecclesial identity of the faithful.

The Holy Father has introduced material changes only to the Code of Canon Law that governs the Latin Church, in order to bring the Latin code into harmony with the Eastern code, especially as regards the valid celebration of marriages with spouses of mixed Rite, the circumstances under which a spouse may change Rite, how to determine the Rite to which a child belongs properly, and other questions in a similar vein.

A note issued by the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts explains that the reason for the reforms is that of responding to the desire to facilitate the pastoral care of all the faithful, especially of those  very great and increasing numbers of Eastern Christians living in predominantly Latin environments.

Vatican Radio then presented the motu proprio in its original Latin.


(Vatican Radio) Papal diplomats from around the world are in Rome this week for a special Jubilee event that includes both practical refresher seminars and moments of spiritual reflection with the Holy Father.


Relations with Islam, gender culture and other challenges facing the Church today are on the program, as Philippa Hitchen reports.

The year of mercy may be drawing to a close but Pope Francis is maintaining a packed agenda of Jubilee events. From September 15th to 17th he’s meeting with over a hundred representatives of the Holy See working in locations right across the globe. Of the 108 diplomatic missions in existence today, 103 are headed by archbishops serving as papal nuncios, while the other five posts are permanent observers to international organisations.

The Jubilee event began on Thursday morning with Mass, presided over by Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, in St Peter’s Basilica, followed by two seminars held in the Synod Hall. The first of these was focused on the Pope, the Church and the world today, led by Professor Piero Coda, president of the Sofia University Institute founded by the Focolari movement just south of Florence. The second session, led by Rev. Robert Ghal from the Pontifical Holy Cross University in Rome is entitled ‘Genesis and the case of gender culture’ and will be followed by dinner with Pope Francis at the Casina Pio IV in the Vatican gardens.

On Friday morning participants will have a working session with officials from the Secretariat of State and in the afternoon they’ll attend a third seminar, focused on interreligious dialogue and relations with Islam, led by Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran. In the evening, they’ll join heads of all the Curial offices and ambassadors accredited to the Holy See for a reception in the Vatican museums.

The final day, Saturday, will include many of the 40 retired apostolic nuncios and will be a time for spiritual communion, starting with Mass concelebrated with Pope Francis in the Santa Marta chapel. That’ll be followed by a reflection from Mgr Pierangelo Sequeri of the John Paul II Institute for Marriage and Family Life. The diplomats will then make their way through the Holy Door of St Peter’s Basilica before meeting together with Pope Francis in the Clementine hall of the apostolic palace.

The event concludes with a lunch in Santa Marta, but the Pope has invited all 163 staff members of the nunciatures and diplomatic missions for their own Jubilee here in the Vatican on November 18th.



There were no public engagements on Pope Francis’ agenda today but there are a number of interesting stories to report: a beautiful papal homily on the true meaning of love, a good news story from Egypt about Christians and a special moment for the British Ambassador to the Holy See and invited guests at a special wreath-laying ceremony in St. Peter’s Basilica.


In this week’s interview segment, you will meet Msgr. Dan Mueggenborg, pastor since 2011 at Christ the King parish in Tulsa, Oklahoma. We became friends during the six years that he was in Rome at the North American College as vice rector and director of admissions. Over the years we broke bread together many times, at NAC and at my home and recently we met serendipitously at a favorite restaurant when he arrived in Rome for a visit. I asked Msgr. Dan about life in a parish and the conversation was riveting and I asked him to tell his story. So be sure to tune in this week for an inspiring conversation.


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 www.ewtn.com) or on 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 9:30 am (Eastern time) and re-airs Sundays at 4:30 pm (ET). Check for your time zone. Past shows are found in Vatican Insider archives: http://www.ewtn.com/vondemand/audio/file_index.asp?SeriesId=7096&pgnu=


This morning, in his homily during morning Mass in the Santa Marta residence, Pope Francis focused on the Gospel reading from the letter of John the Apostle, and meditated on the different meanings of the word ‘love’ , emphasizing that the two most important commandments for a Christian are to love God and our neighbor.

Vatican Radio records the morning papal homilies and transcribves them for the news.va website. Today’s was the second daily Mass since the end of the Christmas break on the January 6 feast of the Epiphany.

“This word ‘love’,” said the Holy Father, “is a word that is used so many times and when we use it we don’t know exactly what it means. What is love? Sometimes we can think of the love in the soap operas but that doesn’t appear to be love. Or else love can seem like having a crush on a person but then it fades away. Where does true love come from? Whoever loves has been created by God because God is love. Don’t say: ‘Every love is God,’ No, God is love.”

The Pope said the Apostle John underlines how God loves us first and there are many examples of this in the Gospel, such as during the multiplication of the loaves of bread by Jesus or in the parable of the Prodigal Son.

“When we have something on our mind and we want to ask God to forgive us, it’s He who is waiting for us – to forgive us.  This Jubilee Year of Mercy, to some extent, is also this: that we may know that our Lord is waiting for us, each one of us.  Why? To embrace us.  Nothing more.  To say to us: son, daughter, I love you. I let my Son be crucified for you: this is the price of my love, this is the gift of my love.”

Pope Francis went on to stress how “the Lord is waiting for me, the Lord wants me to open the door of my heart” and we must have this certainty that He will wait for us just as we are and not as we are told to be.

“We must go to the Lord and say: ‘You know, Lord, how much I love you.’ Or, if you don’t feel able to say it in that way: ‘You know, Lord, that I would like to love you but I am such a bad sinner.’ And He will do the same as he did with the prodigal son who squandered all his money on vices: he won’t let you finish your speech and with an embrace will silence you. The embrace of God’s love.”


The following is a story I read in the daily bulletin I receive via email from AINA, the Assyrian International News Agency. If you are an avid follower of events in the Middle East, as I am, this is a fascinating news site. Many stories are written by local journalists while others are written by members of the international media and carried by AINA.

Finally, a good news story from Egypt:

We Will Rebuild Your Torched Churches, Egyptian President Tells Christians – By Ruth Gledhill (http://www.christiantoday.com)


Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi greets Christians during Egypt’s Coptic Christmas eve mass led by Pope Tawadros II, the 118th Pope of the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria, at St Mark’s Cathedral, in Cairo, Egypt.The president of Egypt, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, has pledged to rebuild every single one of the dozens of churches, Christian institutions and homes destroyed during the last two years of anti-Christian violence in his troubled nation.

President al-Sisi, a Muslim who has spoken in the past of the need to “revolutionise” Islam, was addressing Christians during a Coptic Christmas Eve mass yesterday at St Mark’s Cathedral in Abbassiya. Mass was celebrated by the head of the church, Pope Tawadros II. Orthodox churches, which follow the traditional Julian calendar, mark Christmas two weeks later than the Western Christian churches which follow the Gregorian calendar.

Extremist Islamic groups are still influential in Egypt in spite of the defeat of the Muslim Brotherhood in 2013. Shortly after former President Morsi was ousted, there was an increase in violence against Coptic Christians and at least 65 churches, Christian bookshops, schools and convents were burned down, looted or destroyed, according to Open Doors.

President al-Sisi, who last year became the first Egyptian President to attend a Christmas mass, greeted the Coptic Christian community and, while emphasising the diversity of Egyptians, said that the way to overcome hardships was to remain united as a nation.

“On this occasion, I want to exhort you all, let no one come between us. Nothing can harm us, not our economic conditions or political conditions. Unless we diverge, we can overcome anything.”

He continued: “God Has created us different, in religion, manner, colour, language, habit, tradition, and no one can make us the all same.”

He admitted the government should have acted sooner to help the Christians.

“We have taken too long to fix and renovate churches that were burned. This year everything will be fixed. Please accept our apologies for what happened. God willing, by next year there won’t be a single church or house that is not restored.

“We will never forget the stance you and the Pope took during this period…thank you all. Merry Christmas.”


This afternoon, having received permission from Queen Elizabeth, the British Ambassador to the Holy See Nigel Baker laid a wreath at the tomb of James Francis Edward Stuart at St. Peter’s Basilica, to commemorate the 250th anniversary of his State funeral.


James Francis Edward Stuart was the son of King James II of England and Ireland, VII of Scotland and Queen Mary of Modena, explains a note from the British embassy. He was also known as “the Old Pretender” and claimed the throne as “James III of England and Ireland, VIII of Scotland.” He died in exile in Rome on January 1, 1766 and was given the unprecedented honor of a State funeral by the Pope on January 8 in St. Peter’s Basilica, where he lies. The Pope recognized him as King, but did not extend that title to his sons in tacit, and later explicit recognition of the Hanoverian succession.

James Francis Edward Stewart was the father of “Bonnie” Prince Charles Edward Stuart and Henry Benedict, Cardinal York. Born at St James’s Palace, London, on June 10, 1688, he was taken into exile in December 1688 following the deposition of James II. He lived in the Palazzo Muti in Rome from 1719 until his death.

The commemoration ceremony consisted of a simple wreath-laying by Ambassador Baker and the reading of the Rite of Commendation (in Latin) by Cardinal Angelo Comastri, archpriest of St Peter’s Basilica, and the singing of the Antiphon In Paradisum Deducant Te Angeli.

The Stuart tomb at St. Peter’s was restored in the 1940’s, including with money donated by Queen Elizabeth (wife of George VI). In 2012, the Duke of Gloucester unveiled a restored coat of arms of Cardinal York at the Pontifical Scots College, and viewed the original Stuart gravestones which were transferred there in the 1940s.

(FYI: http://stpetersbasilica.info/Grottoes/Stuarts/Tomb%20of%20the%20Stuarts.htm)



Tune in this weekend to “Vatican Insider” when I welcome Dr. Dan Guernsey, director of K-12 programs at the Cardinal Newman Society. He is an educator who has worked at every level of Catholic education for 25 years from K-12 to university president.


Dr. Guernsey is in Rome for the World Congress organized by the Congregation for Catholic Education to commemorate two Vatican Documents on Education, the 50th anniversary of “Gravissimum educationis” and the 25th of “Ex corde Ecclesiae (Apostolic Constitution on Catholic Universities). The congress theme is “Educating today and tomorrow: a renewing passion.”


In 2012, some fifty experts from around the globe met in Rome to identify problems regarding education in Church-run schools and universities all over the world, and to make some suggestions to relaunch important educational activities carried out by many Catholic institutions. The Rome Congress is four days long, and Pope Francis meets participnats on Saturday.

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 www.ewtn.com) or on 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 9:30 am (Eastern time) and re-airs Sundays at 4:30 pm (ET). Check for your time zone. Past shows are found in Vatican Insider archives: http://www.ewtn.com/vondemand/audio/file_index.asp?SeriesId=7096&pgnu=


Pope Francis today welcomed Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, who later met with Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin and Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher, secretary for Relations with States.

The Vatican communqiue on the meeting said discussions were “cordial” and “were dedicated principally to matters connected with the situation of conflict in the country. In this respect the hope was shared that, with the commitment of all the interested Parties, political solutions may be favored, starting with the full implementation of the Minsk Accords.”

The Vatican noted that, “at the same time, concern was expressed regarding the difficulties of facing the humanitarian crisis, with particular reference to access for specialised organisations to areas affected by hostilities, to healthcare, to the exchange of prisoners, and the economic and social repercussions of the conflict, experienced throughout the territory.

Lastly, said the communique, “the meeting provided an opportunity to highlight the important role of the Church in society, as well as the contribution of the Greek Catholic and Latin rite communities to the life of the country.”


Every morning that he says Mass in the Santa Marta chapel, Pope Francis’ homilies are recorded by Vatican Radio, which transcribes them into Italian and translates them into other languages. Those translations are then put on the News.va website. The Holy Father had a powerful homily yesterday that I placed here in its entirety, a talk about Jesus who weeps at man’s inhumanity to man, at his desire for war, at his seeming lack of desire for peace.

In his homily today, the Pope said the Church must not be obsessed by money or power, nor worship “holy bribes.” Instead her strength and joy should come from the words of Christ. Following are extracts from Vatican Radio’s report.

POPE - MASS nov 20

The Holy Father reflected on the reading from Maccabees, which tells of the people’s joy following the reconsecration of the Holy Temple that had been destroyed by pagans and those obsessed by worldliness. The people of God celebrated, they rejoiced because they had rekindled “their true identity.” Francis explained that “those who indulge in worldliness do not know how to celebrate – they can’t celebrate! At most, the worldly spirit can provide amusement, it can provoke excitement, but true joy can only come from faith in the Covenant.”  Pope Francis noted that at the time of the Maccabees, worldly desire “displaced the Living God,”adding that now, it is happening “in another way altogether.”

“The Gospel says the chief priests and scribes had changed things. They had dishonored and compromised the Temple. They had dishonored the Temple! The Temple was a symbol of the Church. The Church will always – always! – be subject to the temptation of worldliness and power. Jesus did not say ‘No, do not do this inside. Go outside instead.’ He said ‘You have made it a den of thieves!’ And when the Church enters into such a state of decline, the end is bad. Very bad indeed.”

“There is always a danger of corruption within the Church,” continued the Pope. “This happens when the Church, instead of being devoted to faith in Our Lord, in the Prince of Peace, in joy, in salvation, becomes dominated by money and power. This is exactly what happens here, in this Gospel reading.”

Pope Francis noted that “Jesus did not chase the priests and scribes away from the Temple; he chased away those who were doing business there, the businessmen of the Temple. The chief priests and scribes were involved in their dealings: this is ‘holy bribery’! The Gospel is very clear. It says: “The chief priests and scribes wanted to kill Jesus, along with the elders of the people’. …Jesus’ strength is to be found in his words, in his love. And where Jesus is, there is no room for worldliness. There is no room for corruption! This is a challenge for each and every one of us; this is the struggle the Church has to face every day.”

“We must pray for the Church,” said Francis. “We must hold in our hearts today’s martyrs, who suffer and die, so as not to be ensnared by worldly desires, by obsession, by apostasy. Today! Today, there are more martyrs of the Church than there ever were before. Let’s think about that. It does us good to think about them. And also to pray that we may never fall into the trap of worldliness, where we will be obsessed only by money and power.”