Tune in this weekend to Vatican Insider for part II of my interview with Jesuit Fr. Tom Smolich, the international director of JRS, Jesuit Refugee Service. He has riveting stories about the JRS, where it serves, whom the Jesuits and their countless volunteers help and how we should get to know and better understand who refugees actually are. Do you know, for example, that many men and women classified as refugees today are degreed people – doctors, teachers, etc. Father Tom also tells us about JRS’ recent campaign to help a religious minority in Iraq. In addition, I ask Father about his great challenges and his greatest joys – memorable answers!

I took this photo in the JRS headquarters in Rome and told Father Tom I’d have to come back some day just to do a story about the scores of crucifixes and crosses that cover one wall of his office. They really tell the story of JRS!

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The funeral of American Cardinal William Levada, prefect emeritus of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, took place this morning at the Altar of the Chair in St. Peter’s Basilica. The cardinal died in the early morning hours of September 26.

At the end of Mass, celebrated by Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, Pope Francis presided over the rite of the final commendation and the “valedictio.” Fourteen cardinals concelebrated, along with 21 archbishops, bishops and priests, including Archbishop Jan Romeo Pawlowski, delegate for the pontifical representatives.

Joining members of the Diplomatic Corps accredited to the Holy See, were Archbishop Edgar Peña Parra, deputy secretary of State, and Monsignor Joseph Murphy, head of the protocol office. Cardinal Giovanni Lajolo assisted the rite, directed by the papal master of ceremonies. Among those present were many religious, including the sisters who assisted the cardinal. Archbishop Georg Gänswein, prefect of the Papal Household, also attended the Mass.

A photo of Pope Francis over the casket of Cardinal Levada was on the front page of the Vatican’s newspaper. L’Osservatore Romano, that came out this afternoon with tomorrow’s date. All of page four was dedicated to Cardinal Levada, and included Cardinal Bertone’s homily.


The following telegram was published at 6 pm Rome time today:

To The Most Reverend Salvatore J. Cordileone, Archbishop of San Francisco

Having learned with sadness of the death of Cardinal William J. Levada, Prefect Emeritus of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and Archbishop Emeritus of San Francisco, I hasten to offer my heartfelt condolences to you and to the clergy, religious and faithful of the Archdiocese. Recalling with immense gratitude the late Cardinal’s years of priestly and episcopal ministry among Christ’s flock in Los Angeles, Portland and San Francisco, his singular contributions to catechesis, education and administration, and his distinguished service to the Apostolic See, I willingly join you in commending his noble soul to the infinite mercies of God our heavenly Father. To all those who mourn Cardinal Levada’s passing in the sure hope of the Resurrection, I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing as a pledge of consolation and peace in the Lord.




Friday, at the end of the spiritual exercises and just before returning to Rome from Ariccia, Pope Francis thanked retreat master, Italian Benedictine Abbot Bernardo Francesco Maria Gianni, saying, “I was struck by your work to make us enter, as the Word did, into humanity; and understand that God always makes himself present in the human. He did it the first time in the Incarnation of the Word, but He is also present in the traces He leaves in the human. Equal to the incarnation of the Word – undivided and inconfused – He is there. And our job is maybe to go on …

Francis continued, “Thank you so much for this job. I thank you for having spoken to us of memory: this ‘deuteronomic’ dimension that we forget; of having spoken to us of hope, of work, of patience, as if pointing out the way to have that ‘memory of the future’ that always brings us forward. Thank you! And it made me laugh when you said that someone, reading the titles of the meditations, maybe didn’t understand what the Curia did: maybe they rented a tourist guide that would lead them to know Florence and its poets … !

The Holy Father admitted, “in the first meditation I was a bit disoriented, then I understood the message. Thank you. I thought a lot about a conciliar document – Gaudium et spes – perhaps it is the document that has found more resistance, even today. And at some point I saw you in this way: with the courage of the Council Fathers when they signed that document. I thank you so much. Pray for us that we are all sinners, all of us, but we want to go on like this, serving the Lord. Thank you very much and greet the monks from me and from us. Thank you!”


Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin sent the following telegram in Pope Francis’ name for the victims of the attack in New Zealand on Friday, March 15.

The recipient of the telegram was not named but telegrams are normally sent to the bishop/archbishop of the local diocese and, when necessary or opportune, are addressed to leaders of other faith or religious communities.

“His Holiness Pope Francis was deeply saddened to learn of the injury and loss of life caused by the senseless acts of violence at two Mosques in Christchurch, and he assures all New Zealanders, and in particular the Muslim community, of his heartfelt solidarity in the wake of these attacks. Mindful of the efforts of the security and emergency personnel in this difficult situation, His Holiness prays for the healing of the injured, the consolation of those who grieve the loss of their loved ones, and for all affected by this tragedy. Commending those who have died to the loving mercy of Almighty God, Pope Francis invokes the divine blessings of comfort and strength upon the nation. Pietro Parolin Secretary of State”

Following the attack, the Catholic Bishops of New Zealand addressed a message to members of the Muslim community in New Zealand:

“We hold you in prayer as we hear the terrible news of violence against Muslims in mosques in Christchurch. We are profoundly aware of the positive relationships we have with Islamic people in this land, and we are particularly horrified that this has happened at a place and time of prayer. We are deeply saddened that people have been killed and injured, and our hearts go out to them, their families and wider community. We wish you to be aware of our solidarity with you in the face of such violence.”

The message concludes, “Peace, Salaam,” and is signed by all five Catholic Bishops of New Zealand.


At least 40 people have died in separate attacks on two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand. In the wake of the attacks, the nation’s Catholic Bishops have expressed their solidarity with the Muslim community.
By Vatican News

Reporting from New Zealand, Nicky Webber says, “Our entire country is absolutely devastated by the 49 confirmed deaths in New Zealand’s first terrorist attack”. She described “the massacre of innocent people, at prayer, in their place of worship” as “shocking and heartbreaking”.

The attacks began in the early afternoon on Friday, when at least one person entered the Al Noor Mosque in Christchurch and began firing on worshippers. Early reports suggested that there may have been multiple attackers. The attack on the second mosque began a short time later. “Many Muslims attending the lunchtime service at the two Mosques in Christchurch were immigrants and refugees, from war torn countries, seeking peace, safety and solace, for their families,” Webber said. “They are Kiwis too, part of our community and we mourn with them too”.

Police also found IEDs (improvised explosive devices, or homemade bombs), attached to cars near the site of the attacks. UPDATE: Authorities later clarified that two bombs had been found in a single car.

“It is clear that this is one of New Zealand’s darkest days”, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said in a statement following the attacks. Although she was unable to confirm the number of casualties, local media reported that at least 40 people were killed, and at least 50 people wounded. “Clearly, what has happened here is an extraordinary and unprecedented act of violence”, the Prime Minister said.

Authorities said that four people – three men and one woman – were in custody in connection with the shooting. One person, a 28-year-old man, has already been charged with murder; while police are continuing to investigate whether the other people arrested were in fact involved. The Australian man, whose name has not been released, had posted a racist, anti-immigrant manifesto on social media prior to the shootings, and afterwards apparently posted video footage of the attack. Police have urged people not to share the violent and disturbing footage, and Facebook and other social media companies have been working to remove the videos, as well as any comments in support of the attacks.

“New Zealand is an ethnically diverse country”, Webber said, “which has always practised tolerance for all races, cultures and religions. We are a welcoming, peaceful and compassionate nation who today have been shocked to our very core that such hatred has come to our shores”. She said, “Every Kiwi is offering their compassion, support and love to those suffering from this horrific crime”.



The following telegram of condolences, signed by Pope Francis, was sent to Cardinal Jozef De Kesel, archbishop of Malines-Bruxelles upon the death today of his predecessor Cardinal Godfried Danneels at the age of 85:

“Having learned with emotion of the death of Cardinal Godfried Danneels, archbishop emeritus of Mechelen-Brussels, I send my deepest condolences to you and to his family, the Bishops of Belgium, the clergy, the consecrated persons and all the faithful affected by this mourning. This zealous pastor served the Church with dedication, not only in his diocese, but also at the national level as president of the Conference of Bishops of Belgium, while being a member of various Roman dicasteries. Attentive to the challenges of the contemporary Church, Cardinal Danneels also took an active role in various Synods of Bishops, including those of 2014 and 2015 on the family. He has been called to God at this time of purification and of walking toward the Resurrection of the Lord. I ask Christ, victor over evil and death, to welcome him in His peace and joy. As a pledge of comfort, I offer a special apostolic blessing to you and to the relatives of the deceased Cardinal, the pastors, the faithful and all those who will take part in the funeral.

The Vatican also provided a biography of the late cardinal:

The telegram did not appear on the site until after 7 pm. It did appear in the daily press office bulletin at


With the death of Cardinal Danneels, the College of Cardinals is now composed of 222 members, 122 of whom are cardinal electors, that is, under the age of 80 and eligible to enter into conclave to elect a new pope. One hundred cardinals are over the age of 80 and thus ineligible to vote in a conclave. (from

Of the electors, 18 were created by St John Paul, 47 by Pope emeritus Benedict XVI and 57 by Pope Francis.

The 122 cardinal electors are thus distributed geographically:
Europe: 52
North America 16
Central America 5
South America 13
Africa 16
Asia 16
Oceania 4

Cardinals who will turn 80 and become non-electors through the rest of 2019:
Edwin O’BRIEN (April 8); Stanislaw DZIWISZ (April 27); John TONG HON (July 31); Sean Baptist BRADY (August 16); Laurent Pasinya MONSENGWO (October 7); Zenon GROCHOLEWSKI (October 11): Edoardo MENICHELLI (October 14) and Telesphore Placidus TOPPO (October 15).

Interestingly enough the picture was a bit different in the 2013 conclave. There were 115 electors for that conclave but two never made it to Rome for illness. The countries with the greatest number of cardinal electors were Italy (twenty-eight), the United States (eleven) and Germany (six).

There were 11 electors from Africa, 20 from North America, 13 from South America, 10 from Asia, 60 from Europe and 1 from Oceania.

The Vatican did not list Central America separately in 2013, as they have in 2019 statistics.


As I indicated above, the Vatican today provided a biography of the late cardinal Danneels from its own website:

Vatican obituaries rarely, if ever, comment on or explain or list the teaching, opinions, writings and works of the cardinals whose portraits they paint. That is usually left to official biographers and secular and religious media – and they are out in full force today, many repeating what they have been writing for years, apparently to deaf ears in Rome.

The National Catholic Register’s Edward Pentin posted a blog about the cardinal soon after the release in 2015 of an official biography and just before the start of the October 2015 synod on the family to which the cardinal had been invited.

That story starts:

Cardinal Danneels Admits to Being Part of ‘Mafia’ Club Opposed to Benedict XVI

New authorised biography also reveals papal delegate at upcoming synod wrote letter to Belgium government supporting same-sex “marriage” legislation because it ended discrimination against LGBT groups

Further serious concerns are being raised about Cardinal Godfried Danneels, one of the papal delegates chosen to attend the upcoming Ordinary Synod on the Family, after the archbishop emeritus of Brussels confessed this week to being part of a radical “mafia” reformist group opposed to Benedict XVI.

It was also revealed this week that he once wrote a letter to the Belgium government favoring same-sex “marriage” legislation because it ended discrimination against LGBT groups.

The cardinal is already known for having once advised the king of Belgium to sign an abortion law in 1990, for telling a victim of clerical sex abuse to keep quiet, and for refusing to forbid pornographic, “educational” materials being used in Belgian Catholic schools.

He also once said same-sex “marriage” was a “positive development,” although he has sought to distinguish such a union from the Church’s understanding of marriage.

Click here to read the blog:



On the First Sunday of Lent, Pope Francis reflects on the day’s Gospel, which tells how Jesus was led into the desert where He was tempted by the devil.

By Christopher Wells (Vaticannews)

In his Angelus address, Pope Francis said the three temptations Jesus faced “indicate three paths that the world always proposes, promising great success”.

The greed of possession
After Jesus had fasted for forty days, the devil tempted Him to turn stones to bread. This, the Pope said, is “the path of the greed of possession”. The devil always begins with our natural and legitimate needs, he explained, “in order to push us to believe” that we can find fulfillment “without God, and even contrary to Him”. Jesus, however, responds by quoting Scripture: “Man shall not live by bread alone”.

The second temptation is “the prospect of becoming a powerful and glorious Messiah”, which Pope Francis describes as “the path of human glory”. Bowing down before “idols of money, of success, of power” can corrupt us. This leads to “the intoxication of an empty joy that soon fades away” – and this, the Pope says, is why Jesus responds, “You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only shall you serve”.

Instrumentalizing God
Finally, the devil leads Jesus to the pinnacle of the Temple in Jerusalem, and “invites Him to cast Himself down” in order to demonstrate His divine power. Pope Francis calls this the path of “instrumentalizing God for one’s own advantage”. Jesus rejects the devil’s temptation, “with the firm decision to remain humble and confident before the Father”. Once again, the Lord quotes Scripture: “You shall not tempt the Lord your God”. In this way, the Pope said, Jesus “rejects perhaps the most subtle temptation: wanting ‘to bring God over to our own side’, by asking Him for graces that only serve to satisfy our own pride”.

All these temptations, the Pope said, are really “illusions” that promise “success and happiness”, but in reality “are all completely foreign to God’s way of acting”. In fact, he said, “they actually separate us from God, because they are the work of Satan”.

Remedies for temptation
Jesus overcomes these three temptations by personally facing them, “in order fully to adhere to the Father’s plan”. In doing so, Pope Francis said, Jesus shows us the remedies for temptations – namely, “the interior life, faith in God, the certainty of His love.” With the certainty that God is Father, and that He loves us, “we will overcome every temptation”.

So, Pope Francis said in conclusion, “let us take advantage of Lent, as a privileged time to purify ourselves, in order to experience the consoling presence of God in our life”.


Pope Francis and ranking members of the Roman Curia departed the Vatican Sunday afternoon for Ariccia where they will spend the next five days on retreat. Ariccia a 20-mile drive south of Rome, is home to the Casa Divin Maestro (Divine Master House), run by the Pauline Fathers. The retreat began at 6 pm Sunday with Eucharistic adoration then vespers at 6:45 and dinner at 7:30.

Click here to see where the Holy Father and other guests are staying (be sure to click on ‘Places and Surroundings” for some lovely additional photos):

This tradition of having weeklong retreats or “spiritual exercises” began with Pope Pius XI in 1925 and for over three decades took place in Advent. Pope St. John XXIII changed that when, a month before the October 1962 start of Vatican Council II, he went on retreat to prepare for the Council. A year after Pope John’s death in 1963, Pope Paul VI moved the retreat dates to Lent. For years they were held in the Vatican’s Redemptoris Mater Chapel, starting the first Sunday of Lent and concluding the following Saturday morning. (photo Vaticannews)

Pope Francis decided that the 2014 retreat – a year after his election – would take place outside the Vatican. This year, Pope Francis will be in Ariccia on March 13, the 6th anniversary of his election to the papacy.

The daily schedule looks like this:
· – 7.30 am, lauds and a brief reflection
· – 8.00 am, breakfast
· – 9.30 am, first meditation
· – 11.30 am, Eucharistic concelebration
· – 12.30 lunch
· – 4 pm, second meditation
· – 6 pm, Eucharistic adoration
· – 6.45 pm, vespers
· – 7.30 pm, dinner

Pope Francis mentioned the retreat at yesterday’s Angelus: “I hope that for everyone the Lenten journey, recently begun, will be rich in fruits; and I ask you a remembrance in prayer for me and my collaborators of the Roman Curia as this evening we will begin the week of Spiritual Exercises.”

And he tweeted an almost identical message: “I ask everyone to remember in prayer both myself and my collaborators in the Roman Curia as this evening we will begin the week of Spiritual Exercises.”

In this period, all papal audiences, including Wednesday’s general audience, are suspended.


The following telegram was sent in Pope Francis’ name by Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin for the plane crash yesterday of Ethiopian airlines about 50km from Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa. All aboard perished. The Vaticannews story did not say to whom the telegram was sent:

Having learned with sadness of the Ethiopian Airlines plane crash, His Holiness Pope Francis offers prayers for the deceased from various countries and commends their souls to the mercy of Almighty God. Pope Francis sends heartfelt condolences to their families, and upon all who mourn this tragic loss he invokes the divine blessings of consolation and strength.


As I write Pope Francis is at Santa Sabina Church to preside at Ash Wednesday Mass and to receive ashes from Cardinal Josef Tomko. The cardinal, former prefect of the Congregation for Evangelization of Peoples is 94 and has imposed ashes on three popes.

It is very interesting to receive ashes here in Italy as they are generally imposed on one’s head, not the forehead. This could be related to the day’s Gospel: “Beware of practicing your piety before others in order to be seen by them; for then you have no reward from your Father in heaven.”

In the case of Mass today with the North American College, as you will see in the video below, ashes are quite in evidence on the forehead!


EWTN transmitted via Facebook and social media the Mass that was celebrated at 6:45 this morning at the first Lenten Station in Rome, Santa Sabina, with the Pontifical North American College. Here’s the link:

It is also on the Facebook page of the seminary:

At the end of Mass there were up to 4000 views. It was broadcast by EWTN live on twitter and YouTube as well.


Cardinal Pietro Parolin, secretary of State, sent a telegram of condolences in Pope Francis’ name to Archbishop Thomas Rodi of Mobile, Alabama for the victims of the devastating tornades in recent days:

The Most Reverend Thomas J. Rodi Archbishop of Mobile

Deeply saddened to learn of the tragic loss of life and the injuries caused by the tornado which struck Alabama in recent days, His Holiness Pope Francis expresses heartfelt solidarity with all affected by this natural disaster. He prays that Almighty God may grant eternal rest to the dead, especially the children, and healing and consolation to the injured and those who grieve. Upon all who are suffering the effects of this calamity, the Holy Father invokes the Lord’s blessings of peace and strength.


During the weekly general audience Pope Francis continued his catechesis dedicated to the “Our Father”.
By Linda Bordoni (vaticannews)

Pope Francis on Wednesday urged Christians to open their hearts pointing out that Christ’s victory has not yet been fully achieved.

To the crowds gathered in St. Peter’s Square for the general audience, the Pope said Jesus has come, and there are multiple signs of the kingdom, yet the world is still marked by sin and the hearts of many remain closed, which compels us to implore the Lord: “Your kingdom come!”

The world, he said, continues to be populated by so many people who suffer, by people who do not reconcile and do not forgive, by wars and by many forms of exploitation: “Let’s think, for example of the trafficking of children.” All of these facts are proof that many men and women still live with their hearts closed.

“Father: we need you!”
It is above all in these situations, said Francis, that we turn to the second invocation of Our Lord’s Prayer: “Your kingdom come!” with which we say, ‘Father, we need you, Jesus, we need you everywhere” and “forever Lord, be among us!”

Recalling Christ’s words when he began his preaching in Galilee and proclaimed: “This is the time of fulfilment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.” The Pope explained that these words do not contain a threat; to the contrary, they are an announcement and a message of joy.

Jesus, he said, does not want to push people to conversion by sowing the fear of God’s impending judgment, nor, he said, does he proselytize.

He announces, the Pope continued, that the signs of the coming of His Kingdom are manifest and they are all positive. In fact, he said, Jesus begins his ministry by taking care of the sick – both in body and in spirit – of those who lived a life of social exclusion, such as lepers, of sinners.

God is patient and gentle
Sometimes we may ask, he said, why does our petition, “your kingdom come” emerge so slowly?

It’s because God is not like us, he explained: “God is patient!” And he wants to establish his kingdom not with violence but with gentleness, “like a grain of mustard seed, which, though tiny, grows into a mighty tree.”

Pope Francis concluded his catechesis urging Christians to pray the Our Father and to sow the words that implore the coming of His Kingdom in the midst of our sins and failures.

Let’s give these words, he said, “to those who are defeated and bent by life, to those who have tasted more hatred than love, to those who have lived useless days without ever understanding why. Let’s give them to those who have fought for justice, to all the martyrs of history.”

Let’s give these words, he appealed, “to those who have come to the conclusion they have fought in vain and that evil dominates this world.”



The following telegram was sent in Pope Francis’ name by Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin to Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, president of the USCCB for the death of former U.S. President George H.W. Bush:

His Eminence Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo
Archbishop of Galveston-Houston

Saddened to learn of the death of former President George H. W. Bush, His Holiness Pope Francis offers heartfelt condolences and the assurance of his prayers to all the Bush family. Commending President Bush’s soul to the merciful love of Almighty God, His Holiness invokes upon all who mourn his passing the divine blessings of strength and peace.


After concluding his reflections on the Ten Commandments at last week’s general audience, Pope Francis on Wednesday launched a new series of catechesis, which will focus on the “Our Father.”

By Christopher Wells (vaticannews)

“The Gospels have given us a very vivid portrait of Jesus as a man of prayer,” the Pope said in the introductory catechetical instruction. Despite the importance of His mission, and the demands placed on Him by the people, Jesus often felt the need “to withdraw into solitude and pray.” This was evident from the very beginning of His mission, after the initial success of his ministry in Galilee.

“In some places in the Scriptures,” Francis continued, “it seems that it is Jesus’ prayer above all, His intimacy with the Father, that governs everything.” This is particularly evident during the agony in the garden, before the Crucifixion.

The Holy Father said that, although Jesus prayed like other people do, there was also a profound mystery about His prayer to His Father. That is why His disciples asked Him, “Lord, teach us to pray.” Jesus does not want to keep His intimacy with His Father to Himself, but “came precisely in order to introduce us into this relationship with the Father.”

We too must make our own the prayer of the disciples: “Lord, teach us to pray.” “Even if we have been praying for many years,” Pope Francis said, “we always have something to learn.” Recalling the parable of the publican and the Pharisee, the Holy Father said the first step in prayer is to humble ourselves before God.

He concluded his first reflection on the prayer of Jesus with the advice to repeat often, during Advent, the prayer of the disciples: “Master, teach us to pray.” If we do this, he said, then God will certainly not let our prayer go unanswered.”


Some days are just so jam-packed with events, appointments, research, meetings, etc. that I realize it is dinner time – maybe a bit beyond – and I’ve not prepared a column. Yesterday was such a day and I apologize for an empty page. However, I always do post important news on my Facebook page. The rest of the week is filled with similar moments, and a lot of time dedicated to my weekend radio show, “Vatican insider” but I’ll do my best to keep you apprised of what’s new, what’s important and so on.

One big problem in my life is that I have been without gas since last Wednesday when a leak was discovered and the gas company came to turn it off and they’ve not done a thing since.

My American coffee machine broke so no way to make coffee and so far I’ve eaten out most nights, although today in a supermarket I did discover two meals I can make in a microwave. Italians love to really cook things the right way, not use a microwave! I like to find a bright side in a bad story and the bright side is: thank the Lord I do not have a gas water heater. A week without hot water! And it will be about another week.

In any event, Thursday was a Vatican holiday and our doorman had the day off so no one could access the building. Nothing happened Friday. Saturday was the Italian equivalent of our July 4 so naturally the gas company employees had the day off. Sunday is, of course, always a day off.

Monday, APSA (a Vatican administration that runs, among other things, the real estate office, the office to which I pay my rent) called and said someone from the gas company would be here between 11 and 1. That meant switching a few appointments around, including TV segments I had to tape

No one ever came.

The doorman rang up to say workers would be coming at 2:30 and start at my apartment. Carlo had called just after 1pm so that gave me time to run over to Pius XII Square to tape the TV segments and be back home for the gas people at 2:30.

About 3:15, Carlo called the company to ask where the workers were, they said they would not be coming after all and he asked why he had to call – why was he not informed no workers would be around! (The answer is; it’s Italy)

At least I could now go to the Gregorian University for my afternoon appointment with Fr. Alan Fogarty, SJ, president of the Gregorian University Foundation. We had a delightful visit – we’ve met on a few previous occasions – and I will be sharing that visit with you on Vatican Insider. After the interview we visited some Gregorian buildings as well as the Pontifical Biblical Institute., the Biblicum, shared a cappuccino and talked some more.

I did detour a bit on the way to get a bus home, stopping to pray at the nearby beautiful and very historical church of the XII Santissimi Apostoli (the Apostles James the Lesser and Philip are buried here!). I saw a priest hearing confessions and knew the Lord had given me a gift after the trials of earlier in the day. I didn’t even have to wait after the previous penitent had left and I enjoyed more time in this church.

By the time I got home and checked a few emails, I was beyond hungry and went to La Vittoria for dinner. A wonderful priest friend from the US had just arrived in Rome and was eating alone so we combined forces – and were later joined by Amb. Gingrich.

As Shakespeare said, “All’s well that ends well!”

The day ended well but the gas saga continues. Nothing was done today. I feel like sending my restaurant bills to Italgas!


Pope Francis on Tuesday released a video message accompanying his prayer intention for June, which this month is “For inclusive and respectful social networks”.
In his prayer intention for the month of June 2018, Pope Francis said: “Let us pray together that social networks may work towards that inclusiveness which respects others for their differences.”

It has become the custom of Pope Francis to release a video message detailing his prayer intention for each month.

The full text of the message follows:
The Internet is a gift of God, but it is also a great responsibility.
Communication technology, its places, its instruments have brought with it a lengthening of horizons, a widening, for so many people.
It can offer immense possibilities for encounter and solidarity.
May the digital network not be a place of alienation. May it be a concrete place, a place rich in humanity.
Let us pray together that social networks may work towards that inclusiveness which respects others for their differences.

The Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network of the Apostleship of Prayer developed “The Pope Video” initiative to assist in the worldwide dissemination of monthly intentions of the Holy Father in relation to the challenges facing humanity.


Pope Francis has been busy in past days sending telegrams of condolences, one for a natural disaster and the other for the death of a cardinal.

In a telegram to Archbishop Nicolas Thevenin, the apostolic nuncio in Guatemala, Francis said he is praying for the dead and for all those affected by a powerful volcanic eruption in Guatemala in which at least 69 people have died. He said he was “deeply saddened to learn of the news of the violent eruption of the Volcano of Fire, which has claimed numerous victims, caused enormous material damage and affected a significant number of people who live in the area”.

The Pope also sent condolences for the death of Cardinal Miguel Obando Bravo, SDB, archbishop-emeritus of Managua in Nicaragua. Cardinal Bravo died on Sunday at the age of 92. The Pope expressed his sorrow to the “beloved Archdiocese” of Managua upon receiving news of the Cardinal’s death, adding that the late-Cardinal Obando Bravo gave his life to the service of God and the Church.


Pope Francis on Monday met in the Vatican a delegation from the “Biagio Agnes” International Journalism Prize of Italy during which he urged journalists to serve the truth, revive hope and not to ignore the peripheries.

By Robin Gomes

Meeting the 70-member delegation of the Biagio Agnes International Journalism Prize, ahead of this year’s awards in Sorrento June 22-24, the Pope said that theirs is a demanding job in an age marked by “digital convergence” and “media transformation.” During his journeys and other meeting, the Pope said he notes classic televisions and traditional radios alongside young people making news and interviews with mobile phones, and urged the foundation to continue being “educators of the new generations.”

In this task, Pope Francis particularly urged them to be mindful of the peripheries, the truth and hope.

Even though the nerve centres of news production are found in large centres, said the Pope, one must never forget the stories of people who live far away in the peripheries. Sometimes they are stories of suffering and degradation; other times they are stories of great solidarity that can help everyone to look at reality in a renewed way.

The Pope said a journalist needs to be very demanding with himself to avoid falling into the trap of a mentality of opposing merely for the sake of interests and ideologies. In today’s fast world, it is very urgent, he said, to pursue “in-depth research, confront and to be silent, when needed, rather than hurt a person or a group of people or delegitimize an event.” It is a difficult job he said, but it must help us become “brave and, I would say, also prophetic.”

The Holy Father said, a journalist should not feel satisfied just recounting an event in accordance with his or her free and conscious responsibility. It is a question of opening up areas of hope while denouncing situations of degradation and despair. A journalist, he said, is “called to keep open a space of exit, of meaning, of hope.”

Pope Francis expressed appreciation for a project of the Biagio Agnes Foundation which aims to investigate medical-scientific topics through accurate information to counteract the proliferation of “do-it-yourself” information and vague news on the web that attract the attention of the public much more than science.”


I cannot let this day pass without writing to all of you – so many of you! – who contacted me via email or commented on my Facebook post, “For Whom the Bell Tolls: The Death of a Radio.”

I was overwhelmed with your sentiments and prayers and feelings of gratitude for the work done by Vatican Radio in general and my program, “Joan Knows,” in particular. This late, great radio gave us countless hours of special news reports and feature programs – so many it is almost impossible to calculate – and they will be missed. The last ones air Easter Sunday, April 1.

In the meantime, please know I intend to be with you a loooong time via EWTN! I not only have this daily column, I report to you twice weekly with televised segments from Rome for “At Home with Jim and Joy,” and, of course, we get together again during my weekend radio show, “Vatican Insider.”

I’m going to find a way to bring you audio reports a few times a week as part of this daily blog, “Joan’s Rome.” With today’s technology that should be a breeze – at least I hope so.

And naturally there’s the other “Joan’s Rome” – my videos. I’ve done 59 so far, most from the Vatican and Rome but 14 were filmed in Assisi. In April I’ll be filming about a dozen more videos and will alert you when those are done and ready for airing!

Again, heartfelt thanks for your friendship and gratitude for my work!

The beat goes on!

By the way, you will be remembered in my prayers as the staff of EWTN in Rome gathers this afternoon in the Chapel of the Canons in St. Peter’s Basilica for Mass in memory of Mother Angelica on the anniversary of her death. Cardinal Edwin O’Brien, Grand Master of the Order of the Holy Sepulchre will celebrate Mass.


Pope Francis has sent a telegram of condolences to Bishop Alain Planet of Carcassone and Narbonne in southwest France where four people were killed and 15 injured in a terrorist attack on March 23rd. The Pope said he entrusts to God’s mercy all those who lost their lives and assured their loved ones of his closeness. In particular, he recalled Arnaud Beltrame’s “generous and heroic” gesture as he gave his life to protect the lives of others.

“I renew my condemnation for such acts of violence that cause so much pain and fervently ask the Lord for the gift of peace, invoking on the affected families and on all the people of France God’s blessings.”

The attacker was shot dead by police after the shooting spree that included taking hostages at a supermarket in the town of Trèbes.


Pope Francis also sent a telegram of condolences for the 64 people killed in a deadly fire that swept through the Winter Cherry shopping and entertainment complex in the Siberian city of Kemerovo. Many of the victims were children as the complex is a popular place for family entertainment.

Local media said smoke and flames engulfed a children’s trampoline room and a cinema on the fourth floor. Witnesses said emergency exits were blocked and officials are searching for a security officer who is suspected of turning off a Public Announcement system after he was alerted to the blaze. Four people have been detained for questioning, including the owner of the complex and the head of the company that manages the shopping center.

The telegram, sent in the Pope’s name by Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin, said, “His Holiness Pope Francis was deeply saddened to learn of the fire which struck the Winter Cherry complex in Kemerovo, and he offers heartfelt condolences to all those affected by this tragedy. Entrusting the deceased, especially the many children who lost their lives, to the merciful love of God Almighty, His Holiness offers the assurance of his prayers for all who mourn their loss. With the assurance of his spiritual closeness to the authorities and emergency personnel as they assist the injured and continue their search for the missing, Pope Francis invokes upon all the divine blessings of peace and consolation.” (



Pope Francis sent the following telegram to Archbishop Leo Cushley upon the death of Cardinal O’Brien:

The Most Reverend Leo W. Cushley, Archbishop of Saint Andrews and Edinburgh

I was saddened to learn of the death of His Eminence Cardinal Keith Patrick O’Brien, and I offer heartfelt condolences to you, his family and all who mourn his passing. Commending his soul to the merciful love of God our Father, and with the assurance of my prayers for the Archdiocese of Saint Andrews and Edinburgh, I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing as a pledge of peace and consolation in our Lord Jesus Christ.


The Holy See Press Office announced today that, on March 29, Holy Thursday, at 4 in the afternoon, Pope Francis will go to Regina Coeli (Queen of Heaven) prison to celebrate the Mass of the Lord’s Supper. He will meet with sick prisoners in the infirmary and then celebrate Mass during which he will wash the feet of 12 prisoners from Section VIII.


A new production combines innovation and tradition to lead younger generations to a new appreciation of one of the greatest works of art of all time – the Sistine Chapel.

The famous Last Judgment by Michelangelo is the centrepiece of a new, fully-immersive “live show” at the Conciliazione Auditorium in Rome.

Entitled “Universal Judgment: Michelangelo and the secrets of the Sistine Chapel,” the immersive spectacle features live-performances, 4k projections, and brilliant special effects. The four-part show was produced by Marco Balich, a director and producer famed for organizing ceremonies at the Olympic games.

“Universal Judgment” is the first production of Balich’s “Artainment” company, combining art and entertainment “to educate and amuse, in order to realize the full and harmonious development of the human person,” according to Monsignor Dario Edoardo Viganò, prefect of the Vatican’s Secretariat for Communication.

The show features a theme song composed by pop star Sting, as well as dancers and acrobats, and an impressive sound system. “We want to imbue the fruition of a work of art with a strong emotional impact,” said Balich, “using the codes that relate to the younger generations that have grown up with Play Station, that go to the movies in 3D, watch Netflix, but are on the other hand almost distracted with respect to this wonderful artistic patrimony.”

The Vatican Museums offered their expertise to ensure the accuracy of the presentation. Experts from the Vatican helped recreate the frescoes of the Sistine Chapel, and offered critical perspective on the relationships between Michelangelo and Popes Julius II and Clement VII; as well as explaining the process of papal conclaves.

The €9 million production opened March 15 at the Conciliazione Auditorium, with two shows per day for at least a year. However, it is hoped that the show will become a permanent fixture in Rome. (vaticannews,va)



Cardinal Pietro Parolin, secretary of State, sent the following telegram to Archbishop Thomas Wenski of Miami for the victims of the high school attack in Florida:

“His Holiness Pope Francis was deeply saddened to learn of the tragic shooting that took place at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland. Assuring all those affected by this devastating attack of his spiritual closeness, he prays that Almighty God may grant eternal rest to the dead and healing and consolation to the wounded and those who grieve. With the hope that such senseless acts of violence may cease, Pope Francis invokes upon all of you the divine blessings of peace and strength.”


Holy See Press Office Director Greg Burke stated today: “In answer to questions from journalists, I can confirm that several times a month the Holy Father meets victims of sexual abuse, both individually and in groups. He listens to the victims and seeks to help them to heal the serious wounds caused by the sex abuse they underwent. The meetings take place in maximum confidentiality in respect for the victims and their suffering.”


Motu Proprio: Learning How To Resign

On 12 February, 2018, Pope Francis signed an Apostolic Letter in the form of a Motu Proprio called “Learning How To Resign” (Imparare a congedarsi), which regulates age-related resignations of holders of honorary titles granted by the Pope

By Sr Bernadette Mary Reis, fsp

“The conclusion of an ecclesiastical office needs to be considered an integral part of that service, inasmuch as it requires a new form of availability,” Pope Francis writes in the introduction of his Motu Proprio on the theme of resigning from ecclesiastical positions in the Church.

Interior Attitudes

The Pope offers a reflection on certain interior attitudes that are necessary for those who face resignation due to age, as well as for those whose office may be prolonged due to a variety of realities. He invites those preparing to step down from positions of leadership to “discern through prayer how to live the period about to begin, drawing up a new project of life.” To those who may be requested to serve beyond the age of retirement (75 years), Pope Francis says that this “pontifical decision is not automatic, but it is an act of governing, and as a consequence requires the virtue of prudence which will help…to make the appropriate decision.”

While upholding the contents of the Rescriptum ex audientia of 3 November 2014, Pope Francis says that he wants to establish some modifications to article 2 of that document which states: “Resignation from the above-mentioned pastoral offices is effective only from the moment in which it is accepted by the legitimate authority.”

What has changed?

With the present Motu Proprio, Pope Francis makes two changes to previous legislation: 1) After submitting a letter of resignation, the person remains in office until “the acceptance or extension, for a specified or unspecified amount of time, is communicated to the person” (Art 5). This Article is a change to Canon 189 § 3 of the Code of Canon Law and 970 § 1 of the Code of Canons for the Eastern Churches. 2) Heads of Dicasteries of the Roman Curia who are not Cardinals, as well as other prelates who hold office in the Holy See, or Papal Representatives do not cease holding office automatically on reaching the age of 75. Rather now they must present their resignation to the Supreme Pontiff who “will decide evaluating the concrete circumstances” (Art 2 and 3).

Pope Francis says in his Motu Proprio that he “became aware of the need to update the norms regarding the times and methods of resignation from office upon reaching the age limit.” And he writes that the clarifications he is making come “after having carried out the necessary consultations.”



Yesterday afternoon, February 14, Ash Wednesday and the start of Lent, Pope Francis processed from the church of Sant’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 here as Lenten station or stational churches.

At San Anselmo, there was a moment of prayer, followed by a penitential procession to the basilica of Santa Sabina. Joining the Pope in the procession were cardinals, archbishops, bishops, the Benedictine monks of San Anselmo, the Dominican Fathers of Santa Sabina and the lay faithful.

In Santa Sabina, the Holy Father then presided at Mass, delivered a homily, after which there was the rite of the blessing and imposition of ashes. The Pope received ashes as well.

The elegant Aventine neighborhood overlooks the Circus Maximus and the Baths of Caracalla. Situated on the Aventine’s Piazza Pietro d’Illyria, the basilica of Santa Sabina (St. Sabina) – chronologically the first Lenten station church – was established at the start of the fifth century by a priest named Peter who was from Illyria.

In 1222 Pope Honorius III gave the adjacent ancient turreted palace of the Crescenzi family to the Dominicans as a monastery and, in fact, over the years both Sts. Dominic and Thomas Aquinas lived here. Modifications and additions in the 16th century basilica altered its appearance.

In the early 1900’s, the church was restored to its original design. It has three aisles and 24 fluted Corinthian columns. Little is left of the original mosaics. In the middle of the nave is the mosaic tombstone dedicated to Munoz de Zamora, master general of the Dominicans and a biographer of St. Dominic. Adjacent to the church is the cloister built by St. Dominic in 1220 and restored between 1936-39.

The practice of station churches had its origins in the first centuries of Christianity when most of the early Popes celebrated the liturgy on special days at special churches in the Eternal City. This eventually became principally a Lenten devotion. In his liturgical reform, Pope St. Gregory the Great, who reigned from 590 to 604, established a station church for each day of Lent, thus making the whole season a pilgrimage on the path to conversion while preparing for Easter. The first Station Church every year is always St. Sabina where the Pope celebrates Ash Wednesday Mass.

In the early days of the Church, Lent was a time in which catechumens began their journey of faith and conversion prior to receiving Baptism.

Part II of the story of Lenten Station Churches will appear here tomorrow.

In the meantime, here is the schedule of station churches for the first week of Lent. This is from the web site of the Pontifical North American College ( which every Lent published the names of the churches, some history, and usually some photos. The priests and seminarians walk to these churches every day. The distance to the church from NAC and the time NACers will leave the campus is indicated on this table, IE, they left at 6:15am this morning for the 35-minute walk to San Giorgio al Velabro. Sunday Mass is usually at the College.

SAN GIORGIO (photos from romaoggi, Wikipedia and

Wishing you a prayerful pilgrimage and Lent!

Date Lenten Day Church Map Walking time Departure
2/14/2018 Ash Wednesday S. Sabina all’Aventino [Map] 40 min. 5:55 AM
2/15/2018 Thursday S. Giorgio al Velabro [Map] 35 min. 6:15 AM
2/16/2018 Friday Ss. Giovanni e Paolo [Map] 50 min. 6:05 AM
2/17/2018 Saturday S. Agostino [Map] 20 min. 6:30 AM
2/18/2018 Sunday–WEEK I S. Giovanni in Laterano [Map]