As of early 2017, the name, the term, the words “Vatican Radio” were to be strictly confined to “Radio Vaticana Italia” as this was part of a Vatican communications reorganization that was to be Italian-centric, at least in the beginning. Those of us in communications were enjoined not to use the name Vatican Radio unless we were referring to the Italian language radio.

I wrote a column about “the death of a radio” last March and received an incredible number of emails with people expressing condolences, disappointment, and delusion.

Today, as you will see below, I offer excerpts from a Vatican Radio report on the 65th anniversary of the inauguration of the radio. It is a fascinating, colorful read for sure, yet sad at the same time in light of the communications reforms. The most popular programs, for example, for the major language at Vatican radio were always the feature programs and it is those programs that basically died a year ago.

The story I offer below would have been typical of what the radio referred to as a “feature program.” I can just hear the voice of a reporter reading this account, the dramatic, yet historic recounting of the birth of a radio. Feature programs – the true art of storytelling!

If you want news a la radio, then scroll down to the bottom of the website, click on “podcasts” and listen to a selection of language news programs.


POPE FRANCIS WILL VISIT THE ITALIAN CITY OF NAPLES ON JUNE 21ST to take part in a meeting on “Theology after Veritatis Gaudium in the Mediterranean context.” He is scheduled to arrive around 9 AM and will be welcomed by Cardinal Crescenzio Sepe, archbishop of Naples, Bishop Francesco Marino of Nola, and Fr. Arturo Sosa, Jesuit Superior General. Francis will address participants in the conference that is being hosted by the San Luigi section of the Pontifical Theological Faculty of Southern Italy. The Pope is set to return to the Vatican early in the afternoon. He previously visited Naples in March 2015.

TO UNDERLINE HIS CONSTANT ATTENTION TO WELCOMING MIGRANTS, on Friday February 15, at 4.00 pm at the Fraternal Domus of Sacrofano (Rome), Pope Francis will preside the Eucharistic Celebration that opens the “Free from Fear” meeting on the realities of welcoming and receiving migrants organized by the Migrantes Foundation, by Italian Caritas and by the Centro Astalli. The three-day meeting starts February 15, 2019. The visit will have a private character, so the presence of journalists and communication operators is excluded. Vatican television will supervise the live broadcast of this event.

TODAY, FEBRUARY 12, MARKS THE 88TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE INAUGURATION OF VATICAN RADIO on Thursday February 12, 1931. Pope Pius XI transmitted the first radio message in Latin in the presence of Guglielmo Marconi, inventor of the radio and creator of Vatican Radio, and Fr. Giuseppe Gianfranceschi S.I., first director of the radio.


On February 12, 1931, the Marquis Guglielmo Marconi spoke these historical words:

“I have the highest honor of announcing that in only a matter of seconds the Supreme Pontiff, Pope Pius XI, will inaugurate the Radio Station of the Vatican City State. The electric radio waves will transport to all the world his words of peace and blessing. With the help of Almighty God, who allows the many mysterious forces of nature to be used by man, I have been able to prepare this instrument which will accord to the Faithful of all the world the consolation of hearing the voice of the Holy Father. Most Holy Father, the work that Your Holiness has deigned to entrust to me, I, today return to You…may you deign, Holy Father, to allow the entire world to hear your august words.”

It is exactly 4:49 p.m. on the Twelfth of February, Nineteen Thirty-One.

The rich text of the first radio message was written in Latin by Pius XI himself. The Pope imbued his message with passages from the Sacred Scriptures which emphasize the universality of the Gospel message. Pius XI concluded the first line of the discourse in this manner: “Listen, O Heavens, to that which I say; listen, O Earth, listen to the words which come from my mouth…Listen and hear, O Peoples of distant lands!” He continued, speaking in the voice of the Old Testament prophet, To the City and to the World! Now, we turn to the reporting of the event and to the story that preceeded it.

As early as 1925, the Director General of Communications for Vatican City, Jesuit Father Giuseppe Gianfranceschi, was in the process of drawing up plans for the establishment of a wireless station in the Vatican. A letter written by Fr. Gianfranceschi dated July 25, 1925 speaks about the establishment of such a transmission station.

Two years later Fr. Gianfranceschi contacted the Italian scientist Guglielmo Marconi to undertake initial plans and meetings for the realization of this project for the Pope. Marconi demonstrated much enthusiasm for this project and offered his complete availability to the Pontiff. Additionally, he stated that he would perform the work for the Church without charge. Two more years passed before the work would begin. Actually, it was the signing of the Lateran Treaty in 1929 that gave rise to the initiation of the work on this transmission station in the Vatican Gardens. Only four days after the signing of the Lateran Treaty, Marconi received official permission to begin construction of this project for the Vatican City State.

Inauguration of Vatican Radio
On the inauguration day of Vatican Radio a large group of reporters and cameramen from Paramount News of the United States was present. They brought equipment of the highest quality to record the event. The cameras, although hand-powered, shot for the first time in the history of cinema exterior footage with live soundtrack. The film footage of the event, which is conserved in the archives of Vatican Radio, is an irreplaceable testimony of the event in the history of the Church and telecommunications.

It is a cold clear day, with a light wind coming from the mountains in the north…at exactly 3:00 p.m. a Papal gendarme orders the evacuation of the premises. Two Papal banners suspended from each side of the building flutter in the wind. Inside everything is prepared and ready for the first broadcast. The transmitters have been tested for the last time. At 3:30 p.m. the Marquis Marconi arrives; the illustrious inventor goes directly to the Amplification Studio, places the earphones on his head, and begins the transcontinental conversations. The voice arrives clearly in New York, Melbourne, and Quebec. Fr. Gianfranceschi works with his usual conentration in preparing the final arrangements for the broadcast of the Pope. Although beseiged with many questions he responds with his characteristic smile and kindness. His manner serves to reduce the commotion and nervousness of the day. After several moments the equipment is shut down and will be reactivated only after the arrival of the Pontiff.

The first signal to be sent out is in Morse code. The technician types the words, In nomine Domini, Amen, that is In the Name of the Lord, amen! At this very instant radio stations, ships, and anyone who has the equipment to receive the signal hears this benediction and invitation. After a brief introduction of the Pope by Marconi, Pius XI takes the microphone and inaugurates the first world-wide radio message ever given by a Pope.

The first to approach the big microphone is the great architect. Guglielmo Marconi is 56 years old and two years earlier, Pius XI – who wanted a state-of-the-art radio station for the newborn Vatican City – proposed the company to him. The inventor of the radio visits the Vatican on 11 June 1929, just four days after the exchange of ratifications by the Lateran Pacts. The construction work is fast and when the second anniversary of the Pacts … is approaching, the inauguration of the radio is also approaching. …At the microphone, an excited Marconi underlines the most striking aspect of the novelty. After “twenty centuries” of papal Magisterium that has “made itself felt” with the documents, it is the “first time” in which it can be heard “simultaneously” by the Pope’s “living voice”


PS: Marconi’s daughter Maria Eletra lives in Rome

Click here for photos and video from those days in 1931with Pope Pius XI:



Does excommunication remain a viable option in today’s Catholic Church?
Join EWTN’s Vice President of Theology Colin Donovan & the Roundtable crew as they discuss the use of sanctions, such as excommunication, to protect the unity of the People of God, this Friday on Theology Roundtable, 3:00 PM Eastern on the EWTN Global Catholic Radio Network.


As traditionally happens after a Pope has been on an apostolic journey, Francis dedicated his weekly audience catechesis to his just-completed trip to the UAE – the United Arab Emirates.

“Dear Brothers and Sisters,” he began, “I have just completed a brief visit to the United Arab Emirates, brief but important, for it marked a step forward in inter-religious dialogue and in the commitment to promoting peace in the world.”

He explained that his trip “was the first papal visit to the Arabian peninsula and took place eight hundred years after Saint Francis of Assisi visited Sultan al-Malik al-Kamil. The providence of God wished to see a Pope named Francis make such a journey, and I thought often of the Saint for it helped me keep the Gospel and the love of Jesus Christ close to my heart.”

He then thanks his many hosts, “the Crown Prince, the President, the Vice President and all the Authorities who welcomed me, and Bishop Paul Hinder for preparing the event with the Catholic community. My affectionate thanks go to the priests, religious and lay faithful who enliven the Christian presence in that land.

“Beyond all the speeches,” the Holy Father went on, “one further step was taken in Abu Dhabi when the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar and I signed the Document on Human Fraternity. There we affirm the common vocation of all men and women to be brothers and sisters as children of God, we reject every form of violence – especially that committed in the name of religion – and we dedicate ourselves to defending authentic values and peace in the world. Let us pray that the seeds sown during the visit may bear much fruit according to his holy will.”

After summaries of the papal catechesis and greetings in many languages to the faithful, Pope Francis issued an appeal:

“Last Saturday, near the archipelago of the Bahamas, a boat sank with dozens of migrants coming from Haiti and looking for hope and a future of peace. My affectionate thought goes to the families suffering from the pain, as well as to the Haitian people struck by this new tragedy. I invite you to join my prayer for those who have disappeared so dramatically and for the injured.”


From the offices of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, 25 January 2019, on the Feast of the Conversion of Saint Paul, Apostle.
Signed by Robert Cardinal Sarah, Prefect, + Arthur Roche, Archbishop Secretary:

The decree published today began by noting that “Jesus Christ, the fullness of humanity, living and working in the Church, invites all people to a transforming encounter with Him, who is “the way, the truth and the life”. This is the journey of the Saints. Paul VI made it following the example of the Apostle whose name he assumed at the moment when the Holy Spirit chose him as Successor of Peter.” (CNA photo)

It went out to outline the saintly life and work of Paul VI, and continued: “God, the Shepherd and Guide of all the faithful, entrusts his pilgrim Church through the ages, to those whom he himself has established as Vicars of his Son. Among these, Paul VI shines out as one who united in himself the pure faith of Saint Peter and the missionary zeal of Saint Paul. His consciousness of being the Successor of Peter is evident when we recall that on 10 June 1969, during a visit to the World Council of Churches in Geneva, he introduced himself by saying “My name is Peter”. Nevertheless, he also acknowledged by the name he chose the mission for which he had been elected…..”

The substance of the decree states: “Having considered this Pope’s holiness of life, witnessed to by his works and words, and having taken account of the great influence of his apostolic ministry for the Church throughout the whole world, Pope Francis, assenting to the petitions and desires of the People of God, has decreed that the celebration of Pope Saint Paul VI, should be inserted into the Roman Calendar on 29 May with the rank of optional memorial.

“This new memorial will be inserted into all Calendars and Liturgical Books for the celebration of the Mass and the Liturgy of the Hours; the liturgical texts to be adopted, attached to this Decree, must be translated, approved and, after the confirmation of this Dicastery, be published by the Episcopal Conferences.”


The Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Develoment today announced the release of its website that contains news, information, publications and useful tools related to the Dicastery’s activities and mission.

It provided link to two videos the dicastery has produced aimed at introducing and spreading the Church’s understanding of Integral Human Development. “We are proud to share them both with you,” said the dicastery announcement, “with the hope that you will like and share them through your social media.”

Here are the links that you can enjoy, “like” and “share”!


Pope Francis has returned to Rome and, though I’ve not seen confirmation as I write, I’m sure he stopped off at St, Mary Major Basilica to pray, as he always does before and after a trip, before the image of Mary, noted to Romans as Salus populi romani.

He surely is tired after a hectic and very brief time in the UAE, the long flight back to Rome and the traditional on board press conference but Francis is scheduled to preside tomorrow morning at the weekly general audience.


Pope Francis on Tuesday wrapped up his Apostolic Visit to the United Arab Emirates, and our correspondent in Abu Dhabi reflects on the historic occasion. (vaticannews)
By Linda Bordoni – Abu Dhabi

As soon as I looked at the programme for Pope Francis’ visit to the United Arab Emirates, I categorized it as a two-fold affair: day one for meeting the Muslim world and pursuing inter-religious dialogue; day two for being with Catholics and affirming them in their faith.

That’s what it looked like on paper, with Monday unfolding in an Arabian Palace, a Mosque, and at an interfaith Conference. And Tuesday started with a visit to Abu Dhabi’s Catholic Cathedral and ended with the celebration of Holy Mass in the presence of 180,000 people.

But no sooner had Pope Francis boarded the papal plane taking him back home to the Vatican, my perception of this intense, whirlwind visit, began to change.

One plea for everyone’s ears
There was no division, I realised, between day one and day two. He was not speaking separately to Muslims and then to Catholics. His vision and his mission are – as always – for one human family, and his plea to build a future together “or there will be no future”, was for everyone’s ears.

Someone who never tires of condemning divisiveness, separation, and the erection of barriers of every kind would never perpetrate that kind of mistake!

In fact, at all moments and in all occasions, the first-ever meeting of a Pope with the peoples of the UAE took place in a joyful atmosphere of mutual respect.

The solemnity of the historic occasion was felt by all, as was a palpable gratitude towards the Crown Prince of the UAE for issuing the invitation and towards Pope Francis for accepting it.

The pledge and the message
Of course, many important words were spoken. A pledge of fraternity between a Pope and a Grand Imam was signed to work together in perpetuity and to reject violence and radicalism. The Pope’s own Catholic flock was reminded it is never alone with Jesus at its side.

But at the heart of Pope Francis’ pilgrimage was an urgent reminder to all – no one excluded – that we are called to look after each other as one human family.

The visit will undoubtedly go down in the books as a milestone in Catholic-Muslim relations. But I was in Abu Dhabi for the occasion, and will never forget that over-arching cry for justice, fraternity, and an end to human misery.

Click here for some video highlights of the papal trip:


Pope Francis offers a “re-reading” of the Beatitudes during the celebration of Mass at the conclusion of his brief visit to Abu Dhabi.
By Andrea Tornielli

Seeing them gathered together in the Zayed Sports City Stadium, the “little flock” of Emirati Christians did not seem so little, as Pope Francis told them that living the evangelical Beatitudes did not consist in grand gestures. Although Jesus left no writings of His own, and did not build anything imposing, His very life showed that the Christian faith plays out in the actions of everyday life, and in “littleness.”

Christians are not called to perform great works or accomplish striking, extraordinary, superhuman acts. It is in the extraordinariness of the ordinary that they bear witness. It is thanks to the holiness of everyday life, without extraordinary signs, that the most surprising miracles occur. Thus Christianity flourishes, is communicated by osmosis, without need of marketing strategies, media cleverness, torrents of words, or the abilities of supermen.

The Beatitudes, turning worldly criteria on their head, “invite us keep our hearts pure, to practice meekness and justice despite everything, to be merciful to all, to live affliction in union with God.” It is like a tree, Pope Francis explained, in dry land – like that of the desert that characterises this region of the world – which every day absorbs the polluted air and restores oxygen.

The invitation to this “little flock” of Christians in the UAE is to continue to be an oasis of peace, of meekness, and of mercy – because it is the person who responds to accusations with meekness, who is blessed, rather than the one that attacks or desires to oppress others. The one who considers others as brothers and sisters is blessed, and not the one who sees only enemies.

Pope Francis points to the example of St. Francis of Assisi who, instructing the friars who were leaving for Arab lands, asked them not to quarrel or argue, but to be “subject to every human creature for love of God”, confessing to being Christians. In an age, like today, in which many people clothe themselves in armour (perhaps only virtual), the Pope recalled that Christians set out “armed only with their humble faith and concrete love.” Because the Christian lives only on these, and knows that today it is only by means of this witness that the Gospel is proclaimed. (Analysis by vaticannews)


Andrea Tornielli in his last paragraph in the previous article, speaks of St. Francis and his friars in Arab lands, and I found a fascinating story precisely about that visit 800 years ago by Fr. Jack Wintz, OFM on the Franciscan webpage:


Franciscans and Muslims encountered one another during the lifetime of Saint Francis (1181-1226). Indeed, he sent friars to the Holy Land in 1217. Two years later, Crusaders fought Muslim soldiers at Damietta, Egypt, near the mouth of the Nile. At considerable risk, Saint Francis engaged Sultan Malik al-Kamil, their leader, in peaceful dialogue.

What follows is a brief description of that encounter, based on accounts written soon afterward. The Christian and Muslim armies stood opposite each other at close quarters. The sultan had decreed that anyone who brought him the head of a Christian should be rewarded with a gold piece. Francis, however, the knight of Christ, was unafraid and hoped to realize his ambition of dying as a martyr for Christ. Friar Illuminatus accompanied him.

The Muslim soldiers seized them fiercely and dragged them before the sultan. When he asked why they were sent and by whom, Francis replied courageously that they had been sent by God, not by man, to show him and his subjects the way of salvation and to proclaim the truth of the gospel message. Francis proclaimed the triune God and Jesus Christ, the savior of all, with steadfastness, courage and spirit.

When the sultan saw the little friar’s enthusiasm and courage, he listened to him willingly and pressed him to stay with him. Then he offered Francis a number of valuable gifts, but the saint was anxious only for the salvation of souls and refused the sultan’s gifts. The sultan, astonished at Francis’ utter disregard for worldly wealth, felt greater respect than ever for the saint. (In fact, Francis accepted an ivory horn that is displayed in Assisi’s Basilica of St. Francis.)

Bishop Jacques de Vitry, who was a contemporary of Francis, wrote that the sultan “had Francis led back to [the Christian] camp with many signs of honor and with security precautions, but not without saying to him: ‘Pray to God for me, that God may reveal to me the law and the faith that is more pleasing to him.’” (These texts are from Saint Bonaventure’s Life of St. Francis and from Jacques de Vitry’s History of the Orient in St. Francis of Assisi: Omnibus of Sources, St. Anthony Messenger Press, 2008.)

To continue reading:


As I write, Pope Francis is spending his first and only full day in the UAE – the United Arab Emirates, a federation of 7 states on the southern coast of the Persian Gulf.

The first Pope ever to visit the Emirates, he arrived at 10 pm local time Sunday night – the UAE is 3 hours ahead of Rome – and will be back in Rome tomorrow, Tuesday February 5. The theme of the 27th foreign apostolic trip is, ‘Make Me a Channel of Your Peace’.

Pope Francis a short while ago concluded his talk to the International Interfaith Meeting on Human Fraternity organized by the Muslim Council of Elders (see summary below). The working sessions focus on how different religions can work together to help build peace, especially in places where religion had been a source of conflict

The highlight of this trip will be the papal Mass tomorrow morning, February 5, at Abu Dhabi’s Zayed Sports City, which some 135,000 people are expected to attend. A multinational 120-member choir comprising of singers from 9 churches of the UAE has been formed to sing at the papal Mass. Members are from among 283 singers from 120 church choirs who appeared for auditions.

The Catholic Church on the Arabian Peninsula is divided into two vicariates – the Apostolic Vicariate for Northern Arabia (Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Qatar) and the Apostolic Vicariate for Southern Arabia – The UAE, Oman and Yemen. The Southern vicariate is hosting the papal visit.

Both the Vicariates have been placed under the protection of Our Lady of Arabia.

There are no native Christians on the Arabian peninsula. The 3 million Catholics in a population of 65 million inhabitants are all labor migrants from 100 nations, the majority from the Philippines and India. About 80% of the Catholics are of Latin Rite.

In Saudi Arabia and Yemen, by contrast, churches are not permitted and all worship must be done privately.


Pope Francis was welcomed in grand style on his first day in the United Arab Emirates. Our correspondent in Abu Dhabi gives her impressions on the ground.
By Linda Bordoni – Abu Dhabi

Say what you like about the opulence, but one thing is for sure: the Emiratis know how to put on a welcome ceremony and Pope Francis was certainly treated to the full shebang.

I could see it coming: having lived in Italy for many years I can say I am quite accustomed to the beauty of Carrara marble and exquisite art work, but never have I seen such a lavish use of precious marble, crystal chandeliers, towering domes, and gold decorations of all shapes and sizes.

Such a historic visit as this, along with the attention of the international media, provides a unique occasion to show the world how guests are welcomed and pampered in the United Arab Emirates.

For days the acrobatic pilots of a special air team practiced their aerial acrobatics above the bay. Today, they greeted Pope Francis from above, spurting trails of yellow and white smoke in honour of the Vatican colours.

The papal motorcade itself was accompanied by over a dozen horsemen on beautiful Arab stallions. They made their way through perfectly manicured lawns and wide avenues carrying Vatican and UAE flags.

Message of love and solidarity
I asked a UAE media person why there was no one lining the roads to greet Francis as he travelled through a deserted landscape: “Because it is all happening inside the sprawling Presidential Palace grounds” he answered, which cover an area of 150 hectares.

The majestic Arabian-style white palace itself boasts over 70 mosaic, glass, and golden domes. The handles on the doors of the grandiose entrance are four metres high, and the doors themselves are so heavy they function thanks to a system similar to that of a hydro-electric dam.

We all know that Pope Francis is not one for luxury and riches, but he will surely make the most of this kind of attention to boost his energy and speak powerfully to all who want to hear his message of love and solidarity for those in need.

We can only guess how loud his words will echo through these marble corridors, but I am sure the breeze of the Arabian Gulf will carry them into the peripheries of the peninsula and much further abroad.



Pope Francis addresses the Human Fraternity Meeting at the Founder’s Memorial in Abu Dhabi on Monday, and confirms how, “God is with those who seek peace”.
By Seán-Patrick Lovett

Monday’s Interreligious Meeting took place within the context of the Global Conference of Human Fraternity, currently underway in Abu Dhabi. The Conference has brought together hundreds of religious leaders and scholars. It is dedicated to examining interfaith dialogue, religious freedom, combatting extremism, and promoting peace.

All of these themes were present in Pope Francis’ discourse, which he delivered at the Founder’s Memorial, before some of the highest authorities in the United Arab Emirates, and members of the Diplomatic Corps.

Pope Francis began by describing himself as “a believer thirsting for peace”.

Speaking about the Interreligious Meeting itself, the Pope continued: “We are here to desire peace, to promote peace, to be instruments of peace”.

The Ark of Fraternity
Referencing the biblical story of Noah, the Pope suggested that, in order to safeguard peace, we too “need to enter together as one family into an ark which can sail the stormy seas of the world”. This means acknowledging, “God is at the origin of the one human family”. “No violence can be justified in the name of religion”, he said.

“Religious behavior”, said Pope Francis, “needs continually to be purified from the recurrent temptation to judge others as enemies and adversaries”. The “perspective of heaven”, he said, “embraces persons without privilege or discrimination”.

Expressing his “appreciation” for the commitment of the United Arab Emirates “to tolerating and guaranteeing freedom of worship, to confronting extremism and hatred”, the Pope then posed the question: “How do we look after each other in the one human family?”

The Courage of Otherness
Pope Francis proposed what he called “the courage of otherness”: recognizing the freedom and fundamental rights of others. “Without freedom”, he said, “we are no longer children of the human family, but slaves”.

Religious freedom, he continued, is not just freedom of worship: it means seeing the other as “a child of my own humanity whom God leaves free, and whom no human institution can coerce, not even in God’s name”.

Dialogue and Prayer
Pope Francis then turned to the importance of dialogue and prayer. Prayer, he said, “purifies the heart from turning in on itself. Prayer of the heart restores fraternity”.

Encouraging religions to “exert themselves with courage and audacity” in building paths of peace: “We will either build the future together”, he said, “or there will be no future”.

Education and Justice
In order to fly, continued Pope Francis, peace requires “the wings of education and justice”. Investing in culture, he said, “encourages a decrease of hatred and a growth of civility and prosperity”, because “education and violence are inversely proportional”.

The Pope again encouraged religious leaders to be “the voice of the least”, to “stand on the side of the poor”, to be “vigilant warnings to humanity not to close our eyes in the face of injustice”.

The desert that flourishes
Using the image of the “desert that surrounds us”, Pope Francis spoke of the United Arab Emirates as “an important crossroads” between East and West, North and South.

While praising the way the “desert has flourished” and become what he called “a place of development”, the Pope also warned of the “indifference” that risks converting “flourishing realities into desert lands”.

Pope Francis provided examples of this indifference in failing to “care about the future of creation”, or “about the dignity of the stranger”. A fraternal “living together, founded on education and justice, a human development built upon a welcoming inclusion and on the rights of all: these are the seeds of peace which the world’s religions are called to help flourish”.

Demilitarizing the human heart
Pope Francis concluded with a criticism of the arms race and an appeal to “demilitarize the human heart”.

“War cannot create anything but misery”, he said. “Its fateful consequences are before our eyes”. Here, the Pope mentioned specifically “Yemen, Syria, Iraq, and Libya”.

“Our being together today is a message of trust”, said the Pope, not to “surrender to the floods of violence and the desertification of altruism. God is with those who seek peace”.


Interim press office director Alessandro Gisotti made the following statement about the Fraternity document signed this evening in Abu Dhabi:

The Document on “Human Fraternity for world peace and living together”, signed by the Pope and the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, represents an important step forward in the dialogue between Christians and Muslims and is a powerful sign of peace and hope for the future of humanity. The Document is a vibrant appeal to respond with good to evil, to reinforce interreligious dialogue and to promote mutual respect in order to block the road to those who add fuel to the fire of the clashes between civilizations.

At Abu Dhabi, Francis and Al-Tayyib have together indicated a way of peace and reconciliation on which not only Christians and Muslims can walk, but all people of good will.

The Document is courageous and prophetic because it confronts, and calls by name, the most urgent issues of our day on which those who believe in God are encouraged to question their own conscience and to confidently assume their own responsibility so as to give life to a more just and united world. With unambiguous words, the Pope and the Grand Imam declare that no one is ever authorized to exploit God’s name to justify war, terrorism or any other form of violence.

In addition, they affirm that life must always be safeguarded and, at the same time, that the rights of women are to be fully recognized, and every discriminatory practice in their regard rejected.

Before humanity, wounded by so many divisions and ideological fanaticisms, the Pontiff and the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar demonstrate that promoting a culture of encounter is not a utopia, but is the necessary condition for living in peace and leaving for future generations a better world than the one in which we live.


As I post this, Pope Francis and his entourage are en route to Dhabi, capital of the UAE, United Arab Emirates. The Alitalia plane carrying the papal party left Rome’s Fiumicino airport at 1:27 pm, Rome time. They are expected to land at about 7 pm. Rome time – 10 pm in Abu Dhabi.

Before his departure, Francis recited the Angelus with the faithful in St. Peter’s Square. He said he is following the humanitarian crisis in Yemen “with great concern” and called on the international community “to urgently promote compliance with the agreements reached, to ensure the distribution of food, and to work for the good of the population.”

The Holy Father said Yemen’s population is “exhausted by the lengthy conflict and a great many children are suffering from hunger, without being able to have access to food. The cry of these children and their parents rises up to God. Following his appeal, the Pope invited everyone to pray “for our brothers and sisters of Yemen,” and he led the crowd in the recitation of the Hail Mary.

Immediately following the Angelus, Pope Francis headed out to Fiumicino Airport to begin his 27th Apostolic journey abroad. Before boarding the plane, the Holy Father made a brief stop at a homeless shelter set up at the airport and promoted by Aeroporti di Roma and Caritas of Porto-Santa Rufina. He greeted those assisted by the project, which began in 2017 and carries the name, “Life in transit: the human face of an airport”.


The February 3-5 visit of Pope Francis to Abu Dhabi in the UAE is the first papal visit to the Arabian Peninsula.
By Robin Gomes (vaticannews)

Thousands of Catholics are queuing outside churches in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) for tickets to the first Holy Mass by a Pope in the Arabian peninsula next week, local media have reported.

Pope Francis will arrive in the UAE capital, Abu Dhabi, Sunday night. The theme of the papal visit is, ‘Make Me a Channel of Your Peace’. This will be the Argentine Pope’s 27th foreign apostolic visit.

The highlight of this trip will be a Mass by the Pope in the morning on Tuesday, February 5, at Abu Dhabi’s Zayed Sports City, which some 135,000 people are expected to attend.

Tickets will not only grant the thousands of faithful access to the papal Mass in and around the stadium, but also a day off work. This time off was announced by the Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation and underlines the UAE’s ongoing dedication to facilitating interfaith dialogue which also coincides with its Year of Tolerance 2019.

Ticket seekers are showing a lot of patience and determination to get access to the rare occasion of a papal Mass. “There was already a long line by around 4:30 p.m., even though ticket distribution started later at 6 p.m.,” said church volunteer Lucy Pascua, who was guiding the crowds at St Mary’s Catholic Church in Dubai on Tuesday.

Approximately 36,000 tickets have to be distributed to individuals by the end of Friday, Pascua said.

There are 1 million Catholics living in the UAE according to estimates by the Apostolic Vicariate of Southern Arabia (AVOSA), the official Catholic Church jurisdiction in charge of UAE, Oman, and Yemen.

With a huge demand for the 135,000 seats available for Tuesday’s Mass, names were selected from a draw, often with only one member of a family being granted access to the Mass.

A multinational 120-member choir comprising of singers from 9 churches of the UAE has been formed to sing at the papal Mass. They will be accompanied by an organ and a ten-member brass ensemble. The choir members are from among 283 singers from 120 church choirs who appeared for auditions. They include Filipinos, Indians, Lebanese, Syrians, Jordanians, Armenians, French, Italians, Nigerians, Americans, Indonesians, Dutch and Argentinians. The choir will be led by Joy Santos of the Philippines.


The Apostolic Vicariate for Southern Arabia ( The Apostolic Vicar is Archbishop Paul Hinder, OFM Cap.

When you go to, scroll down for video ” POPE FRANCIS’ VISIT TO THE UAE – PREPARATION” and you’ll see fascinating images of Abu Dhabi, among other things.

AVOSA (@avosarabia) · Twitt

Statistics of the Southern Arabia Vicariate (updated Dec 31, 2017):
Area of the territory (km2) 929,969
Total population 42,948,063
Catholics 998,500
Total parishes 16
Diocesan priests 18
Priests belonging to Religious Institutes 49
Permanent deacons living in the diocese 1
Professed non-priest Men Religious belonging to Religious Institutes 1
Professed Women Religious belonging to Religious Institutes 50

The Apostolic Vicariate for Northern Arabia: ( The Apostolic Vicar for the Northern Vicariate is Bishop Camillo Ballin.

The website explains the Vicariate:
1. Christianity arrived in the Arabian Peninsula before Islam, in the first four and five centuries after Jesus Christ. Remains of a Christian Church of the fifth century are in Failaka (Kuwait) and in other places of the Peninsula. Islam came up during the seventh century. The Arabian Peninsula is now the centre of a growing economy and one of the world’s hotspots for the Church, too. Many think that there are no Christians in Arabia and they are surprised on a visit here or when they read about it.

The Church in the Arabian Peninsula is an exclusively pilgrim and migrant Church. Since the early nineties, the Catholic Church in the region has developed even more rapidly. The expatriates constitute nearly all of the faithful in the Vicariate. Though no official figures exist, it is estimated that there are over 1 million Catholics in Saudi Arabia alone. Kuwait has about 350,000; Bahrain around 80,000 and Qatar around 200,000 to 300,000 Catholics. The faithful are all working migrants from a hundred nations, the majority being from the Philippines and India. About eighty percent of the faithful belong to the Latin Rite while the rest belong to the Eastern Rite. It would not be untrue to say that Arabia has now become the face of a living Christian community, a “bridge” between diverse areas of the world and therefore between diverse cultures.

2. The Catholic presence in Arabia where Islam is the state religion is a seemingly peaceful one. The Catholic community is law abiding and trusted by the local governments. We enjoy freedom of worship within the confines of our parish compounds. The running of the parishes is further enhanced by the dedicated service of the pastors and the parish organizations made up of thousands of lay volunteers in catechesis, youth and family ministry, hospital and prison apostolate and social work.

However, restriction on the number of priests, too few churches and limited space in the churches are the difficulties that we face, especially when the attendance at Masses is very high, around 25,000 on Fridays with 10 and more Masses and during the Christmas and Eastertide. Other problems such as distance from the church, employment and camp rules also make participation for many impossible. It is also forbidden (under threat of punishment) to engage in any public activity or display of religion, including proselytizing (the act of attempting to convert people to Christianity).

3. The Vicariate is a rich blend of Rites, nationalities and cultures and so the Church has had to adapt its pastoral work accordingly. The Rescript ex audientia approved by Pope John Paul II in 2003 and confirmed by Pope Benedict XVI in 2006 gives jurisdiction over all the faithful of whatever Church, rite or nationality, to the Bishop resident in the Gulf and under whose sole jurisdiction all the priests in the Vicariates work. The Bishop has the obligation that the faithful of the other Rites may practice and observe the norms of their Rite, which they do to the best of their ability. The Rescript has helped to maintain and promote unity, to avoid fragmentation and to provide the best possible pastoral ministry to all the Catholic faithful.

4. Both the Vicariates have been placed under the protection of Our Lady of Arabia. On January 16, 2011, in Kuwait, Cardinal Antonio Canizares Llovera, Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, proclaimed Our Lady of Arabia Patroness of both Vicariates and of the entire Arabian Peninsula.
May the Mother of God, Mary Most Holy, Supreme Witness intercede to make more vibrant the witness of the Church in Arabia.


Archbishop Paul Hinder spoke October 13, 2010 at the special Synod for the Middle East. Following is his report:

There are two Vicariates of the Arabian Peninsula, one for northern Arabia comprising Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia and the southern vicariate for the UAE, Oman, and Yemen. There are no native Christians on the Arabian peninsula. The 3 million Catholics in a population of 65 million inhabitants are all labor migrants from a hundred nations, the majority from the Philippines and India. About 80% are of Latin Rite. The others belong to Catholic Oriental Churches. Both Apostolic Vicars are of Latin Rite; the Order of Friars Minor Capuchin has the ius commissionis for the territory; two thirds of the 80 priests are Capuchin Friars from India, the Philippines, Europe and America, belonging to different rites.

The special situation in the Vicariates of the Gulf:
1. Catholic presence in Arab countries with Islam as state religion. Strict immigration laws (restriction on the number of priests) and security system. Individual rights and social care very limited. No freedom of religion (no Muslim can convert but Christians are welcome into Islam), limited freedom of worship in designated places, granted by benevolent rulers (except in Saudi Arabia). Churches too few, attendance very high, in a single parish up to 25 000 on Fridays with 10 and more masses. Distance from church, employment and camp rules make participation for many impossible. Catholic Church is law abiding and trusted by the government.

2. Unity of Catholic Church in diversity of rites and nationalities. The Church has to adapt its structures and pastoral work to the limits imposed by the external circumstances. The Rescript ex audientia approved by Pope John Paul II in 2003 and confirmed by Pope Benedict XVI in 2006 gives jurisdiction over all the faithful of whatever Church, rite or nationality, to the two Ordinaries under whose sole jurisdiction all the priests in the Vicariates work. The Ordinaries have the obligation that the faithful of other sui iuris Churches may practice and observe the norms of their Rite, which they do to the best of their ability. The Rescript has helped to maintain and promote unity, to avoid fragmentation and to provide the best possible pastoral ministry to all the Catholic faithful. All priests must render service to all the faithful, assisted by the thousands of lay volunteers in catechesis, youth and family ministry, hospital and prison apostolate and social work.

Through fraternal relations between the two Apostolic Vicars and the heads of the Oriental sui iuris Churches, communion will be strengthened and agreements of collaboration made in respect of the particular situation in order to make more vibrant the witness of the Church in the Gulf which is an exclusively pilgrim and migrant Church.


Stay tuned to Joan’s Rome this weekend as I will be offering a fact-filled column on the papal trip to the UAE (United Arab Emirates) with information about the lives of Christians in these Muslim-majority countries, and some interesting statistics and links.


This weekend, for what is normally the interview segment of Vatican Insider, I’ve prepared a Special on the famous scavi in Vatican City just below St. Peter’s Basilica. I had a once in a lifetime experience in 2013 and share that with you this weekend because it is directly related to this Special.

In fact, one of the most special visits you will make in the Eternal City, and possibly all of Italy, is to the scavi in Vatican City. Scavi is Italian for excavation and I am referring to the pre-Constantine necropolis – city of the dead – or burial area beneath St. Peter’s Basilica, a necropolis that brings us to the tomb of the first Pope, St. Peter. I mention Constantine as he became the Western emperor in 312 and the sole Roman emperor in 324. Constantine was also the first emperor to adhere to Christianity. He issued an edict in February 313 that protected Christians in the empire and converted to Christianity on his deathbed in 337.

Listen carefully to the advice I give on how to apply for a scavi visit, what is allowed and not allowed during the visits, etc. Most of what you’d need to know is also right here:

IN THE UNITED STATES, you can listen to Vatican Insider (VI) on a Catholic radio station near you (stations listed at or on channel 130 Sirius-XM satellite radio, or on OUTSIDE THE U.S., you can listen to EWTN radio on our website home page by clicking on the right side where you see “LISTEN TO EWTN.” VI airs at 5am and 9pm ET on Saturdays and 6am ET on Sundays. On the GB-IE feed (which is on SKY in the UK and Ireland), VI airs at 5:30am, 12 noon and 10pm CET on Sundays. Both of these feeds are also available on the EWTN app and on ALWAYS CHECK YOUR OWN TIME ZONE! For VI archives: (write Vatican Insider where it says Search Shows and Episodes).

Here’s a link to last week’s Vatican Insider:


The Minister of State of the United Arab Emirates says the first Papal visit to the Arabian Gulf confirms UAE’s longstanding record of acceptance, coexistence and inclusion. Pope Francis leaves Sunday for the UAE.


When His Holiness Pope Francis arrives in Abu Dhabi next week, it will be the first ever papal visit to the Arabian Gulf. While this represents a milestone event in its own right, it is also a powerful testament to the longstanding values of acceptance, coexistence, inclusivity, tolerance and humanity that are embedded in the very core of the United Arab Emirates. Since the UAE’s foundation, the rights and liberties of all creeds, sects and beliefs have been safeguarded. Our constitution protects freedom of spiritual expression and explicitly prohibits any form of discrimination based on religion or race.

Pope Francis will find a country where over one million Christians practice their religion without hindrance alongside a majority Muslim population. Throughout the UAE, over forty churches welcome believers for prayers next door to Mosques, as well as Hindu, Sikh and Buddhist Temples. The UAE’s acceptance of all religions is an expression of our leadership’s commitment to an open society, one that welcomes people representing over 200 nationalities and ethnicities to work, live and thrive within our borders. This generous attitude toward others is a core tenet of our values, a key characteristic of our culture and a fundamental pillar of the vision of our founding father, Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan al Nahyan. He realized that both his country and the wider region would benefit by building bridges and making cultural connections with the international community. This philosophy underpinned a foreign policy that seeks to create partnerships promoting prosperity around the world, based on mutual respect. And it is mirrored by a domestic policy that treats differing cultures equally.

In this spirit, when the remains of a seventh century Christian monastery were discovered on Sir Bani Yas Island in 1992, Sheikh Zayed insisted that it be preserved both as a relic of shared spiritual history and a present day, potent symbol of cross-cultural harmony.

The UAE first established diplomatic relations with the Vatican in 2007, and, since then, relations with the Catholic Church have only strengthened. A high level visit to the Vatican followed in 2016 by HH Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces. Then, last year, HH Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, hand delivered the invitation for Pope Francis to make his historic visit to the UAE.

During his visit, which will include a public mass, the Pope will meet with Sheikh Ahmad Al Tayyeb, the Grand Imam of Al Azhar, and the chairman of the Council of Muslim Elders. Bringing together the spiritual leaders of the Sunni and Catholic faiths, this meeting will demonstrate a shared commitment to the principles of mutual respect, and peaceful coexistence.

Coming in the “year of tolerance”, the papal visit helps define what we mean by this term. The visit reinforces the UAE’s ethos of active inclusiveness and reminds us that tolerance is not a passive state, but requires constant, consistent action. It is the same principle that drives our focus on a fairer society, where gender balance within our leading institutions is being realized by being prioritized.

It is in this context that we should view next week’s landmark events. By hosting Pope Francis, we are sending a message to all those living among us, regardless of creed or culture, that they should not merely feel accepted, but are welcomed as active participants and celebrated for the positive contribution they make to the UAE.

The UAE is made stronger by the diversity of the communities that have chosen to make our country their home. In embracing this diversity, the UAE will continue to prosper, extend a positive influence throughout the wider region and encourage peaceful coexistence globally.

The Author is UAE Minister of State, H.E. Dr. Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber


Did you hear about this great real estate deal in Sicily! “Local officials on southern Italy’s island of Sicily have put dozens of hilltop homes on the market for €1 ($1.29 USD). Yes, that translates to just over one American dollar – for villas with panoramic views of the Mediterranean on a fertile patch of land dubbed the “Earthly Paradise.” This shocking real estate proposition is aimed at reviving a community that, like many other rural spots in Italy, has suffered from depopulation in recent years as locals relocate to metropolitan areas.”

What’s the catch? Maybe a lot of us should get together and do this!


In a video message sent on Thursday, Pope Francis greets the people of the United Arab Emirates, and looks forward to marking a new step in the history of inter-religious relations.
By Devin Watkins (vaticannews)

Pope Francis travels to Abu Dhabi from February 3 to 5 to participate in an inter-religious meeting and to celebrate Mass.

In his video message, the Pope said he is looking forward to visiting the UAE, calling it “a land that seeks to be a model of coexistence, human brotherhood, and encounter between different civilizations and cultures”.

In the UAE, the Holy Father said, many people “find a safe place to work and live freely, while respecting diversity.”

Gratitude for invitation
Pope Francis thanked the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, for inviting him to participate in an interreligious meeting on “Human Brotherhood”.

He then expressed his gratitude to other UAE Authorities for their “generous hospitality and fraternal welcome”.

“I thank my friend and dear brother the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, Dr. Ahmed Al-Tayeb, and all those who aided in the preparation of the meeting, for their courage and desire to affirm that faith in God unites and does not divide,” he said.

Faith brings people closer
Pope Francis said faith in God brings people closer despite their differences, and “distances us from hostility and aversion.”

The Pope said he looks forward to writing “a new page in the history of relations between religions, confirming that we are brothers and sisters, even though we are different.”

Finally, Pope Francis called the UAE “a land of prosperity and peace, a land of sun and harmony, a land of coexistence and encounter”. And he invited the people of the United Arab Emirates to pray for him.

To listen to video as Pope speaks in Italian, with several words in Arabic: