The Holy See Press Office early this evening confirmed today’s video conference between Pope Francis and Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill, also confirming the presence for the video conference of Cardinal Koch and Orthodox Metropolitan Hilarion.

The conversation had as its focus the war in Ukraine and the role of Christians and their pastors in doing everything to make peace prevail. (vatican photo)

Pope Francis thanked the patriarch for this encounter, motivated by the desire to indicate, as pastors of their people, a path for peace and to pray for the gift of peace and for arms to cease. The Church, said the Pope together with the Patriarch, “must never use the language of politics, but only the language of Jesus. We are pastors of the same holy people who believe in God, in the most Holy Trinity, in the Holy Mother of God: and for this reason we must be united in our effort to help bring peace, to help those who suffer, to search for paths of peace, to stop weapons.”

Both underlined the exceptional importance of the negotiating process underway because, as the Pope said, “those who pay the price of war are the people, they are the Russian soldiers and the people who are bombed and die.”

As pastors, continued the Pope, “we have the duty to be close to and to help all people who suffer for the war. Once, people have spoken in both our churches of holy wars or of just wars. Today we can no longer speak like this. What has developed is a Christian conscience of the importance of peace. And, together with the Patriarch, he stressed “how churches are called to contribute and to strengthen peace and justice.” Pope Francis concluded: “wars are always unjust because those who pay are the people of God. Our hearts can only cry in the face of the children, of the women killed, of all the victims of war. War is never the path to take. The Spirit who unites us asks us as pastors to help the people suffering for the war.”



This weekend I offer a fairly unusual version of Vatican Insider. The news segment will be abbreviated because of my guest and there will be no Q&A. In fact, my guest this week for almost the entire program is EWTN’s own Fr. John Paul who, in his time in Rome, received the mandate from Pope Francis to be a Missionary of Mercy during the Jubilee Year of Mercy. We will talk about the themes that emerged during this intense week in which papal Masses, audiences and speeches focused mainly on mercy, the Sacrament of Penance or confession and reconciliation.


In Rome for the canonization of his namesake –


As you know, in the United States, you can listen to Vatican Insider on a Catholic radio station near you (there is a list of U.S. stations at or on Sirius-XM satellite radio. If you live outside the U.S., you can listen to EWTN radio on our website home page by clicking on the right side where you see “LISTEN TO EWTN.” Vatican Insider airs Saturday mornings at 9:30 am (Eastern time) and re-airs Sundays at 4:30 pm (ET). Check for your time zone. Past shows are found in Vatican Insider archives:


Pope Francis left Rome early this morning (but not without a delay as seen in the tweets from journalists aboard the papal plane!) for a six-day apostolic trip to Mexico, making a stopover in Cuba for several hours for a history-making meeting with Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia, the first meeting since the great schism of 1054 when Eastern Christianity split from Western Christianity. Francis is the first Latin American Pope to visit Mexico.

Because of the added stop in Cuba for the meeting between Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill, the Rome departure time was moved up by nearly five hours so that the papal schedule in Mexico will not be greatly affected. However, the delayed departure of the papal plane this morning from Rome’s Fiumicino airport will probably have some effect on the schedule, unless the pilot can make up some time, although traveling west, one usually encounters head winds.

The delay was due to an emergency landing at Fiumicino of an EasyJet plane that had left Naples for Venice but encountered a technical problem and requested emergency landing. The airport started the usual emergency procedures which include not allowing other planes to leave. The papal plane was due to leave at 7:45. The EasyJet landed at 7:53.

En route to Cuba and Mexico, the Pope sent telegrams to the heads of State whose nations the papal plane flew over, including Italy, France, Spain, and Portugal.

In a separate column, I will offer give some background on this millennia-old separation between Orthodox Christians and Roman Catholics.

In case you are interested in his day-by-day agenda, the papal schedule is below:



7:45 Departure from Rome’s Fiumicino airport for Havana (Cuba) Greeting to journalists during the flight Rome-Havana [Italian]  
14:00 Arrival at “José Martí” International Airport of Havana  
14:15 Private meeting with H.H. Kirill, Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia  
16:30 Signing of the Joint Declaration [Arabic, English, French, German, Italian, Polish, Portuguese, Spanish]  
17:10 Farewell between His Holiness Kirill and the Holy Father  
17:30 Departure from the International Airport of Havana for Mexico City  
19:30 Arrival at the “Benito Juárez” International Airport of Mexico City  
  Official welcome  


9:30 Welcoming ceremony at the National Palace  
  Courtesy visit with the President of the Republic  
10:15 Meeting with authorities, representatives of civil society and the diplomatic corps [Arabic, English, French, German, Italian, Polish, Portuguese, Spanish]  
11:30 Meeting with the Bishops of Mexico gathered in the Cathedral [Arabic, English, French, German, Italian, Polish, Portuguese, Spanish]  
17:00 Holy Mass in the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe [Arabic, English, French, German, Italian, Polish, Portuguese, Spanish]  


10:15 Transfer by helicopter to Ecatepec  
11:30 Holy Mass at the Study Center of Ecatepec [Arabic, English, French, German, Italian, Polish, Portuguese, Spanish]  
  Angelus [Arabic, English, French, German, Italian, Polish, Portuguese, Spanish]  
14:00 Luncheon with the Papal Entourage at the Diocesan Seminary in Ecatepec  
16:45 Transfer by helicopter to Mexico City  
17:15 Arrival at Mexico City  
17:45 Visit to the “Federico Gómez” children’s hospital [Arabic, English, French, German, Italian, Polish, Portuguese, Spanish]  


7:30 Departure by plane for Tuxtla Gutiérrez  
9:15 Transfer by helicopter to San Cristóbal de Las Casas  
10:15 Holy Mass with representatives of the indigenous communities of Chiapas in the municipal sport center [Arabic, English, French, German, Italian, Polish, Portuguese, Spanish]  
13:00 Luncheon with representatives of the indigenous communities and the Papal Entourage  
15:00 Visit to the Cathedral of San Cristóbal de las Casas  
15:35 Transfer by helicopter to Tuxtla Gutiérrez  
16:15 Meeting with families in the “Víctor Manuel Reyna” stadium in Tuxtla Gutiérrez [Arabic, English, French, German, Italian, Polish, Portuguese, Spanish]  
18:10 Departure by plane for Mexico City  
20:00 Arrival at Mexico City airport  


7:50 Departure by plane for Morelia  
10:00 Holy Mass with priests, men and women religious, consecrated people and seminarians at “Venustiano Carranza” Stadium [Arabic, English, French, German, Italian, Polish, Portuguese, Spanish]  
15:20 Visit to the Cathedral  
16:30 Meeting with young people in the “José María Morelos y Pavón” stadium [Arabic, English, French, German, Italian, Polish, Portuguese, Spanish]  
18:30 Departure by plane for Mexico City  
19:35 Arrival at Mexico City airport  


8:35 Departure by plane for Ciudad Juarez  
10:00 Arrival at “Abraham González” International Airport of Ciudad Juarez  
10:30 Visit to the penitentiary (CeReSo n. 3) [Arabic, English, French, German, Italian, Polish, Portuguese, Spanish]  
12:00 Meeting with the world of labour at the Bachilleres College in the state of Chihuahua [Arabic, English, French, German, Italian, Polish, Portuguese, Spanish]  
16:00 Holy Mass at the Ciudad Juárez fairgrounds [Arabic, English, French, German, Italian, Polish, Portuguese, Spanish]  
19:00 Farewell ceremony at the International Airport of Ciudad Juárez  
19:15 Departure for Rome/Ciampino  


14:45 Arrival at Ciampino Airport in Rome


(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis greeted the reporters who joined him on the plane Friday for his apostolic journey to Havana – for a brief meeting with Russian Patriarch Kirill – and Mexico.

The Director of the Holy See Press Office, Father Federico Lombardi, SJ, said the Holy Father had a “beautiful meeting” with the journalists, and called the journey “very important.”

Father Lombardi said the Pope noted it was the final apostolic trip of Alberto Gasbarri, the coordinator of papal journeys, and thanked him for his 47 years of service to the Vatican.

The dean of the Holy See Press Corps, Valentina Alazraki of Mexico’s “Televisa”, gave Pope Francis a sombrero to celebrate his journey to her native country. The Holy Father also revealed to the journalists she gave him some films starring the Mexican comedian Cantinflas earlier in the week to help him prepare for his trip, which Pope Francis said were a “good laugh.”


“My deepest desire is to pause before Our Lady of Guadalupe, this mystery that is studied, and studied, and studied, and there is no human explanation,” Pope Francis said on the plane, adding even scientists say the image is “a thing of God.”

Wall Street Journal correspondent Francis X. Rocca sent a Facebook message from the plane describing an “unusual” and “moving” encounter, with Noel Diaz of ESNE Catholic television in Los Angeles.

“As a child in his native Tijuana, Mexico, Diaz shined shoes for money. So today he knelt down in the aisle and shined the pope’s shoes, then gave him a custom-made shoeshine kit,” Rocca writes. “Diaz told the pope he intended these presents as reminders of the unheralded struggles of ordinary, honest people across Mexico and among immigrants to the U.S.”

Responding to press reports of a papal visit to Colombia, Pope Francis said he could visit the country in 2017 if peace talks between the government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) continue to go forward.


When you got up today and saw the date, did you say “why does February 11 ring a bell?!” Well, it was exactly three years ago today that Pope Benedict resigned! Does that seem possible?! So many millions still miss him and many millions pray for him daily, as do I. Blessings on you, Holy Father emeritus!

Benedict and Joan

February 11 is traditionally a holiday at the Vatican because Vatican City State became an independent sovereign state after signing a treaty with Italy on February 11, 1929. This year we mark the 87th anniversary of the Lateran Pacts. In addition, the Church annually marks the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes and the World Day of the Sick on this date.

Pope Francis is getting ready to leave tomorrow on an apostolic pilgrimage to Mexico, but he made time today for a number of appointments as you will see. As a native Spanish-speaker he surely did not have to spend as much time in recent weeks practicing his language skills for his 6 days in Mexico. He will, however, have spent a lot of time honing diplomatic skills because his first stop tomorrow on the way to Mexico is of huge, dramatic, historic importance because he will meet in Cuba for two hours with Patriarch Kirill, head of the Russian Orthodox Church, the first time leaders of the Roman Catholic and Russian Orthodox Church have met since the great schism in 1054. The two are expected to sign a Joint Declaration.

Pope Francis is expected to land in Cuba at 2 pm (ET) and meet for two hours with Patriarch Kirill. More on that tomorrow. In the meantime, some highligjts of the day….


POPE FRANCIS THURSDAY MORNING PAID A PRIVATE VISIT to St. Mary Major Basilica in Rome, where – as has become customary – he prayed before the icon of Maria Salus Populi Romani ahead of his Apostolic Voyage to Mexico. From St Mary Major, the Holy Father made the short journey to Rome’s cathedral, St. John Lateran basilica, where the priests of the diocese were meeting at the beginning of Lent. During the visit, Pope Francis heard the confessions of several priests. St. John is the cathedral of the bishop of Rome, Pope Francis. Cardinal Agostino Vallini, vicar for the diocese of Rome, said the meeting with priests had a “penitential” character, offering the clergy the opportunity “to have an experience of the mercy of the Father; and, in turn, to be able to ministers of mercy in the communities entrusted to us.” As a Lenten “sign,” the offering taken up during the encounter was donated to the diocesan branch of Caritas. Pope Francis offered as a gift to each of the priests of the diocese a copy of his book “The Name of God is Mercy.”

POPE FRANCIS HAS DONATED 500 ROSARIES TO THE DETAINEES in a prison in the Italian city of Padua. Fr. Marco Sanavio, the priest entrusted with delivering the papal gift, had the idea to “more directly”involve prisoners in the “Moment of Peace” (Un’ attimo di pace) initiative launched four years ago on the web in Italy. The Vatican newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, reports that the request for the rosaries came from Zhang Augustine Jianqing, a young Chinese man currently incarcerated in the Padua prison, who also participated in Rome at the presentation of the book-length interview of Pope Francis by veteran Italian journalist Andrea Tornielli, The Name of God is Mercy.

CARDINAL LEONARDO SANDRI, PREFECT OF THE CONGREGATION FOR ORIENTAL CHURCHES, has sent a letter to the bishops of the world, appealing for aid to the Church in the Holy Land. The letter is dated Ash Wednesday, 2016, and looks forward to the worldwide collection for the Christians of the Holy Land, which is made at Good Friday each year in churches around the globe. The English-language letter starts, “Good Friday is the day when evil seemed to triumph, as the Innocent One suffered death on the Cross. It is a day that never seems to end in the Holy Land, where apparently interminable violence must be endured. Broadening our the gaze to the whole world, it is no less difficult to give wings to hope for a serene future.” The cardinal adds: “The Collection for the Holy Land reminds us of an ‘ancient’ duty, which the history of recent years has made more urgent, but no less a source of the joy that comes from helping our brothers.” Cardinal Sandri explains that, “In this Jubilee year, we are urged more than ever to demonstrate our mercy and solicitude for our brothers in the Middle East. Refugees, displaced persons, the elderly, children, and the sick are all in need of our help. In this land of the East, people are dying, being kidnapped and even killed. Many live in agony for their loved ones, or suffer when the family is divided on account of forced migration and exodus.”

POPE FRANCIS’ SPECIAL ENVOY, ARCHBISHOP ZYGMUNT ZIMOWSKI, celebrated Mass on Thursday in the town of Nazareth in the Holy Land to mark the Church’s World Day of the Sick. The Mass took place in Nazareth’s Basilica of the Annunciation and was the centerpiece of events marking the 2016 World Day of the Sick that is celebrated each year on February 11th, the feast day of St. Bernadette of Lourdes. In his homily at the Mass, Archbishop Zimowski, who is President of the Pontifical Council for Health Care Workers, reminded his listeners that the central theme of Pope’s Francis’ message for this year’s World Day of the Sick is the need for us to entrust our lives to the Merciful Jesus like Mary did.  Archbishop Zimowski said all of us are called in our different ways to help the person who is suffering and stressed we must not be intimidated by the fact that we cannot help in a satisfactory way, in the way that Jesus did. “The important thing,” he said, “is to go, to be at the side of the man who suffers.”


THE PHILATELIC AND NUMISMATIC OFFICE OF VATICAN CITY STATE has announced that the 2016 Vatican coins will soon be released. These include the 8 usual Euro coins (2 and 1 Euro, 50, 20, 10, 5, 2, 1 euro-cent), bearing the image of Pope Francis, as Sovereign of the Vatican City State. This year, the €20 Silver coin and the €50 Gold coin have images chosen for the Year of Mercy. The Silver coin has an image of Pope Francis embracing a teenager, while the back has an image of the Parable of the Prodigal Son. The Gold coin has an image of the Holy Father opening the Holy Door of St. Peter’s Basilica, while the back has an image of the Jubilee logo, which features Jesus carrying a man – representing humanity – on his shoulders. The Philatelic and Numismatic Office is also releasing a Jubilee of Mercy coin card. (sources for stories: