POPE SAYS DIGNITY OF WOMEN AND GIRLS MUST BE PROTECTED: He emphasized this when addressing participants in the international conference “Women Building a Culture of Encounter Interreligiously,” organized by the World Union of Catholic Women’s Organisations and the Dicastery for Interreligious Dialogue at Rome’s Pontifical Urbaniana University, from January 25 to 27. “The fact that your Conference is devoted to listening to the experiences and perspectives of women is all the more valuable, since our quest for peace must increasingly involve…women. Because women bestow care and life upon the world: they are themselves a path towards peace.” The Holy Father encouraged their important work of sharing insight and best practices. “I am grateful to you for your commitment and effort to foster the dignity of women and girls in particular.” Pope: Dignity of women and girls must be protected – Vatican News

NEVER KEEP UP ON PEACE, POPE TELLS researchers and experts of the European Institute for International Studies in Salamanca.   The Institute’s work in education in international relations aims to prepare leaders to make a difference in the building of a better world. “Peace among men is an essential good for which we must work zealously and fervently beseech God,” Pope Francis said, reiterating his belief that “every war leaves the world worse off than it found it.” Reflecting on the concept of peace, the Pope said peace is a challenge “that it is not simply based on balances of power or on silencing the just demands of the less favoured”; but is instead an “essential good for which we must work zealously and fervently beseech God.” “War is a failure of politics and humanity, a shameful surrender, a defeat in the face of the forces of evil.” Pope Francis: Never give up the struggle for peace – Vatican News

POPE TO PHILANTHROPISTS: PROMOTE INTEGRAL GOOD OF THE PERSON – Greeting members of the Assifero Association, an Italian Association of Foundations and Philanthropic Bodies on its 20th anniversary, Pope Francis congratulated the members for the “clearly Christian-inspired approach with which you have structured your activities.” Francis noted that the Association brings together many private foundations in Italy and abroad that work in various fields “promoting the person and developing healthy and supportive social and economic models. …I would like to recommend that you pay particular attention in your programmes to three important values that, moreover, you already have in mind: the promotion of the integral good of the person; listening to local communities; and closeness to the least, never forgetting that one of God’s values is closeness.” Pope to philanthropists: Promote integral good of the person – Vatican News





During his catechesis at the general audience, Pope Francis says desolation and sadness, though considered to be negative experiences, can teach us important things and strengthen us spiritually, if we know how to traverse it with openness and awareness.

By Benedict Mayaki, SJ (Vatican news)

Continuing his cycle of reflections on the theme of discernment, Pope Francis said that discernment, which is not primarily a logical procedure, is “based on actions, and actions have an affective connotation which must be acknowledged, because God speaks to the heart.”

He focused his catechesis during the Wednesday general audience on the first affective mode and an object of discernment: desolation.


Recalling the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola, Pope Francis said desolation can be defined as “darkness of soul, disturbance in it, movement to things low and earthly, the unquiet of different agitations and temptations, moving to want of confidence, without hope, without love, when one finds oneself all lazy, tepid, sad and as if separated from his Creator and Lord.”

He noted that all of us have experienced desolation in some way but the problem we face is how to interpret it, because desolation has something important to tell us and we risk losing it if we are in a hurry to free ourselves of the feeling of emptiness.

He added that inasmuch as we would all like a life that is always joyful, cheerful and fulfilled, this is not always possible and would also not be good for us as “the change from a life oriented towards vice can start from a situation of sadness, of remorse for what one has done.”


Explaining further, Pope Francis said that the word “remorse”, from the etymological viewpoint, means “the conscience that bites (in Italian, mordere) that does not permit peace.”

In fact, Alessandro Manzoni in his book “The Betrothed” described remorse as an opportunity to change one’s life in the famous dialogue between Cardinal Federico Borromeo and the Unnamed, who, after a terrible night, presents himself destroyed by the cardinal, who addresses him with surprising words.


Pope Francis also stressed the importance of learning to “read” sadness, which is mostly considered negatively, but instead, “can be an indispensable alarm bell for life, inviting us to explore richer and more fertile landscapes that transience and escapism do not permit.”

St. Thomas, in the Summa Theologica, defines sadness as “a pain of the soul” – like the nerves for the body, it redirects our attention to a possible danger, or a disregarded benefit. Hence, sadness is “indispensable for our health; it protects us from harming ourselves and others” and “would be far more serious and dangerous if we did not feel this,” the Pope said.

Moreover, for those who have the desire to do good, sadness is “an obstacle with which the tempter tries to discourage us” and in that case, one must act in a manner exactly contrary to what is suggested, determined to continue what one had set out to do.

The Pope further recalled the Gospels’ reminder that the road to goodness is narrow and uphill, requiring combat and self-conquest. He urged those who wish to serve God not to be led astray by desolation, especially as some people, unfortunately, abandon a life of prayer or choice they have made, driven by desolation, “without first pausing to consider this state of mind, and especially without the help of a guide.”

“A wise rule says not to make changes when you are desolate. It will be the time afterwards, rather than the mood of the moment, that will show the goodness or otherwise of our choices.”

Trials are an important moment

Pope Francis then pointed to the example of Jesus who repelled temptations with an attitude of firm resolution. Trials assailed him from all sides, but Jesus was determined to do the will of the Father and they failed to hinder his path.

In spiritual life, said the Pope, “trial is an important moment” because “when you come to serve the Lord, prepare yourself for trials” (Sir 2:1). Similarly, a professor only accepts that a student has passed the test after he has examined the student to see if the student knows the essentials of the subject.

“If we know how to traverse loneliness and desolation with openness and awareness, we can emerge strengthened in human and spiritual terms. No trial is beyond our reach.”

Pope Francis concluded by re-echoing St. Paul’s words that no one is tempted beyond his or her ability, because the Lord never abandons us, and with him close by, we can overcome every temptation.


POPE FRANCIS DECRIES “HORROR” CONTINUING TO BLOODY DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO. At the end of the general audience, the Pope condemned the “unacceptable” terror attack against defenseless civilians at a Catholic mission hospital and appealed for peace in the African country battered by ongoing violence. “We watch in horror as events continue to bloody the Democratic Republic of Congo. Let us pray for the victims and their families, as well as for the Christian community and the inhabitants of that region, who have been exhausted by violence for too long.” The Pope said he “strongly deplores the unacceptable assault” that took place in recent days in the village of Maboja in the country’s North-Kivu province. He decried the deaths of the “defenceless,” recalling that among the dead was religious sister, Sister Sylvie Kalima, a healthcare worker. Pope condemns DR Congo attacks: ‘We watch in horror’ – Vatican News

POPE AT SPIRIT OF ASSISI: GOD’S NAME ‘CANNOT BLESS TERROR AND VIOLENCE’; At the Community of Sant’Egidio’s ‘Cry for Peace’ at the colosseum, Pope Francis reiterated that religions cannot be used for war, and called for nations to defuse conflicts with the weapon of dialogue. “Religions cannot be used for war. Only peace is holy and no one is to use the name of God to bless terror and violence. If you see wars around you, do not resign yourselves! The people desire peace.” This was the appeal of Pope Francis, along with religious leaders, during the closing ceremony of the annual ‘Spirit of Assisi’ prayer for peace on Tuesday afternoon at Rome’s iconic colosseum. The Pope recalled that these words he and religious leaders declared together a year ago, … adding “Let us never grow resigned to war. Let us cultivate seeds of reconciliation. Today let us raise to heaven our plea for peace.” Pope at Spirit of Assisi: God’s name ‘cannot bless terror and violence’ – Vatican News



There has been one very interesting development during Pope Francis’ visit to Kazakhstan and its capital Nur-Sultan for the inter-religious meeting. The capital was named Astana until three years ago when the current president Tokayev agreed to change the name to Nur Sultan to honor his predecessor Nursultan Nazarbayev who led the country for three decades after declaring independence from what was once the USSR, the Soviet Union.

It seems that the nation’s capital will once again be named Astana.

The first indication was a tweet today from President Tokayev’s press secretary that said, “The president of Kazakhstan supports the initiative of members of parliamentary to rename the capital of the country from Nur Sultan to Astana.”

It seems the president was informed of this initiative by the MPs who had put forth this proposal, having talked among themselves, and also to citizens who supported the name change during a referendum.

The June referendum called for constitutional changes, one of which, according to a bill written by parliament, will be the name change of the nation’s capital.

The Vatican always prepares a fascinating, informative booklet for the journalists covering a papal trip. In that booklet, the name Nur Sultan is used for the capital, as it is in Vatican news reports, thus suggesting that the name change has not officially taken place.


St. John Paul II was the first pontiff to visit this central European nation, visiting shortly after the September 11 attacks in the United States in 2001. At the time, he applauded the peaceful coexistence of religions and ethnicities such as Kazakh, Russian, Ukrainian, and many others, within the country. The capital of Kazakhstan in 2001 was Astana.

At the September 23 Angelus, John Paul said: “To Mary I entrust all of you: Christians and non-Christians, believers and non-believers. She is the Mother of all, because Christ her Son is the Saviour of all. May Mary help all of you, dear Brothers and Sisters, to accomplish in your daily lives Christ’s command: “Love one another”, which is the guiding theme of this pastoral visit of mine. To the perpetual help of the Queen of peace I also entrust the countries bordering Kazakhstan, and I greet especially the pilgrims who have come today from those lands to demonstrate their faith and affection.”

Pope Francis’ trip to Kazakhstan shared one aspect with Pope John Paul’s trip that took place right after the 9-11 attacks in the US, Pope Francis trip took place just after the 21st anniversary of those attacks. (Vatican photo)

In words spoken at the end of today’s Mass, the Holy Father pointed to areas of the world marked by violence and war, especially Ukraine, and stressed that the world must never grow accustomed to war or resigned to its perceived inevitability. “The one solution is peace and the only way to arrive at peace is through dialogue. …What still needs to happen, and how many deaths will it still take, before conflict yields to dialogue for the good of people, nations and all humanity?”

Inviting prayers from everyone so that the world can learn to create peace, Francis said, “I thank all those who believe in this. I thank all of you, and all those men and women who are heralds of peace and unity!”

Francis had said Sunday at the Angelus that his trip would be a “pilgrimage of peace. … It will be an opportunity to meet a great many religious representatives and to dialogue as brothers and sisters, animated by our common desire for peace, peace for which our world is thirsting.”


Courtesy of The Pillar: Click here for a list of U.S. Bishops who agree with San Francisco Abp. Salvatore Cordileone on his decision to bar Speaker Nancy Pelosi from communion for her pro-abortion stand and who will also ban her from communion in their dioceses: US bishops respond to Pelosi being barred from the Eucharist (, Add Bishop Michael Burbidge of Arlington, Va., to this list. I am sure this will be updated over time. Thank you, Ed and JD!

The following story is interesting because, the traditional end of May event at the Vatican is a candlelit procession with faithful praying the rosary in the Vatican Gardens, often with the Pope appearing at the end at the Grotto of Lourdes to address the faithful. May 31 is the feast of the Visitation.


Pope Francis, in connection with international shrines worldwide, will lead a Rosary for peace from the Basilica of St. Mary Major on 31 May for those suffering the ongoing war in Ukraine and other wars around the world.

By Deborah Castellano Lubov (vaticannews)

Pope Francis will lead a Rosary for peace as a sign of hope for those suffering from the ongoing war in Ukraine and wars around the world. The news was announced on Ascension Thursday in a statement from the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization.

“At the conclusion of the Marian month, Pope Francis wishes to offer a sign of hope to the world, suffering from the conflict in Ukraine and deeply wounded by the violence of the many wars still active.”

On Tuesday, 31 May, at 6pm, the Pope will pray the Rosary before the statue of Mary Regina Pacis in Rome’s Marian Basilica. ( photo)

“All the faithful in every part of the world are invited to support Pope Francis in his prayer to the Queen of Peace,” the statement encouraged.

Benedict XV commissioned image to implore end to First World War

This statue of Maria Regina Pacis, or “Queen of Peace”, located in the left aisle of the Basilica of St. Mary Major, has a particular history. It was commissioned by Pope Benedict XV and made by sculptor Guido Galli, at the time the deputy director of the Vatican Museums, to implore the Virgin Mary for an end to the First World War in 1918.

The Madonna is depicted with her left arm raised as a sign to order the end of the war, while with her right she holds the Baby Jesus, ready to drop the olive branch symbolising peace. Flowers are sculpted on the base, symbolising the blossoming of life with the return of peace. It is traditional for the faithful to lay small handwritten notes with prayer intentions at the feet of the Virgin.

The Pope will lay a wreath of flowers at the feet of the image before addressing his prayer to Our Lady and leaving his particular intention.

St. Mary Major on 31 May

Various categories of people representing the faithful will be present to support the Pope’s prayer. There will be boys and girls who have received their First Communion and Confirmation in recent weeks, Scouts, families from the Ukrainian Community of Rome, representatives of the Marian Ardent Youth (GAM), members of the Vatican Gendarmerie Corps and the Pontifical Swiss Guard, and the three parishes in Rome named after the Virgin Mary Queen of Peace, along with members of the Roman Curia.

As a sign of closeness to those most involved in the dynamics of these tragic events, a Ukrainian family, people related to war victims, and a group of military chaplains with their respective corps were invited to pray the decades of the Rosary.

Joining together with international shrines

Another important sign is the involvement of international shrines from all over the world, together with some shrines located in countries still affected by war or with strong political instability within them, which are the cause of many episodes of violence.

These shrines will pray the Rosary at the same time as the Holy Father, and will be connected via streaming to the live broadcast from Rome.

Those shrines that will be in connection with the Pope include: Shrine of the Mother of God in Ukraine; Cathedral of Sayidat al-Najat (Our Lady of Salvation) in Iraq; Cathedral of Our Lady of Peace in Syria; Cathedral of Mary Queen of Arabia in Bahrain. Alongside these are the International Shrines: Shrine of Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage; International Shrine of Jesus Saviour and Mother Mary; Shrine of Jasna Góra; International Shrine of the Korean Martyrs; Holy House of Loreto; Blessed Virgin of the Holy Rosary; International Shrine Our Lady of Knock; Blessed Virgin of the Rosary; Our Lady Queen of Peace; Our Lady of Guadalupe; Our Lady of Lourdes.

On the feast of the Annunciation on 25 March, Pope Francis consecrated all humanity—especially Russia and Ukraine—to the Immaculate Heart of Mary toward the end of the liturgy during the annual “24 Hours for the Lord” Lenten penitential service in St. Peter’s Basilica.



I hope you are having a good day, wherever you are! Some time ago, and I don’t remember where, on Facebook I saw a whole bunch of memes regarding how we are faring during these stay home weeks. One asked if people were making travel plans,. If so, where were they going: Las kitchenas, Los Lounges, Santa bedrooomes, Porta Gardenas, Costa del Balconi, Saint Bathroome, or la Rotonda de Sofa?!

One thing we know about all those rooms: they probably are the cleanest in the neighborhood! Because cleaning our house, along with home-schooling children, inventing something that will change the future of humanity or writing the next best seller, is probably how we are occupying our “spare” time. That time we have on our hands when not running one of two or three errands allowed by law (in Italy, at least): essential work, going to see a doctor or going on an ‘essential’ errand (bank, groceries or pharmacy.

I went grocery shopping this afternoon – about a 7-block walk roundtrip from my place – and you know that when you get excited to go out and buy groceries, life has really changed! Or, as I read in one email: “Coronavirus has turned us all into dogs. We roam the house all day looking for food. We’re told ‘no’ if we get too close to strangers. And we really get excited about car rides.”

I think I have been reading too many world statistics on Covid-19 – numbers are staggering even if, in many cases, they are going down instead of increasing. I needed a little humor and got it in some emails from family members and friends so am sharing a few of those.

Pope Francis is trying to pass the time as normally as possible with morning Mass, some private meetings, writing documents and today he held his weekly audience, coming to everyone around the world from the library of the Apostolic Palace, seated at safe distances from his monsignor collaborators in the Secretariat of State who read the multi-lingual summaries of the catechesis and impart the papal greetings.

We also learn that in recent days he has phoned a number of people, including Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York. I posted the cardinal’s account of that phone call, and vaticannews did a story as well. I wonder if anyone has taught the Pope how to use Face Time!

Maybe I should send the Holy Father a post-Easter message and make sure my phone number is included!


The Pope began today’s catechesis by saying, “I am happy that this theme happens immediately after Easter because the peace of Christ is the fruit of His death and resurrection, as we heard in the reading of Saint Paul. To understand this beatitude, one must explain the meaning of the word ‘peace’, which can be misunderstood or sometimes trivialized.!

He then explained that “in our continuing catechesis on the Beatitudes, we now turn to the seventh Beatitude: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God,” noting that there are two kinds of peace: “One kind of peace can be seen in the biblical term Shalom, which signifies an abundant, flourishing life. A second idea is the modern notion of interior serenity.

“Yet,” said Francis in a seeming inference to the coronavirus pandemic, “this second type of peace is incomplete since spiritual growth often occurs precisely when our tranquillity has somehow been disturbed.”

In this Easter season we see Jesus bringing the gift of his own peace, a fruit of his death and resurrection. The Lord bestows his gift not as the world does – where “peace” is often purchased at the expense of others – but by destroying hostility in his own person. A peacemaker then is someone who, by God’s grace, imitates Jesus in bringing reconciliation to others by giving of themselves, always and everywhere!

“Those who do so,” concluded Pope Francis, “are true children of God and show us the way of true happiness. Once again, I wish you all a happy Easter, in the peace of Christ!”

In greetings to Polish people watching the general audience online, Francis said: “I cordially greet the Poles. Next Sunday we will celebrate the feast of Divine Mercy. St. John Paul II instituted this in response to the request made of Saint Faustina by Jesus when He said, “I wish the feast of mercy to be a shelter and refuge for all souls. Humanity will not find peace until it turns to the source of my mercy”(Diary 699). We confidently pray to the Merciful Jesus for the Church and for all humanity, especially for those who suffer in this difficult time. The Risen Christ revives hope and the spirit of faith in us. I cordially bless you.”


Rome sweet home! I got back to the Eternal City yesterday after a fun-filled time in the States (Illinois and California) and a variety of experiences – Christmas celebrations and meals and holiday parties with family and friends, lots of football games (if you’ve never been with me in a stadium during a football game, there’s a Joan Lewis you do not know!), and many hours spent reading and filling out forms for the real estate agents and escrow people handling the sale of my parent’s home in California. All the more interesting because four of us are owners and three of us live outside California, so emails and phone calls to different times zones complicated things on occasion.

I left San Diego Friday in 70 degree weather, spent a night in Chicago and awoke to snow and arrived Rome yesterday to brilliant sun and cold temps, The temps got colder overnight in Rome but, thank the Lord, the sun matched its brilliance yesterday, a needed ingredient for the festivities marking today’s feast of the Epiphany, as you will read below.


The January 6 feast of the Epiphany is a major holiday in both the Vatican and Italy and is celebrated throughout the country in an extraordinarily festive way, from small hamlets and ancient villages to the great metropolises of this land.

On this day, what takes place in the Vatican, starting with the papal Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica and ending with joyful, fun-filled festivities in St. Peter’s Square, fairly well mirrors what happens around Italy on this day, although perhaps to a larger extent. Though I did not make it there this morning, on January 6 St. Peter’s is usually filled with many thoudands of faithful as well as troubadors, ancient Roman soldiers, flag throwers and hundreds of costumed citizens representing civil and religious organizations, regions and towns of Italy.

Costumed horesemen and women usually strut their finery and often make their horses dance to the delight of the crowd. More color is added by groups bearing statues and religious images and crosses and banners as they march through the square and down Via della Conciliazione at the end of the Angelus. Bands play and spectators applaud.

A typical Epiphany celebration in St. Peter’s Square:

I remember one year when there were several very old cars, beautifully maintained and interesting to see but they seemed out of place among all the period costumes that graced the piazza.

Another year I remember taking photos of three two-humped camels. I was not sure if it was a dromendary or camel that had two humps so I looked it up and discovered the: The Bactrian camel (Camelus bactrianus) is a large, even-toed ungulate native to the steppes of Central Asia. Of the two species of camels, it is by far the rarer. The Bactrian camel has two humps on its back, in contrast to the single-humped dromedary camel (I also learned that dromedary and camel are interchangeable).

Piazza Navona has forever been a favorite destination all year round for visitors as well as for Italians. At no time is it as festive as it is at Christmas and today, the Epiphany.

Before Christmas, it is tradition that every year each family or child will pick out one new figurine for the family nativity scene that is built at home, and Navona in December has always been a great place to find these terracotta figurines.

A popular Christmas figure you will find here and in many stores is the Befana – a witch-like figure who rides a broomstick and brings coal to bad children and candy to good children. Befana is a breakdown of the word “epiphany” and many, in fact, call her the epiphany witch because she arrives in the night of the epiphany to fill children’s stockings with her gifts.

Yet another Italian tradition is to buy a small, ornament size broom with Christmas ribbons on it – a scacciaguai – that symbolizes the sweeping away of one’s troubles.

Epiphany is, of course, the 12th day of Christmas when the three Magi arrived and gave Baby Jesus their gifts. In some families Epiphany is a bigger celebration that Christmas. Epiphany, in any case, for many signals the end of the Christmas season.

Until a few years ago, the official end of the Christmas season at the Vatican was the February 2 feast of the Presentation of the Child Jesus in the temple. The tree and nativity scene always remained in the square until that day. Pope Francis changed the date to the second Sunday of January that celebrates the Baptism of Jesus,


Pope Francis has released a video message announcing his prayer intention for January 2020: “Promotion of World Peace.”

In this intention, the Holy Father asks people to pray that Christians, followers of other religions, and all people of goodwill may promote together peace and justice in the world.

Following is the text of that January 2020 message:

“In a divided and fragmented world, I want to invite all believers, and also all people of good will, to reconciliation and fraternity. Our faith leads us to spread the values of peace and mutual understanding, of the common good.We pray that Christians, followers of other religions, and all people of goodwill may promote together peace and justice in the world. Thank you.”



Today is, of course, Election Day in the United States. I voted by absentee ballot several weeks ago and friends from San Diego who were visiting Rome took my ballot and mailed it in San Diego! It is such an honor and privilege to vote and I’d not miss this for anything. I have been praying for weeks, and more than ever today, that certain moral issues dominate voters’ thinking processes and, as a result, their choice, in particular prolife and freedom of religion.

The material I got from California for the election – all the choices I could make for candidates for various offices and all the referendum on the ballot – required quite some time to study. I always want to vote intelligently and that does require time – a lot of it – before Election Day. Hopefully voting is a cerebral, not a visceral, process!

My hope and prayer is that when individuals walk into the voting booth, they have calmly studied the people and issues and then cast a thoughtful and intelligent vote for their future and that of the nation.

There is no patron saint of elections, although the story has circulated that St. Chad – yes, there is a real St. Chad of Lichfield, England – was the patron of the disputed 2000 U.S. elections (remember the “hanging chad” on ballots!). He died March 2, 672.


There is, however a beloved patron saint for civil servants and politicians – St. Thomas More. The movie about his life, “A Man for All Seasons,” should be shown every election cycle.

I also read a sermon by an Anglican pastor who proposed that the patron saints for electors should be Barsabbas and Matthias. When Judas, one of the Twelve Apostles, betrayed Our Lord and killed himself, the Apostles gathered to choose a new 12th Apostle: Acts 1:23, 26: They proposed two, Joseph called Barsabbas, and Matthias. Then they prayed, and they cast lots for them, and the lot fell on Matthias, and he was added to the eleven apostles.”



Pope Francis on Tuesday released a video message accompanying his prayer intention for November 2018, “In the Service of Peace.”

In that intention, Pope Francis says: We all want peace. It is desired above all by those who suffer its absence. We can speak with splendid words, but if there is no peace in our heart, there will be no peace in the world. With zero violence and 100 percent tenderness, let us build the evangelical peace that excludes no one. Let us pray together that the language of love and dialogue may always prevail over the language of conflict.

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.

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


The theme of Pope Francis’ Message for the 52nd World Day of Peace, to be celebrated on January 1, 2019, was published today by the Holy See Press Office, “Politics must be at the service of peace.”

The press office statement said, “Political responsibility belongs to every citizen, and in particular to those who have been given the mandate to protect and govern.”

The note also pointed out that, “this mission consists in safeguarding the law and encouraging dialogue between all actors of society, between generations, and between cultures.” The first condition for trust is respect for the given word. It noted that, “political commitment – which is one of the highest expressions of charity – implies concern for the future of life and of the planet, of the youngest and of the smallest, in their thirst for fulfilment.”



Just got back from a brief but wonderful visit and interview for Vatican Insider with Archbishop Bashar Warda of Erbil, Kurdistan, Iraq. He and the other Chaldean bishops are in Rome for their ad limina visit. We first met in 2010 on a visit I paid to Kurdistan for 8 days, met again in July of that year when he was consecrated archbishop of Erbil, We’ve met many other times in Rome, and have shared a meal at my home with Abp. Amel Nona, formerly of Mosul and now in Australia, and the late Cardinal Francis George.

Abp. Warda came to the EWTN offices to do a segment for News Nightly and we then taped an interview for my weekend radio program. More about that later.

I met another prelate last night, Archbishop Gintaras Gausas of Vilnius, Lithuania. He was dining with a mutual friend of ours at a restaurant we frequent. We spoke ever so briefly – his English is wonderful because he was born in Washington D.C.!  I went online to make sure how to spell his name and read this amazing fact about his family: His parents were separated by World War II and, after 16 years of being caught behind the Iron Curtain, his mother and 17-year-old sister were among just 200 families allowed to leave the Soviet Union to be reunited with family in the United States.


The Vatican today released Pope Francis’ Message for Lent 2018 whose title, as the Pope explains, comes from the words of Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew: “Because of the increase of iniquity, the love of many will grow cold” (24:12).
Francis starts the message by explaining that, “These words appear in Christ’s preaching about the end of time. They were spoken in Jerusalem, on the Mount of Olives, where the Lord’s passion would begin. In reply to a question of the disciples, Jesus foretells a great tribulation and describes a situation in which the community of believers might well find itself: amid great trials, false prophets would lead people astray and the love that is the core of the Gospel would grow cold in the hearts of many.”

In the section titled “False prophets,” Pope Francis says “let us try to understand the guise such false prophets can assume.”

He then explains how to discover false prophets:

“They can appear as ‘snake charmers’, who manipulate human emotions in order to enslave others and lead them where they would have them go. How many of God’s children are mesmerized by momentary pleasures, mistaking them for true happiness! How many men and women live entranced by the dream of wealth, which only makes them slaves to profit and petty interests! How many go through life believing that they are sufficient unto themselves, and end up entrapped by loneliness!

“False prophets can also be ‘charlatans’, who offer easy and immediate solutions to suffering that soon prove utterly useless. How many young people are taken in by the panacea of drugs, of disposable relationships, of easy but dishonest gains! How many more are ensnared in a thoroughly ‘virtual’ existence, in which relationships appear quick and straightforward, only to prove meaningless! These swindlers, in peddling things that have no real value, rob people of all that is most precious: dignity, freedom and the ability to love. They appeal to our vanity, our trust in appearances, but in the end they only make fools of us. Nor should we be surprised. In order to confound the human heart, the devil, who is ‘a liar and the father of lies’ (Jn 8:44), has always presented evil as good, falsehood as truth. That is why each of us is called to peer into our heart to see if we are falling prey to the lies of these false prophets. We must learn to look closely, beneath the surface, and to recognize what leaves a good and lasting mark on our hearts, because it comes from God and is truly for our benefit.”

“What are the signs that indicate that our love is beginning to cool?” asks the Pope.

He answers: “More than anything else, what destroys charity is greed for money, ‘the root of all evil’ (1 Tim 6:10). The rejection of God and his peace soon follows; …. All this leads to violence against anyone we think is a threat to our own ‘certainties’: the unborn child, the elderly and infirm, the migrant, the alien among us, or our neighbour who does not live up to our expectations.”
The Pope points out that, “creation itself becomes a silent witness to this cooling of charity. The earth is poisoned by refuse, discarded out of carelessness or for self-interest. … The heavens, which in God’s plan, were created to sing His praises, are rent by engines raining down implements of death.”

Lastly, notes the Holy Father, “Love can also grow cold in our own communities.”

So, asks the Pope, “What are we to do?”

“The Church, our Mother and Teacher, along with the often bitter medicine of the truth, offers us in the Lenten season the soothing remedy of prayer, almsgiving and fasting.

“By devoting more time to prayer, we enable our hearts to root out our secret lies and forms of self-deception, and then to find the consolation God offers. He is our Father and he wants us to live life well.

“Almsgiving sets us free from greed and helps us to regard our neighbour as a brother or sister. What I possess is never mine alone. How I would like almsgiving to become a genuine style of life for each of us! How I would like us, as Christians, to follow the example of the Apostles and see in the sharing of our possessions a tangible witness of the communion that is ours in the Church!”

“Fasting weakens our tendency to violence; it disarms us and becomes an important opportunity for growth. On the one hand, it allows us to experience what the destitute and the starving have to endure. On the other hand, it expresses our own spiritual hunger and thirst for life in God. Fasting wakes us up. It makes us more attentive to God and our neighbour. It revives our desire to obey God, who alone is capable of satisfying our hunger.”
Pope Francis extended his invitation to “all of you, men and women of good will, who are open to hearing God’s voice. Perhaps, like ourselves, you are disturbed by the spread of iniquity in the world, you are concerned about the chill that paralyzes hearts and actions, and you see a weakening in our sense of being members of the one human family. Join us, then, in raising our plea to God, in fasting, and in offering whatever you can to our brothers and sisters in need!”

The Holy Father urged “the members of the Church to take up the Lenten journey with enthusiasm, sustained by almsgiving, fasting and prayer. If, at times, the flame of charity seems to die in our own hearts, know that this is never the case in the heart of God! He constantly gives us a chance to begin loving anew.

“One such moment of grace will be, again this year, the “24 Hours for the Lord” initiative, which invites the entire Church community to celebrate the sacrament of Reconciliation in the context of Eucharistic adoration. In 2018, inspired by the words of Psalm 130:4, “With you is forgiveness”, this will take place from Friday, 9 March to Saturday, 10 March. In each diocese, at least one church will remain open for twenty-four consecutive hours, offering an opportunity for both Eucharistic adoration and sacramental confession.

Francis ends his Lenten 2018 Message; “With affection and the promise of my prayers for all of you, I send you my blessing. Please do not forget to pray for me.”


The Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue issued a communiqué today, underscoring Pope Francis’ invitation, made Sunday at the Angelus, to the faithful to join him on February 23 in a Special Day of Prayer and Fasting for Peace, in particular for the peoples of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and South Sudan.

The communiqué noted that the Pope, in his Sunday announcement at the Angelus, also invited members of other religions to join in this initiative in whatever form they consider to be opportune. The Council for Interreligious Dialogue therefore stated today that, “aware that religions con contribute in a great way to obtaining and consolidating peace, we will be grateful to our brothers and sisters of other religions who wish to welcome this appeal and live moments of prayer, fasting and reflection according to their own tradition and in their places of worship.”


Blog is updated with photo of Pope Francis blessing little boy with Downs Syndrome.


Some great video from today’s general audience when Pope Francis invited some youngsters to board the Popemobile for a ride around the square. Pope Francis also had special greetings for a number of couples celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary: “Before I begin the catechesis I would like to greet a group of couples celebrating the fiftieth wedding anniversary. How’s that for good wine! Thank you for your testimony! It’s a beautiful example for newly married couples.”

I have some friends who today are marking their 20th anniversary – I hope they understood Francis’ words (read the next article). Also mentioned in this video is the fact that, due to the hot weather and sun the Vatican handed out umbrellas marked with the Vatican flag, so the sick in the front rows were not uncomfortable.

A new cycle of catecheses on Jesus’ miracles was introduced by the Holy Father this morning at the weekly general audience. He focused on the first miracle quoted in the Gospels, that is, the wedding feast at Cana when he turned water into wine.

Earlier this year the Pope offered reflections on parables of mercy during this Jubilee Year, the Pope said Christ’s miracles were not performed so that people would “marvel” at them, but rather, through them, Christ revealed the Father’s love for us. They are also, he said, an invitation for the renewal of our faith.

Francis said at the start of today’s audience, “In our continuing catechesis for this Holy Year of Mercy, we now consider the first of Jesus’ miracles, the changing of water into wine at the wedding feast of Cana.  Saint John fittingly calls these miracles “signs”, for by them the Lord reveals the Father’s merciful love.  Jesus’ choice of a wedding feast points to the deeper meaning of this miracle.  It is a sign of the new covenant that he came to inaugurate, the messianic banquet promised for the end times, where he is the Bridegroom and the Church his bride. 

“By changing the water kept for ritual purification into new wine,” continued the Holy Father, “Jesus signals that he is the fulfilment of the Law and the prophets.”

And the Pope then noted the last recorded words of Mary in the Gospels: “Mary’s command to the servants – ‘Do whatever he tells you’ – can serve as a program of life for the Church.  We are called constantly to renew our love for the Lord, and to draw new wine, new life, from his saving wounds.  The miracle at Cana reminds us that we are invited, as members of the Lord’s family, the Church, to draw near to him in faith, and thus to share in the joy of the wedding feast of the new and eternal covenant.”


I just received an email from friends of mine who are in Italy on vacation. Teresa and Rich attended today’s general audience and this is what she shared with me (and allowed me to share here):

“The Pope was in jovial form today, and made the Wedding at Cana seem as though it were truly a CELEBRATION!  …The Gospel message today came as a pleasant surprise.  The wedding at Cana. . .our 20th wedding anniversary. . . Thank the good Lord!  This was truly a gift to us!

“I think one of the biggest blessings today, came in the form of a young 4-year old boy from the Philippines, who’s family traveled some 14 hours by air to be present for the Pope’s Wednesday audience.  We met this family while standing in line to get into the piazza, early this morning.  This family came in hope of having a glance at the Pope, and for this lovely child of theirs to receive a blessing.  Sure enough, as Divine Providence would have it, this little boy was given to one of the Pope’s attendants to receive a blessing.  I snapped a few photos to give to his family.  They were delighted.  (No small miracle to find them after the service, but again, the Holy Spirit was at work!)”

Teresa sent the following photos, including the one where Pope Francis is blessing the little boy with Downs Syndrome.

Pope Blesses Child

Boy with Pope's attendant


On June 8, 2014, following his three-day trip to the Holy Land, Pope Francis prayed for peace in the Vatican gardens, joined by  President Shimon Peres of Israel and Mahmoud Abbas, president of the state of Palestine.

At that time, he said, “I am profoundly grateful to you for accepting my invitation to come here and to join in imploring from God the gift of peace. It is my hope that this meeting will be a path to seeking the things that unite, so as to overcome the things that divide.

“Dear Presidents,” stated Francis, “our world is a legacy bequeathed to us from past generations, but it is also on loan to us from our children: our children who are weary, worn out by conflicts and yearning for the dawn of peace, our children who plead with us to tear down the walls of enmity and to set out on the path of dialogue and peace, so that love and friendship will prevail.

“Many, all too many, of those children have been innocent victims of war and violence, saplings cut down at the height of their promise. It is our duty to ensure that their sacrifice is not in vain. The memory of these children instils in us the courage of peace, the strength to persevere undaunted in dialogue, the patience to weave, day by day, an ever more robust fabric of respectful and peaceful coexistence, for the glory of God and the good of all.”

Today, two years later, is the second anniversary of that prayer for peace meeting.

Vatican Radio gave the following report on this anniversary:

The International Forum of Catholic Action, WUCWO, Italian Catholic Action, Argentinian Catholic Action and the National Justice and Peace Council of the Argentinian Episcopal Conference once again launched the initiative “A minute for peace.”

In response to the constant appeal by Pope Francis never to tire of praying and working for peace, the promoters of this initiative are asking their members and all men and women of good will to stop for a minute at 1 p.m. on June 8 – at the workplace, in the street, at home – to pray for peace.

The Tonga Islands were the first to pray for peace. In the capital Nuku’alofa, at 1 p.m. on 8 June, the women of WUCWO (World Union of Catholic Action Women Organizations) stopped in recollection, while in Italy, at that time, the new day was just dawning.

In Argentina at 1 p.m. on June 8, the bells of many churches in the different dioceses rang to invite the faithful to unite in prayer. Many institutions and organizations have joined in this initiative, including the Council for Religious Freedom, the Department for the Laity, the Islamic Centre of the Republic of Argentina, the Scouts, the Sant’Egidio Community, the Focolare Movement, the Christian Family Movement, the Federation of Catholic Workers’ Circles and the Catholic University of Argentina.

In Rome, at the general audience in St. Peter’s Square, there was a group of young people who symbolically represented all the promoters of this initiative. At 1 p.m., in the nearby church of Santo Spirito in Sassia, there was a prayer presided over by Archbishop Rino Fisichella, president of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of New Evangelisation and coordinator of the Jubilee of Mercy.

In Bethlehem, the local Catholic Action organized a prayer session in the Nativity Grotto. In Medellin, Colombia, young people and adults, as well as the very young, have prepared colored banners. In Bujumbura, the capital of Burundi, the scene of continual violence during these last months, leaders and assistants of Catholic Action Movements  joined together in prayer and involved the whole population via radio.

The appeal for peace is available in more than 30 languages. In addition to Italian, English, French and Spanish, it may also be found in Arabic, Hebrew, Greek, Birmanian, in the language of the Guarani Indos of Latin America, in the Hausa language spoken in Mali, the Togo Ewe and the Kikuyu of north Kenya thanks to the collaboration of leaders from the different countries.

This year, the organizerrs ask people to remember in a special way refugees and asylum seekers who desperately flee from wars, to tell them that they are not alone and to confirm our commitment to welcome them and to show them solidarity.


Yesterday was too important a day not to write about – so here’s an extra vacation column for  Joan’s Rome – or is it Joan’s Hawaii!


I participated, as a spectator, in a little bit of history last night, August 15, when a huge fireworks display was set off on Ford Island in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii to mark the 70th anniversary, a day earlier, of Japan’s surrender to the Allies, an act marking the end of World War II. Known as V-J Day (Victory in Japan), August 14, 1945 was the end of the war in the Pacific, following the end, several months earlier, of the war in the European theater.

Yesterday’s celebrations were called “70 Years of Peace.“

The display – you can also see my videos – began with fireworks shaped like three chrysanthemums, symbolizing the victims of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, those who died in the atom bomb attacks on Hiroshima (Aug. 6, 1945) and Nagasaki (Aug. 9 1945), and all who died in World War II.

U.S. and Japanese civil and military officials participated in daylong ceremonies on Pearl Harbor, including the laying of wreaths. Amid great security, the public was welcomed to Ford Island in mid-afternoon where they could purchased food for dinner as they watched the program of speeches and music that began at 7 pm, an hour before the fireworks.

The pyrotechnic display was offered by the city of Nagaoka, a sister city to Honolulu, and the Japanese city that Admiral Yamamoto – who planned and executed the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor – called home.

I watched the fireworks from the Aiea home of my friends, Trip and Jan McKinney. We had eaten dinner on the lanai (terrace) of their hillside home that overlooks Pearl Harbor, and then watched the display, along with another good friend of theirs. It was very exciting to be on Honolulu on this occasion and to participate in such an historic moment.

Here are a few of the photos I took. I will soon post the videos on my Youtube page ( and on Facebook (